Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant: Don't Pity Your Pits!

As an acupuncturist, I’ve come to know a few things about how to treat my body. I’ve learned that it’s never a good idea to suppress my natural body processes. For example, whenever I get a headache, it is never my knee jerk reaction to pop some ibuprofen. I’ve learned that there are simple acupressure points I can press in order to help alleviate the symptoms. Additionally, using hormonal birth controls to suppress my body’s natural menstrual cycle is a no-no for me. ANY action taken in order to suppress the functioning of the body’s natural state of being may have serious consequences. These consequences may not be immediate, however, it’s important to start linking these small behaviors to how they affect the body – not how convenient our lives are now that we can get rid of sickness immediately and plan for our periods. This is especially the case with armpit care!

Why is antiperspirant bad?

Next time you’re in the grocery store, take a look in the deodorant isle. Make sure you bring a tiny magnifying glass. The majority of the products are called “antiperspirant deodorants,” which means just that – they stop you from underarm sweating. What could be more undesirable than sweating profusely from your armpits…I can think of a few things – illness being one of them. Also, check out the warning label. Did you know you’re recommended to speak with a doctor before using an antiperspirant?

Clogging and/or shrinking the pores in your pits creates a build up of toxins, which would generally be excreted in your sweat, however, are now trapped. Many of these products are made with aluminum, which (although effective in helping to stop underarm sweating) has also been shown to cause DNA mutation – a requisite for uncontrolled cell growth [i.e.: possibly pre-cancerous cells!]. Now a days, there have been many studies linking antiperspirant to breast cancer in woman. Another startling fact – 60% of breast cancer tumors are found in the axilla, aka: the ARMPIT! It is mainstream now – for women who have breast cancer or are getting a mastectomies to refrain from using antiperspirant (DOCTOR’S ORDERS!), however, I pose an important question. Why stop using a product that may cause cancer after being diagnosed with cancer? What ever happened to preventative medicine?

What is the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

Deodorants don’t actually stop underarm sweating; they combat the stench when you do sweat. In order to understand this further – a quick anatomy lesson on armpits is necessary. After puberty, there are two types of glands found abundantly in the armpit – eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are responsible for “cooling” the body down via perspiration. This sweat is not responsible for foul underarm odor; it is mainly water and salt. Apocrine glands produce foul odors because they carry fat, protein, and sweat to the surface of the skin, which interacts with bacteria on the armpit surface and viola: body odor. Deodorants are not made of compounds to stop underarm sweating, conversely they contain products that combat the bacteria found in the armpit – cutting down its ability to mingle with the fat, protein, and sweat excreted by apocrine glands and therefore, no stench is produced.

Do I have to stink?

Making the switch from antiperspirant to deodorant is no easy task. The first thing to take into consideration while making the switch is – YOU WILL STINK HORRIFICALLY for at least the first 3-5 days. Why? When your glands and pores finally begin to unclog and function properly, there is a transition period where the build up of toxins are released – causing a spike in body odor. The good news – this too shall pass.

I decided to make the switch from antiperspirant to deodorant about three years ago and am happy with the overall decision. The first challenge was finding a reliable deodorant – one that was neither gel based nor filled with other chemicals such as synthetic colors. I asked around and found a recipe that is all-natural and organic. Ingredients include: cold pressed organic coconut oil, arrowroot powder, naturally procured (mined instead of chemically created) baking soda, neem oil, mango or shea butter, lime essential oil, tea tree essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, and a small amount of beeswax to help the cream retain its consistency. Many of these ingredients are naturally antibacterial, healing, refreshing and smell absolutely delicious!

Ingredients to avoid!

If you do not want to go the “crunchy way” and are looking for a product available in grocery stores (they are very limited!), here is a list of ingredients to avoid:

  • Propylene Glycol – penetration enhancer that breaks down your skin’s protective barrier to enter your blood stream. This has the potential to bring other harmful chemicals along with it.
  • Fragrance containing phalates – known disruptors in hormone balance – affecting the way estrogen works in the body (for men, women, and children!)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA – made from a toxic salt and known carcinogen: sodium cyanide and formaldehyde.
  • FD&C Yellow and D&C Green – made from coal tar and can be hormone disruptors, skin irritants, and formaldehyde donors.
  • Diazolidinyl Urea – immune system and skin toxin that (in some studies) has been shown to cause cancer (common source: an extract in animal urine – GROSS!)
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) – made from a known carcinogen: ethylene oxide
  • Parabens – hormone disruptors that can cause skin irritation and allergies.
  • Quaternium-15 – formaldehyde containing preservative and known carcinogen.
  • Octoxynol and Nonoxynol – hormone disruptors and should be avoided by children and pregnant women.
  • Triclosan – shown to cause liver damage and hormone disruption.
  • Ceteareth-20 (or 12) used as a thickener: can be contaminated with other carcinogens. Also, a skin irritant, neurotoxin and has been deemed unsafe to use on injured or damaged skin.

Keep in mind, people; healthcare is not really for the healthy – it should be called “sick care!” Think about it: most people don’t go to the doctors until they are sick! Prevention is key and it’s important to use our noggins and treat our bodies with care. Preventing disease is much easier than going through the rigmarole of being treated for a disease after diagnosis!