Natural Deodorants and Antiperspirants

The selection of natural cosmetic-grade deodorants is now growing exponentially. There are more and more high-quality products available. The reason for the popularity of safer deodorants is clear. Traditional deodorants and especially antiperspirants that prevent sweating contain a lot of questionable chemicals. Often, the attitude of cosmetic giants that manufacture antiperspirants towards the chemicals contained in the products is underestimating. For example, there are research results on the harmfulness of aluminium compounds. What ingredients does traditional deodorant contain and why are they considered as harmful? We’re going to find out about that right now. I will also tell you about natural cosmetic-grade deodorants and the chemicals used in them. Continue reading and you will know why you should pay attention to the choice of deodorant.

Difference between deodorant and antiperspirant

First, I want to explain to you the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. Deodorant is a product that affects the smell of sweat. The purpose of deodorant is to prevent the formation of sweat odour and also cover it with other scents. Deodorant cannot affect sweating itself and the amount of sweat.

An antiperspirant is a product which purpose is to reduce sweat secretion. Antiperspirants contain chemicals that affect the function of the sweat glands by shrinking them. Antiperspirants form gel plugs on the sweat glands, preventing and restraining their activity. In addition to this, antiperspirants have all the same properties as deodorants, i.e. they prevent the smell of sweat and cover it with other scents.

In everyday language, both deodorants and antiperspirants are called deodorants. It is always worth looking at the INCI list when purchasing a product. Aluminium salts are mentioned there, if such were used in the product.

Why does sweat smell?

Most people’s fresh sweat smells nothing or only very mild. Some people’s sweat can have a strong characteristic smell depending on, for example, nutrition or medication. Sweat starts to smell only when it combines with bacteria on the skin. As a result of bacterial activity, sweat can really smell quite unpleasant. People sweat differently. For people who sweat a lot, sweat odour is a bigger problem. The more sweat, the more food for bacteria and the more sweat odour.

Sweating is a natural thermoregulation mechanism of human

A person is supposed to sweat. A complete lack of sweating is a sign of a serious illness. Sweating is more abundant when it is hot or when we do heavy physical exercise. Sweating has evolved as a human precursor to equalize heat. Sweating makes it easier for a person to stay under the hot sun. Animals don’t have this feature; they have to look for shade. Sweating is therefore a useful additional feature, not a problem.

Sweat glands on the skin are responsible for sweating. There are sweat glands all over the skin. However, most of them are in the armpits, face and in the genital area. Large sweat glands, aka apocrine sweat glands, are found in these areas. There are smaller sweat glands all over the body. For example, in the heat of the sauna, all the body’s sweat glands start working. Normally, sweating occurs only in the area of the large sweat glands.

Products that prevent sweating, the antiperspirants

Dried sage is an effective natural deodorant ingredient

Antiperspirants are developed specifically to prevent sweating. People who feel that sweating is a problem do think that the answer is antiperspirant. The effect of antiperspirant, mechanism blocking sweating, is based on aluminium salts. Aluminium compounds penetrate to sweat glands and form a gel plug, shrinking them. In this way, production of sweat is mostly blocked.

Is aluminium in deodorants harmful?

Recently, there has been a lot of conversation about aluminium salts and their safety in daily use. Aluminium is a toxic substance if it enters the human body. Cosmetics giants assure that the aluminium salts in antiperspirants do not enter the human body.

The topic has been studied a lot and there is very contradictory information about it. In some studies, breast cancer has been suspected to be caused by antiperspirants. Aluminium affects the human brain in particular. The aluminium contained in antiperspirants has been thought to be one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease as well. Because of this, many avoid antiperspirants just to be safe.

My own opinion about antiperspirants is negative. Since I don’t usually sweat a lot, I do not want to expose myself to unnecessary chemicals. I always choose a natural cosmetics grade product as my deodorant.

Deodorants prevent the formation of sweat odour

Deodorants have an easier task. They prevent the formation of sweat odour by reducing the activity of bacteria on the skin. Deodorants do not prevent sweating, so people who sweat a lot won’t get much help from them.

The activity of bacteria can be reduced in many different ways. Changing the pH of the skin is one of the most typical ways to prevent the growth of bacteria on the skin. Substances that reduce microbial activity are also added to deodorants.

