What is in Deodorant that is Bad for You?

Deodorant is the number 1 product for saving you from an embarrassing moment of your overpowering smell of your body odour. You wouldn’t swallow a spoonful of toxic cosmetic ingredients. But in some ways, smearing them under your arms in the form of deodorant or antiperspirant may be worse.

“When you eat something, it’s broken down by your liver and digestive system,” says Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University. “But when you put something in your skin, there are times when it can enter your bloodstream without being metabolized.” in this article I will talk about the health effects of using deodorant.


Aluminum Toxicity
Before we even get into that, it is important to note the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. Though we tend to use the word “deodorant” to refer to anything we swipe on our underarms, that is not actually accurate. Deodorant is simply made to curb body odor, and antiperspirant is meant to curb sweat (or perspiration). And when we talk about aluminum, we are only talking about antiperspirants. “Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts that help plug your pores so you do not sweat as much,” Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist and co-founder of The Beauty Brains, tells Teen Vogue.

“These are over-the-counter drugs that are controlled by the FDA [in the U.S.]. Deodorants do not contain aluminum, and they do not stop you from sweating. They only reduce body odor, by using fragrance or antibacterial compounds.”The aluminum compounds found in deodorant, Schueller says, not only reduce wetness by blocking your underarms sweat ducts, but they also minimize body odor by inhibiting the bacteria that feed on your sweat and cause it.

There are two main health issues usually cited when talking about aluminum fears: Alzheimer disease and breast cancer. The concerns about Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease, first surfaced in a study conducted more than 50 years ago. “During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum was identified as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s,” Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, says in a statement. “This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids, and antiperspirants.”

Those concerns were amplified in 1985 with the release of another study, that examined the link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s. “Researchers found that Alzheimer’s patients had high levels of aluminum in their brains,” Schueller says. “There have been a number of studies since then; at least one, done in 1990, did suggest a link. Researchers tracked aluminum exposure of 130 Alzheimer’s patients — but the study has been discredited because it relied on other people to provide data for the patients. It just wasn’t reliable.”

The breast cancer concerns largely have to do with the proximity of the underarms to the breasts. Some studies have claimed that a majority of breast cancers develop in the upper outer quadrant of the breast because that section is closest to the underarms, where antiperspirants — which theoretically get absorbed by the skin or enter through razor nicks — are applied, the thinking being that the aluminum then gets into the lymph nodes and then travels to the breasts. Going along with that are the fears that, because aluminum plugs the sweat ducts, the body can’t rid itself of any potentially cancerous substances absorbed during antiperspirant use.

And aside from the cancer factor, some people are simply concerned that aluminum (and antiperspirants in general) keeps the body from sweating out toxins that need to be released. “We believe sweating is a normal body function and essential to not only regulating the body temperature, but ridding the body of toxins and working to keep the body healthy,” Danielle Raynor, founder of Lavanila, a natural beauty brand (which offers aluminum-free deodorant).

So is using deodorant with aluminum in it worth whatever health risk there might be? Probably not. According to one German study on 97 adults, it does not even work that well at preventing perspiration (and if applied whilst perspiring does not work at all). The Food and Drug Administration, in a monograph dedicated to analyzing the safety of deodorants, concluded that “despite many investigators looking at this issue, the agency does not find data from topical and inhalation chronic exposure animal and human studies submitted to date sufficient to change the monograph status of aluminum containing antiperspirants”, therefore allowing their use and vowing to keep monitoring the scientific literature. Members of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (Europe) concluded that “due to the lack of adequate data on dermal penetration to estimate the internal dose of aluminum following cosmetic uses, risk assessment cannot be performed.”


Breast Cancer
Articles in the press and on the Internet have warned that underarm antiperspirants (a preparation that reduces underarm sweat) or deodorants (a preparation that destroys or masks unpleasant odors) cause breast cancer. The reports have suggested that these products contain harmful substances, which can be absorbed through the skin or enter the body through nicks caused by shaving. Some scientists have also proposed that certain ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants may be related to breast cancer because they are applied frequently to an area next to the breast.

However, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.

Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Some research has focused on parabens, which are preservatives used in some deodorants and antiperspirants that have been shown to mimic the activity of estrogen in the body’s cells. Although parabens are used in many cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products, according to the FDA, most major brands of deodorants and antiperspirants in the United States do not currently contain parabens. Consumers can look at the ingredient label to determine if a deodorant or antiperspirant contains parabens. Parabens are usually easy to identify by name, such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben. The National Library of Medicine’s Household Products Database also has information about the ingredients used in most major brands of deodorants and antiperspirants.

The belief that parabens build up in breast tissue was supported by a 2004 study, which found parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from human breast tumors . However, this study did not prove that parabens cause breast tumors . The authors of this study did not analyze healthy breast tissue or tissues from other areas of the body and did not demonstrate that parabens are found only in cancerous breast tissue . Furthermore, this research did not identify the source of the parabens and cannot establish that the buildup of parabens is due to the use of deodorants or antiperspirants.


Kidney Dysfunction
Concerns about antiperspirants and kidney disease were first raised many years ago, when dialysis patients were given a drug called aluminum hydroxide to help control high phosphorus levels in their blood. Because their kidneys weren’t functioning properly, their bodies couldn’t remove the aluminum fast enough, and it began accumulating. Scientists noticed that dialysis patients who had these high aluminum levels were more likely to develop dementia. Aluminum accumulation in the body and blood also produced a type of bone disease known as adynamic bone disease.
As a result, the FDA requires antiperspirant labels to carry a warning that reads, “Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease.” Yet this warning is only meant for people whose kidneys are functioning at 30% or less (also known as Stage 4 or 5 chronic kidney disease – CKD).

In reality, it’s almost impossible to absorb enough aluminum through the skin to harm the kidneys. “Unless you eat your stick or spray it into your mouth, your body can’t absorb that much aluminum,” says nephrologist Leslie Spry, MD, FACP, spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation.


Aerosol Burns and Frostbite
If aerosol deodorant to your skin long enough for it to cause an aerosol burn. In controlled tests, spray deodorants have been shown to cause temperature drops over 60 Celsius in a short period of time. It has also been reported that the affected area of the burn, may cause hyper pigmentation which may also result in an ultraviolet sensitivity of the affected skin and as a result of which, constant application of sunscreen is necessary to prevent the risks of skin cancer.