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Sweat stains and wet palms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the battle against sweating. Those usually come in a package with unpleasant odors – the main reason we are constantly trying to put our body's natural sweating mechanism under control.
But, what about the weapons we use in this battle? Are they helping or harming us? To answer this question, we need to understand the science behind it.
Why Do We Sweat in the First Place?
....And where are those nasty odors coming from?
Sweat is our body's reaction to stress, heat, exercise, and hormonal changes. It releases heat and helps maintain normal body temperature. Typically, sweat is odorless to humans. But it all depends on where the sweating takes place and which type of sweat glands are involved.
The unpleasant smell occurs because of the rapid growth of bacteria and their breaking down the sweat into acids. Our armpits are their favorite playground area because of the warmth and moisture.
No wonder store shelves stock up with a broad spectrum of deodorants because – who in this world wouldn't want to get rid of those unpleasant wet stains and odors?
The question, however, remains – Do we know enough about what's in these products and how can they affect our health?
Traditional Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants are certainly the best-selling products nowadays. While a lot of people might think these two terms are synonyms, that's not the case. Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts as the main active ingredients which suppress excessive sweating. Thus, they block the sweat glands' channels and prevent the secretion of sweat in the applied region.
On the other hand, deodorants work entirely differently. When you apply your deodorant, perspiration normally occurs, but the substances it contains prevent the build-up of unpleasant odors.
The majority of deo-sticks and sprays have a combination of both, which might sound like an attractive solution. But in the long run, you can make the problem worse.
Just like your gut, your skin also should have a healthy level of good bacteria. Regular use of antiperspirants can change your skin's PH levels and lead to an overgrowth of bacteria, resulting in intensifying foul odors and suppressing the immune system.
What Are The Harmful Ingredients in Traditional Deodorants?
The most common ingredients in traditional antiperspirants and deodorants are aluminum, propylene glycol, triclosan, phthalates, parabens, and fragrance.
But we're going to focus on the real baddy from the bunch – aluminum.
Aluminum, or to be more precise, aluminum salts, is the most common ingredient of antiperspirants. You can find it on the labels as Aluminum chlorohydrate (most commonly in sprays and roll-ons) and Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly (in solid forms, like deo-sticks), among others.
Thanks to aluminum, antiperspirants are excellent in reducing odors and sweating. When exposed to sweat, aluminum salts form a gel-like layer that clogs sweat ducts in our skin. Thus, it temporarily blocks sweat from reaching the skin's surface, leaving our armpits odorless and dry. Sounds great! But, what are the long-term effects of blocking our body's natural sweating mechanism?
This leads us to the next segment – the negative side effects of aluminum in deodorant, i.e., antiperspirants.
Aluminum in Deodorants: Why Is It Bad?
There was a lot of panic regarding aluminum side effects in the late 90s. Researchers claimed that antiperspirants with aluminum prevent the body from getting rid of harmful toxins, typically eliminated by sweat.
Allegedly, these toxins, therefore, accumulate in the lymph nodes under the armpits, which further leads to the development of breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
However, the newest studies show that there's not enough evidence for these claims. Many doctors and scientists nowadays say there are no indications that aluminum-containing products are harmful.
Nevertheless, aluminum can cause other negative side effects that shouldn't be neglected either. These include:
Overheating: Sweating is our body's natural method of cooling itself. By blocking the sweat channels in our skin, aluminum impedes this natural process, resulting in potential overheating and our body's inability to cool off;
Irritation and inflammation: Aluminum-based deodorants can irritate some people's skin and even cause the inflammation of sweat glands. You may notice little painful bumps under your skin, especially if you apply aluminum-containing deodorant on a freshly shaved armpit. This is due to the clogging of the sweat ducts and the build-up of bacteria;
Yellow stains: In the case you wondered why your white T-shirts aren't white anymore – aluminum is your culprit. When combined with sweat, aluminum creates a yellow film that's almost impossible to wash off.
So, if you want to keep your whites white and don't want to block your sweat glands unnecessarily, ditch your antiperspirant and go all-natural.
Benefits of Natural Deodorants
Exactly, just deodorants, not antiperspirants, because deodorants cover the smell, not sweat. And that is already a good sign.
There are many reasons contributing to a bad smell. It could be related to the food you eat, synthetic clothes, or over-multiplied bacteria. Whatever the reason, if excessive sweating and odor bother you, you might consider your deodorant to be your best friend.
