Saturday, March 1, 2008

Natural Deodorants

Anti-Perspirant to Deodorant: Making the Switch

(Be sure to post your comments below! Just click on "comments.")

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you're probably already using a natural deodorant or thinking about making the switch. You may have found out that switching to truly natural deodorants can be tricky. I've written this blog entry to help you navigate the rough waters of finding and keeping a natural deodorant that works.

Different anti-perspirants work in different ways. Some work by shrinking sweat glands. Others work by clogging or shrinking the pores in your underarms. Many studies have shown that the compounds in these anti-perspirants are not healthy, not allowing sweat glands to do their job releasing toxins. Over time the aluminum compounds have also been shown to collect in the brain, possibly leading to Alzheimers. (There are other chemicals to avoid, see the end of this article). While anti-perspirants have these disturbing side effects, deodorants work simply to fight bacteria and to scent the underarm. That's why many people believe using deodorants is a much healthier option.

When you switch from an anti-perspirant to a deodorant, your glands and pores will start to unclog, open up, and function properly. In this transition period, toxins and other fluid buildup are being released and one may notice his/her body odor increase. Not knowing the changes that are occurring in their body, this increased odor sends people running right back to their trusty anti-perspirant. Because I believe it is so important to avoid anti-perspirants, I've created these "rules" for making the switch.

1. Test a new deodorant product for at least a week before you decide if its right for you.

2. "Detox" your pits! If you've been using an anti-perspirant, there's a bunch of "gunk" in the underarms--dead skin cells, chemical residue. Before your shower, dry-brush your underarm skin to loosen this buildup and to gently increase circulation. In the shower, lightly rub a loofah or exfoliating bath mitt on your underarms. Stay away from anti-bacterial detergents for cleaning, only using true natural soaps for cleaning.

3. Sweat it out. Exercise. Use a sauna. Take hot showers and baths. These things will make you perspire and get your sweat glands functioning properly again. You may notice your underarm sweat being a little thick. This is because the sweat glands in your armpits are different from others on your body. Instead of just water and salt, these glands excrete amino acids. Your glands haven't been able to excrete these amino acids for a while, so there may be a buildup of mucous being released.

4. Stay hydrated. With all this sweating you need to replace your fluids!

5. Wear natural fibers. Natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and hemp will help wick perspiration away from your body. Synthetic fibers like acetate and polyester trap sweat in, giving bacteria a warm wet place to live. Synthetic fibers also hold sweat in the fabric, so bacteria actually starts growing on your shirt itself.

6. Cut the red meat. Many claim that the consumption of red meat increases body odor. For a full article on the subject, click here.

Now you've made the switch. Congratulations! But just because your new deodorant has pretty flowers on the label and says "natural," doesn't mean you're totally in the clear.

Even the "natural" deodorants you'll find at the store have questionable chemicals.

Ingredients to avoid:

  • Propylene Glycol is a penetration enhancer, actually breaking down your skins natural protective barrier and enters your bloodstream, bringing any other chemicals along with it.

  • Aloe Vera or water. While water and aloe vera themselves are not harmful ingredients, their presence means that there's got to be some type of synthetic preservative to keep it from going bad.

  • Fragrance may contain phlalates that are proven hormone distruptors, particularly affecting the way the female hormone estrogen works in your body (in men, women, and children). Tetrasodium EDTA is actually made from sodium cyanide (a toxic salt) and formaldehyde (a carcinogen).

  • Synthetic colors like FD&C Yellow and D&C Green are made from coal tar, and can be skin irritants, hormone distruptors, and formaldehyde donors.

  • Diazolidinyl Urea is a skin and immune system toxin, and has been shown to cause cancer in some studies. Commonly sourced as an extract from animal urine.

  • Triethanolamine (TEA) is made from ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen.

  • Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, iso, etc) can cause skin irritation and allergies and has been shown in many studies to be a hormone disruptor.

  • Quaternium-15 is a preservative that can contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Bronopol breaks down to create the carcinogens formaldehyde and nitrosamines according to the FDA.

  • Octoxynol and Nonoxynol are hormone disruptors and should be avoided by children and pregnant women in particular.

  • Triclosan has been shown to cause liver damage and hormone disruption. Ceteareth-20 (or 12) is used as a thickener and can be contaminated with carcinogens such as ethylene oxide and dioxane. It is also a neurotoxin, a skin irritant, and has been deemed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review an ingredient not safe for use on injured or damaged skin.

Okay, so enough of the doom and gloom. What ingredients are safe in a deodorant? Well, first off, make sure you're using a deodorant and not an anti-perspirant. Look for ingredients like:

  • organic oils

  • beeswax

  • organic essential oils

  • corn starch

  • arrowroot powder

  • baking soda

  • clays

Be sure to leave your comments below! Just click on comments and tell us what you think!


S said...

Thanks for all the info on deodorants! I have two "natural" deodorants that have propylene glycol in them! Just when you think you're doing something good for yourself you find out that you're actually hurting yourself! So I've ordered your deodorant sampler and can't wait to use them.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is the first time today that I've used something natural on my underarms. I've read certain topic that says natural deodorants are safer and more health-friendly. In fact your blog is one of those. I use vinegar as deodorant and some powder and corn starch for antiperspirant. The first step would be the application of vinegar followed by corn starch. It works well enough and better than synthetic products. We need to switch and go natural!

Caran said...

What are you feelings for the "salt crystal" as a deoderant? I've been using that for a while with mixed results. It does work great for relieving the smell, but I'm wondering if it is drying to the skin? I keep getting a rash after using for a few days.

Stephanie Greenwood said...


I'm not surprised! Crystal deodorants can be harsh on skin--AND they contain ALUMINUM! The exact compound most people are trying to avoid in antiperspirants! Check out my article on the subject here:

Erica L said...

Hey Stephanie - I love your super pit putty & it has been working GREAT - in fact, it's the first natural deodorant that has actually worked for me. One strange note though...when I use your body butter, the deodorant doesn't work for more than a few hours - even if I reapply. Has anyone else run into that problem? (PS - I don't apply the body butter to my underarms - just my outer arms)

Denise said...

I stopped using antiperspirants because of a medical problem quite a few years ago. Switched to a natural deodorant that really didn't work that well and had a few ingredients in it that I found out were not so natural. Have been using Pit Putty and your spray deodorants and have been very happy with them. Worked fine even in this hot, humid summer we just had. Just ordered more of the lemon clove Super Pit Putty.