Brushing your teeth, combing your hair and putting on deodorant are all habits most of us do on a daily basis. One of these, however, could be harming your health and possibly even causing cancer.
Though we use deodorant each day, most of us do not think about the possible negative affects on the body that this daily task may have. Instead, we focus on the benefits of the product, such as getting rid of or masking body odor. Studies show 1)http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/antiperspirant-facts-safety, however, that the main ingredient of most over-the-counter deodorants, aluminum, may be increasing cancer rates in those who use them. Before getting into the facts that support this, however, there are a few things you need to know in order to understand how aluminum can cause cancer and what you can do about it.
Deodorant Versus Antiperspirant: What is the Difference?
Most of us lump all underarm products into the deodorant category, but the truth is, if you look closely at store shelves, you will see some of these products labeled as a deodorant, some as an antiperspirant, and some as an antiperspirant/deodorant. It is important to note that deodorants do not contain aluminum, but most antiperspirants, do.
Deodorants do not stop you from sweating 2)http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/underarm-care/tips/deodorant-antiperspirant1.htm. You can apply deodorant and go for a run, but you are still going to sweat. Deodorant does, however, counteract the body odor that you naturally produce. This odor is produced due to the bacteria that come from the sweat glands in the armpit. When applying the deodorant, however, it changes the taste of the fat and protein from sweat that the bacteria feed on. If the bacteria cannot thrive, they cannot produce a smell. So, when wearing a true deodorant, you will not smell, but still sweat.
Antiperspirants work in the exact opposite way as deodorants. Instead of covering up the scent of body odor, they stop you from sweating. Without sweat, the bacteria again have nothing to eat, so they do not produce an odor. Aluminum and zirconium are the active ingredients in antiperspirants, and they work by literally plugging the sweat glands.
Though these are different products, most people lump them both under the title of “deodorant,” so for the remainder of the article, the term “deodorant” will refer to antiperspirants, too.
The Link Between Deodorant and Cancer
There have been a number of studies over the years that show a possible link between deodorant that contains aluminum and breast cancer. 3)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/antiperspirant-facts-safety
According to experts, most cases of breast cancer begin to develop in the outer, upper part of the breast. In other words, it begins growing in the area that is closest to the armpit, exactly where deodorant is applied. When a person puts deodorant on their body, it is absorbed into the skin, and the chemicals, including aluminum, absorb, too.
The studies explain that the chemicals may interact with a person’s DNA, which ultimately can lead to changes in the cells, which is how cancer develops. In women, it is also possible that these chemicals will interfere with the production of estrogen, which can also influence the growth of cancer cells.
Approximately one out of eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, so the thought that deodorant could have something to do with it is quite serious. Yet, there are some cancer experts who believe that these studies are flawed or do not totally prove that aluminum had an influence on the growth of cancer.
What does this mean? It means that there may not yet be a definitive link between breast cancer and aluminum, but that doesn’t mean there is no danger. If you are concerned about the possible link between cancer and aluminum, there are three things you can do. First, you can simply stop wearing deodorant, of course, but whether that is socially acceptable, or not, is something that you will have to decide for yourself. Another option is to start purchasing deodorant without aluminum. There are many brands out there that have heard the concerns of consumers and introduced new options. Finally, you can consider natural ways to fight underarm odor.
Aluminum-free Deodorant: A Word of Caution
Before diving into the world of aluminum-free deodorant, it is important to get a few things out into the open. First, most brands of aluminum-free deodorant are totally safe. However, when a brand advertises that it is aluminum-free, they are referring to only certain kinds of aluminum. These include aluminum zirconium, aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum hydroxybromide. 4)http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/17/aluminum-containing-antiperspirants-contribute-breast-cancer.aspx
Some of these deodorants, however, such as the crystal deodorant stones you may see on the market, claim to be free of aluminum, but some of them contain a compound called alum. This is a form of potassium alum, or potassium aluminum sulfate. The alum works by creating a layer on the skin that inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause odor. However, they are not totally free of aluminum, so if that bothers you, it is best to choose another option.
Aluminum-free Deodorant Brands
There are many aluminum-free deodorant brands on the market, and they come in a number of different forms including sprays, lotions, roll-ons and solids, just like regular deodorants. Here are some options when seeking out an aluminum-free deodorant:
Dr. Hauschka – One natural brand is Dr. Hauschka, and it is available in two scents, floral and fresh. The floral scent is more feminine, the fresh scent is more masculine, so there is something for everyone if using Dr. Hauschka. The ingredients are pure, and the packaging is recyclable, which is ideal for people who are also seeking out an environmentally friendly product.
