Updated: Nov 12, 2020
My Deodorant History
As a teenager, I loved my Dove cucumber scented antiperspirant enough to smuggle it into my house despite my mom's household war on antiperspirants and any mainstream beauty products. My mom was a health food store devotee long before Whole Foods came around, back when health food stores still smelled of musty bulk herbs and old incense and a vegetarian diet seemed radical. I loved our weekly trip to the local health food store, the Country Cupboard, but my love of artificial scented deodorant was stronger. I remember seeing deodorant ads in fashion magazines, and choosing my next tube based on whatever the ads I was served. The deodorant brand Ban truly snagged me with their Teen Vogue spreads depicting beautiful teen girls "banning" typical teenage worries, worries presumably brought on by perspiration... I remember thinking the girl in the ad below was particularly stunning/cool, and just like that, Ban secured another angsty teen.
Rumors of aluminum (the active ingredient in antiperspirant) causing alzheimer's and breast cancer were all over the place, but that didn't deter my devotion to my favorite deodorant. I used Dove and Ban antiperspirants as a teenager, and they both saw me through many sweaty days spent horse showing in a wool coat in 90 + degrees.
In my late teens, I eventually switched to deodorant without aluminum-- Arm and Hammer was a favorite with a gender neutral scent I once loved, thinking I was making a "healthy" choice, but eventually the artificial fragrance and list of artificial ingredients led me to try "natural" deodorant as a college student, free of artificial scents and ingredients I wasn't keen on. I'm not sure why, but the artificial fragrances that once drew me in began to repulse me and seemed way too cloying. If you've ever tried natural deodorant, it'll be no surprise to hear while a couple I tested worked, most didn't, and most irritated my skin to boot. The final catalyst that eventually led me to begin making my own a few years after college was the waste produced from a single plastic tube of deodorant, natural or not. Many deodorant tubes do not get recycled because they're made with multiple kinds of plastic, which are difficult to recycle depending on local recycling center capabilities.
Because of this, I tinkered for a few months until I created a formula that was effective while using sustainably sourced, organic ingredients, gentle enough for my sensitive skin, and low waste.
My sensitive armpit skin is happy, I don't have b.o., and I feel good knowing the ingredients and packaging I use are responsibly sourced, for humans+animals and subsequently our environment.
My Aluminum Takeaway
Aluminum in antiperspirants works to partially block the apocrine sweat glands present in your armpits, reducing the amount of sweat and potential body odor that occurs when sweat reacts with normally occurring bacteria on the skin. Most antiperspirants also have artificial scents added to mask any odor. If you do a google search on the topic of aluminum, whether or not it's linked to breast cancer and other health issues, you'll quickly realize it's a polarizing topic with many doctors disagreeing on the verdict. Regardless of whether or not studies can consistently prove a link between aluminum based deodorants and breast cancer, the other commonly used ingredients such as propylene glycol, parabens, artificial fragance, BHT, mineral oil, and cyclopentasiloxane are generally considered as ingredients to avoid for those with sensitive skin or skin concerns. If you're curious about researching ingredients in your skin care products, I like this website!
Aside from the above ingredients I'd rather not choose to put on my skin, I also prefer to not support most of the companies that own widely available deodorant brands, such as Unilever, Colgate/Palmolive (who incidentally owns Tom's of Maine) , Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson. While these companies are not inherently evil, I do not support their use of known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and potential skin irritants in skin care products, or their massive stream of single use plastic caused by their products.
This post is not intended to judge anyone using antiperspirants, or cause alarm, it's simply my experience and perspective. If antiperspirants work for you, more power to you! At the end of the day, I'd personally rather not prevent my body from carrying out a necessary function, in this case sweating. Our bodies are smart, and generally behave in our best interests.
I plan to write a follow up post about caring for your armpits, an often overlooked, but super important area of the body. If you're new to natural deodorants and would like to try mine, they're available here!