If you’ve ever noticed that the skin under your arms feels itchy, red, irritated, or even swollen – you may need to switch to a natural deodorant. The harsh chemicals and toxins in most conventional antiperspirants and women’s deodorants, especially, can pose a threat to your health, inflaming not only skin cells but clogging pores and preventing the glands beneath the skin from performing their important bodily function. Keep reading to find out why you should try a natural deodorant today!
Why We Sweat: Chill, Baby
The purpose of sweating is to maintain a person’s normal body temperature. Physical exercise, hot temperatures, eating spicy foods, medications, fever due to illness, and anxiety or nervousness can all lead to excessive sweating, causing the body’s sweat glands to release liquid droplets of water and salt through the layers of our skin (dermis). Then, the surface of the skin cools as the water in the sweat evaporates. When you don’t sweat enough to keep your body cool, loss of body salts and water can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can be life threatening. So sweating is actually a good thing – although it can be annoying in the wrong situations. And staying hydrated by drinking enough water will ensure you don’t collapse from overheating.
Why We Stink: A Predatory Instinct
Since the dawn of man, human beings have emitted an unpleasant, rank body odor that – at its worst – attacks the nostrils and absorbs into clothing and fabrics like that stanky valet on "The Sweaty Car" (B.B.O. – Beyond B.O.) episode of Seinfeld. At its weakest, our body odor is like a sickly sweet pheromone to lure in a lover. (There’s bad sweat, and then there’s GOOD sweat.) But the reason we stink is much more practical. Anthropologist Louis Leakey believed that human body odor exists to repel the animals that want to eat us. (Just imagine the Neanderthals running from a saber-toothed tiger.) Makes sense, right? After all, that’s also why skunks stink – to ward off predators.
The interesting part of our body odor mystery is that we really are what we eat. According to one study, for instance, vegetarians had a more pleasant body odor than meat-eaters. (Another perk of going 100% vegan!)
But why we stink and how much really comes down to our body chemistry and sweat levels. People with hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone (typical of in men over age 40), or women going through menopause, may experience hot flashes, or night sweats, for instance. And if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it may be a good time to consult your doctor about hormone replacement therapy.
Teens going through adolescence stink a lot too, because it’s all a beautiful part of puberty. Yuck! (Again, it’s due to hormonal changes.) … That’s why it’s so important to shower regularly, especially as a teen, and avoid staying cramped up in your mom’s basement all day playing video games – Cartman!
But no matter what your stage in life is, sweat is a natural function of the human body that we should learn to respect, not look at in disgust. So how do we deal with sweat? Well, we try to cover it up, of course!
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: What’s the Difference?
It’s important to know the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant.
There are many types of products that affect how we sweat. Antiperspirant applications include aerosols or sprays, powders, and liquid roll-ons, and deodorants include similar delivery methods, as well as combination products such as antiperspirant deodorants.
So what does each product do?
Most teen girls who grew up in the 1980s or 1990s will remember brands like Secret (still sold today) and Teen Spirit, which focused mainly on antiperspirant deodorant products. The thing they never told us growing up were what we were actually putting onto our bodies. It turns out that a deodorant is like a cosmetic that masks body odor, while antiperspirant works more like a drug, “temporarily blocking your sweat glands to reduce perspiration.” This is largely where the danger of such products comes in.
The Controversy of Conventional Brands
The body is meant to sweat. When our sweat glands are blocked, toxins may build up – at least that’s the theory. And the active (and inactive) ingredients in conventional antiperspirant-deodorant combination products may be detrimental to our health.
Some studies indicate that aluminum-based antiperspirants (such as most conventional store-bought brands) may increase the risk for breast cancer. However, there is some controversy in the scientific community over that major claim. Other studies suggest that parabens in conventional brands have estrogen-like qualities that could also have a negative effect on health.
Whether there is any real basis to that claim remains to be seen, but if you have any concerns at all, it may be a good idea to replace those products with natural deodorants instead.
Try These Natural Deodorants
There are many natural deodorant products available on the market today. A prevalent brand, Tom’s of Maine, offers cruelty-free scented and unscented deodorants, as well as antiperspirants, that are free of artificial fragrances or preservatives. Their deodorants are aluminum-free and use 100% natural fragrance to mask odors, and their antiperspirants contain a wetness protection ingredient made from recycled aluminum (which was originally derived from natural mineral bauxite ore), as well as antimicrobial olive leaf extract and 100% natural fragrances.
Another trusted brand for natural deodorants, Alaffia, offers products made with hydrating aloe vera leaf juice, certified fair trade shea butter, coconut oils, activated charcoal, and herbal ingredients to promote a clean and refreshing feeling. Alaffia’s natural deodorants contain absolutely no parabens, phthalates, aluminum, propylene glycol, mineral oil, sulfates, triclosan, silicone, or synthetic fragrance.
So it’s up to you. Choose what works for your body type.
Have you tried natural deodorants? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash