Remember in the ’90s when antiperspirants suddenly became Public Enemy No. 1? Thanks to proliferating internet rumors that aluminum—used in antiperspirants to plug pores and prevent sweating—could cause breast cancer, people started tossing their sticks of Ban and Teen Spirit. (And it was definitely turning the underarms of all our prized white tees yellow—not cool!)
The truth is, some studies have linked aluminum with breast cancer risk—but most have been considered generally flawed, so the verdict is still out. Either way, if the idea of using chemicals on your skin seems kinda sus, we feel you. Our skin absorbs everything we put on it, and aluminum is a pro-oxidant, meaning it can damage cells. Aluminum can also affect estrogen levels, and excess estrogen is known to play a role in the growth of cancer cells.
Even if you’ve already ditched antiperspirants in favor of plain old deodorants, those aren’t completely free of other potentially harmful toxins either. Some deodorants use synthetic preservatives known as parabens, which can also interfere with estrogen and other hormones in the body.
Triclosan is another questionable ingredient; a recent study found that this antifungal agent can kill the diversity of your gut bacteria—and those guys are responsible for a lot, including keeping your digestive and immune systems, as well as your mental health, in check.
And then there’s the undisclosed cocktail of fragrances used to give deodorant its fresh scent (and cute branding: So Very Summerberry, anyone?) These artificial fragrances could irritate your immune and respiratory systems.
Got your attention yet? Well, there are chemical-free odor-fighting solutions:
- Make it a habit to cleanse your underarms at least twice a day with soap and water.
- If that sounds like too much effort, choose a more natural deodorant. Check out ingredients lists and put those deods back on the shelf if you see parabens (look for methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben), triclosan, fragrance, or parfum. Products scented with essential oils are usually safer.
- You can also make your own ‘DIY Deodorant’! Whether you’re a solid or spray deodorant kinda person, here are two super-easy DIYs that are made with all-natural ingredients—and they actually work!
If sticking baking soda in the fridge can absorb all the nasty odors of forgotten leftovers, imagine what it can do for you when you break a sweat. But baking soda can be a little harsh on skin with repeated direct contact, so cut it with the ultimate skin soother, coconut oil. Cornstarch or arrowroot flour help to thicken the concoction. For the scent, lavender oil is one of our faves, but feel free to experiment with essential oils that make you go mmmm.
4 tablespoons baking soda
4 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot flour
6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
10 drops lavender essential oil
- Combine baking soda and cornstarch or arrowroot. Mix melted coconut oil into the powder until fully combined.
- Stir the essential oil of your choice into the mixture.
- Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and store in a cool place.
- To use, swipe a small amount of deodorant onto your fingers and apply directly to your underarm.
Lemongrass Deodorant Spray
Tea tree oil can zap body odor–causing bacteria on your skin. Lemongrass essential oil also has strong antibacterial properties. Since oil and water don’t mix, dissolve these oils in a tiny bit of high-proof alcohol first. (You could skip the alcohol and just use water, but it really helps you get the most out of the oils.)
1 tablespoon high-proof vodka
16 drops lemongrass essential oil
24 drops tea tree oil
3 ounces water
- Pour vodka into a glass spray bottle.
- Add essential oils and swish the mixture well.
- Add water, shake well, and spray away!
Do you use natural deodorant? Share your stories in the comments below!
+ Sign up for The Year Of Wellness to get your own No-Tox Life deodorant in your third month: PURE! +