Over the years, many claims have cropped up about deodorant hazards and deodorant side effects, from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Read on to find out what the research says and what the real potential side effects of commercial deodorants are.
Deodorant Dangers, Dispelled
A number of alarming health issues have been attributed to deodorant and anti-perspirant use due to their chemical contents but these are largely unfounded. The following are some of the issues linked to deodorant use and what the science says:
Breast cancer. Some have theorized that since breast cancer occurred near the underarms, then there must be some connection between deodorant use and breast cancer. Other studies have suggested that the aluminum from deodorants absorbed into the skin may have estrogen-like effects. However, the U.S. National Cancer Institute states that such studies have not been substantiated and that a 2014 review found no clear link between aluminum in deodorants and an increased risk of breast cancer.
On the other hand, there are some people who are concerned about the cumulative effects of parabens in deodorant. Used to stop the growth of fungus and bacteria, parabens are likewise thought to have estrogen-like effects. But there are currently no studies to warrant a change in the regulations over parabens.
Alzheimer’s disease. Some believe that the aluminium content in deodorant also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disease that leads to memory loss and impaired thinking and behavior. However, Dementia Australia, a member of Alzheimer’s Disease International, states that while aluminium is toxic to brain cells, “the balance of evidence does not appear to support a specific role for aluminium in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Endocrine disruption. Deodorants and anti-perspirants may contain triclosan, an ingredient used to prevent or reduce bacterial contamination, as well as phthalates, the ingredient that helps deodorants stay sticky and flexible. The two are thought to be endocrine disruptors, which means they may interfere with the body’s hormones, leading to reproductive, neurological, developmental, and immunity issues. However, triclosan and phthalate studies have generally not been done on human test subjects, so there is nothing conclusive linking them to adverse effects on human health. Regulatory bodies reiterate that there is no scientific basis that should cause alarm.
Deodorant Side Effects
While the purported deodorant dangers have not been proven, there are side effects that may not be life-threatening but are nevertheless annoying. A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology states that compounds in deodorants and anti-perspirants “have the potential to cause irritant and allergic reactions in many consumers,” pointing to fragrance, essential oils and biological additives, parabens, Vitamin E, and lanolin as the most commonly used potential allergens, leading to axillary dermatitis in particular.
Some of the potential side effects of deodorant on skin are:
A red, itchy rash. Contact dermatitis is a result of coming into direct contact with allergens. While this depends on what exactly you’re allergic to, the common culprits are ingredients like fragrance and parabens.
A burning sensation. If your skin is sensitive, you may feel a stinging sensation when you apply your deodorant, especially after shaving—this uncomfortable feeling is a sure sign that your deodorant may be doing more than keeping body odor at bay.
Discoloration. Dark underarms can have a number of underlying causes, such as genetics or an underlying health condition like diabetes. But if you’re reasonably healthy and no one in your family has the same problem, then the discoloration may be due to your deo. Again, this is due to irritation: Ingredients like aluminium, fragrance, and alcohol can leave your skin inflamed, thickening it and causing it to darken with repeated use of a product. Shaving is also another culprit that leads to thicker, darker skin over time.
Taming Underarm Woes
There are a few things you can do to manage the abovementioned skin issues:
Ditch your deo. Stop using your deodorant or anti-perspirant for a few days. You won’t give your skin a chance to heal if you keep using the product that causes irritation. A few days of sweat and natural odor are a small price to pay for healthier skin in the long run.
Keep the inflammation down. If your rashes are really getting to you, apply ice cubes to the area. You can also try applying hydrocortisone cream for a couple of days. If this doesn’t work, see your doctor.
Shave smart. When shaving your underarms, use warm or hot water when you can to help soften the skin and prep the area. Hydrate the area with a shaving cream or foam, and make sure that your razor is sharp and that you constantly rinse it—a dull blade can irritate skin and cause nicks and cuts. Rinse with cold water to help close up your pores then wait at least 10 minutes before applying deodorant to prevent irritation.
Go natural. Switch to a natural deodorant, which doesn’t have the ingredients that typically cause allergies. An aluminium-free deodorant and one that’s also paraben-free is a good place to start. Some doctors caution against a natural remedy like lemon juice as this can cause more irritation and exacerbate the problem. If dark underarms are your main concern, try gently exfoliating the area with a gentle cleanser and washcloth before applying a natural deodorant.