Natural deodorant companies are multiplying by the second, but are traditional deodorants really that bad for you?
One argument in favor of making a switch to natural deodorant claims that chemicals found in traditional formulations are toxic. Another argument is that by blocking the “purge” from sweating we are causing a buildup of toxins in our bodies. Aluminum in traditional antiperspirants has been implicated in causing breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, and even fertility issues.
It is important to note, however, that none of these associations has been supported with scientific studies.
These claims were largely based on misinformation and loose associations made without proof. Let’s take a closer look at how deodorant and antiperspirants work to understand which may be the best choice for you…
Traditional antiperspirants work by temporarily blocking sweat from leaving the skin. Technically there are no natural antiperspirants as aluminum is the only FDA-approved option on the market, however many natural formulations utilize the drying properties of powders and baking soda to minimize wetness. How much a person sweats is based on many factors including genetics, age, fitness level and even medications they may take.
Deodorants, unlike antiperspirants, have no effect on sweat and only serve to minimize the smell of body odor. Deodorants can either function by neutralizing odors or by fighting the bacteria that causes odor in the first place. Traditional deodorants use ingredients like ethanol, triclosan and cyclomethicone to kill odor causing bacteria. Newer natural formulations use things like zinc, tea tree oil, AHA or clay to maintain a “healthy microbiome”. While these ingredients certainly sound less like something made in a science lab, they can still cause skin irritation if they aren’t the right match for you.
To switch or not to switch?
While most natural formulations fall short on sweat and odor prevention, this trend has shed a light on all the other ways deodorants can work for us. Many newer formulations boast additional benefits such as combating ingrown hairs, helping to treat hyperpigmentation and being vegan and cruelty free! There are also now deodorants and antiperspirants for more than just our underarms, because we all know this isn’t the only place we get a little sweaty and smelly.
While there may not be any harm in using a traditional deodorant, there is a general trend in both nutrition and beauty to seek more natural ingredients. The ultimate choice of which antiperspirant or deodorant to use mainly depends on your lifestyle and goals. It is wonderful that women have so many options today, but sifting through them can be difficult. Staying informed on how these products work can help you choose the right one for you!
I am a board certified pediatrician practicing in Beverly Hills, CA. I love helping kids grow into healthy, confident, independent young adults. I have served as a principal investigator on numerous clinical trials to further advancements in pediatric medicine, as well as extensive volunteer work and curriculum development for hospitals and medical training programs both locally and globally. I love having the opportunity to educate and empower young adults & especially young women to take control of their own health and wellness.