With the health and wellness movement gaining mainstream popularity, there is a lot of chat about not just what we put in our bodies, but what we put on our bodies too. The topic of deodorant and the potential dangers of mainstream brands however, is not new. It is no secret that the majority of popular deodorants contain aluminium. But what is this, and what does it mean for our bodies?
Before we explore the potential pitfalls (excuse the pun!) let’s have a look at what deodorant actually does, and how it works. Deodorants work to block body odour by clogging, closing or blocking the pores that release sweat under the armpits. Humans sweat as a natural way to detox, so the process of applying a deodorant is already blocking this natural sweat process.
The active ingredient that mutes the smell emitted from body odour (note, deodorant does not actually stop you from sweating – however antiperspirants do, that is the difference) is aluminium, which is a metal. The problem with this is that aluminium is not naturally found in the body, so each time you spray or roll on your deodorant, this metal has no choice but to get absorbed into your skin and therefore your blood stream. This aluminium (i.e. the one used in antiperspirants) has been linked with health problems. Taking a quick snapshot, researchers have found that some forms of aluminium can cause neurological damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is also linked to anaemia, osteomalacia, glucose interolerance, memory deficit, Lou Gerhig’s (amyotrophoc lateral sclerosis) and Parkinson’s disease. While these studies aren’t conclusive, scientists have provent than aluminium is absorbed after just one application and remains in the blood system for 15 days.
Antiperspirants contain aluminium zirconium (while deodorants do not), and this active element actually stops the body from perspiring at all. Concerns arise here as this chemical is responsible for actually blocking natural bodily functions. It is unsure what consequences arising from this unnatural blockage.
The most worrying problem with aluminium however is its association with breast cancer. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, researchers tested breast samples from 17 breast cancer patients who had undergone mastectomies. The study showed that the women who used antiperspirants had deposits of aluminium in their outer breast tissue. Concentrations of aluminium were higher in the tissue closes to the underarm than that in the central breast.
There are now several varieties of “natural” deodorants on the market that contain no aluminium or other chemicals, such as parabens. While the smell of natural alternatives may not be as potent as regular mainstream deodorants, they still work perfectly well to mask the scent of odour and are obviously much better for your body. Make sure to check what you are buying truly is free of all elements of aluminium, as some may claim to be free, but refer only to one particular type of metal. Watch out for other toxins also, such as propylene glycol (factory workers who deal with this chemical are advised to avoid skin contact in order to prevent brain, liver and kidney abnormalities), as well as parabens, which can mimic the hormone oestrogen and have been shown to play a role in breast cancer.
As always, being a well-informed consumer is the best way to protect yourself and your health against unnatural and dangerous practices. Apply this mantra to all aspects of your life in your quest to live well.