Thank goodness for deodorants and antiperspirants, you might exclaim. Do you know the difference between the two?
Deodorants prevent odor by using antiseptic ingredients to kill bacteria on your skin. No bacteria means there is nothing to break down the acids in the sweat.
Antiperspirants prevent sweating by temporarily plugging the sweat glands. They may also contain ingredients to kill the odor-causing bacteria, but their main job is to stop you from sweating.
Those ingredients that keep you dry and smelling sweet may have also toxic side effects. May, because so far, studies are inconclusive. Let’s take a look at some of the major ingredients commonly found in deodorants and antiperspirants, and the concerns that have been raised.
Aluminum is the main active ingredient in antiperspirants. It is a common element in the Earth’s crust and is also found in many common household items, from cookware and beverage cans to antacids and antiperspirants. In the 1970s, it became a suspected cause of Alzheimer’s disease when traces of aluminum were found in the brains of some people with Alzheimer’s. So far, further studies have either not been able to confirm the link or have had questionable results. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “the findings of these early studies weren’t replicated in later research, and experts have essentially ruled out aluminum as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s.”
In recent years, scientists have also been looking at whether the aluminum in antiperspirants might contribute to the development of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “Some research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells.” So far, scientists have not been able to establish a clear link. More studies are being conducted.
Parabens come in many forms and are part of a class of synthetic preservatives used in several cosmetic and personal care products, including underarm products. Some studies have shown that they have weak estrogen-like properties. In 2004, a small study found traces of parabens in some samples of breast cancer tumors. The Cancer Society states that in further research, “so far, studies have not shown any direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer.”
Triclosan is an artificial chemical used to kill bacteria on the skin and other surfaces. It is used in, among other items, antimicrobial hand soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, and medical devices. Here’s what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to say about Triclosan: “Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. But several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this ingredient that merit further review. Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.” The FDA says it is currently engaged in a “comprehensive scientific and regulatory review of all the available safety and effectiveness data.”
Understanding the risks
If you were to do an Internet search of the health risks associated with deodorants and antiperspirants, it’s likely you would find so much information you wouldn’t know quite what to think or how to make sense of it. What Advantage Home Care is trying to do with this post is to present information in a thoughtful manner, so that you can make an informed decision about the risks. Unfortunately, at this point there doesn’t appear to conclusive evidence linking chemicals in deodorants and antiperspirants to serious health problems. On the other hand, research is still being conducted, and we don’t have any definitive answers.
There is so much information available to us these days, it’s important to carefully evaluate what you are reading. The National Library of Medicine suggests that you ask the following questions when you research topics:
- Who wrote the information? Keep in mind that many health-related web sites post information that comes from other sources. If the person or organization that runs the web site didn’t write the information, the original source should be clearly stated.
- If a health care professional didn’t write the information, was it reviewed by a doctor or another medical expert?
- If the information contains any statistics, do the numbers come from a reliable source?
- Does something on the web site appear to be someone’s opinion rather than a fact? If so, is the opinion from a qualified person or organization, such as a doctor or medical organization?
We want your opinion
Was our information helpful? What do you think about the concerns that have been raised? Have you stopped using deodorants and antiperspirants, switched to a chemical-free alternative, or started using a natural homemade recipe? If you have a recipe, please share with us.
Originally posted April 15, 2013