You can’t escape all the toxins and chemicals in our environment, but we most definitely can choose to expose ourselves to a lot less.
Deodorants are one of those products most of us have never thought twice about. Advertising companies have preyed on our embarrassment of body odour or sweat patches on our shirts, and the urgent need to stop your body from doing what it’s designed to do naturally - sweat.
Sweat is a natural and important bodily function. It aids in regulating body temperature by cooling the skin to avoid overheating. Sweat itself is actually odourless, it’s just water and salt really. Sweat often evaporates as quickly as it is produced. However, in situations where we are particularly active or in a hot environment, we can sweat up to 10 times a normal day’s production (that would be me).
The problem is not actually with sweat itself, but with the bacteria on the surface of your skin. Before you rush off and bathe in Detol, remember bacteria is not your enemy. We need a balance of different bacteria colonies. Deodorants (and other skin care products, as well as our diets) containing harmful ingredients can make you more prone to body odour, because they disrupt this very sensitive eco system.
To make matters worse, when we eat something, our liver and digestive system will help break it down and send the bad guys packing. When you put something on your skin however, there are times when it can enter your bloodstream without being metabolised. Meaning nasty chemicals going to town on your body.
Research also shows that some compounds used in deodorant are absorbed and stored in fat cells, which are prevalent in the underarm area, says Philip Harvey, Ph.D., editor in chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology. Your underarm tissue also contains hormone receptors, which could react to some of those same deodorant ingredients, Harvey says.
For all these reasons, experts like Harvey and Patisaul are worried certain compounds in antiperspirant and deodorant could cause or contribute to developmental or reproductive issues, as well as cancer. (Other research shows some of these substances can mess with the microorganisms—many of them beneficial—that live on and in your body.)
Think about it, deodorants are designed to inhibit your body’s natural secretion of toxins. An antiperspirant deodorant will literally clog your skin follicles to sop the production of sweat. Sweating is actually a good thing!
On top of inhibiting your body’s natural cleansing and detoxifying process, deodorants and antiperspirants also release tons of harmful chemicals into our bodies.
Here’s what’s actually lurking in your “normal” deodorant:
1. Aluminum Compounds - Aluminum chloralhydrate, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly
Aluminum is the mac daddy of por clogging. Aluminum exposure has been linked with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and it interferes with your estrogen levels. When your body can’t process estrogen properly, there’s a higher risk for breast and prostrate cancer. (source: Authority Nutrition, 5 Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Deodorant)
2. Parabens - methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl
Parabens are in virtually all skin care products these days, and are used as a preservative. It is possibly one of the most harmful additives of all. Sometimes parabens act as estrogen in your body, which disrupts hormonal balances and has been linked to breast cancer and prostate cancer.(source: Authority Nutrition, 5 Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Deodorant)
I was shocked about this one. I thought silica was good for you? But apparently silica is a known skin irritant, it may also be contaminated with crystalline quartz which is a carcinogen (capable of causing cancer).
These additives are the product of ethoxylation (weakening of harsh chemical in the manufacturing process), which simultaneously produces carcinogens and dioxanes. (source: Authority Nutrition, 5 Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Deodorant)
The FDA has classified triclosan as a pesticide, yet it is in the majority of brand name deodorants. It’s used to kill bacteria in the manufacturing process, as well as when it comes in contact with your skin. When triclosan is combined with water it can also create a carcinogenic gas called chloroform - why anyone wold put it into a skin care product is beyond me. (source: Authority Nutrition, 5 Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Deodorant)
IARC, claims that if Talc contains asbestiform fibers, then it is considered a carcinogen. The quantity of asbestiform fibers in deodorants is unclear as it is not regulated in cosmetic products.
The “n” stands for a number. So the label may say, for example, steareth-1. It is actually derived from vegetables, but it is reacted with a known carcinogen, ethylene oxide.
8. Propylene Glycol
If used everyday, this chemical can cause damage to your central nervous system, heart and liver. It is also shown to irritate skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. Propylene glycol can be harmful at as small a percentage as 2%, yet deodorants generally have a high dose of 50% propylene glycol. (Source: Natural News, Dangerous Chemicals in Deodorant & Antiperspirant.)
9. TEA and DEA
Triethanolamine (TEA) and diethanolamine (DEA) are chemicals can seep into your skin and affect your liver and kidneys. They are so nasty that these two chemicals have already been banned from products in Europe because they are known carcinogens.
Want to see if your deodorant is toxic? Check out the Skin Deep has a database that contains over 69,000 products and examines them based on 50 toxicity databases and gives them a safety rating.
Sure beauty requires some sacrifices, but it should never be at the cost of your health. There are plenty of deodorants out there that don’t contain harmful ingredients and get the job done naturally. It will take a little while to "detox" your pits and allow your body bacterial to find balance, but it's well worth it. Now is the perfect time to make the switch as the weather (in Australia) is much cooler, so you'll be producing much less sweat.
Check out some of my personal favourites below.
Juggling a flurry of businesses and passions Sarah Leung is the ultimate multi-tasker. She is the owner and manager of award winning wellness centre, Healthy Energy Holistic Lifestyle & Wellness Centre, Founder of our beloved Alg Seaweed, casual lecturer at La Trobe University, Ballet Student Nutritionist, Food Stylist and Photographer and did we mention that she's also an all round lovely soul? We managed to catch a moment of Sarah's time to talk about all things business, iodine deficiencies and how she manages it all, her answers might surprise you.
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