Antiperspirants and deodorants are not the same. The primary function of deodorants is to kill the bacteria living on your skin, thereby reducing your body odor. Antiperspirants often have a dual purpose. They both kill the bacteria to reduce odor and plug your pores with aluminum to reduce sweating.
Unfortunately, altering the microbiome in your armpit isn’t the worst thing that can happen when you regularly use antiperspirants or deodorants. The ingredients in these products are the real cause for alarm. While deodorants are designed to work outside the body, they contain chemicals that can pass through the skin barrier.
Drug companies commonly use transdermal patches to deliver medications through your skin.14 For just this reason, smearing chemicals on your skin may be more dangerous than swallowing them. Associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University, Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., is quoted in Time Magazine, saying:15
“When you eat something, it’s broken down by your liver and digestive system. But when you put something on your skin, there are times when it can enter your bloodstream without being metabolized.”
Rubbing chemicals on your skin doesn’t mean they will make it to your bloodstream. However, blood testing shows many of the chemicals used in deodorants are able to permeate your skin and are found in your blood.16 Here are five common antiperspirant/deodorant ingredients that may pose a health risk.
This product is used in antiperspirants to block your sweat glands and reduce the amount of sweat you secrete. It doesn’t reduce the amount your body produces, only the amount that is secreted through your follicles. As mentioned, aluminum will also kill off some bacteria under your arms that don’t produce strong body odor, allowing those bacteria that do produce a pungent odor to proliferate.17
Aluminum is a metal that may increase gene instability in breast tissue.18 This instability may be related to changes promoting the growth of tumors. Although this is not proof that aluminum is a causative factor, those who use products containing aluminum tend to have higher rates of breast cancer.
Parabens are preservatives used in many different types of personal care products, including moisturizers, deodorants, sunscreens, shaving creams and gels, hair products and make up. Parabens are associated with changes to the production and regulation of estrogen and other hormones in your body as they penetrate your skin and act like a weak estrogen.20
These compounds help your personal care products stick to your skin or hair. This means anything you use with fragrance that lingers has phthalates to improve the stability of the scent.
Phthalates are toxic to reproductive glands in both men and women. Fetal development in pregnant women may be affected, and research has linked the compound to reduced IQs and asthma.