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  • Writer's pictureAttracta Roach

Natural deodorants don’t work, or do they?

Talking to people one of the areas they find hardest to change is the move from chemically formulated deodorants and antiperspirant to the natural form. The thoughts of having to keeping your arms tight to your body to close off your armpits and the worry of stinking out a room are some of the thoughts many do have. For others they have tried natural deodorants before and found them ineffective.

I had the very same thoughts when I decided I was going to remove much of my toxin laden cosmetics and personal hygiene products from my bathroom. I love being active, doing Pilates and running most days, as well as leading a hectic life which gets my armpits working into overdrive, so the thoughts of going au naturelle was daunting. After all I was the teenage girl who had to give every Impulse scented antiperspirant a go. So, I totally understand the hesitation to making the change to natural deodorants.

Before we start talking about Natural deodorants, I think I should explain the differences between deodorants and antiperspirants and talk about some of the ingredients found in these products.

Deodorants work by using antibacterial ingredients that help reduce the bacterial numbers that cause odours. Often other ingredients are added to give it a pleasant smell.

Antiperspirants reduce sweating by plugging and constricting the pores by using aluminium salts as the active ingredient. Antiperspirants often come with deodorant ingredients as they don't reduce odours or completely prevent sweating.

Penetration Enhancers (also known as accelerants): These ingredients penetrate the skin where other ingredients can’t. They are not harmful by themselves, but they make it easy for other components and chemicals to be absorbed by the skin. Propylene glycol is one of the most common enhancers.

Fragrance can be natural or artificial, but many commercial deodorants and antiperspirants contain unspecified ingredients to create a nice smell. The problem with this is some people can have allergic reactions to these fragrances, particularly if they are synthetic.

Triclosan: This is an antibacterial often found in deodorants and antiperspirants. On the FDA site they state

Some short-term animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses of triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones. But we don’t know the significance of those findings to human health. Other studies have raised the possibility that exposure to triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Currently, we don’t have enough information available to assess the level of risk that triclosan poses for the development of antibiotic resistance.”

Why should we be worried about the ingredients?

As I have said aluminium is usually the main ingredient in antiperspirants, making up 10% to 25% of the active ingredients in most antiperspirants you find in your local supermarket. With this, aluminium is the most debated chemical in antiperspirants. One study found that use of aluminium in antiperspirants increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life by 60% (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease), while another found “the increase in cancers of the outside upper quadrant of the breast with the increase in the use of chemical cosmetics, including antiperspirant” (University of Reading, U.K., 2009). We need to keep in mind that aluminium is widely distributed metal in the environment and only a few studies have been performed on antiperspirants. Correlation doesn’t always mean an element (ingredient) is the problematic agent.

Other concerns people have with synthetic deodorants and antiperspirants is that they can contain hormone disruptors, parabens, phthalates, and preservatives. Allergies and sensitivities to such chemicals can occur.

Comparing the ingredients

Synthetic versus Natural Deodorants

Why choose Natural?

It is not sweat that smells, but the odours produced when sweat is mixed with the skins surface bacteria. The armpit has the perfect conditions for microbes to live in as it is moist and warm. Conventional deodorants contain antibacterial ingredients that kill most bacteria (good and bad) before they get a chance to mix with the sweat to cause bad body odour, while antiperspirants block the pores to stop the sweat. Natural deodorants support the control of bacteria without the nasty chemicals, therefore working in harmony with your body by reducing the numbers of bacteria that produce odours with sweat.

Natural deodorants tend to include plant-based moisturizers such as olive oil and shea butter, that look after the delicate skin of the armpit, leaving them smooth and reducing irritation. Better still a smooth armpit means your armpits get a closer shave.

Where to start?

Finding a natural deodorant that works for you can be hard at first as we are all different and our bodies can excrete sweat differently. What may work for one person may not work for another but keep on trying and you will find what works best for you. Non-toxic ingredients are safer and will stop the stink, but they won’t keep you completely dry. This takes a bit of getting use to. It is healthy to perspire (it is how the body removes toxins and keeps us cool).

Some people detox by not using conventional deodorant/antiperspirants for a few days (some suggest 3 days), to give your body a chance to get rid of any residues of the conventional stuff. Others chuck away the conventional stuff and start using the natural form straight away. No matter which way you go, you need to give the natural deodorant a few days, even a couple of weeks before giving up. Something to consider when transitioning to natural deodorants is unlike chemical deodorants and antiperspirants, you don’t need to apply a lot for it to work properly.

When you look for natural deodorant there are so many options out there, it can make it confusing. Firstly, decide are you going DIY or sourcing your natural deodorants. DIY can save you heaps, and you can make a deodorant specific to your needs. What I didn’t like about DIY deodorants is you have to play around a lot with the recipe to get it right. Most DIY deodorants use baking soda which can irritate the skin especially in high concentrations. Others use coconut oil, which can make you armpit feel very wet. I found I was getting wet patches on my clothes and not just under the armpit.

If you buy natural deodorants it is a matter of testing several them to find what suits you. They come in all shapes and sizes (roll-ons, stick, spray and paste) with many different ingredients. Avoid potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens, triclosan, or propylene glycol. Look for natural deodorants that contain plant-based moisturisers like shea butter, olive oil or mineral-rich clay, absorbent ingredients like baking soda, arrowroot or cornstarch, and good quality essential oils known for their antibacterial qualities.

It is well worth remembering we don’t need deodorant for any health reasons. I wear a natural deodorant is to ensure I am not stinky. Also moving to natural deodorants is about removing toxic chemicals and irritants from your daily care routine. Take your time to understand what is contained in deodorants and check out what will suit your specific skin type and your skin conditions.

Helping you to look after yourself and the environment,

Attracta & the team from earthly passion

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