Are Sweaty Arm Pits Healthier?

There is nothing like sitting next to someone with body odor or BO, as my grandmother calls it.  I’ve found that the main cause of BO is stinky armpits and let’s admit it, we’ve all been there – I know that I have!  Using an effective deodorant will prevent anyone from talking about you (or writing a blog post about you :-)).  It’s definitely nice to put on a 24 hour deodorant that keeps you dry and smell free all day, but unfortunately many deodorants and antiperspirants contain toxic chemicals that disrupt our hormonal systems, weaken our immune systems and contribute to chronic diseases such as breast cancer.

Our skin is our largest organ of detoxification and also and protects us from bacteria, UV rays and physical assaults (cuts & scrapes).  Chemicals in body products are absorbed into our skin within seconds and the skin under our arms is even more sensitive as it is near our lymph nodes and often has micro-cuts due to shaving.  There are three common ingredients in deodorant and antiperspirant that have been linked to breast cancer that you want to avoid.

Most “deodorants” aren’t actually just deodorants – they’re antiperspirants.  Their name is indicative of what they do – they stop you from perspiring.  Sweating or perspiring is one of the body’s natural detoxification processes.   Aluminum is the active ingredient in most antiperspirants that blocks sweat glands and keeps sweat from getting to the skin’s surface.  Aluminum has been linked to breast cancer as it causes estrogen-like hormonal effects in the body and estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer.   Studies have also found that aluminum is present in the upper outer quadrant of the breast where many breast cancers are found.  Instead of an antiperspirant containing aluminum, opt for a deodorant that contains corn starch or another natural ingredient that absorbs your sweat instead of stopping you from sweating.

Parabens are a common ingredient in body products, including deodorants and antiperspirants.  They’re actually used in 75-90% of all personal care products.  They’re endocrine or hormone disruptors and one study showed that traces of parabens were found in every single cancerous breast tumor tested in the study. They’ve also been linked to early puberty and birth defects.  There are many forms of parabens, so look for anything that ends in the word “parabens.”

We often associate fragrance with something that is clean, however “fragrance” in deodorants and antiperspirants often contains a class of chemicals called phthalates which bind the fragrance to the deodorant/antiperspirant.  Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors and prenatal exposure has been linked to genital birth defects in boys, early breast development in girls and an increased risk of breast cancer in women.  Phthalates are not actually listed on the label of body products, but if you see the words “fragrance,” “perfume” or “parfum,” you can be quite certain that it contains phthalates.  You don’t have to use a product without fragrance (watch out for fragrance free products as they often contain “fragrance” or phthalates), but choose a deodorant that uses essential oils instead of “fragrance.”

There are many other ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants that are harmful, but I’ve given you three of the most common harmful ones that are linked to breast cancer.  The first thing that I suggest you do is, opt for a deodorant instead of a combination deodorant/antiperspirant.  If you do this, you’ll most likely chose a product that does not contain aluminum.  Secondly, you have to read the label – the back label, that is.  Claims on the front label are often used to convince you to buy the product, whereas the back label contains information to inform you.  You want to choose a product that contains ingredients that you recognize like, shea butter, essential oils, coconut oil, corn starch, probiotics, etc.  If an ingredient has a long scientific name, it’s most likely a chemical.  I won’t lie to you, choosing a natural deodorant might mean that you have to touch up your application during the day, but wouldn’t you rather do that, than put toxic chemicals under your arms every day?

This blog post is about deodorants and antiperspirants, but parabens and phthalates are in almost every other type of body product, so be sure to watch out for them in other products as well.

Now that you’ve learned about some of the toxic ingredients in deodorant and antiperspirant, I want you to do a couple of things.  First go and grab your deodorant/antiperspirant and read the label.  Do you use a true deodorant or a combination deodorant/antiperspirant?  Are any of the chemicals listed above in it?  Are there any additional long scientific sounding ingredients in them?  Let me know in the comments below.

– AmiCietta D. Clarke, Certified Holistic Health Coach & Founder of Clean Body Living, LLC