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What’s the Deal with Natural Deodorant?

If you’ve ever stood in the deodorant aisle overwhelmed by options you’re not alone. Choosing a deodorant these days is hard enough with all the different brands, scents, strengths, application types…

But deodorant choices are far from dwindling. As of late, there’s even a new deodorant option on the shelves. Unlike their regular deodorant counterparts, natural deodorants claim to be free of “health-harming chemicals”. Most contain naturally occurring ingredients instead, such as essential oils, mineral salts, and baking soda.

Homeopaths and normal folk alike have bought into the fad but it’s worth it to dig a bit deeper and better understand what the real benefits and costs are to switching to natural deodorant.

What’s so bad about regular deodorant?

You may have read somewhere on the internet that regular deodorant is going to kill you somehow. The short story: super unlikely.

The long story:

Most regular deodorants are also antiperspirants; not only do they contain ingredients that cover up the smell of sweat (deodorize), but also ingredients to block the sweat from seeping out of your armpits in the first place. These chemicals are namely aluminum-based ingredients such as aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminium-zirconium compounds, and aluminium chloride, and they have been assumed to be dangerous to human health in various ways.

“Deodorant causes breast cancer”

The myth that aluminum-based deodorants cause breast cancer originated from a spam email that circulated in 1999. (That right there should tell you all you need to know about the scientific legitimacy of the claim.)

Believers claim the chemicals in the deodorant formula are absorbed through the skin in your armpits — especially if you’ve cut yourself there while shaving — and they then interact with your DNA or the hormone, estrogen, and cause cancerous growths.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is simply no conclusive evidence that this relationship exists.

Some people have also identified nonactive deodorant ingredients such as parabens as risk factors for breast cancer but there is no evidence for this link.

“Deodorant causes Alzheimer’s”

There were also claims stemming from 1960’s research that absorbed aluminum from household products like deodorants contributed to Alzheimer’s. Studies have not shown any cause-and-effect relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer’s.

Kidney issues

Who should be worried about deodorants with aluminum-based chemicals? People with kidneys functioning below 30% (aka Stage 4 or 5 chronic kidney disease). Their kidneys can’t remove the [trace amounts of chemicals] properly and they accumulate in the body. The FDA puts labels on products containing aluminum to warn people with kidney disease to check with their doctor before using the product.

But let’s be clear: using deodorant doesn’t cause kidney disease in people with healthy kidneys. It’s just that people with Stage 4 or 5 chronic kidney disease shouldn’t use deodorant.

All in all, the fact of the matter is you aren’t really absorbing deodorant chemicals through your armpits anyways. Experts have explained that the body absorbs only trace amounts of aluminum chemicals from deodorant; mostly the chemicals just sit there in the sweat ducts blocking sweat from seeping out. After all, that is their entire purpose of being an ingredient in the product.

All of the hysteria surrounding regular deodorants has done nothing more than open the market to natural deodorants as an alternative product.

What people are saying about natural deodorant

The beauty gurus of the internet have been testing out natural deodorants so you don’t have to. The verdict?

Natural deodorant reviewers commonly note a marked difference in the amount of sweat their armpits produced (as in, more) but, in the end, appreciated that they were letting their body just be itself. Many cited that even though there is no evidence regular deodorants are bad for your health, natural deodorant seemed like a fairly easy way to limit their body’s chemical exposure in their everyday lives. They considered less exposure to chemicals as a “good thing”, although this judgment is truly arbitrary given the lack of evidence around any harm associated with regular deodorant.

So should you make the switch?

There is scant scientific evidence to support that regular antiperspirant deodorant is bad for your health. If anything, the chemicals in it will help keep your pits drier as you go about your day.

But hey, for better or worse you now have more choices. Natural deodorants are an alternative if you want to move towards a chemical-free lifestyle or just let your armpits be their natural, sweaty selves for some reason. If you’re looking to make the switch, there are plenty of articles out there reviewing different types of natural deodorants in search of the most effective ones. If not, you can now return to your normally scheduled deodorant routine. Either way, now you know!