Moving towards a green, clean beauty routine is a fun process, right? There’s just one item left on your shelf you’re too scared to swap but arguably one of the most important. You got it. Natural deodorant.
Natural deodorant brings up images of musty smells, hippie communes and patchouli incense. Whilst that might be what you’re into (and if it is, please continue!) you’ll be pleased to know that if it isn’t, natural deodorants have come a long way and it’s becoming easier to have sweet smelling pits without the nasties.
First off, there’s a difference between antiperspirants and deodorants.
Antiperspirants are designed to stop the sweating process by blocking the pores with aluminum; aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants, and they are the exact thing you want to avoid. If you see aluminum chlorohydrate, ammonium aluminum sulfate, potassium aluminum sulfate, and the most common one, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine then throw the antiperspirant far, FAR away (or just place it back neatly on the store shelf).
Whilst controversial, studies show that these compounds may be absorbed through the skin acting as estrogen mimickers – it’s these that can cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells which may lead to the development of breast cancer. There are also studies that suggest aluminum compounds cause nerve damage which is thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. And, like any other heavy metal, aluminum is eliminated through urine which could add extra stress on your kidneys. Whilst a little spritz of antiperspirant before your hot date may not seem harmful, the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners state that “scientific evidence now shows that some chemicals, especially endocrine disrupting compounds, can exert negative effects at extremely low levels of exposure, sometimes with more serious or different effects than at higher doses.” Nasty stuff.
Deodorants, on the other hand, allow sweat to exit the body freely. But even conventional deodorants aren't without their issues. Ingredients like parabens (disrupts hormonal balance), triclosan (kills good bacteria, classified as a pesticide by the FDA), propylene glycol (provokes skin irritation), and TEA and DEA (restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects, can cause liver and kidney damage and allergic reactions) are still used in many brand name deodorants.
Beware of deodorant crystals and other natural deodorants that contain potassium alum, a naturally occurring mineral salt - potassium aluminium sulfate which contains aluminum. Manufacturers tend to claim that the difference is that potassium alum is a much larger molecule than the aluminum found in conventional antiperspirants, and it’s understood not to be absorbed by human skin. However, in its solid crystal form, the molecules of potassium alum create a crystalline structure. When it is wetted, the molecules break out of their crystalline structure and become ions (singular atoms with a positive or negative charge). So, when you're applying a wetted crystal to your skin, you're applying aluminum ions, the smallest possible form of aluminum, to your skin. Alum proves to be a potent ingredient that helps other ingredients absorb into the skin and become active in the body, which is why it's so often tested in nanomedicine (medical techniques that use tiny particles to cross natural body barriers, like skin, to access new sites of delivery and to interact with DNA or small proteins at different levels, in blood or within organs, tissues or cells).
Choosing a natural, organic deodorant can ensure that these ingredients don't interfere with your precious body, and allow you to sweat as nature intended. We simply use a precautionary principle – never use a chemical or ingredient that is controversial since it’s not worth the risk and a natural replacement can always be found.
But, why is sweating important?
- Sweating is the number one most efficient way to eliminate toxins from your body.
- The millions of eccrine sweat glands distributed across our skin may play host to stem cells, which are a critical element of wound healing and closure.
- If something pierces the skin surface, your sweat glands secrete an antibiotic-rich serum – which prevents infection by killing off pathogens.
- Temperature regulation. Okay, okay. You already knew this one.
- Clear skin. Sweating helps to expel grease, grime and dirt. Wipe this away after your hot yoga class and you’ll be left with clear, glowy skin. P.S. These cleansing, organic facial wipes are handy to have in your gym bag!
We’ve established that natural deodorants are more favourable - but how do they work?
Believe it or not, your sweat doesn’t smell. I know, walk into a teenage boy’s locker room and you will beg to differ. But fresh sweat is odourless and colourless, body odour occurs when the proteins and fat in your sweat mix with the bacteria on your skin (gross).
Deodorants work by neutralising the bacteria on your skin, so when you sweat, there aren’t enough bacteria sitting on your skin to create an odour. Natural deodorants use antibacterial essential oils to kill off this bacteria and they tend to also contain ingredients like arrowroot powder, cornstarch, baking soda and clay, which absorb moisture and neutralise odours. Baking soda is safe to use but some people have skin reactions to it, which is why none of our deodorants contain baking soda.
If you’re concerned about wetness, try our Roll on Deodorants that combine the power of essential oils with shikimic acid which inhibits the growth of bacteria, and bamboo powder which naturally absorbs moisture. Plus, they're clinically proven for 24 hours - we’ve done the smelly tests so you don’t have to!
We also recommend our lovely spray-on deodorants like our Lavender & Aloe Vera Deodorant, which contains ingredients like alpine moss to prevent the growth of bacteria, and cleansing, organic essential oils of lavender, tea tree and ylang-ylang to soothe skin and kill bacteria.
Feeling confident to make the switch? Words of wellness advice from Bloodhound Gang - sweat, baby, sweat.