The Dangers of Deodorants

By Devaney Devoe – December 1, 2016
photography by weston Carls

When pursuing a healthier lifestyle, it is important to not only be aware what you are putting in your body, but also what you’re putting on your body. An estimated 90 percent of Americans use deodorant on a daily basis, however, most individuals are unaware of the potential consequences of using this product. There are two forms of widely-used personal hygiene products for sweat and odor: antiperspirants, which are intended to stop perspiration entirely, and deodorants that are intended to neutralize odors. Many brands on the market have created a spray or stick that combine the two; that’s not always the case, though.

Antiperspirants are commonly thought to be the harmful out of the two. This is attributed to the aluminum found in most antiperspirants. 

Aluminum is the ingredient used in antiperspirants to completely stop perspiration. These aluminum-based compounds can take the form of aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex glycine, and aluminum hydroxybromide. Although the label “aluminum salts” may not sound harmful, these compounds can have severe long-term effects on your health. Aluminum has been linked to several health issues, including Alzheimer’s Disease, kidney problems, seizures, and bone formation disorders. There has been much debate as to whether aluminum has direct links to breast cancer. Although several scientists have researched this issue and have developed different findings, aluminum has been shown to cause DNA mutation. DNA mutation is a precursor for uncontrolled growth of cells, which can lead to cancer. Considering all of the toxic chemicals contained in these products, one would think that these antiperspirants are successful in doing so. However, the The Food and Drug Administration only requires that an antiperspirant brand reduce sweat by 20 percent in order to claim that their product provides all-day protection. Similarly, companies that state their product is ‘extra strength’ are required to only cause a 30 percent reduction in perspiration. 

Surprisingly, deodorants that are not combined with antiperspirants can also contain several harmful ingredients that may impact your long-term health. Among these are propylene glycol, parabens, triclosan, and phthalates. Luckily, there are natural alternative products that can protect you from odors, with no risk to your health. 

Propylene glycol is another frequently used ingredient with health hazards. Propylene glycol is used to increase absorption. However, it is a skin irritant and a neurotoxin, which may cause liver and kidney damage. It also may cause damage to your central nervous system. Be careful when purchasing natural antiperspirants; propylene glycol is still often found in these products.

Parabens, although used as a preservative in many personal care products, mimic estrogen levels in your body. Parabens can disturb your body’s hormonal balance, which can have many negative effects on your body. These parabens are labeled on deodorant products as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, benzyl paraben, or propyl paraben. They can increase your risk of hormonal cancers, cause an onset of puberty, or even cause birth defects in your future children. 

Triclosan is intended to kill the bad bacteria in your body. However, it also kills the good bacteria that your body needs to function properly. Not only can triclosan irritate your skin and cause contact dermatitis, but it is also classified as a pesticide by the FDA and a possible carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue) by the IARC. 

Phthalates, another hormone-disrupting chemical, should also be avoided when choosing a deodorant product. Phthalates are hidden on the label as a “fragrance,” making this a loophole that many companies rely on. Because fragrance is categorized as a trade secret, companies aren’t obligated to reveal this information.

Purely Great Cream Deodorant $10 |

Scents: citrus, lavender, unscented

A little goes a long way! This cream deodorant lasts up to 24 hours, depending on how much you’re sweating, of course. To reapply the next day, simply wipe your underarm clean and apply a small amount. The only concern with this deodorant is that it is, in fact, a cream, so you’ll need to have a tissue handy to wipe off any excess on your fingers. It does come with an applicator, though, if you need it. The only thing new users might not be used to is the stickier gel-like feeling that comes with wearing this, but this is easy to get used to. This deodorant does a great job in eliminating odors and lasting throughout the day. Remember: a little goes a long way.

EO Organic Deodorant Wipe $0.69 each |

Scents: tea tree, lavender

Although this product is ideal for those of us who are “on the go,” this deodorant wipe did not seem to work nearly as well as the others. This product smells nice and the application is extremely convenient; however, these wipes did not protect against perspiration, and the nice scent only lasted a couple hours. The good news is that this product does not contain any aluminum salts, propylene glycol, or zinc salts. These deodorant wipes could be useful for someone who just wants to freshen up, but they do a weak job of providing long-lasting odor control.  

Saje Natural Wellness Deodorant Spray $13 |

Scents: floral, exotic 

This product was definitely the easiest, application-wise. Although it does fall behind Purely Great Cream Deodorant as far as sweat protection goes, it still did a good job. For someone who carries their deodorant with them to the gym, for example, this certainly is the product for you. It’s easy to apply, lasts throughout most of the day, and smells great! 

Saje Natural Wellness Crystal Fresh Deodorant Stick $11 |

This all-natural product is non-sticky. It will not clog pores, nor will it stain clothes. The mineral salts found in this deodorant stick fight unwanted odors by neutralizing odor-causing bacteria, rather than just masking them. To use this product, run crystal under warm water, then apply. Although this product does keep you fresh, it wasn’t the most effective deodorant in terms of helping with sweating. Because of this, I found myself reaching for the Saje Natural deodorant sprays more so. The sprays might also be better for someone who carries deodorant in their gym bag or car, and the stick might be best for morning application before leaving the house.


Related Articles