Is aluminum worth it for sweet-smelling armpits?

You get up in the morning, take a shower and start getting ready for the day.

What’s one of the first things you reach for?

That stick of deodorant and/or antiperspirant, of course.

Have you ever thought about what’s in there that’s keeping you dry and sweet-smelling all day?

Sure, you’re not eating any of the unpronounceable chemicals in there… but your skin may as well be.

Let’s have a “refresher course” on how your skin works to absorb stuff from the outside world. Then let’s talk about what it’s absorbing from that deodorant of yours…

Your skin: your largest contact point with toxins

Your skin is your largest organ. And, to top it off, it’s the outside of your body, which means it comes into contact with all the environmental toxins you touch, walk through and use on yourself every single day.

Related: How to know if you sweat too much and what to do about it

And your skin is built to absorb stuff. If you don’t believe this, just think about the nicotine patches that help people stop smoking. They deliver nicotine through your skin and directly into your bloodstream

Dermal absorption of chemicals can happen through skin cells or through hair follicles or sweat ducts.

In the case of deodorants and antiperspirants, it’s the sweat duct that’s swinging the door wide open for some dangerous stuff.

When you eat or drink toxins, at least the liver has a chance to break it down and shield you from some of it. But when it goes through your skin, it’s a direct hit to your bloodstream.

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What causes stinky pits?

Your sweat doesn’t actually smell bad (unless it’s stress sweat). That’s right, it’s pretty much water. But, when it mixes with bacteria on the skin of your armpit, some smelly compounds happen.

Research showed that people who didn’t use antiperspirant products had pits populated mostly by Corynebacterium, a bacterium that produces body odor but also helps defend against pathogens.

Those who used antiperspirants had mostly staphylococcaceae, known to be disease-causing microbes.

So, what’s in your deodorant that makes this interaction with bacteria NOT happen?

Cancer-causing chemicals, that’s what!

Research implicates a number of ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants as possible causes of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

Here are 3 of the chemicals that make deodorants and antiperspirants work, along with what we know so far about their dangers…

1. Parabens. Dr. Heather Patisaul of North Carolina State University spends most of her time studying known and possible endocrine disruptors, chemicals that mess with the function of your body’s hormones. Paraben is one of these. It mimics the action of estrogen.

Dr. Patisaul says, “There’s estrogen-sensitive tissue in the breast, so the worry is that if you put parabens close to this tissue every day, they may promote the growth of cancer cells.”

More research is needed to make a definitive connection. But the question is, how much of a risk are you willing to take in the meantime?

Let’s keep going…

Related: Sweat glands—The body’s secret weapon for healing

2. Phthalates. They help deodorant stick to your skin. According to Dr. Patisaul, there is evidence that they could disrupt the way your body uses testosterone. They could also have an effect on fetal development.

3. Aluminum. This could be the most dangerous chemical in your antiperspirant. And there’s research to back this up…

Research shows that aluminum can cause changes in breast tissue that promote tumor growth. Is it a coincidence that over 50% of breast cancers start in the area near the armpit and lymph nodes?

Aluminum has been found in human breasts at higher levels than in a person’s blood.

University of Geneva researchers showed that “long-term exposure to concentrations of aluminum caused cells to form tumors and metastasize.”

Other researchers suggest that underarm shaving combined with the use of antiperspirants, whose main working ingredient is aluminum salts, could play a role in breast cancer.

More research is needed. But things are pointing in the direction of a guilty verdict.

In the meantime, you can refer to the EWG’s database that rates antiperspirants and deodorants for their safety.

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  1. The effect of habitual and experimental antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiomePeerJ
  2. Deodorants contain dangerous aluminum salts that can excel cancer growth —
  3. Aluminium chloride promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis in normal murine mammary gland epithelial cellsInternational Journal of Cancer
  4. Aluminium and breast cancer: Sources of exposure, tissue measurements and mechanisms of toxicological actions on breast biologyJournal of Inorganic Biochemistry
  5. 5 Things Wrong With Your DeodorantTime


Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.