Deodorants Part 1: Deodorants, Antiperspirants & Sweat
Deodorants and antiperspirants are two every-day products that may be more harmful than you think. I’ve had many people tell me their deodorant doesn’t work because they’re still sweating. Clearly there’s confusion so before we find out why they may be harmful, let’s first explore the difference between them.
Deodorants prevent body odor caused by the bacterial breakdown of perspiration in the armpits by killing that bacteria. They do not prevent perspiration.
Antiperspirants, on the other hand, do more than prevent body odor. They clog your pores (or sweat ducts) to reduce sweating.
Before I knew better, I used Certain Dri, an antiperspirant high in aluminum. It worked extremely well and made me stop sweating but at what expense? My health? No thanks!
The thing is sweating is natural and healthy. I know that it can be embarrassing on a hot summer day to have the halos of sweat on your shirt but wouldn’t you rather have wet armpits than Alzheimer’s? I sure would!
If it really bothers you, you can wear loose clothing around the armpits and stick to natural fibers. Polyester and the like can cause serious BO.
Deodorant, Antiperspirants, Breast Cancer and Alzheimer’s
You’ll often hear that antiperspirants are linked to breast cancer but from what I’ve read, it’s not the antiperspirant itself that’s a problem. It’s aluminum, the main active ingredient in antiperspirants and some deodorants which has been linked to Alzheimer’s and to an increased risk of breast cancer.
But no one really knows what came first. The chicken or the egg. Did ingredients like aluminum really cause these diseases or where they just one factor? There is no contesting that high levels of aluminum have been found in breast cancer patients and Alzheimer patients. But was that the only culprit? I doubt it but considering all the pollutants we’re exposed to on a daily basis like the air we breath.
The good news, however, is that we have a choice when it comes to the products we use. I rather not put known toxins in my body so I personally rather use a deodorant over an antiperspirant. But not just any deodorant. It needs to be aluminum-free and not have several other ingredients that we’ll talk about in part two.
So before we nix deodorants and continue using antiperspirants, let’s explore why we sweat.
Why do we sweat?
Sweating, as I mentioned before, is natural and healthy. Sweating is our body’s way of keeping us cool and preventing us from overheating in a hot climate or during exertion. Strong emotions, stress, and hormonal changes also cause us to sweat. Sweating also allows our bodies to purge impurities.
We have two types of sweat glands. The first, eccrine glands, are found on our palms, soles, and forehead. They regulate our body temperature. As our body temperature increases, our nervous systems kicks in to stimulate our eccrine glads to release sweat which helps cool down the body.
The second kind, apocrine glands, are mostly found in the underarm and groin areas. These are triggered by anxiety, stress, and hormone fluctuations. The apocrine glands produce bacteria to help break down the sweat. That same bacteria is what causes body odor. (1, 2)
Here are some common reasons why we sweat and/or have body odor:
- Stress and anxiety
- Exercise and physical exertion
- Hormone fluctuations
- Medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid issues, pregnancy, obesity, and menopause.
- Your deodorants or antiperspirant – a study from the Ghent University in Belgium found that antiperspirants actually increase the amount of bacteria living on your armpits.(4)
Since we have an average of two to four million sweat glands and our bodies produce almost a liter (33.8 oz) of sweat per day, you can imagine how important it is to not block our sweat glands. That’s why I personally stopped using antiperspirants 10+ years ago and only use natural deodorants.
Why do we have body odor?
Sweat itself is generally odorless. But when you have perspiration in a confined and damp area like the armpit, it combines with bacteria on the skin, which then causes body odor.
Now that we know that we want to use a deodorant over an antiperspirant, we’re going to dive deeper into the wonderful world of natural deodorants by exploring ingredients to avoid and what to look for when choosing a deodorant.