While many deodorants may work for sweat patrol, they can be a sneaky source of toxins that are dangerous to your health.
Your skin is an absorbent sponge. Whatever touches it has the potential to be absorbed through your skin’s layers and enter your bloodstream. This includes toxins and chemicals that can be found in lotions, makeup, shampoo, and even the deodorant you swipe on every day.
Many of the conventional body care products we use on a daily basis are made with a long list of chemicals, many of which haven’t been tested for safety. When these chemicals are absorbed into our bodies, it’s our liver’s job to detoxify them. While this creates extra work for your liver, many of the chemicals found in body care products have been shown to disrupt hormone and cognitive function, and in some cases, promote the growth of cancer cells (1).
Today, there’s a growing concern regarding underarm deodorant and breast health. Since deodorant is applied directly beside the breasts, it’s suggested there’s potential for harmful chemicals to damage breast cells. Clinical observations have shown “a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, just the local area to which these cosmetics are applied” (2).
However, you don’t have to give up deodorant altogether. When it comes to 100% natural, chemical-free body care products, such as coconut oil or shea butter, dermal absorption isn’t a problem. But knowing which chemicals to stay away from when choosing your deodorant can make all the difference to your health and well-being.
Here are 7 of the worst ingredients found in deodorants and how to find a safe, natural replacement that actually works.
The 7 Worst Ingredients Found in Your Deodorant
If you have an antiperspirant stick somewhere in your bathroom, I’m willing to bet that if you look at the ingredients list you’ll find some kind of aluminum component on the label, such as aluminum chloride, aluminum zirconium or aluminum chlorohydrate.
You see, aluminum, or aluminum-based compounds and salts, are the main ingredients in most antiperspirants. The aluminum helps “plug up” sweat ducts so less sweat is produced.
Now, this may be helpful in the short-term for controlling perspiration. However, chemicals such as aluminum found in antiperspirants may alter the balance of odor-causing bacteria in your armpits, which can make the smell of your B.O. worse.
Even more concerning is research showing that aluminum can cause changes in DNA when absorbed – preventing certain cells in your body from working properly (3).
Based on where deodorant is applied – right next to breast tissue – research suggests that aluminum may interfere with estrogen receptors and alter estrogen gene expressions. This is troubling data, as estrogen is the hormone that can promote the growth of cancer breast cells (4).
And let’s not forget: while breast cancer is thought of as a female cancer, it also affects approximately 2,600 American men each year (5).
As a heavy metal, aluminum is also recognized as a neurotoxin that can promote serious cognitive disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (6). And while it’s argued that the amounts of aluminum we absorb from our environment and body care products are miniscule, it’s suggested that only a very small amount of excess aluminum in our bodies is needed to alter the structure of cells.
The first step to finding a safe deodorant is looking for “aluminum-free” on the label.
(Propylparaben, benzylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben)
Parabens, a preservative and antimicrobial found in commercial deodorants, are linked to hormonal imbalances within the female and male reproductive tracts (7).
Studies on breast cancer tumors have shown concentrations of methylparabens in breast tissue, which suggests there’s a link between parabens and breast cancer cell development (8).
In addition to deodorant, parabens are also found in other cosmetics, body lotions, perfumes and moisturizers.
3. Propylene Glycol
(1,2-propanediol, methyl glycol, 1,2 dihydroxypropane and trimethyl glycol)
Propylene glycol helps absorb water, making it an ideal ingredient for antiperspirants.
Unfortunately, research suggests that propylene glycol has a negative impact on the central nervous system, and may be linked to seizures and depression. Although more research is needed on how the propylene glycol in deodorant impacts health, studies show that as a main component in burn creams, propylene glycol is most dangerous when it’s applied to and absorbed through injured skin (which includes a nick or cut from underarm shaving) (9).
Talc, which also goes by the name hydrous magnesium silicate, is one of the ingredients that provides the chalk-white color to deodorant.
