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When you take a second to think about deodorants – antiperspirants in particular – the problem seems rather simple and self-explanatory. We apply deodorant to our armpits to block smells. But why does our body sweat in the first place? Sweating occurs as one of the body’s prime efforts to detox. So, if we’re preventing the detox, where are we sending the toxins that our bodies are trying so hard to flush out? The answer is the lymph system, which is the bodies defense against infection. Cancer is also frequently spread throughout the body when cancerous cells break off from a tumor and travel to another location in the body through the lymph system. Basically, the lymph systems works by trapping the bad stuff and flushing it out frequently via our pits. When the glands in our armpits are blocked, our breasts are right there to take in the toxins. Antiperspirants have been linked to breast cancer (source).
The biggest concern in antiperspirants is the active ingredient that works to plug sweat glands temporarily, an aluminum-based compound. They are specifically related to breast cancer because the upper corner of the breasts, near the armpits, is usually the site of developing cancerous cells and tumors. This is where the cancer cells travel to first.
Read here about the different chemicals (and even animal products) that are found in deodorants and a variety of other personal care products.
What evidence is there?
According to the Environmental Working Group, small numbers of toxins, in any form and consumed in any way, are dangerous to human health. Personal care products are of particular concern, as they are used every single day, and build-up becomes inevitable.
Some doctors say the evidence on antiperspirants is inconclusive, and that there is no real need to worry. Some studies definitely claim a link between usage and cancer, even though it is not proven as a cause. Certainly, there are a whole whack of chemicals in deodorants, ranging from active ingredients to controversial fragrances.
A study done at Reading University in the UK does suggest a link between the usage of antiperspirants and breast cancer. They say, the strongest evidence of this is the rise of breast cancer cases in men, one of the largest users of antiperspirant deodorants (source).
Based upon other ingredients, the Environmental Working Group has classified many antiperspirants as concerning in their rating system. Based off of the EWG’s classifications, Gillette Antiperspirant, a concerning deodorant, list of ingredients can be linked to cancer, development and fertility complications, allergies, irritation, and toxicity issues in different body systems. The variety of chemical ingredients is generally linked to a diversity of health concerns.
How Do I Choose a Deodorant?
Replacing deodorants is tough. Many natural ones have a bad rap. If you’re especially active, keeping the smells at bay is a challenge. Especially if you love your antiperspirant, finding a natural alternative will be tough. Blocking a naturally occurring body function is the role of the synthetic chemicals, and you’ll notice the difference rather quickly. But, if you want to live as chemical-free as possible, trying out the alternatives is worth it.
There are alternatives for deodorants and naturally occurring perfumes and fragrances to keep yourself feeling, and smelling fresh. Natural deodorants are not normally as strong as “normal” ones and antiperspirants, so opting for one might mean carrying it with you throughout the day for re-application. But really, what have you got to lose? Deodorants, even ones not labelled as natural, work differently than antiperspirants, so opting for just a regular deodorant is a good first step. Watch out for synthetic perfumes as well, as they have their own set of issues. There are many natural deodorants available, even in big supermarkets. Check out how to choose a deodorant and look at other brands. Head to a health food store where you’ll be able to find deodorant ‘crystals’ made of potassium alum, which prevent odor-causing bacteria from spreading.
Up for a little do-it-yourself project? Learn how to make your own deodorant! That way, you can play with what works best for you, as no two people are perfectly alike. And besides, DIY projects at home can be fun.