Monday, June 14, 2010

Let's talk Deodorants/Antiperspirants...

Does anyone else feel like there has been an upsurge in deodorant-related articles online lately? I keep reading about how it's better to be paraben- and aluminum-free, how deodorant/antiperspirants may be related to breast cancer and Alzheimer's Disease, etc. I've decided to do a little internet research to get some hard facts on this extremely common skincare staple!*

As many of you may already know, there is a difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. Deodorants are applied to the body to eliminate body odor (just like the name implies). This odor is caused by bacteria that breakdown sweat. Bacteria thrive in hot, humid environments and the human underarm is among the most consistently warm areas on the surface of the body. Underarm hair, believe it or not, wicks moisture away from the skin and aids in keeping the skin dry enough to prevent bacterial colonization and the B.O. that comes along with the bacteria. Now, unless you are a guy, it isn't really ideal to go au nautrel, especially in the summer where sleeveless is the way to be! What's a girl to do? Well, keep reading...

Antiperspirants are a subcategory of deodorants and their main purpose is to reduce sweat production via chemical agents. The main active ingredients in antiperspirants are aluminum chloride and aluminum chlorohydrate. Aluminum-based antiperspirants work by blocking the sweat ducts. Sweat continues to be produced by the sweat glands but it is not able to reach the surface of the skin. Antiperspirants, along with many other cosmetics, also contain parabens. Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and can be absorbed through the skin. Both aluminum and parabens can cause allergic reactions in users!

Recent studies have reported that long-term use of aluminum-containing deodorants/antiperspirants may cause harm. Aluminium salts get absorbed through the skin and accumulate in the body. There have been studies that suggest (read: no causal relationship has been proved at this point) that there may be an association between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease. The FDA does warn, however, that the daily use of antiperspirant drug products containing aluminum may put individuals at a higher risk for renal dysfunction. A study performed in 2002 stated that paraben exposure from antiperspirant use may be linked with breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer. The use of products with parabens doesn't seem to be harmful unless one is allergic.

In addition to the possible negative (and scary!) health effects that may be associated with antiperspirants, the ingredient aluminum zicronium tetrachlorohydrex gly is a known cause of yellow armpit stains on clothing, ick! For some good tips on getting rid of those stains, click here.

So, back to the original question....what to do?! I, for one, am going to go the paraben- and aluminum-free route. I have long since noticed that antiperspirants don't really do much for me, I'm pretty sweaty (sorry for being crude!) and an ideal product for me would make sure that I smell fresh and clean anyway :) After doing a little bit of research, I have found some products that seem promising, including:

- Arm & Hammer Essentials Antiperspirant/Deodorant
- Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant
- Herbal Clear: Clear Aloe Fresh Natural Deodorant

I'll keep you posted on what I choose and how it works! Be on the look out for a review :)

Here are some other deodorant tips I found that are worth sharing:
1) Never apply deodorant right out of the shower when your skin is moist and warm as that may deactive the active ingredients. Wait until your underarm skin has completely dried to apply.
2) Do not put deodorant on after waxing, especially if it contains alcohol. It is best to apply powder after waxing and wait til the next day to use deodorants.
3) Roll-on, stick, and perfume deodorants are not less effective than spray deodorants. Perfume collection deodorants are actually milder and more convenient for people who sweat less (lucky you!)

In addition to using deodorants/antiperspirants, here are some other ways to reduce B.O.:
- Bathe daily to remove bacteria from the skin
- Loose fitting clothing allows your skin to breathe better than it does in tight clothes. Also, make sure to wear breathable fabrics.
- Certain foods (meat, onions, garlic, exotic spices, coffee, and alcohol) can lead to B.O. If you are troubled by a constant B.O. problem, you may want to try adjusting your diet. Unfortunately, these are some of the tastiest foods :(
- Tobacco is a major cause of B.O. as it comes through the skin. It may take several weeks for the body to rid itself of the odor after you stop smoking.

Now go out there and bare those lovely underarms :P

Til next time,
Mani :)

*Please note that I am not an expert on this topic in any way. The information presented here was found on the internet and may not be completely accurate. Please consult a healthcare professional for more concrete information.


  1. so antiperspirants block the sweat ducts? does the sweat get backed up in the sweat ducts then? does this damage the sweat ducts? does the sweat get reabsorbed?

    do aluminum free antiperspirants block the sweat ducts too?

  2. @rk7: Ok, so after doing a little bit more research (gotta love Google!), here is what I've found. Active chemical ingredients in antiperspirants (AP) include salts (some of which are aluminum salts) which reduce the flow of underarm sweat by dissolving in sweat and leaving a thin coating of gel over the sweat glands which reduces the flow of sweat to the skin for up to a few hours after the AP is applied.

    For more information on the physiological effects of APs, try this site:
    It is pretty thorough and easy to understand!

    From what I've read, aluminum-free APs simply work to deodorize. They do not interfere with sweating which, after all, is our body's natural cooling process.

    Let me know if you have any conflicting views!

  3. Ohhh... I never knew all this :)

    India has recently seen a spate of launches in antiperspirants - Sure & Garnier amongst others. I recently bought Garnier but now I will go back & take a look at the ingridients carefully.

    Nice Post Mani :)

  4. @ Tanveer: Thanks! I've been using aluminum containing deodorants since I was a happy to have found this info!