Have you ever needed to calculate the square root of 43 while checking out at the grocery store? Me neither. But you know what I have done in grocery stores? Googled mysterious ingredients on my phone.
I’ve already shared with you my man-stink killer deodorant recipe along with my sensitive skin formula and my fave pre-made option, but is conventional deodorant really all that bad?
There are literally thousands of synthetic chemicals on store shelves in our grocery stores. Despite the fact that they’re added to food, personal care products, and household cleaners, many of these chemicals have never been tested for safety. (1) (2)
When I realized that, I began switching over to natural options, starting with the products I use most often.
Because it was so easy to replace and I had concerns about the ingredients, conventional deodorant was the first to go. Here’s why I ditched it, and why you might want to consider it, too.
5 Reasons To Ditch Conventional Deodorant
“When you eat something, it’s broken down by your liver and digestive system. But when you put something on your skin, there are times when it can enter your bloodstream without being metabolized.” Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University (3)
Not all chemicals are well-absorbed through our skin, but “blood tests show that many of the substances commonly included in deodorant products can, in fact, worm their way past the epidermis and into the body.”
Research also shows that some compounds used in deodorant are absorbed and stored in fat cells, which are prevalent in the underarm area, says Philip Harvey, Ph.D., editor in chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology. Your underarm tissue also contains hormone receptors, which could react to some of those same deodorant ingredients, Harvey says.” (3)
Here are five ingredients to be aware of:
Most antiperspirants and some deodorants – including some “natural crystal” deodorants – contain forms of aluminum, which clog sweat glands to stop perspiration. Research suggests that women who use antiperspirants have higher levels of aluminum than those that don’t, which is a problem because excess aluminum may change how the body makes and/or responds to the estrogen. (4)
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency lists aluminum as a potential endocrine disruptor, which is a chemical that produces “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children.” (5)(6)
This chemical, which is used in everything from toys to toothpaste, may disrupt normal thyroid function, alter hormones, and increase the risk of breast cancer. (7)(8)(9)(10)
The FDA banned its use in hand soaps beginning in 2017 over concerns that it might contribute to the development of superbugs, but it’s still allowed in personal care products like toothpaste, body wash, hand sanitizer, and deodorant.
This is one chemical to keep a sharp eye out for, even in products that portray themselves as mostly “green” or natural.” Arm and Hammer®, for example, settled a class action lawsuit in 2015 because their Essentials “Natural” Deodorant actually contained Triclosan.
Phthalates help other chemicals stick to our skin and/or penetrate more deeply into the epidermis. They’re linked to:
- Weight gain (11)
- Increased risk of diabetes (12)
- Fertility problems (13)(14)
- Developmental disorders in children (15)
- Lower testosterone levels in men, women, and children. (16)(17)
Although testosterone is most often thought of as a “man’s hormone,” it’s actually vital for all of us. Symptoms of low testosterone in women can include:
- muscle weakness
- sleep disturbances
- reduced sex drive
- decreased sexual satisfaction
- weight gain
- fertility issues
- irregular menstrual cycles
- vaginal dryness
- loss of bone density (18)
Prenatal exposure is also linked to:
- Lower IQs (19)
- Behavior problems and attention disorders (20)
- Higher rates of asthma (21)
Used as preservatives in personal care products, parabens are endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen. Although a causal connection has not been established, some researchers have hypothesized that the estrogenic properties of phthalates may play a role in breast cancer.
The National Institutes of Health says more studies need to be done due to conflicting results, but some researchers have expressed concern that breast cancer most often occurs in the upper outer quadrant – just under where women rub deodorant on. (22)
Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University, told TIME Magazine:
There’s estrogen-sensitive tissue in the breast, so the worry is that if you put parabens close to this tissue every day, they may promote the growth of cancer cells.” (3)
In a 2012 study, 99% of breast cancer samples that were analyzed contained parabens. Some say there is no link and that the increased rate of cancer in this quadrant is because it contains the most epithelial tissue.
However, in this study, researchers found that breast cancer rates (specifically in the upper outer quadrant) are rising alongside an increased use of underarm products.
Any increase in the disproportionality of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant would be inconsistent with an explanation relating to the greater amount of target epithelial tissue in that region but does parallel the increasing use of cosmetics in the underarm area,” write the authors.
Thanks to a loophole, companies can hide all sorts of chemicals under the label “fragrance” without disclosing them. In one study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, nearly half of the ingredients in the fragrance products they tested were not listed on the label.
Many of these ingredients are phthalates, but others are chemicals that can cause allergic responses or irritation. Ironically, even “unscented” products may contain masking fragrances, which are chemicals used to cover up the odor of other chemicals. (23)
Products labeled “fragrance free” do not contain masking chemicals according to the Environmental Protection Agency. (23)
Ready to switch to natural deodorant?
I promise, it’s easier than you probably think:
- Here’s my easiest DIY deodorant
- Here’s one for sensitive skin
- Here’s a stick version
- And here’s what to buy if you don’t want to DIY
Once you’re ready to tackle the next thing, here are a few other products you might want to replace: shampoo, lotion, soap, makeup remover, hair gel, body butter and hair detangler.
Do you have any tips for making the switch to non-toxic personal care? Please share in the comments below!
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- Sarantis, Heather et. al. (2010) Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance
- Live Science (2013) Why Are Industrial Chemicals in Food Not Safety Tested?
- TIME Magazine (2016) 5 Things Wrong With Your Deodorant
- Mannello, Ferdinando et. al. (2011) Analysis of aluminium content and iron homeostasis in nipple aspirate fluids from healthy women and breast cancer-affected patients
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (2008) Endocrine Disrupting Compounds
- Monneret, Claude (2017) What is an endocrine disruptor?
- Veldhoen, Nik et. al. (2006) The bactericidal agent triclosan modulates thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and disrupts postembryonic anuran development
- Stoker, Tammy E. et. al. (2010) Triclosan exposure modulates estrogen-dependent responses in the female wistar rat
- Lee, Hye-Rim et. al. (2014) Progression of breast cancer cells was enhanced by endocrine-disrupting chemicals, triclosan and octylphenol, via an estrogen receptor-dependent signaling pathway in cellular and mouse xenograft models
- Gee, R H et. al (2008) Oestrogenic and androgenic activity of triclosan in breast cancer cells
- Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research (2016) Weight gain through plasticisers
- WebMD (2012) Phthalates May Double Diabetes Risk
- Harvard School of Public Health (2016) Exposure to phthalates may raise risk of pregnancy loss, gestational diabetes
- Louis, Germaine M Buck et. al. (2014) Urinary bisphenol A, phthalates, and couple fecundity: the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study
- Braun, Joseph M. et. al. (2013) Phthalate Exposure and Children’s Health
- Sexual Medicine Society of North America. Exposure to Phthalates Might Lower Testosterone Levels
- Endocrine Society (2014) Reduced Testosterone Tied to Endocrine-disrupting Chemical Exposure
- Medical News Today. What happens when a woman has low testosterone?
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Phthalate Exposure Linked to Lower IQ
- Columbia University (2021) Phthalates Impair Children’s Brain Development, Scientists Call for Immediate Action
- Columbia University (2014) Phthalates Heighten Risk for Childhood Asthma
- National Institutes of Health Cancer Institute. Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer
- Environmental Protection Agency. Safer Choice: Fragrance Free
Read My Comment Policy
My favorite place to purchase natural safe body care products is from Etsy. The Green Rift is my favorite place to get all of my body care needs! The owner is Jen and she is super awesome!
My switch actually went pretty easy, just used up the conventional deodorant and started with natural one. I haven’t made my own, though – purchased Primal Pit Paste and it has lasted me for an eternity..actually can’t wait to make some myself. I think it was roughly a week that my skin needed to adjust and “stink” less. I would advise to give it a week or two, before saying it doesn’t work (my partner tried for two days and went back to his conventional one, although he approves of me using mine – must mean I’m not stincky-wincky:D). I would advise to give some natural products, deodorant for example, some time to show its true colours:) And something that I want to do myself – try different products, different recipes and don’t be afraid to tweak them to fit your skin:) Because at the end of the day, it’s awesome to use natural stuff!
And I forgot to add – I had no idea about the fragrance loophole.. Thank you!
Love the info you share…thank you. The link for the purchased natural deodorant is an unfounded Amazon item. Would you mind sharing what it is?
I ditched my deodorant almost a year ago. Once I found this recipe I have had no problems at all. When you first quit it can be pretty stinky as the toxins leave your system. Now I am almost as stink free as I was prepuberty. I can go almost 24 hours without reapplying.
I switched to making my own deodorant like…9 years ago. Wow I’m getting old. Anyway, I eventually got lazy and had enough success not using it at all that I stopped. The natural deodorant made the transition easier!
My problem is that I HAVE to have antiperspirant! If I don’t, then I get terrible heat rash. There are a lot of options for just deodorant, but I have not found any healthy options for antiperspirant.
