Let’s tackle a subject no one wants to talk about—sweaty armpits, and what to do about it. It’s my guess that this is one of the most difficult transitions to a more natural lifestyle. After all, no one wants to compromise on the topic of body odor. It’s pretty obvious that we all need a good deodorant and it’s the reason I’ve included three homemade deodorant recipes in my brand new book, The Home Apothecary: Home Crafted Recipes Using Herbs & Essential Oils. More and more people are learning the dangers of conventional, store-bought deodorant and they are wondering how to switch to natural deodorant (without stinking). The more we sweat, the more we stink. But lacking confidence in natural deodorant products and/or the overriding fear of showing up at an important occasion with sweaty armpits keeps many from taking the plunge to au natural deodorants.
Let’s look at both sides of this issue in this post:
- What’s wrong with conventional deodorants and antiperspirants?
- What’s right about using natural deodorants?
What’s Wrong with Conventional Deodorants and Antiperspirants?
Every day many people spray or slather on deodorant products under their arms—in a sensitive spot where many lymph nodes lie just under the surface of the skin. These products may stop the sweat—but a more important consideration is what effect their ingredients have on our bodies.
Let’s start with what is different between deodorants and antiperspirants. Sweating is the way our bodies cool down. Sweat has no odor, it’s the bacteria that lives on our skin that causes body odor. Deodorants neutralize the odor and kill the bacteria that produces it. Some deodorants contain harmful ingredients, but some have only safe natural ingredients. We will take a look at these natural deodorants in just a bit. Antiperspirants prevent sweating by blocking the pores using aluminum. No sweat—no body odor. It’s antiperspirants containing aluminum (among other harmful chemicals) that I want us to take a closer look at in this blog.
The dangers of aluminum
Aluminum salts—in the form of aluminum chloride, aluminum zirconium, aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum hydroxybromide—prevent you from sweating when aluminum ions are drawn into the cells that line the sweat ducts, causing the cells to swell and squeezing the ducts closed so sweat cannot get out.
Aluminum has been associated with several health issues, including:
- Breast cancer—most breast cancers develop in the upper outer part of the breast, the area closest to the armpit. The chemicals in antiperspirants are absorbed in the skin, particularly when the skin is nicked during shaving. These chemicals interact with DNA and led to cancerous changes in cells.
- Alzheimer’s Disease—research has shown that Alzheimer’s patients often have abnormally high aluminum levels in the brain. Data gained through research indicates that aluminum can contribute to all types of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Bone disorders—Aluminum is easily absorbed by your intestines and is quickly transported to your bones. When Aluminum reaches the bone area it interferes with the mineralization process and affects the growth of your bone cells. As a toxic metal, when Aluminum remains in your bone for a long time it can lead to additional bone related conditions such as renal osteodystrophy.
- Kidney problems—According to some clinical studies, kidneys eliminate lots of aluminum from our bodies; however, when kidney function is impaired seriously (usually less than 30% of original kidney function is left), they fails to discharge excess aluminum effectively and timely, which can lead to increase of aluminum level in blood. Under such a condition, if kidney failure patients take antiperspirants, further increase of aluminum level in blood will be caused.
Other dangerous chemicals in antiperspirants
The most common chemical ingredients found in deodorants and antiperspirants besides aluminum are:
- Parabens—these can interfere with the body’s hormone production, and have been suspected in breast cancer
- Triclosan—this is a pesticide that reduces or prevents bacterial contamination. When combined with water, it can creat the carcinogenic gas chloroform.
- Phthalates—these are plasticizers that have been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, autism, altered reproductive development, and fertility issues.
In addition to these common chemicals, many antiperspirants and some deodorants also contain toxins like steareths, triethanolamine, diethanolamine, and artificial colors. It makes good healthy sense to avoid these chemicals, especially under the arms where there are many sensitive lymph nodes. At the very least, be sure you are reading the ingredients of any deodorant or antiperspirant product you are considering using—even the labels of so-called natural deodorants. If you need more information about these toxins and their dangers, see Dr. Mercola’s Infographic on Personal Care Products or the Environmental Working Groups “Skin Deep Database.”
What’s Right About Using Natural Deodorants?
Making the choice to quit using toxin-heavy antiperspirants is a healthy first step. The transition to a natural deodorant is also a good choice, which I’ll highlight below, but first let’s talk about how to make this transition in the best way.
First, start by not using any product under your arms for at least three days. That will give your body the time to get rid of the lingering chemicals. During this time, wash daily with a pure soap and water, and exfoliate the skin under your arms with gentle scrubbing.
You can also use a homemade “Detox + De-funk Spray, using Witch Hazel, tea tree oil, therapeutic grade lavender or thyme essential oil, and coconut oil. You can find the recipe here.
There are many healthy benefits to using a genuine natural deodorant instead of a synthetic one. Perhaps the most important benefit is the fact that you will be reducing the probability of suffering from diseases caused by toxic chemicals. Your skin will also benefit and have less chance of being irritated and inflamed. And—important to most of us—our white shirts will stay white!
But remember that not all natural deodorants are created equal! Be sure you choose a natural deodorant free of dangerous toxins. Here are some ingredients in natural deodorants that are beneficial and safe:
- Baking Soda—Neutralizes odor, absorbs sweat
- Witch Hazel—Natural non-irritating astringent (shrinks pores), evaporates sweat, soothes razor burn
- Essential Oils (such as rosemary, lichen, sage, lemongrass, and tea tree oil)—Derived from plants, antibacterial properties, prevents odor and growth of sweat-digesting skin bacteria
- Mineral Salts (potassium aluminum (alum) sulfate and ammonium alum)—Work by forming a temporary layer on the skin instead of being absorbed into the skin and clogging pores, prevents odor and growth of sweat-digesting skin bacteria, non-irritant
How to choose your natural deodorant
I want to give you some tips for choosing a genuinely healthy natural deodorant. There are several things you want to watch for, including:
- Look for 100 percent naturally-derived ingredients
- Choose aluminum-free
- Avoid any other known and commonly used synthetic chemicals
- Look for beneficial active ingredients, like shea butter and aloe
Do some research to compare available natural deodorants.
You can find valuable online information about natural deodorants. Good Housekeeping has a published list of 10 natural deodorants that may be ones you want to consider. The important thing is keep trying until you find the one that is best suited for your needs.
Try making your own natural deodorant
If you have followed my The Paleo Mama posts then you know that I love making my own homemade really natural and really beneficial lotions and beauty products. In my book, The Home Apothecary: Home Crafted Recipe Using Herbs & Essential Oils, I have included three homemade recipes that truly work: Basic Deodorant Recipes, Deodorant for Sensitive Skin, and Probiotic Deodorant. I highly recommend that you experiment with making your own natural deodorant.
There are many recipes online for good natural deodorants. Experiment with these until you find the one that best works for you. YOUR ARMPITS WILL LOVE YOU FOR THIS TRANSITION TO A HEALTHIER WAY TO TREAT THEM.