By now most of us have learned to be vigilant about what we eat and how our food affects our health. Of course, we all splurge on not-so-healthy stuff from time to time. But we’re aware, and we’re making mindful choices.
How about the personal care products we use on a daily basis?—You only need to walk down the aisle of any grocery store to get an idea of how big the business of selling deodorant has become. In the United States alone, annual sales are up around $2 billion. Do you know what’s actually in the stuff you roll on every morning? It might be time to stop and review the ingredient list. Let’s take a closer look!
How Does Deodorant Work?
First, it’s interesting to know that sweat isn’t inherently stinky. In fact, it’s nearly odorless. The smell actually comes from bacteria that break down the sweat on your skin. Most deodorants contain chemicals to kill off the bacteria before they have time to digest your fluids and stop the odor before it starts.
Antiperspirants, on the other hand, deal directly with sweat. They use a chemical called aluminum chloride that mixes with sweat to form a gel-like plug to stop up the sweat gland duct. The more pores that are plugged, the less you’ll physically sweat.
What’s So Bad About Using Something That Helps Us Smell Better and Keeps Us Dry?
Well, nothing except that most deodorants and antiperspirants contain a long list of mysterious chemicals. How harmful are these chemicals?
Researchers at National Cancer Institute claim that they “are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer”. NCI claims there is no “clear” or “direct” link between parabens or aluminum and cancer. They do admit that “ More research is needed”.
Not all researchers are convinced and many still believe common chemicals found in deodorants pose big health risks including the increase risk of breast cancer.
Here’s the thing–“Unless a chemical is proven harmful, regulators allow you to eat it, smoke it, brush with it and slather it on your body. Finding that proof of harm is a difficult, costly and time-consuming proposition.” ~ Cancer specialist Dr. Philippa Darbre
OK, so there’s no (as yet) proven scientific evidence that aluminum, parabens or any of the other ingredients in deodorants or antiperspirants pose any threat to human health but “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of a harmful effect” and “these chemicals are being directly applied daily, by very large numbers of people, and the long-term health effects of exposure are essentially unknown,” ~toxicologist Philip W. Harvey
I don’t know about you but if even one toxicologist tells us his own calculations suggest there’s a chance these chemicals in question may “significantly add to estrogenic burdens” and adversely affect my health I believe the smart and safe action is to switch to products that do not include harmful chemicals.
Just like we do in food the best thing is to use only products with ingredients you can read and pronounce.
Here are a few of the most common suspicious ingredients–Check your products to be sure none of these is listed:
Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum – Petroleum products that coat the skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins, which in turn accumulate and can lead to dermatologic issues. Slows cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging. Suspected cause of cancer. Disruptive of hormonal activity.
Parabens – Widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic industry (including moisturizers). An estimated 13,200 cosmetic and skin care products contain parabens. They have hormone-disrupting qualities – mimicking estrogen – and interfere with the body’s endocrine system.
Propylene glycol – Used as a moisturizer in cosmetics and as a carrier in fragrance oils. Shown to cause dermatitis or skin irritation.
Acrylamide – Found in many hand and face creams. Linked to mammary tumors in lab research.
Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) – Found in car washes, engine degreasers, garage floor cleaners… and in over 90% of personal care products! SLS breaks down the skin’s moisture barrier, easily penetrates the skin, and allows other chemicals to easily penetrate.
Toluene –Very harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) contains toluene. Other names may include benzoic and benzyl.
Dioxane– Found in compounds known as PEG, Polysorbates, Laureth, ethoxylated alcohols. Common in a wide range of personal care products. The compounds are usually contaminated with high concentrations of highly volatile 1,4-dioxane, easily absorbed through the skin.
If you’d like to learn more about your particular product you can search The Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep site
Not All Products Do The Job
Over the years I’ve experimented with lots of different healthier products. I found that just because something is labeled “long lasting” or “maximum protection” does not mean the product actually works on body odor.
Here are two deodorants with clean ingredients that are not effective:
These three products work well for me. I’ve listed them in order of effectiveness. You can purchase Burts Bees and Tom’s at Mom’s Organic Market. Click on Agent Nateur for more information.
Bull Dog is a healthy, effective option for guys. It’s available at Whole Foods Market.
Eat, Move, Live Well!