There’s a lack of evidence to show the long-term effects talc can have when it’s absorbed into the bloodstream, but some sources suggest it contains asbestos, a known irritant and carcinogen (10).
As an antibacterial and antifungal agent, triclosan is a chemical that’s used to help keep the odor-causing bacteria out of your pits. However, the FDA has issued warnings against triclosan for its ability to disrupt the functioning of thyroid hormones (11).
While the long-term impact of triclosan on human health is still being studied, it’s worth noting that coconut oil is a natural ingredient that has the same antibacterial and antifungal properties. When it’s an option, why not go chemical-free and natural?
If you’ve ever felt irritated or itchy from your deodorant, silica could be to blame. Silica is added to deodorant to help absorb moisture from sweat, but it’s also known for being a skin irritant.
The silica found in deodorant may also be contaminated with a compound called crystalline quartz, which has been linked to respiratory diseases and the development of cancer cells (12).
(Steareth-2, Steareth-15, Steareth-20, Cetereath-20)
Steareth are waxy chemicals that help keep the deodorant’s ingredients from separating. In other words, steareths prevent you from ending up with an oil and vinegar, salad dressing-style deodorant.
The toxicity of steareths are said to be low according to the EWG (13). Nonetheless, you’re rolling the dice when it comes to applying any untested chemical to your skin.
The Problem with ‘Natural’ Deodorants
While there are many natural deodorants on the market, there are a few problems when it comes to trying to beat B.O. and excess perspiration naturally.
First of all, many natural deodorants aren’t strong enough. Luckily, this can easily be resolved with natural ingredients such as apple cider vinegar and baking soda, which help control and eliminate odor-causing bacteria. Witch hazel has also been said to lower the pH of the skin in your armpits, preventing bacteria from being able to survive there.
The second problem with natural deodorants is that the world of marketing uses “natural” as a buzzword without much authenticity. By this, I mean that you’ll see many deodorants with the word “natural” on the label, based on a few natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, while the rest of the ingredients list is still loaded with the chemicals listed above.
This is also true with deodorants that are advertised as being aluminum-free. While choosing an aluminum-free deodorant is the first and most important step to finding a safer deodorant, it’s important to be aware of the other chemicals that may be present. It should also be noted that many natural deodorants are made with baking soda as the base, but aluminum is almost always present in baking soda unless it’s labeled as aluminum-free baking soda on the ingredients list.
How to Find a Safe Deodorant That Works
The easiest way to find a safe, natural deodorant is to read the ingredients list and scan for chemicals. It’s best to find a natural deodorant that uses organic ingredients such as:
- Aluminum-free baking soda
- Essential oils
- Apple cider vinegar
- Unrefined coconut oil
- Witch hazel
Our recommendation: Primal Pit Paste Lavender Deodorant. No strange chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce. No questionable pesticides or additives. Just 100% organic and Paleo ingredients. These guys hit all the marks, which is why our team swears by them. Coconut oil, beeswax and aluminum-free baking soda keep odor-causing bacteria under control, while arrowroot powder naturally soaks up perspiration.
If you’re a newbie to natural deodorant, start with the Primal Pit Primer, which helps soothe pits and prevent skin irritation when making the switch to baking soda-based deodorants.
The Bottom Line
Give what goes on your body the same amount of attention you give to what goes into it. Choose your body care products like you choose your food. When it comes to finding a safe deodorant with no harmful side effects, it’s important to choose products that contain no aluminum, no parabens, no GMO, no additives, and no chemical toxins. Make sure what you’re using uses trusted, organic ingredients and gets the job done naturally.
(Read This Next: 4 Easy, Natural Homemade Face Mask Recipes)
This post is sponsored by our friends at Primal Pit Paste. Our goal is to always bring you healthy, Paleo-friendly articles that we know you’ll love. We only feature trusted brands approved by the PaleoHacks team.