How Your Deodorant Could Affect Your Health

by Miki Hayes

There are some aspects to our beauty routines that we may do now without even thinking about it — products that we'll apply without really knowing what it could be doing to our skin or for our health. Like deodorant. There are some ways that deodorant affects your health that you may not be aware of. Because there have been some pretty scary speculation about whether deodorants and antiperspirants can cause some serious health problems down the line.

For example, some sources have suggested that there is a link between deodorant and cancer. Now that's a pretty serious accusation. And with the rise of all of these "natural" products, it's important to understand what exactly is different between a traditional deodorant and an all-natural one. What ingredients are actually different, and what do they all do? It's important to be able to look past labels and names to understand the ingredients in products so you know you're choosing what best suits your needs. So to see if there is any truth to these health claims associated with deodorant, I spoke with Dr. Hadley King, MD. She broke down some of those more worrisome ingredients often found in deodorants and antiperspirants, and let me know if it's really necessary that we start looking for alternative options.

Dr. King first pointed out that deodorants and antiperspirants have generally been regarded as safe when used topically and as directed. And even though there are certain ingredients that have raised some cause for concern, it is important to remember that these claims are still controversial at this time because "more studies must be completed before a definitive verdict is reached in the medical community," according to Dr. King. In case you're worried, Dr. King outlined four of the most controversial ingredients and explains what exactly some people are worried about.

1. Triclosan

Triclosan is typically an inactive ingredient, and it is an antimicrobial that kills good and bad bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. Dr. King notes that "some studies have linked [triclosan] to a number of different problems including disruption of the endocrine system and increased risk of cancer." Currently, the FDA is still investigating the safety of triclosan.

2. Propylene Glycol

Another inactive ingredient, propylene glycol is used to help prevent the deodorant from drying out. The FDA does categorize it as generally safe, but Dr. King explains that because it is a neurotoxin, it could potentially cause liver and kidney damage if sufficient quantities are absorbed.

3. Parabens

Although most of us like to avoid parabens when we can, some deodorants (and other skincare products) still contain some form of this preservative. The reason we like to stay away from parabens though, says Dr. King, is "because they can mimic the effects of estrogen in our bodies." This has resulted in concerns regarding parabens' potential hormonal effects.

4. Aluminum

Aluminum is the most popular active ingredient in antiperspirants. It blocks sweat glands so armpits stay drier, but is also what causes those annoying, yellow pit-stains. However, discolored clothing may not be all aluminum in antiperspirants is responsible for. According to Dr. King, "aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's disease and to breast cancer." It is important to remember though, that there has yet to be a conclusive scientific study published that confirms a definitive link between the aluminum in antiperspirants and these conditions.

While there is currently no conclusive evidence that it is better to use deodorants and antiperspirants without these ingredients, there are options if you still want to make a switch to a product without them. Just remember, with your deodorant and any other beauty product, to always read the ingredients list so you can choose what's best for you.

Images: Larm Dreaming, Brooke Cagle (2), Jesse Uli, Matthew Kane, Yanko Peyankov/Unsplash