3 Dangerous Ingredients Found in Common Deodorants

dangerous ingredients in deodorant

Today, we’re making a pit stop. Where, you ask? Your underarms.

There are some things we put on every day, like underwear. Deodorant is another. I mean, how can you leave the house without your pits smelling so fresh and so clean?

What's really in your deodorant?

Deodorant is one of those habitual products that people don’t usually think about. It’s a convenient spray, roll on liquid, or the traditional stick with easy application. Its purpose is to give you the peace of mind that no one will get any unpleasant surprises from your underarms throughout the day. Deodorant is your friend and your defense.

But what’s really in your deodorant? What’s the fresh laundered scent you’re swiping under there? And why aren’t you sweating?

dangerous ingredients in deodorant

Let’s go over some common ingredients found in conventional deodorants and see if these odor and sweat blocking fragrance sticks are something you want to reevaluate for the sake of your health. After all, if you use something everyday, it’s best to consider the safest, cleanest options.

And remember, just because it makes you smell clean, doesn’t mean it actually is.


Aluminum is the primary ingredient included in antiperspirant deodorants. This metal is used to “block” the sweat glands, decreasing a person’s sweat by an average of 20%. The problem with aluminum is that it can pose serious health risks, like Alzheimer’s Disease and breast cancer.

But doesn’t everything cause cancer? Sure, but we believe your chances are greatly increased when using a product on a daily basis, such as antiperspirant deodorant.

The problem with aluminum

Since aluminum’s main function is to “block” your sweat glands, what happens to all of that sweat? With your underarms being closely knit with your lymph nodes, this accumulation of toxic load from the sweat that isn’t being perspired is potentially causing a mayhem underneath that pit of yours. No build-up is ever good for the body and long-term buildup can lead to cell mutation.

Of course the link between aluminum and breast cancer has controversial studies, it is still convincing that with most breast cancers developing in the upper outer quadrant of the breast (which is the closest quadrant to the armpit where the lymph nodes are located ), that long-term use of aluminum is factoring into the formation of certain breast cancers.

Underarm shaving is also another factor to consider, because women are more likely to shave under their arms than men, allowing aluminum to pass through the skin more effectively. This may be a reason why breast cancer is more common among women.

2—Propylene Glycol

Another frequently used ingredient found in deodorants is propylene glycol. What is it?

Propylene glycol is a petroleum based substance that is used to create a soft and sleek consistency. It’s a low cost ingredient with a versatile function, which is why it is so common in self-care products. PG acts as a penetration enhancer, so if paired with harmful chemicals, it can increase their absorption.

dangers of propylene glycol

In recent studies, propylene glycol is considered to be “non-toxic” to the body when ingested. PG is eliminated from the body within a few hours, so it does not bioaccumulate in the body. However, there have been reports on its potential toxicity, linking it to issues such as:

  • cancer
  • reproductive complications
  • developmental abnormalities
  • neurotoxicity
  • endocrine complications

Propylene Glycol has one main concern being that it is a skin sensitizer, resulting in allergic reactions in the skin including: irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and non-immunologic contact urticaria (hives).

In my personal experience using propylene glycol in deodorants, my underarms are left itching like crazy. Itching profusely under there is not only annoying, but embarrassing! I’d prefer to not look like a monkey in public.


Phthalates, also hiding under the ingredient listed as “fragrance”, are plasticizing chemicals often used in deodorants and other self-care products for their consistency and ability to help dissolve other ingredients.

Are you seeing a pattern here? It seems that the performance and function of a particular ingredient are more important to conventional skin care brands than the quality and safety of that ingredient.

The product glides on smooth, great! But what are the consequences to follow? Is it worth it to have a temporary fix that can possibly cause a greater problem later?

complications that can arise from phthalates

Phthalates have been linked to several health issues and are considered to be endocrine disrupting. Once phthalates are absorbed by the body, they act as estrogens, which not only conflict with your hormonal function, but cause a variety of complications. These include:

  • Infertility
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Cancers: Breast, Prostate, Ovarian
  • Liver, Kidney and Lung Damage
  • Endometriosis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies

Phthalates are a probable human carcinogen and while the US continues to regulate these chemicals, they are still quite prevalent in many self-care products, including deodorant.

