As firm believers in women taking their health and wellness choices into their own hands and learning how to make informed choices in their day-to-day lives about the products they use and the impact on themselves and the environment, we’d like to tackle a topic today that some might turn their noses up at. Even the most committed “green” minded folks may overlook this area of personal hygiene as a chance to change another aspect of their lifestyles to be more natural and less wasteful. One cosmetic product you probably use every day without considering alternatives is your deodorant or antiperspirant. You may have happily chucked your other skincare products formulated with harsh or potentially dangerous ingredients, but never even thought about losing your trusty stick of sweaty odor-fighting cream or gel.
The equating of cleanliness with hiding the body’s natural functions has become so ingrained in our culture that even the prospect of using a different approach to personal care can get people’s backs up. Lack of information on the subject, concerns over getting a little too “hippy dippy”, or a fear of sweaty armpits can prevent many people from considering their options. Conventional deodorants/antiperspirants can be loaded with irritating ingredients that aren’t necessarily good for your skin or the environment.
The Problem with the Status Quo
We can’t just ignore the concerns surrounding some of the ingredients in the typical drugstore-purchased deodorant products. You probably use these products on a daily basis under the arms, where numerous lymph nodes lie just under the surface of the skin. This sensitive skin is prone to dryness and irritation, especially if you also choose to shave. Educating yourself on your options is never a bad thing, even if you choose to continue using your favorite brand afterwards.
Aluminum is the active ingredient found in most antiperspirants, which is what prevents sweating in the area it is applied to. How does that work? Aluminum ions from the aluminum salts present in the antiperspirant are absorbed into the cells that line the sweat ducts, which leads them to swell and squeezes the ducts closed. Sounds pretty great, right?
Unfortunately, aluminum is also a known neurotoxin that has been linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Elevated levels of aluminum have been observed in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and a study from Saint Louis University found that aluminum may contribute to chemically driven liver damage, a contributing factor in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In addition, some studies suggest that aluminum may be a contributing factor in the development of breast cancer. Most cancerous tissues develop in the upper and outer part of the breast — closest to the armpit. Research has suggested that aluminum compounds absorbed by the skin may cause changes in the estrogen receptors of breast cells. While antiperspirants effectively block sweat, their questionable ingredients are worth examining, if not also replacing with safer alternatives.
The biggest risk factor for many of the questionable ingredients found in antiperspirants — especially aluminum — is long-term exposure. So putting it on once (or twice, or more) per day is definitely concerning. We need to stress that studies about these health risks are not yet definitive, and the actual contributions of traditional deodorant products to disease are still poorly understood. However, it does seem like good sense to investigate safer alternatives on the basis of this preliminary data. Lucky for you, as these concerns become more widespread, companies are developing lots of new alternatives, so you have more options than just making your own or doing without. It’s now simpler than ever to obtain natural, effective alternatives.
Crystal deodorant stones contain a naturally occurring form of aluminum, the molecules of which are too large to be absorbed by the skin. These products are effective at preventing the odor from bacteria in the sweat from developing, rather than closing up the pores as antiperspirants do.
Other gentle alternatives include deodorants with natural antibacterial ingredients such as tea tree oil, witch hazel, baking soda, hops, sage, and/or lemon peel. These help kill the bacteria which cause that sweaty odor, rather than trying to stop the sweating altogether. Look around the cosmetics aisle of your local health food store, natural pharmacy, or even the “organics” sections of your usual drugstore chain for options. If you can’t find any locally, you can always order a few to try online.
Additional Green Benefits
One final benefit to consider is the effect antiperspirants have on your clothing. While many are marketed on the basis of being “invisible” or not leaving streaks on clothing, in fact they can wreak havoc with the fabric long-term. Aluminum not only causes the armpit area of clothing to sparkle with miniscule glitter which is near impossible to remove, but can really change the look and texture of the item over time. The build up of product can cause a foul odor when the heat of an iron gets applied to it. Aluminum is also the ingredient responsible for that chemical reaction which makes the armpits of your favorite clothing start to yellow/stain. Using a natural deodorant will make doing laundry easier, mean you have to use fewer cleaning products on your clothing, and they will last longer. Reusing and reducing the amount of waste we produce, including that of old clothes, is always a green option!
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