Weleda – Weleda is another brand that is free of aluminum, and it comes in citrus, rose and sage scents. This brand is certified by a number of organizations as a good buy and a good product.
Erbaviva – Erbavia is a deodorant spray that is simply a mixture of grain alcohol and essential oils. There are a number of fragrances available such as lemon sage and jasmine grapefruit. This deodorant is also certified by the United States Department of Agriculture as an organic product.
Aubrey Organics – You will also find aluminum-free deodorant from Aubrey Organics, and in this case, most of the ingredients are organic, but not all. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database gives this deodorant a low hazard rating.
Bubble and Bee – There is no deodorant that is quite as simple as the spray from bubble and Bee. It has three ingredients: pure grain alcohol, organic rosemary essential oil and organic lemongrass essential oil. If you do not like the spray, there is also a stick available that has only five ingredients.
Terressentials Organic – Terressentials Organic is a USDA certified deodorant that is available in several scents including lavender, citrus and spice. There is also a non-scented version. This product contains baking soda, too, which helps to eliminate strong odors such as garlic.
Soapwalla – Soapwalla is a deodorant cream that is simply made with a mixture of sunflower and jojoba oils and shea butter. There are also various essential oils in the mix which gives it a nice scent.
Tom’s of Maine – In the world of mainstream products with natural ingredients, Tom’s of Maine is the go-to brand. They have several deodorant options available, and each is made with hops, the same ingredient found in beer.
Lavanila – Lavanila has a deodorant brand, The Healthy Deodorant. This is an all-natural product that helps to fight odor with a blend of passionfruit, lavender, blackberry, coconut and grapefruit.
Burt’s Bees – People who are seeking out natural products often know about Burt’s Bees. This brand has a 100 percent natural deodorant. It is a blend of lemon, sage and lavender, and it will not stain clothes.
Homemade Deodorant Options
If you want to ensure that your deodorant is totally natural, totally chemical-free, and totally something that you can do on your own, there are some ways that you can make your own deodorant using products that are easily obtainable.
Bloggers on the Internet have hundreds of different deodorant recipes, in fact, most of which contain products such as coconut oil, baking soda, shea butter and essential oils.
One such recipe comes from the website, Treehugger.com 5)http://www.treehugger.com/organic-beauty/recipe-homemade-deodorant-really-works.html. This recipe calls for 3 tablespoons each of virgin coconut oil and baking soda and 2 tablespoons of shea butter and cornstarch. Place a half-pint jar in a small pot of water and bring it to a simmer. Add the shea butter and coconut oil to the jar and allow them to melt. Turn off the heat, add the cornstarch and baking soda, and stir the mixture until smooth. To make the homemade deodorant have a pleasant scent, add 5 drops of the essential oil of your choice, and then allow it to cool.
This deodorant will be solid at room temperature, as long as it is cooler than about 76 degrees F, so some people fill an old deodorant bottle for easy application, or simply keep it in the jar and apply it by hand.
Alternatively, some people simply mix coconut oil with essential oils or dab baking soda under their arms. For those who have sensitive skin, they may have a reaction to the baking soda, so it’s also possible to eliminate the baking soda from any recipe and substitute it with arrow root powder or organic cornstarch.
If you do like baking soda and have no reaction to it, simply using baking soda and water is an option, too. To do so, mix about 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda with just a bit of water to make a paste, and then rub it under your arms. You can also make a powder out of baking soda and cornstarch to pat under the arms by mixing baking soda and cornstarch in a 1:6 ratio.
People may also choose to use fresh lemon juice under their arms. The citric acid in lemon juice will kill the bacteria that causes body odor. This is as easy as wiping a sliced lemon under the arms each day, but be careful if you shave your armpits, as the acid can be painful immediately after a shave.
People may also choose to use rubbing alcohol as a deodorant replacement. It is easy to use, very inexpensive, and will kill the bacteria that causes odor. To use it, simply fill a spray bottle with the alcohol and spray it under the arms. If you want a pleasant scent, add a couple of drops of essential oils, such as tea tree oil, which will help to further eliminate body odor.
Though there has been no direct link between deodorant use and cancer, this does not mean that it is not a possibility. There have been numerous studies that show this possible link, and it certainly should be something that you should think about the next time you apply deodorant. Fortunately, for those who choose to forego traditional deodorant use, there are a number of options out there for deodorant without aluminum, and several natural substances, such as coconut oil, baking soda, lemon juice and alcohol, that you can use instead. These options can help to keep your natural body odor under control and keep some of the chemicals out of your body.
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