Sometimes we don’t consider the potential harm of a simple step of getting ready in the morning. Little do we know that our deodorants and antiperspirants are just another pitfall in the endless chemical burden of conventional skin care products.

Skip the Dove and Old Spice because neither of those will make you fly or sail with peace of mind. Look for safer alternatives like mineral salts, clays and powders, witch hazel and certain essential oils. Our team’s favorite natural deodorant is Primal Pit Paste.

Use your wits, save your pits!

What other dangerous ingredients in deodorant do you avoid? Have you experienced irritation with any of these ingredients listed?

Catanzaro JM, Smith JG, Jr. Propylene glycol dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 24(1):90–5 (1991 Jan).
Lessmann H, Schnuch A, Geier J, et al. Skin-sensitizing and irritant properties of propylene glycol. Contact Dermatitis 53(5):247–59 (2005 Nov).
Warshaw EM, Botto NC, Maibach HI, et al. Positive patch-test reactions to propylene glycol: a retrospective cross-sectional analysis from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 1996 to 2006. Dermatitis 20(1):14–20 (2009 Jan-Feb).


comments (15 and counting)


Reader Interactions


  1. tania says

    I have been making my own deodorant for the past 6 months and it does work, One advantage of where I live is that it is 3600 mts above sea level so it’s not hot at all, so i don’t need to put it in the fridge. The ingredients I use are: sodium bicarbonate, starch, coconut oil or butter and tea tree oil. It has a paste-like consistency.

  2. Simo says

    Thank you Abby for this review. Last year I read a review about the content of alluminium in deodorant and I decided to stop the usage of the deodorant containing this ingredient. The funny thing is that the vast majority of the deodorant I have looked contain this ingredienT! Therefore, I decided to create my home-made deodorant! And guess what? It is amazingly effective. Thank you for letting us know about the risks of ingredients included in deodorant! I hate the companies that just for making more money put inside the market products that may be potentially risky.Thanks. Simo

  3. jENA says

    I tried making my own natural deo but let me tell you that Primal Pit Paste is by far the best deo. I have tried. Please try them out =) I use Orange Creamsicle, even though they say its for kids its strong enough for adults I got it on a buy 1 get 1 free sale, so happy I did and its strong enough for me to use which is good. Lavender is lovely Primal Spice is good even for female. Smells like cinnamon. Only one I don’t like is Jacked Up Jasmine smells old ladyish to me. I enjoy their “PoPo Powder” for down there too !
    Here’s 15% off your first order .. http://r.sloyalty.com/r/u6k34F63PJdy

    • Hana says

      In the ingredient list of Primal Spice, I found “aluminum free baking soda” on the list. In this post earlier, the author said aluminum is bad so why recommended this product? Can someone explain for me please? Thanks.

      • ASC Admin says

        Hi Hana, thanks for your question! Aluminum free baking soda means that the product does not include any aluminum, which is why we have recommended 🙂 Let me know if you have any additional questions!

        XO, ASC Admin

  4. Ann says

    I use one called “The Best Deodorant In The World”. I’ve tried Waleda and most other natural ones. The one works the best (hence the name :). Their commercial is so funny too on their site.

  5. Ellen Zschunke says

    I started making my own in June and was pleasantly surprised to find the recipe worked! My original recipe was just coconut based. I have since tweaked it to find a good consistency that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and at some prompting started to sell it as well. If you’re interested, there is more info here: http://barefootbodybrand.blogspot.com

  6. Cindy Licastro says

    I stopped using deodorant and anti perspirants years ago due to these chemicals and possible problems. I basically do not use anything and if I do feel a little smelly I will wash under my arms with soap and water or sometimes use deodorant but spray it on my clothes, not my skin. I really don’t notice a problem and my husband never complains. Sometimes we just get ‘ used to’ a feeling that we ‘have’ to use something. I don’t wear perfume either as the smell irritates me. A thought to consider

  7. Ashley says

    I use a himalayan salt bar (wetted) or bubble and bee organic cream deodorant. They seem to work equally well. You may want to avoid the salt bar after shaving, though!

  8. Bonnie Solter says

    I have known all of this, but it is difficult to fine a good deodorant. Any suggestions or do you have one in your product line?

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