My husband is not a violent man at all, but he may just kill me if I tell the world I haven’t worn deodorant since last Christmas. So I won’t tell you that. I like sleeping in my bed and don’t want to make up the couch each night. So I’m not going to tell you I haven’t worn deodorant for eight months. That would be silly. Let’s just talk about what I might do if I decided that aluminum is a big risk on my underarms and I wanted to take a baby step away from antiperspirant. Just hypothetical, mind you.
I had a conversation with a friend in December, right around the time I was reading voraciously on nutrition and eco-considerations (Living Green by Greg Horn is great). Whenever the same information comes from a few different sources, I tend to feel convicted that perhaps I should do something about it. I don’t like to be overwhelmed or buy new ingredients for something that might not work, though, and I hate spending more money on natural products. I wasn’t about to go buy some $5 deodorant that could make me stink and wish I had my five bucks back. You know?
So I thought: What is a baby step that I could take without a big commitment? I have a Parmesan cheese container of baking soda under my sink for cleaning the counter and stove and pot scouring, and I decided I would realized I could take it into the bathroom and apply it to my underarms after my shower. It took would take about 30 seconds to make this change in my life if I was going to go without antiperspirant.
Why did might I bother avoiding antiperspirant? I didn’t know this until December, but antiperspirants (not deodorants) have aluminum as an active ingredient. Aluminum has been pegged as a contributor to Alzheimer’s Disease, and there’s a chance it has an impact on breast cancer as well. (See this post for aluminum factoids.) Because antiperspirant goes on skin that has often just been shaven, it’s going to be absorbed even more quickly than other products you put on your skin. Which, consequently, have as great an impact on your system as what you put in your mouth. Your skin is your largest organ, and one of its jobs is to absorb.
This little experiment in Greg Horn’s Living Green proves my point: rub a cut clove of garlic on the sole of your foot. Within 15 minutes, you’ll taste garlic in your mouth. !!! How cool is that?
So Why Avoid Antiperspirant?
The simple fact that my skin absorbs what I put on it is one reason to be cognizant and careful about any personal product, but antiperspirant has a few more.
- Aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s.
- Aluminum may impact breast cancer risks.
- Parabens in conventional deodorant are increasingly being linked to cancer and other diseases.
- Is blocking my sweat glands a good idea?
There’s an awful lot of controversy (seems to be a theme around here) about the links between aluminum in antiperspirants and breast cancer. An email went around a while back with a lot of false information about how the aluminum sends natural body toxins right into the lymph nodes and becomes a tumor. That’s been discredited, but it is true that aluminum in an antiperspirant serves to block the sweat glands and stop us from sweating. Deodorant simply masks the odor and attempts to kill odor-causing bacteria. Blocking sweat glands sounds a little more serious to me, but maybe I’m just falling for the propaganda on the “natural health” websites.
My mother tells me that in her youth (before antiperspirants were on the market, even though she’s not that old), everyone was just used to the feel of sweat. Now we’ve become accustomed to dryness, and sweating in the armpits seems like a problem. Isn’t sweat a bodily function that serves a purpose? I tend to believe that God had reasons for what He gave us, even if it feels a bit unpleasant.
Another common ingredient in antiperspirants, along with volumes of other personal products on the market today, is parabens. They’ve been in the spotlight lately, proof of which is the number of bottles in your local pharmacy that now proudly proclaim “No parabens!” Parabens are linked to…of course…cancer – another reason to move away from conventional antiperspirants.
The National Cancer Institute and the FDA have not found any evidence or research data to prove that ingredients in antiperspirants cause cancer. But they haven’t proven otherwise, either. This CBS News/WebMD story says up to one quarter of the volume of the antiperspirant is aluminum salts (!!!), and even though there’s little evidence to link them to cancer, aluminum does mimic estrogen. That’s never a good thing. And even if antiperspirants aren’t going to give me breast cancer, I still have a concern about aluminum’s impact on my chances of getting Alzheimer’s Disease.
When there’s a question about the safety of something, especially when that something is relatively new in the scope of human history, AND especially when the alternative is an easy, non-commital, low-cost choice, I’m going to err on the side of caution and try it out. Maybe by the end of the week my husband will soften up and let me tell you about how I haven’t been wearing antiperspirant since December some choices you have for baby steps away from antiperspirant. Come back and see!
You can view my Baby Steps Story to Homemade Deodorant here.
UPDATE: Another great expose on the dangers of antiperspirant
Analyzing Aluminum in August:
- Use less aluminum foil
Baked Potatoes without Aluminum Foil
- Why Analyze Aluminum?
- Avoid Aluminum in Bakeware and Cookware
Real Food on your armpits? (Hint: There’s coconut oil on mine.) See how normal people eat Real Food at Cheeseslave this week.