Deodorants can be made from both natural and synthetic raw materials.

It is quite difficult to find a deodorant that does not contain aluminium salts at all. If you want to use a deodorant that is not an antiperspirant, prefer natural grade cosmetic.

Here is the INCI list of a conventional (non-natural cosmetics grade) deodorant for sensitive skin. In the INCI list, the ingredients are always in order of magnitude.

Aqua, Aluminium Chloralhydrate, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Steareth-2, Steareth-21, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Bisabolol, Persea Gratissima Oil, Glycine Soja Oil, Trisodium EDTA, BHT, Tocopherol

What are all these ingredients and what is their role in the product? Here is a small example of a typical deodorant INCI list and how to read it.

  • Since there is the most water in the product, it is marked at the beginning of the product with the INCI name Aqua.
  • The second most product contains aluminium salts with the INCI name Aluminium Chlorohydrate
  • PPG-15 Stearyl Ether prevents the crystallization of salts in antiperspirant preparations.
  • Steareth-2 and Steareth-21 are emulsifiers that help mix water and oil together
  • The product also contains natural chamomile extract and bisapolol, which is a skin-soothing ingredient. Bisapolol is made from German chamomile.
  • Persea Gratissima Oil means avocado oil and Glycine Soja Oil is modified soybean oil
  • Trisodium EDTA is a chelating agent affecting the stability of the product
  • BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene, which is an antioxidant and preservative. There are many opinions about the safety of BHT. BHT has been linked in some studies to hormonal disorders and cancers. However, the research is still incomplete. Currently, it has been found to be safe in low concentrations. BHT does not belong to natural cosmetics.
  • Tocopherol is vitamin E and acts as an antioxidant in the product, preventing the oxidation of fats.

As you noticed, traditional deodorants intended for even the most sensitive skin contain problematic compounds. This example from my INCI list is for a product that is marketed as very gentle one.

The natural cosmetic-grade deodorant contains only natural ingredients

The majority of natural cosmetic grade deodorants are made without water. In this way, preservatives and emulsifiers are not necessarily needed. In natural cosmetics, very simple ingredients are used in deorodants.

The most typical natural cosmetics deodorants contain coconut oil that inhibits bacterial activity, baking soda that raises the pH of the skin, and antimicrobial, fragrant essential oils. Many herbs are very effective antiperspirants. Try, for example, sage extract in your own deodorants.

Vinegar and alcohol are also effective in curbing excessive bacterial activity on the skin. Here is my effective deodorant recipe, which contains meadowsweet, vinegar and alcohol. Deodorants containing natural alum are also popular in natural cosmetics.

Here is an INCI example of a natural cosmetics-level deodorant

Cocos nucifera oil (Coconut oil), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Almond wax), Solanum Tuberosum Starch (Potato flour), Sodium bicarbonate (Baking soda), Eucalyptus globulus, Citrus aurantifolia (essential oils), Citral*, Geraniol*, Linalool*, Limonene*. *from natural essential oils

The product contains only natural vegetable butter, natural waxes, potato starch, baking soda and essential oils. The allergens contained in natural essential oils are mentioned at the end of the INCI. No preservatives or emulsifiers are needed because the product does not contain water.

Baking soda may irritate the skin. This kind of deodorant should be carefully washed off the armpits every day. Always use soap or other detergent to remove deodorant. Creamy deodorant does not come off the skin just by rinsing.

What is alum?

Alum is a natural alternative to aluminum

The official name of alum is potassium aluminium sulphate or, as a crystalline liquid, potassium aluminium sulphate dodecahydrate. Alum is a naturally occurring aluminium compound. It differs from the aluminium compounds used in antiperspirants due to its larger molecular size. The aluminium contained in alum cannot be absorbed into the body but remains on the surface of the skin. In some studies, alum has also been suspected as a cancer-causing agent. However, there is not enough evidence for this.

Alum has an astringent effect on the skin. Alum also shrinks the sweat glands, reducing sweating. It works like an antiperspirant. However, the effect of alum is weaker than actual antiperspirants. Natural cosmetics deodorants containing alum are sold as deodorant stones or in roll-on form.

What is your favourite deodorant or do you use deodorants at all?

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