There's one personal care product that almost everyone in America uses every day, deodorant. There is a type of deodorant that has became the ugly step child of blogs, rumors and email chains which is antiperspirant. We've covered many toxic cosmetics in a more in depth piece but wanted to hone in on things you should be aware of in antiperspirant. The reason for antiperspirant being the ugly step-child is because it is this type of deodorant that contains aluminum compounds. These compounds are designed to block the sweat pores under your arm and form a block with the sweat to keep you from sweating. While there have been many claims that the aluminum compounds in antiperspirant are causing everything from breast cancer, dementia and problems for people with kidney disease it seems most of these claims are unfounded.
Don't take our word for it though, the National Cancer Institute discussed in fairly good detail about the studies that have all but proven that antiperspirants are not causing cancer. From their article called the, Antiperspirant Fact Sheet it is quoted with saying, "No scientific evidence links the use of these products to the development of breast cancer." Another quote from WebMD states, "There is no convincing evidence that antiperspirant or deodorant use increases cancer risk" said Ted S. Gansler, MD, MBA Director of Medical Content for The American Cancer Society. The reality is the ingredients in antiperspirants don't penetrate the skin very well and are mostly all topical. Typically ingredients that increase penetration or absorption by the skin are not additives in this product.
This is not to say that there are not any antiperspirant side effects. These can be caused by allergies to specific chemicals in the overall product that some people are sensitive to. Another thing that can happen is not cleaning the area where antiperspirant is applied and letting the product build up over time. This can cause abnormal clogging of the sweat glands and create swelling, redness, soreness and even infection. The best thing to solve this more common issue is scrubbing with a loofa or an abrasive soap.
Besides cancer, many other claims, email chains and scare mongering has gone on claiming everything from the idea that antiperspirant causes Alzheimer's disease / dementia, kidney disease, hormone disruption, prevention of carcinogens leaving the body and changes to armpit microbiome. While antiperspirants did use to contain BHTs, Parabens and Triclosan most don't now. Check your ingredient labels to see if those are in use and you'll be able to knock off the hormone changes scare. The fear that antiperspirant was causing Alzheimer's Disease comes from studies in the past finding high levels of aluminum in the brains of patients. This was later ruled out as a cause. WebMD has a great quote from a doctor that explains how aluminum isn't really absorbed into the body by stating it like this, "The aluminum salts do not work as antiperspirants by being absorbed in the body. They work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in the sweat to form a physical plug... which is deposited in the sweat duct, producing a blockage in the areas that it's applied." Regardless, a common thing people look for is aluminum free antiperspirants on the market to avoid putting heavy metals directly on your body. The kidney disease worry stems from patients being given aluminum hydroxide and later on doctors realized there was buildup of aluminum in their bodies. This triggered the FDA to require a warning label on deodorants warning if you have kidney disease to to ask a doctor. But as we mentioned above, the ingredient really isn't absorbed into your body enough to cause this issue.
A list of ingredients in antiperspirant that could cause allergic reactions, complications or ones that you should be aware of:
Aluminum Compounds (Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly, Aluminum chloralhydrate)
Aluminum makes up the common ingredient in antiperspirant deodorant that keeps you from sweating by essentially clogging the pores. Aluminum-based compoundsc vary in their toxicity. Some are linked to neurotoxicity, developmental & reproductive toxicity and cancer. In order to find the effects of aluminum in your cosmetics you need to find the specific type of aluminum. [for more detailed info on Aluminum Compounds click here]
Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl, butyl)
Hormone functions and disruptions are the main causes with parabens. They mimic the hormone estrogen and have been found breast cancer tissue, while this does not prove they are causing cancer, they're showing up with it. Other problems with parabens is effects on the male reproductive system. Placing methylparaben on the skin will eventually bring it into exposure of UVB which can accelerate skin aging and DNA damage. [for more detailed info on Parbens click here]
BHTs are found in all types of deodorant but the group that is of high concern is people that are pregnant and infants. Endocrine disruptor, bioaccumulation, rat studies show underdevelopment of the reproductive systems in both male & female rats. [for more detailed info on BHTs click here]
There is concern for irritation to skin, eyes and lungs from this Formaldehyde and it's releasers in deodorant. [for more detailed info on PEG-8 Distearate click here]
PEG-8 is found in antiperspirant due to the manufacturing process and whether it is contaminated with ethylene oxide, 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxicde is classified as a human carcinogen and 1,4-dixoane is a possible carcinogen. PEG compounds can also show genotoxicity and cause skin irritation and systemic toxicity on broken skin, this is important to know that when skin is infected or broken deodorant should be avoided. [for more detailed info on PEG-8 Distearate click here]
Allergies and Immunotoxicity. PG is not bioaccumulative which means it will break down in the body within 48 hours. This ingredient is found in antifreeze but is not highly toxic. It's good to avoid, but there is nothing glaring here that stands out about this ingredient. [for more detailed info on Propylene Glycol click here]
Worst effects come from inhalation which causes irritation of the lungs and respiratory system and could lead to further health issues. Talc exposure, from products like baby powder and feminine powder, has been linked in numerous studies to increased risk of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, and is also associated with breathing problems and respiratory disease. Despite public controversy on the safety of talc beginning in the 1970’s, the CIR did not choose to formally review talc until 2012. When it finally did, the arguments made by the CIR safeguarding talc echoed those made by the cosmetic manufacturers, like Johnson & Johnson, that had been defending its use for decades. [for more detailed info on Talc click here]
Very toxic for the respiratory system for products that may be aerosolized like a spray on antiperspirant or deodorant. [for more detailed info on Silica click here]
May be associated with endocrine (hormonal) toxicity, endocrine disruption, triclosan-resistant bacteria. [for more detailed info on Triclosan click here]
Due to nearly 3,000 ingredients being used in Fragrance, there are many that can cause issues. Things like allergen causing properties that effect the immune system from various fragrances, respiratory toxicant causing things like asthma and negative effects on wildlife and the environment. Allergy effects from fragrance have been said by U.K. researchers to be the 2nd most common cause of allergic reaction. DEP (Diethyl Phthalate) is used to make fragrances linger and have been linked to all kinds of reproductive issues. [for more detailed info on Fragrance click here]