Have a think about your morning routine: wake-up, exercise, eat breakfast, brush your teeth and get dressed. Seems harmless enough right? Unfortunately, the step between brushing our teeth and getting dressed often involves putting on deodorant.
Our skin is our biggest organ, absorbing anything we expose it to. This includes the deodorant we rub under our armpits to stop us smelling, every single day. For healthy people, using deodorant won’t have a huge impact on their health. However, for us with an already compromised immune system, any excess exposure to toxins can be damaging.
Deodorants are designed to work outside the body (i.e. stop us smelling). However, they contain chemicals that can pass through our skin and in some cases, leach into our bloodstream. What’s scary about this is that, unlike when we eat toxins, chemicals absorbed through our skin aren’t broken down and expelled as waste through our liver and digestive system. Rather, they enter our bloodstream without being metabolized.
Here are the 5 most common deodorant/antiperspirant* ingredients that may be dangerous to your health:
Aluminium may cause increased gene instability in breast tissue, which may be linked to changes in tumour growth. It has also been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminium is used in antiperspirants to block your sweat glands, reducing the amount you sweat. So it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of sweat you produce, it only blocks it from coming out! Also, aluminium can kill off the bacteria under your arms that doesn’t produce smelly sweat, meaning that the bacteria that does make you pong, can proliferate.
Phthalates are toxic to our reproductive organs. This chemical disrupts the androgen functions in our body and impacts our ability to build and maintain muscle. Phthalates can actually trigger signals to cells to make them die faster and earlier than they should. Avoiding this chemical is particularly important for sufferers of thyroid problems as some studies have linked phthalates to thyroid irregularities as well as hormone changes, fertility problems, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity and diabetes (read how to minimise your exposure to this chemical here).
Phthalates are used in antiperspirants/deodorants to help the product stick to your skin or hair. Shampoo, moisturiser, perfume, body wash and soap all contain phthalates and this chemical can build up in your body over time.
Parabens have been linked to changes in the production and regulation of hormones, and in particular estrogen, in our body. Like other endocrine disruptors, parabens penetrate your skin and mimic the actions of estrogen, increasing the estrogenic effect in your body. Parabens are used in antiperspirants/deodorants as a preservative.
Scary: the chemical ingredients in fragrances are concealed and protected by trade law! So much for transparency. This means no one, besides the maker, knows exactly what goes into the product…or even worse, what the reactions could be. And just to make things worse, fragrances are usually used in products with phthalates to make them long lasting.
- Propylene Glycol
Propylene Glycol is a petroleum based chemical that is used to soften cosmetic products, making it easier to apply to the skin. This chemical has been associated with causing damage to the liver, central nervous system and heart. While manufacturers generally argue that propylene glycol is only harmful at high doses, studies have shown that it can be harmful at as small a percentage as 2%. Deodorants generally have a dose of 50% propylene glycol.
*These ingredients are also extremely common in other health care products, such as shampoo and conditioner, moisturisers, shaving gels and make-up – just to name a few!!