Natural deodorants

Natural deodorants

I used a natural deodorants for well over a decade until I was pregnant with my daughter.  Something changed early in my pregnancy, and my natural deodorants didn’t work for me anymore.  I tried several new types of natural deodorants without really any luck.  I finally broke down and went back to conventional deodorants.  Let me tell you something: scrubs don’t breathe.  I’m sure my patient’s wouldn’t appreciate me holding during an epidural with my natural deodorants failing me.  So, back to conventional deodorants.

Why natural deodorants?

Most conventional deodorants and antiperspirants contain several ingredients linked to serious health effects, from Alzheimer’s disease to virulent cancers.  Since deodorants and antiperspirants are designed to stay on our bodies for hours, this allows the potential for more harmful chemicals to be absorbed through the skin.

Antiperspirants work by clogging, closing, or blocking the pores with aluminum ions so they cannot release perspiration.  Aluminum is a hazardous material that the FDA allows to be added to body care products in regulated amounts.  There is no proof that these “regulated amounts” of what is essentially poisonous to the human body are actually safe.  Arguments against the use of aluminum emphasize the fact that aluminum accumulates in the brain over time and may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancers.

Recent studies on the effects of aluminum and the dangers of antiperspirant usage suggest that it travels more easily into the lymphatic system when underarms are shaved.  Your antiperspirant label may list aluminum as:

  • aluminum chlorohydrate
  • ammonium aluminum sulfate
  • potassium aluminum sulfate
  • aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly

Aside from aluminum, most antiperspirants also contain parabens, antimicrobial agents derived from toluene—a toxic petrochemical derivative.  Some evidence suggests that repeated exposure to toluene may contribute to hormone disruption.  Thirteen research studies performed since 2000 have shown that various types of parabens act like estrogen in living tissue.  Estrogen is known to drive the growth of cancerous cells.  Some people with sensitive skin have an allergic reaction to parabens, which results in a skin condition known as contact dermatitis.

Antiperspirants also have harsh astringent salts containing metals that can cause granulomas (small, itchy bumps) on underarm skin.

Deodorants work by:

  • neutralizing the smell of the perspiration mixed with bacteria
  • antiseptic action against that bacteria

Deodorants are more healthy than antispirants because they don’t interfere with perspiration, but many conventional brands contain harsh, potentially toxic ingredients that should be avoided. Deodorant ingredients to avoid include parabens, all forms of aluminum, and the following substances:

  • Propylene glycol: a penetration enhancer that absorbs quickly through the skin and which has not been fully investigated for carcinogenic potential.
  • Talc: classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer if it contains asbestiform fibers, which are unregulated in cosmetic grade talc.
  • Steareth-n: (‘n’ may be any number, say 100), may be vegetable derived but is processed with ethylene oxide (ethoxylated), a known human carcinogen.
  • Triclosan: an antibacterial found in deodorants and soaps.  It has an astounding ability to create resistant bacteria.

A study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found that chemicals commonly used in deodorants were showing up in breast-cancer tumors, leading the authors to suspect that they may play some role in the development of the disease. Those same chemicals have been linked to sperm damage in men, and because of evidence that they can be absorbed through your skin, there’s more reason than ever to ditch the plastic tube.

Concern about aluminum

Natural health groups have been pressing government and regulatory agencies for years to take a hard look at the long-term safety of aluminum in cosmetic products. Aluminum is what gives antiperspirants their wetness-fighting ability, and they’re highly effective. Commercial deodorants can contain up to 25 percent aluminum salts by weight.

The problem is this: nobody really knows what aluminum does in the human body. In the case of deodorants, you’re applying aluminum directly to the skin and leaving it there. With women, in particular, that skin might be broken from shaving.

You’ll notice most antiperspirants contain a warning to discontinue use if you experience irritation from its use, and quite a few people are sensitive to the aluminum salts,parabens and triclosan common in over-the-counter products. But what really worries some health experts is aluminum’s possible connection to breast cancer.

The cancer question

Before we go any further, let’s be clear: despite the flackery you’ll find on the internet, there are no definitive studies which link the use of antiperspirants to an increased risk of cancer. These concerns have been floating around for at least a decade, and groups such as the American Cancer Society still consider commercial deodorants to be safe.

That hasn’t stopped some researchers from fretting. Take Dr. Philippa Darby of the U.K.’s University of Reading. She’s recently published a paper in the Journal of Applied Toxicology showing that aluminum salts increase estrogen-related gene expression in cultured human breast cancer cells. In other words, the aluminum appears to mimic estrogen under lab conditions. Elevated estrogen levels are tied to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Back to naturals

It was with much reluctance I switched back to conventional deodorants and antiperspirants nearly two years ago.  But I may just have found something that will work for me.  Tom’s of Maine has released an all natural antiperspirant.  I’ve always loved Tom’s of Maine since I was first introduced to their company.  I could list dozens of reasons why I like Tom’s of Maine, but here’s just a few (taken from

  • No Animal Testing or Animal Ingredients
  • No Artificial Colors, Flavors, Fragrance, or Preservatives
  • We Share Every Ingredient, Its Purpose, and Its Source
  • Sustainable Practices are a Priority in Every Aspect of Our Business
  • We Strive to Maximize Recycled Content & Recyclability of Our Packaging
  • 5% (12 Days) of Employee Time to Volunteering.  10% of Profits to Human & environmental Goodness.

Active Ingredients

Name Purpose Source
Aluminum Chlorohydrate Reduces perspiration wetness Recycled Aluminum originally from mineral bauxite

Other Ingredients

Name Purpose Source
Palm Kernel Oil Skin Conditioning Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis) Kernels
Stearyl Alcohol Consistency Coconut (Coco nucifera) Oil
Hydrogenated Castor Oil Consistency Castor (Ricinis Communis) Beans
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil Consistency Soy Beans
Talc Silky feel Natural Mineral Deposits
Dicaprylyl ether Skin Feel Coconut (Coco nucifera) Oil
Olive Leaf Extract Odor fighting Olive (Olea europea) Leaves
Maltodextrin Skin feel Wheat (Triticum vulgare)

Unfortunately, as you can see from the list of ingredients, my new deodorant still contains a form of aluminum, but from what I can gather, it is at least the least irritating form of aluminum out there.  And now I have a deodorant packaged in a most environmentally friendly manner and is made with ingredients from natural sources.  Still wish I could get away from the aluminum.  Maybe my body chemistry with change again someday, and I can go back to my old completely natural deodorants.


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