Most natural storebought deodorants (at least all the ones that I’ve ever seen) are just that — deodorants, NOT antiperspirants. So, while they may keep you smelling nice, they don’t help at all in keeping you dry. And I hate that. What I’ve found, however, is that many — if not nearly all — homemade deo recipes use baking soda, arrowroot powder, or cornstarch to help absorb moisture much like aluminum does in conventional antiperspirants. I was QUITE leery that these powders could actually rival aluminum in their effectiveness but I’ve been using homemade deo that a friend gave me for months now and I actually preferred prefer it hands-down to any of the other natural storebought does that I have. Seriously, it’s amazing!! And that’s coming from a serious former-skeptic! Anyway, give a batch of homemade a try — maybe make a half batch the first time to see how you like it. There are LOTS of recipes online, and several for baking soda free varieties if you find that you are sensitive to that. Best wishes to you in your search!
Hi Cynthia, I discovered that my heat rash was created by wearing synthetic fibers. Once I switched to breathable fabrics (including my bra), no more rash!!
Nina R Hettema
I immediately thought about the possibility that the heat rash is food allergy-driven. This article seems to bear that out. Using antiperspirant may resolve the rash, but I would be worried about aluminum (I am a breast cancer survivor so I am very careful about such things). This article is about under the breast care but applies to armpits, too, I would imagine. The use of baby wipes is intriguing. https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/articles/putting-antiperspirant-under-the-breast-helps-rash-but-boosts-aluminum-exposure
Barefoot Body deodorant has a low baking soda option for those who have experienced irritation making the switch. There is a Facebook page and an etsy page too: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BarefootBody
Cynthia, I’d be interested to see if a recipe with arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) helps you as it wicks away moisture. Many people who have tried mine have reported noticeably reduced sweat factor. If you’re interested in trying it, send me a message on the FB page Barefoot Body.
So I see a lot of recipes or diy deodorant. But odor isn’t my problem. Perspiration is. So how do I get out of the normal ingredients in deodorant/antiperspirant but still have something to help with the sweat? I can’t just not have antiperspirant or I would never go out in public when it’s warm.
I was worried about that too – I would reapply my commercial antiperspirant/deodorant several times a day because I was sweating. After I switched to the natural deodorants I actually sweat a lot less. I think it was my body saying it didn’t like all the chemicals I was using!
The baking soda/arrowroot powder/cornstarch in homemade deos helps immensely with absorbing moisture (but not in inhibiting its release the way that that nasty aluminum in conventional antiperspirants does). I was super skeptical at first, but they really do work! It’s amazing!
I would suspect that it is not the sweat that is irritating your skin but something that your body is pushing out. You could try supporting other ways of getting toxins out of your body like saunas, oral chelation (coconut oil pulling) and probiotics. Bottom line it should just be a phase. OR if you’re shaving your armpits with a razor blade, maybe try switching to an electric trimmer to minimize breaking the skin?
I became allergic to all the deodorants on the market. Then remember about bicarbonate of soda. Dust it on after a shower and not even a wiff! Best thing I ever done!
I ditched mine when I found out my cousin got Breast Cancer. 3 days before, she found out she was pregnant. She had to deliver at 31 1/2 weeks because the treatments weren’t working. She still has the cancer and has lost too much weight. She’s still getting treatment but the pain is getting worse. If you care about anyone, change deodorants. Granted the Aluminum free doesn’t keep smell down too much but, think of my cousin & her struggle, while with a 10 month old she can’t even pick up. I do every time I put my deodorant on.
For those who prefer ready made non-toxic deodorants, we have put together a list of all-natural and organic deodorants that are free of aluminum, parabens and petrolium based ingrediences at https://www.aluminumfreedeodorants.com/aluminum-free-deodorant-brands/
I ditched deodorant a number of years. I have opted for no-odor stainless steel. I do get the occasional body odor on a highly stressful, or active day, but it seems to be less noticeable the longer I am away from the chemical deodorants.
I just made your sensitive formula for homemade deodorant. I have had no problem with smell but am terribly broken out under my arms. Any suggestions?
I’m hooked on Lavilin. I was skeptical at first, and it took me a while to get used to their cream, but since then it’s been great and I recommend it to everyone! Lasts several days per use and contains no parabens or aluminum!
Hi! I am from Argentina, and i cannot find here the earth for the senstivie skin deodorant (My boyfriend has psoriasis in his armpit and cannot use sodium bicarbonat or Baking Soda) So, what do you recomend? Thanks
Are these deodorants good for excessive sweating?
Mix equal parts of Bragg’s organic apple cider and distilled water. Use cotton pads to wipe on your armpits (morning and night).
I never knew these things. I think aluminum is the worst case.