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Deodorant dangers, part one

A while ago I wrote about the potential dangers of parabens in deodorants and other personal care products. Sadly, parabens are just one of the nasty ingredients that commercial deodorants and antiperspirants typically contain. Almost every deodorant on the supermarket shelves – as well as many in health shops – contain one or more aluminium compounds, synthetic fragrances and stabilisers. Those advertised as healthier often contain the same dangerous chemicals in smaller quantities, or replace them with other hazardous additives. My experience of truly harmless alternatives has been that these can often be expensive and pretty ineffective.

Fortunately, the spotless alternative is neither. I’ve seen this same recipe (with minor differences) published in several places now. That’s because it works. I used the even simpler dry version (bicarb and cornflour) happily for quite some time, but after playing around with adding coconut oil in varying quantities, I must say the luxury version is a winner – gentle, silky, easy to apply, and highly effective. I encourage you to try it if you haven’t already.

In case you need more convincing (or are simply interested), here are some reasons why you might want to steer clear of commercial deodorants and antiperspirants.

  • Aluminium salts appear so frequently as the main active ingredient – indeed, their presence defines an antiperspirant – because they are indeed very effective at blocking body odour. They do this by literally blocking the sweat glands. As they are taken in by our skin’s cells at the opening of the sweat glands, these cells also absorb water, swell up and block the gland’s opening. The skin is our body’s main and largest organ of elimination. Blocking its method of respiring and getting rid of toxins doesn’t seem a good strategy to me. After all, we don’t block up the toilet if it smells!
  • The fact that we are applying aluminium (and other dubious chemicals) to an area of the body with many blood vessels close to the surface, as well as the important underarm lymph nodes, seems especially crazy. (Much of what we apply to the skin is absorbed directly.) Exposure to aluminium has repeatedly been linked to neurological problems, notably Alzheimer’s disease. Once in the bloodstream, the many blood vessels provide a direct route to the brain, where aluminium and other harmful substances can accumulate. Likewise, the lymph nodes provide access to the entire lymphatic system, ensuring that whatever is absorbed is spread throughout the body.
  • That harmless sounding word “fragrance” masks more than just your body’s smell – it hides a multitude of hazards. Even products that list their ingredients often use this term to mask the dangerous substances used to synthetically produce scents. Companies claim that fragrance ingredients are “trade secrets” or that they occur in negligible quantities. The truth is the toxic cocktails that make up synthetic fragrances very often contain irritants, allergens, sensitisers, hormone disruptors, immune suppressants and carcinogens. (Musk scents are especially hazardous.) Many fragrance ingredients are toxic at very low levels of exposure. Sensitisation can sometimes occur after only one exposure.

In part two of “Deodorant dangers”, I’ll discuss why pregnant and breastfeeding moms should be particularly interested in avoiding the hazards of commercial deodorants and antiperspirants.