Are You Poisoning Yourself to Avoid Body Odor?

September 2nd, 2009

The Health Risks of DeodorantMost people cringe at the embarrassing thought of stinking from body odor or having visible sweat stains on their shirt. Unfortunately, the deodorants and antiperspirants that you’re most likely using to avoid these problems are associated with a number of health concerns.

The use of deodorant has become so common that most people consider it to be just as important to good hygiene as bathing and brushing your teeth. However, using deodorant doesn’t keep you clean. In addition to being potentially dangerous, deodorant and antiperspirant merely hide the symptoms of a problem that should be more worrisome than the embarrassment caused by foul odors and stained clothing.

Would You Put Deodorant in Your Mouth?

Because deodorant probably tastes awful, is not meant to be eaten, and contains chemicals that you’d most likely be afraid to swallow, you probably think this is a stupid question. However, it might surprise you to know that eating a piece of deodorant is safer than rubbing it on your armpit. This is because your skin lacks the sophisticated barrier of the digestive system to help minimize the absorption of harmful substances, and as such, a significant amount of anything that you apply to your skin will be readily absorbed into your bloodstream. In fact, this is why some medications are produced as ointments.

In general, you should be hesitant to put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth, and this applies to all types of personal care products, not just deodorant.

What You’re Risking to Keep Your Armpits Fresh and Dry

As is typical for personal care products, most deodorants contain a number of potentially toxic ingredients. The two types of substances that are commonly found in deodorant and have caused the most concern are aluminum and parabens. Aluminum is the key ingredient in many antiperspirants that reduces perspiration, and parabens are used in many deodorants and a wide variety of personal care products to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus.

Aluminum and parabens are both believed to be a potential risk for breast cancer and elevated estrogen levels, and it’s been generally accepted that aluminum increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. As expected, there’s been a lot of debate over these issues, especially the risk of breast cancer. Regardless of how big or small the risk may be, the one thing we can be sure of is that nature didn’t intend for us to be exposed to these chemicals, especially not on a daily basis.

Antiperspirants are extremely popular because most people want to keep their armpits dry in addition to preventing body odor. However, because sweating is a critical part of the detoxification system, antiperspirants impair the body’s ability to handle the significant chemical burden of modern life. Even though our armpits are just a fraction of the total surface area of our skin, there’s probably a good reason why they produce more sweat than most other parts of the body. As such, it would be wise to not interfere with their natural function.

What’s in Your Deodorant?

The long and tongue twisting list of potentially dangerous ingredients found in most deodorants and antiperspirants is made obvious by the following two top sellers.

Secret DeodorantAccording to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database, the ingredients in Secret Wide Solid Antiperspirant make it a high hazard with a score of 7 out of 10. Here are the ingredients:

aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine, cyclomethicone, stearyl alcohol, talc, dimethicone, hydrogenated castor oil, fragrance, polyethylene, silica, dipropylene glycol, behenyl alcohol.

Mennen Speed Stick DeodorantMennen Speed Stick Regular, which is not an antiperspirant and doesn’t contain aluminum, is still rated by the EWG’s Skin Deep database as a moderate risk with a score of 6 out of 10. Here are the ingredients:

propylene glycol, FDC blue #1, FDC yellow #5, water, sodium stearate, fragrance, sodium chloride, stearyl alcohol, sodium carbonate, tetrasodium edta, sodium sulfate.

Based on the ingredients listed above, do either of these products sound like something you’d be willing to put in your mouth? To find out if your deodorant contains harmful ingredients, look it up in the EWG’s Skin Deep database.

An Unrecognized Cause of Body Odor and Excessive Sweating

People who are overweight, following a poor diet, or living an unhealthy lifestyle are more likely to have problems with body odor and excessive sweating. Being overweight can cause excessive sweating by increasing the need for body temperature regulation, and eating unhealthy food or using unnatural personal care products can result in a buildup of toxins that can also increase sweat production and intensify it’s odor as well.

Many people who clean up their lifestyle and improve their health notice a significant reduction in sweating and body odor. I’ve experienced this myself. If you sweat a lot and have bad smelling body odor, there’s certainly nothing wrong with trying to control it, but also consider the possibility of it resulting from your lifestyle habits.

A Better Way to Stay Dry and Fresh

Although the obvious solution is to use a deodorant with natural ingredients, it’s not always the best solution. For example, I was using one of the highest quality natural deodorants available and had to stop because it was giving me a rash. Many natural personal care products contain a large number of ingredients which makes them more likely to cause a problem, and because there’s no regulation on the labeling of such products, some of the ingredients might still be toxic.

What I think is the best solution, if you can manage it, is to not use any deodorant at all. As crazy as this may sound, if you’re in good enough health, you should be able to do it. I did it for a while, and with the help of washing my armpits each afternoon with soap and water, I didn’t have much of an issue. However, because I occasionally noticed a little body odor, I’m now back to using deodorant. In the future, I plan to focus more effort on detoxification and I think that doing so will solve the problem.

Another option, which I’m currently experimenting with, is to make your own deodorant. Once I have a better idea of how effective this is, I’ll be sure to write more about it.

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