Natural deodorant is a healthy alternative to traditional aluminum-based ones. Over the years, there has been an increase in their popularity. Even celebrities are adopting natural deodorants as part of their personal hygiene. Actress and CEO Jessica Alba swears by natural deodorants for everyday use:
“I won’t lie. If I have to walk a red carpet or give a big presentation, I’m reaching for that trustworthy but toxin-filled Big Name Super-Strong Antiperspirant. You can’t risk pit stains in those high-pressure situations, and the nontoxic deodorant formulas just aren’t there yet. For now, my strategy is to layer my conventional antiperspirant over a natural, nontoxic deodorant. I figure that way I’ve got a layer of protection from the aluminum and triclosan in most mainstream brands. On regular days, it’s natural all the way (nymag.com).”
Why we began making natural deodorant
Like most of our products, Blossom’s line of natural deodorants began with a personal dilemma. After waking up one morning to irritated and swollen underarms, I went without deodorant for a few days. The result: my underarms began to heal instantly, though I wasn’t exactly smelling my best, which made me self-conscious.
So, I went on a mission to craft my own deodorant. My simplest recipe was coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint essential oil. This was fast to make and did an okay job, but it wasn’t as long-lasting as I’d hoped. To make things worse, the large quantity of baking soda irritated my skin to no end. I continued reformulating and adjusting my formula for almost a year until I found my magic combination.
In my efforts to craft an effective natural deodorant, I did research on some of the disadvantages of traditional deodorant. While the research on this topic is still ongoing and incomplete, the findings that I’ve found left me satisfied with my choice to make the leap to natural alternatives.
Aluminum-based deodorants pose risk to health
Before discussing the problem with traditional deodorants, it’s important to state that the goal of the article is not to scare readers. There are no scientific studies that have linked deodorant as the cause of breast cancer. Additionally, more research is needed on this topic. For now, we’ll discuss the relationship that researchers have examined.
Applying cosmetic products to the underarms is a very delicate matter. The underarms are located next to breast tissue and lymph nodes. For nursing mothers, there are definitely ingredients in these products that should be avoided, as they can be readily absorbed into breast milk.
Several scientists have suggested a connection between antiperspirant use breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Clinical studies report a high number of female breast cancers originating in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, which is the area to which underarm cosmetics are applied (Darbes, P.D). Some of the ingredients in deodorants can mimic estrogen. According to the Susan G. Komen cancer institute, a lifetime exposure to estrogen can increase one’s risk of cancer.
Ingredients to Avoid
Aluminum is an active ingredient in most antiperspirants, which work by temporarily blocking sweat ducts. When used frequently, some residue may be left on the skin near the breast and absorbed into the skin. Aluminum can have estrogen-like hormonal effects.
If you are using traditional deodorants and are not ready to make the switch, avoid those using parabens. Parabens are preservatives that are shown to mimic estrogen. The good news is that most deodorants and antiperspirants do not contain this ingredient. Ingredients will be listed as following: methylparaben, ethylparaben, n-propylparaben, n-butylparaben, isobutylparaben benzylparaben.
Now that we have discussed problems with aluminum deodorants, we will discuss the main reason why people use deodorant – body odor.
Not all sweat was created equal
Sweat is the body’s natural process to prevent overheating. The body has a large number of sweat glands, primarily located on the feet, forehead, palms, and underarms. During physical activity, stressful events, and hormonal imbalances our nerves respond to sending signals to the glands to elicit a response.
There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. The eccrine sweat glands secrete watery sweat that helps the body cool off. We often experience this type of sweat during hot, humid weather and when working out. While a nuisance, eccrine sweat is usually odorless.
The apocrine sweat glands secrete a thick fluid that when in contact with bacteria on the skin produces a “smelly” sweat. The apocrine gland usually kicks into gear during times of stress: presentations, public speaking, stressful life events. Perceiving an event as stressful can induce this type of sweat. Babies and children generally smell sweet due to the fact that their apocrine glands aren’t yet active. During puberty, however, they become fully functioning and body odor can become an issue.
Additionally, Some people are genetically inclined to sweat more, particularly those who suffer from hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating, the glands are over-sensitive to stimuli and are in a constant state of activity.
Ways to reduce sweating
There are some simple natural methods to reduce sweat:
- drink plenty of water and eat fresh fruits and vegetables
- wear loose-fitting natural fibers such as cotton or linen
- regularly shave or trim underarm hair, this will reduce areas for bacteria to breed
- refresh and wash your underarms during the day, then reapply deodorant
- wash underarms before going to bed and apply a tiny amount of your natural deodorant
- decrease sweat-inducing foods such as chili and caffeine
- practice deep breathing and relaxation strategies to help during stressful times
- add a cup of vinegar to your bath to reduce odor-causing bacteria and balance PH – rinse well, we promise the annoying vinegar scent goes away once you dry off.
The difference with natural deo
What are changes that people notice when they opt for natural deodorants? Besides a peace of mind that they’ve reduced their exposure to toxins, a number of users report:
- Smoother underarms with a more even complexion. This is likely to due to the nourishing ingredients found in most formulas and the reduction of irritating and drying ingredients like alcohol.
- Sweat. Natural deodorants aren’t antiperspirants so you may notice a slight increase in wetness, though most people report odorless sweat.
- Increased application. Unlike traditional deos, you might have to apply two applications of natural deodorant during your day, particularly during hot, humid summer days.
- Natural deodorant washes away easily from fabrics unlike antiperspirants, which often form a film on clothes.
Natural deodorants in corporate environments
We have a growing number of clients working in corporate environments. What we usually suggest is if you stay cool and sweating is not an issue, definitely stick with natural deodorants. However, if you do have a high-stakes meeting or public speaking event and you know you’ll be nervous, we suggest actress Jessica Alba’s strategy. Use a natural deodorant and layer on some antiperspirant the night before. And for everyday situations– au naturel.
Remember, natural deodorants generally work by creating an environment that makes it difficult for bacteria to survive, by using ingredients that lower or raise the natural PH of the underarm. They aren’t antiperspirants, but they do a heck of a job at eliminating odor and keeping you fresh.
Take home message
We believe in letting nature take its course. Realize that your body is doing what it does naturally to keep you cool and fresh. In general, sweat is good, it releases toxins including arsenic, mercury and lead and it clears pores. So here’s to long, hot summer days and natural deodorants!
- Darbre PD. Underarm antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research 2009; 11 Suppl 3: S5.
- McGrath KG. An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. European Journal of Cancer 2003; 12(6):479–485.