But you might ask – Is it possible to sweat and still smell nice? Yes, it's possible with natural deodorants. They don't prevent sweating but help us feel and smell fresh – and all with resources already given to us by nature. They contain ingredients that naturally kill harmful bacteria, nourish your skin as well as its natural functions.
If you threw away your aluminum-rich antiperspirant and decided to give your skin a chance to breathe, you might be out there wondering – What kind of natural deodorant should I go for?
Natural deodorants typically have these ingredients:
Ingredients with antibacterial properties, such as tea tree oil or coconut oil;
Essential oils that provide a pleasant scent, like lavender oil or sandalwood;
Ingredients that are natural absorbents, such as baking soda or cornstarch.
And in a second, we'll teach you how to make your own. But first, let's talk about the transition from traditional antiperspirants to natural deodorants.
The Transition: How to Do It?
If you've decided to go all-natural, the transition might not be as smooth as you would expect. Many people feel that their natural deodorants simply don't have the desired effect.
And, this is true, at least in the beginning. After years and years of using traditional antiperspirants, your skin microflora is out of balance. Since natural deodorants only mask unpleasant odors and don't prevent sweating, it will take time to get your microflora back to balance and for your natural deodorant to start 'working.'
Adjusting to the new routine could take a while, and you might be tempted to give up. It is good to know that it's perfectly normal to experience the following once you switch to a natural deodorant:
Increased sweating: During the transition, your sweat glands are trying to get rid of aluminum residues that block the pores, and you will probably sweat more;
Heightened odor: The higher the amount of moisture, the more attractive the playground for bacteria; therefore, the unpleasant odors will increase in the beginning.
It will take time and patience to find the natural deodorant that works best for you. But it'll be worth it in the long run, we promise you!
DIY Natural Deodorants That Actually Work!
Making your own natural deodorant shouldn't be complicated, and you likely already have all the necessary ingredients in your kitchen. If not, you'll probably find everything you need in your local health store.
Natural Deodorant With Shea Butter - Quick&Easy Recipe
The combination of shea butter and coconut oil will hydrate your skin while making it smell nice at the same time. However, be mindful when applying this deo and make sure to let it absorb and dry before putting your clothes on. Otherwise, it might not be as effective as you would hope – plus, it may stain your clothes.
- 2 tablespoons Shea butter
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons baking soda (look for aluminum-free)
- 2 tablespoons Indian arrowroot starch (cornstarch will also do)
- 1 tablespoon Bentonite Clay
- 6 drops essential oil *optional (you can use lavender oil, tea tree oil, or eucalyptus oil...or mix several oils that you like)
- Melt Shea butter and coconut oil separately over medium heat till they begin to melt (you can also use a microwave if you have one);
- Once melted, remove from the stove and add arrowroot starch (or cornflour), Bentonite clay, and essential oils. Mix well;
- Mix everything together until you get a smooth consistency without lumps;
- Let the mixture cool completely, and then pour it into an empty deodorant stick to make it easier to use.
You don't have to store it in a fridge, but it may melt during summer. One more thing to bear in mind – some people may be sensitive to tea tree essential oil. So make sure to test it before applying it to your skin.
Natural Deodorant With Beeswax - Quick&Easy Recipe
In this recipe, we used beeswax instead of shea butter. Beeswax acts as a humectant and emollient. Additionally, it contains vitamin A for rehydrating your dry and sensitive armpit skin and keeping it soft.
- 2 tablespoons beeswax
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons aluminum-free baking soda
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- 4-6 drops lavender, rosemary, and lemon essential oil
- Pour beeswax and coconut oil in a glass jar;
- Place the jar in a pot with hot (almost boiling) water, and leave it until the ingredients melt;
- Stir well until you get an even and smooth texture, then take the jar out of the pot and the pot off the stove;
- Add baking soda, arrowroot powder, and essential oils;
- You can pour the mixture into an old deodorant packaging and leave it to cool.
If you're sensitive to certain essential oils, make sure to do the patch test the day before. If no rash or redness shows on your skin, you're safe to put them in your DIY deo. Also, keep it in the fridge, especially during summer, otherwise it will melt quickly.
And, there you have it! Two easy recipes for natural deodorants that can be ready in less than 10 minutes.
There's nothing wrong with using traditional antiperspirants. You might find them useful, especially if you're often in the gym. However, to prevent any inflammation or irritation from happening, we wouldn't recommend using them every day.
All in all, whether you have sensitive skin or you're extremely picky about which products you apply to your skin, natural deodorants might be a perfect solution for you. It can also be a fun DIY project with multiple benefits. For starters, you'll know what you're using, plus you'll let your skin breathe.