Is Your Deodorant Doing More Harm Than Good?
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
First, let’s make it clear that deodorant and antiperspirant are two different things. Deodorant minimizes sweat and smell, while antiperspirant actually prevents you from sweating. You have two types of sweat glands all over your skin, and they’re most highly concentrated in—yup, you guessed it—your underarm area. The eccrine glands cool you off when you’re hot and leave no odor. The aprocine glands, on the other hand, are the reason you smell not-so-pleasant after a particularly sweaty Spin class. Deodorant works by counteracting the smell, while antiperspirants block it from happening in the first place.
Aluminum and Breast Cancer
And here’s where you should start paying attention—antiperspirants use aluminum as an active ingredient to keep you from sweating. Some studies claim that aluminum-based antiperspirants may increase the risk for breast cancer. Why? Because most breast cancers develop in the upper outer part of your breast—in other words, the part that’s closest to your armpit and where you apply antiperspirant. When chemicals from antiperspirants are absorbed into your skin, they can interact with your DNA and lead to a cancerous change in cells—yikes. However, some experts say that these studies were flawed, and that even though chemicals from antiperspirants were found in patients’ breast tissue, it doesn’t mean there’s a direct link.
Aluminum and Alzheimer's Disease
In the 1960’s, a few studies were published that found high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. However, the findings of these early studies weren’t replicated in later research, and experts have essentially ruled out aluminum as a possible cause of the disease.
Aluminum and Kidney Disease
If you’ve ever read the label of your antiperspirant, you may have noticed a somewhat disturbing warning that suggests you check with your physician before using if you suffer kidney disease. That’s because awhile back, dialysis patients were given a drug to help control high phosphorus levels in their blood. But because their kidneys weren’t functioning properly, the aluminum in the drug began accumulating, and scientists started noticing that dialysis patients with high aluminum levels were more likely to develop dementia. Hence, the warning. In reality, the words of caution are mainly intended for those whose kidneys are functioning at 30% or less.
One last ingredient in your antiperspirant to be wary of: parabens. These chemicals have been linked to breast cancer in a 2004 study, but the study didn’t determine whether the parabens actually caused the breast cancer—only that high levels of them were found in those with breast cancer tumors.
The Final Word
The case against antiperspirants is hazy, at best. But just because there isn’t any recent definitive evidence doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Whether you'd rather err on the side of caution and stick to all-natural options, or if lack of evidence is enough for you to stick to your trusty sweat-buster, the important thing is to always stay informed.
Click ahead for our all-natural deodorant and antiperspirant picks, or click here our favorite great-smelling deodorants that actually work!
Weleda Wild Rose Natural Deodorant ($16)
Lush The Guv'ner Deodorant Powder ($11)
Dr. Hauschka Deodorant Fresh ($23)
Malin + Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant ($18)
Soapwalla Deodorant Cream ($14)
The Internet is good for many things—including spreading rumors at lightning speed. Today, we’re tackling one of these rumors and giving you the cold, hard facts: can your deodorant and antiperspirant really lead to long-term health concerns? Click through the slideshow to find out!