Aluminum compounds, the primary ingredient in antiperspirants (they’re used to plug sweat ducts), are much discussed as a potential health threat.
Aluminum is a known neurotoxin and is linked to neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. Although aluminum is very present in our environment and the aluminum compounds used in antiperspirant are considered safe by the FDA (antiperspirants have to be regulated as “drugs” because they’re intended to affect the function of the body), some sources warn against applying it daily because of the known health impacts of excessive aluminum exposure.
Many studies cited by mainstream health sources show no direct correlation between the use of antiperspirants and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, these studies are contradicted by others, and it is suggested that the overall prevalence of aluminum in our environment/products/bodies makes it difficult to study. Everyone does seem to agree that too much accumulation of aluminum in our bodies is not a good thing, but the contention is over whether lifetime use of antiperspirants constitutes “too much.”
Regardless of the aluminum accumulation issue, there is also the relevant argument that blocking sweat ducts is unnatural and therefore probably unhealthy (sweating is a natural bodily process needed to regulate temperature and release toxins from the body), and there are plenty of other ingredients in antiperspirants that one should probably avoid rubbing all up in their glands (e.g. parabens and phthalates).
Additionally, it’s a common misconception that antiperspirant is needed because sweat itself stinks and creates body odor. Nope. Sweat is odorless until it combines with bacteria on the surface of your skin. Unless you literally sweat buckets that you need to control (probably a sign of a more significant problem), you likely only need an antibacterial agent (of which there are tons of natural sources) to eliminate underarm odor.
(Also: sweat itself doesn’t cause those yellow underarm stains you find on your shirts, that’s actually the aluminum-based antiperspirant reacting with laundry detergent.)
“All-natural” deodorants, such as Tom’s, are common alternatives to aluminum-based products, and are becoming popular enough that you can find them at most mainstream grocery and drugstores. But the all-naturalness is sometimes lax on the “all,” and some of these products have an uncomfortable sticky consistency.
Recently, more people have been singing the praises of homemade deodorant, which may sound weird, but which really truly works better. (And Free People suggests using it, so you can consider it cool.)
Wellness Mama has a really easy and effective recipe for homemade deodorant. All you need is coconut oil, corn starch, baking soda, and essential oils of your choice (lavender and/or tea tree are good options). This recipe is effective because corn starch absorbs moisture, baking soda absorbs odor, coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and essential oils smell good and are antibacterial.
You can save a deodorant container and repurpose it when you make your own, or get some new containers here.
Note: Coconut oil melts at 72 degrees F, so you’ll have to keep your homemade deodorant in the refrigerator during the summer. If you don’t like going to the fridge in your bra to put on deodorant, you can add beeswax to the recipe to keep it solid in the summer heat. The beeswax recipe is also travel-friendly.
You could also try making a Natural Spray Deodorant, which doesn’t have baking soda (some people react to it), but instead uses magnesium oil, which has many health benefits.
All ingredients needed for these recipes are easily found on Amazon.
Images: Soap Deli News Blog, Doterra