For many of us, the use of deodorants is almost second-nature. Unlike body lotions, or perfumes which we may neglect from time to time, deodorants are almost always a must in our daily routine. And this is with good reason, because we strive to ensure that any distasteful body odour or underarm sweating is kept well at bay.
The terms ‘antiperspirant’ and ‘deodorant’ are often used interchangeably but they refer to different products.
Deodorants use ingredients such as alcohol and antimicrobials (including parabens) to kill bacteria and include fragrance to mask bad smells. They do not control the flow of sweat.
Antiperspirants control sweat and body odour by preventing sweat reaching the skin surface and by reducing the bacteria that causes body odour via antimicrobial ingredients.
Antiperspirants frequently use an aluminum-based compound to block sweat glands temporarily.
Both antiperspirants and deodorants often contain fragrances to help mask the smell of body odour.
But why do our armpits sweat in the first place, and where does the odor come from?
We have two different types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. The eccrine glands located on most of our body’s surfaces release perspiration when body temperature rises in order to cool down the body.
Apocrine glands on the other hand secrete perspiration composed of water, protein, fatty acids among other substances in response to hormones, stress, anxiety etc. Many of these glands are located on our armpits.
Our skin is the body’s largest organ and performs many functions, including aiding our other organs in eliminating toxic waste products.
Sweating occurs as one of the body’s main ways of detoxifying. Under our arms are lymph nodes, which are essential to the immune system. They attempt to flush out toxins via sweat.
This sweat is virtually odorless, but bacteria present on the skin’s surface break down the protein and fat which produces the smell. The odors of underarm sweat are generally mildly unpleasant, but not very noticeable. It only becomes a problem in situations where:
- the colon, liver and kidneys have become overburdened and ‘choked up’ with a toxic overload thus forcing toxins to be forced out through the skin
-we consume large amounts of acidic foods such as meat and dairy, refined foods and trans fats. These generate toxins which the body will need to expel.
Wearing tightly-fitted synthetic garments make these problems even worse.
By failing to consider the reasons behind the essential natural functions of the body, and by suppressing these functions using antiperspirants, we can be doing ourselves serious harm.
Antiperspirants and deodorants contain chemicals (namely aluminum, parabens, and synthetic fragrances) that have been repeatedly linked to serious diseases.
Women are at more risk, because they generally shave the armpits, and the tiny cuts, nicks and raw skin allows these harmful chemicals to penetrate more easily into the skin.
Harmful effects of specific ingredients:
Aluminum has been proven to be a neurotoxin a long time ago. Since then, several studies have shown a link between its use and numerous neurological conditions, most notable Alzheimer’s disease.
One study showed that the use of aluminum containing antiperspirants were responsible for a 60% increased risk of Alzheimers!
With respect to breast cancer, P Darbre Ph D, states that aluminum is “capable of causing both DNA alterations and epigenetic effects…..consistent with a potential role in breast cancer”. In addition, she states that aluminum “can interfere with the function of oestrogen receptors of MCF7 human breast cells”. Both of these mechanisms of action are proven pathways in the formation of cancer cells.
These are estrogen-mimicking compounds. It has been shown that the amount of estrogens we are exposed to in our lifetime is directly proportional to our risk of developing breast cancer.
In one study conducted by Darbre in which 20 breast cancer tumours were tested, 18 were positive for parabens!
The area of the breast referred to as the upper outer quadrant (UOQ) that is closest to the underarm region (and therefore would be the first area to absorb toxins) has been showing an increasing trend in the percentage of tumours of the breast in line with the increased use of deodorants and antiperspirants: In 1936, 21% of tumours were found in the UOQ; during 1947-1967 this increased to 43-48% and in 1994, the percentage of breast tumours in the UOQ had risen further to 60.7%
When one considers the close association of the breast tissue and the sweat glands of the underarms, it is not surprising that the application of these toxic compounds (with established ability to be absorbed by the skin), should create health issues in the breast such as cancer. This situation is further exacerbated when the excretion of these toxic compounds is hampered by the very products that apply them!
Health governing bodies, such as the FDA, will not confirm a link to these products and cancer, but they also do not state that they are safe.
How do we protect ourselves?
- Stop using these harmful products. Antiperspirants and deodorants create a vicious cycle by blocking toxin elimination, thus contributing to toxin build-up and a greater problem with regards to body odor.
-Wash underarms regularly with natural soap and water
-Use deodorant stones and/or Therapeutic Grade essential oils to manage body odor. In addition to being natural and non-toxic, these offer a wide range of health benefits.
It would be a good idea to use an essential oil with antibacterial properties, such as Lavender, Lemon, or Tea Tree. Other oils that work wonderfully as deodorant are Geranium, Purification and Patchouli. Clary Sage is a natural sweat reducer, and would make a great choice if this is a concern. Experiment with different oils, or even blend two of them to create a scent that is personal to you.
-Cleanse the body with regular liver and colon cleanses. These reduce the toxic load on the body and hence the need to expel toxins through the skin.
-Wear loose-fitting clothes in breathable fibres such as cotton
-Avoid excessive acidic foods such as meat, dairy products, and refined foods. These are a constant source of toxins that will need to be expelled.