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my underarm adventures

Posted Sep 12 2008 12:10pm

I have been experimenting with natural deodorant. Could you tell? Seriously, it is a little different but worth getting used to. As usual, I started wondering about alternatives when I saw the labels of the natural brands claiming to be free of certain ingredients (like aluminum and parabens). I decided to do some research. As I often find, the studies are inconclusive and there are lots of opinions about it.

Some are concerned that ingredients in anti-perspirant can cause alzhiemers (from the aluminum) or breast cancer (from the parabens). While studies have shown anti-perspirants do not cause breast cancer, there is an interesting article on WebMD about some new research showing parabens being found in tumors.

I don't really think using traditional deodorant products will give you diseases. I do think that for me, it is worth looking to see if I can find a product that achieves a similar result with more natural ingredients. I don't believe any one product can cause these diseases, but I do wonder about the cumulative exposure to common toxins. Better to minimize the risk and be safe. The skin absorbs things pretty easy in the armpit, especially if you shave. Over time, exposure must add up - especially from multiple sources (parabens in all body products, shampoos, make up, etc.)

Some people would even go so far as to say that it is unnatural to stop the body from sweating, since the process releases toxins. I for one tend to sweat a lot. Even if everything they say is true about anti-persperant being harmful, I couldn't imagine not using it.

I decided it would be fun to experiment, though. I ended up trying a few brands from Whole Foods. The first one I tried was terribly irritating. I have sensitive skin, I guess! Thankfully the woman at the shop told me that the one I had selected (with Tea Tree Oil) can be harsh on sensitive skin. She steered me to some other ones to try. My favorite right now is by Nature's Gate with aloe and lavender.

I must say it took a little getting used to. I was warned that it takes some time for the body to adjust. I had some stinky days, but they did stop! I ended up using my Secret anti-perspirant on really important days, alternating as needed. Now I don't seem to need the Secret at all.

Of course the most natural thing you could try is pure baking soda. Apparently you can apply some with your fingers while your skin is still damp after you bathe. Haven't tried this myself.

I checked the Skin Deep website (which has been updated, by the way) to see if my selections were on track. My old product scored a 4 out of 10, which doesn't sound bad, but 69% of deoderants had lower concerns. Skin Deep says it give the rating due to "developmental/reproductive toxicity, violations, restrictions & warnings, allergies/immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation, enhanced skin absorption, and contamination concerns."

The new product I'm using scored a 1 out of 10. Only 7% had lower concerns. It was given this rating due to "Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Multiple, additive exposure sources."

Interestingly, when I checked to see which products ranked highest, one of them is made by Proctor and Gamble (Sure Invisible Solid, Unscented). However, this product does contain aluminum and does conduct animal testing.

Since there is no crystal ball, I guess it pays to research for yourself and decide which products you feel comfortable using day to day.
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