Perhaps the most important part of our morning routine—aside from brushing teeth and sipping our morning coffee—is applying deodorant. The day brings on enough challenges as it is, and smelling good shouldn’t be one of them. And, thanks to our deodorants, we don’t need to worry about the ever-dreadful sweat. But, as hard as it is to believe, sweat is actually a good thing. In fact, our bodies need to sweat in order to regulate body temperature, stay healthy, and rid ourselves of harmful toxins. Basically, what we’re saying is: Be grateful that you occasionally smell! Your body is doing you a favor.
The good news is that we can sweat while still smelling good. While antiperspirants prohibit us from releasing sweat, thus prohibiting us from releasing unwanted toxins, natural deodorants do—and they let us smell good while we do it. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from living in the 21st century—the age of plant-based diets and charcoal toothpaste—it’s that everything is better when it’s natural.
Sweat—What Is It?
Contrary to popular belief, sweat itself is not what we smell after a tough workout or a long day. Sweat is simply made up of water and salt. What does smell, on the other hand, is the mixture of our sweat and the bacteria that exists on our skin. When the two come into contact with one another, a smell is created—what we call “body odor.” So, if our sweat isn’t what makes us smell, then why do we want to stop our bodies from producing it? That’s a great question, and one for which there’s a very clear answer: We should NOT want to stop our bodies from releasing sweat. We should simply want it to smell good. That’s where natural deodorant comes in. Natural deodorant allows us to sweat while simultaneously making it smell bearable. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, just stop the process all together.
Antiperspirants—What’s Wrong With Them?
In their essence, deodorants work to help fight the bacteria in our underarm areas. Antiperspirants, however, are not to be confused with regular deodorant. While regular deodorants simply target the bacteria that create body odor, antiperspirants work to thwart sweat production on the skin’s surface all together. Not sweating sounds awesome, right? Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s actually quite the opposite.
As previously mentioned, antiperspirants prohibit our bodies from releasing sweat, or perspiration, in our underarm area. The name “antiperspirant” literally means anti-sweat. In doing so, they also prohibit our bodies from releasing harmful toxins we are meant to get rid of through sweat. Trapped and with nowhere to go, these toxins make their way into parts of our body in which they do not belong. While most of us are fine with that fact and intent on simply smelling nice without all of the sweat, it’s important to be aware of the negative effects of antiperspirants.
The active ingredients that comprise most antiperspirant deodorants include metallic salts, like aluminum, an ingredient that blocks sweat ducts and minimizes how much sweat reaches the skin’s surface. In order to avoid sweating, these salts are absorbed into our skin. Here’s a quick synopsis by Derm Net NZ of what happens next:
“Aluminium salts are soluble as long as the formulation is acidic (low pH). When they are applied to the skin and come in contact with sweat, the pH rises causing the aluminium salts to precipitate out and form a plug over the sweat glands. Sweat continues to be produced by the sweat gland but it just isn’t able to reach the surface of the skin.”
When those salts are trapped within our skin, however, things can escalate. Research suggests that frequent use of antiperspirants can lead to the accumulation of these salts, specifically aluminum, in our breast tissue. And while there has been no solid linkage between aluminum in breast tissue and breast cancer, it’s better to be safe than sorry when choosing your deodorant. It’s especially important to avoid applying an antiperspirant after shaving, as the metallic salts are more likely to enter into your body and quicker to clog your sweat glands. According to Earth911, studies have shown that underarm shaving could potentially play a role in breast cancer, which is especially important to be aware of since over 90% of breast cancer diagnoses are due to environmental and lifestyle factors.
Not to mention, these same metals and salts are thought to be linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzhiemer’s disease, according to Alzheimer’s Society.
In some cases, although rare, the blockage caused by antiperspirants in hair follicles could expedite cyst formation. Infected cysts can become painful and might even require surgical removal. Essentially, antiperspirants halt our bodies’ natural functions, and they’re completely unnecessary in preventing body odor. So, why keep using them when you can use a natural deodorant?
Why Go Natural?
If the prior information didn’t convince you to make the switch to natural deodorant, here’s another attempt. Natural deodorant does not block pores, allowing them to continue to produce the good bacteria that works its magic—when we’re sweating, and when we’re not sweating. Many have also found that using natural deodorants decreases the amount of skin irritation in the underarm area. And the best part? It will keep you smelling just as fresh as your antiperspirant alternative. Sold yet?
What To Avoid
While natural deodorants are automatically more appealing than antiperspirants, it’s important to read the ingredients before purchasing. Some natural deodorants still include ingredients that you should avoid, like the following:
- Aluminum, as it has been linked to various health conditions
- Propylene Glycol, as it has been proven to be a skin irritant
- Parabens, as they have been proven to be endocrine system agitators
- Baking soda, as it throws off your skin’s PH level and can cause skin irritation
- Triclosan, as it is an FDA-classified pesticide that, when combined with water, forms a carcinogenic gas, chloroform
Ingredients to look for include essential oils for scent, natural oils (coconut oil) for nourishment, waxes (beeswax, candelilla wax) for easy application, and arrowroot powder for absorption.
Making The Switch
Making the switch to a natural deodorant can be tricky. It’s recommended that you allow your body a full week to release unwanted toxins between discontinuing antiperspirant use and beginning natural deodorant use. While some people have no trouble making the switch, others may experience a few negative effects—skin irritation and, of course, an unpleasant smell. Many who have made the switch have even reported that, after years of using natural deodorants, they no longer experience body odor. In order to avoid a negative transition, there are a few things you can do.
Again, it’s recommended that you wait a week after you stop using your antiperspirant to begin using your new natural deodorant. You will most likely experience more-than-normal sweating for a few weeks. Don’t worry, it’s normal. Your body is getting rid of all of the toxins that your antiperspirant was trapping. Just be sure not to fall back on your antiperspirant, it will defeat the whole purpose of the transition! Here are a few tips to aid your transition.
- Start to exfoliate your underarms on a weekly basis. This will help to unblock clogged pores and rid your underarms of unwanted toxins. It’s also important to wash your underarms on a daily basis.
- Exercising and forcing your body to sweat is a great way to expedite the process! In doing so, you’re also ridding yourself of unwanted chemicals and toxins.
- Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the process, too. Drinking plenty of water will stimulate your lymphatic system and detox your body.
- Using gentle wipes throughout the day can help keep you smelling fresh.
- You should stick to clothing made with natural fibers, like cotton and silk, as synthetic fibers (acrylic and polyester) hold moisture and can lead to molding when met with excessive sweat.
The transition period will look different for everyone, so make sure you figure out what routine works best for you. Whatever you do, don’t fall back on your antiperspirant!