It is a conversation topic I have yapped about with a couple of close friends, and it always has ended with slight concern upon their faces.
Deodorants/antiperspirants and what exact harm are they doing up in there?
Are those 48-hour protection powerhouses actually evil under their awesome b.o bashing facade, or are we worried about nada?
Out of all the branches of the body-care tree, the underarm is one of the most neglected.
Not many like to chat about it all too much – pitty talk, for some, can be right up there with ear-wax removal and menstrual cups.
People are secretly fascinated by all these things and really do want to know more, but it ends up being more of a Google late-night solo soiree, and less of an open chat with our real pals.
It is surprising how little people actually know about it all, so here’s a little rapid lesson for yew that you can pass onto your pals!
Firstly, deodorant vs antiperspirant. A deodorant masks any nasty smells (which are caused by bacteria) but will still allow you to sweat. An antiperspirant prevents sweating with ingredients that act as a plug in the sweat glands.
Let’s thank Wikipedia for always being awesome and also for this info below:
Human perspiration is largely odourless until it is fermented by bacteria that thrive in hot, humid environments. The human underarm is among the most consistently warm areas on the surface of the human body, and sweat glands provide moisture, which when excreted, has a vital cooling effect.
When adult armpits are washed with alkaline pH soap, the skin loses its acid mantle (pH 4.5 – 6), raising the skin pH and disrupting the skin barrier. As many bacteria thrive in this elevated pH environment, this makes the skin susceptible to bacterial colonization. The bacteria feed on the sweat from the apocrine glands and on dead skin and hair cells, releasing trans-3-Methyl-2-hexenoic acid in their waste, which is the primary cause of body odour.
Underarm hair whisks the moisture away from the skin and aids in keeping the skin dry enough to prevent or diminish bacterial colonization. The hair is less susceptible to bacterial growth and therefore is ideal for preventing the bacterial odour.¹
So the best way to stay fresh? Use a very mild pH balancing soap-free wash under there.
One of the main influences on the skin’s pH is regular soap/body wash which is very alkaline; usually having a pH range of 9 to 11. This makes the skin’s acid mantle (pH 4.5-6) clearly HEAPS more alkaline, thus prone to bacterial growth and increased body odour.
Another thing we can take from the Wiki lesson is not to stress too much if you forget to shave, cause you’ll likely stink less -WIN FOR LAZYNASS!
Eating a more alkaline diet helps too – lots of leafy greens, veggies, sprouts, avocados rather than acidic mess found in animal products, processed carbs, refined sugar, alcohol and coffee.
Now to the topic of wetness.
Our body actually WANTS to sweat (see VITAL cooling effect above). It is a totally normal reaction of the body, which is being blocked by the swelling + clogging of the sweat gland cells, thanks to the aluminium compounds in your antiperspirant. While there is no evidence suggesting this is dangerous long-term, I’d rather let my body do its thing and regulate/cool itself like it wants to!
Your pitties are trying real hard to rid your body of toxins, and you’re basically saying NAHP later thanks. Uh, how much later?
Switching to a natural deodorant instead will allow that sweating to occur, a good one will keep it to a minimum so you aren’t getting swamp-fever, and it will totally mask any odour. Your body will be letting out a huge sigh of relief, as it will be the first time you’ve let it do its job in….how long?
For most, that answer will be YEARS. GAH.
So yes, there will be a “detoxification” period – no surprise there. You’ve finally let your body come out and party after an ultra-long grounding.
For me, it was about a two monthish detox period with the odd end-of-day stinkage after using natural deodorant (mind you, I made this switch in the midst of summer too).
It wasn’t horrible, I definitely never felt like I was sweating bullets compared to the old dry antipersp me (in fact it was actually nice to sweat a little), but did notice my own personal musk come through at the tail-end of super hot days.
All I had to do was reapply a little more magic under the arm-sticks to ensure I kept any of that mild stank at bay.
To me, I just kept thinking this minor inconvenience on occasional days was WELL WORTH letting my body do its job properly.
Finally, the scary stuff: the jury is still out on whether aluminium or parabens increase breast cancer risk – no-one can yet conclusively prove a direct link.
Studies have found these compounds within breast cancer tissue, but it cannot be proven if it came from the antiperspirant, from medications or even the food ingested by the subjects. After all, aluminium and parabens are found in many other thangs…such as water, beer, and 75-90% of cosmetics². BOY.
Aluminium is, however, a known neurotoxin which has been thought (upon accumulation in the body) to increase the incidence and accelerate the onset of Alzheimers, as high levels are found in many sufferers’ systems.
And parabens (found in some antiperspies) can mimic mild levels of estrogen, and excessive amounts in the system are thought to speed up tumour growth.
Again, all of this has been looked into, but no study can yet provide solid evidence that either are the root cause of the health problem in question.
Personally, I’d rather not wait to find out, and instead choose to go the natural route until we DO know these answers for certain.
It’s one of those “better safe than sorry” situations, not just in our #DeoLyf, but in as many daily products we apply and ingest as possible.
Want to join the Natural Deo Club?
Feel free to shop my top picks below (each one cruelty-free OBVS, and vegan!), and let me know in the comments below if you currently use one and what you love about it so.
If you’d like me to create a YouTube vid discussing/reviewing each of these pong-smashing powerhouses also, let me know that too!
¹ “Deodorant.” Wikipedia. 23 March 2016. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiperspirant>.
² Winter, R. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, 7th ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009.