Choosing Deodorants for Sensitive Skin
For men with sensitive skin, finding deodorant (or any types of hygiene or beauty products) can be a huge challenge! Even mild chemicals and fragrances used in these products can lead to irritation.
When choosing deodorants for sensitive skin, there are four ingredients you MUST avoid at all costs:
Alcohol – Alcohol helps the deodorant to dry quickly, and can provide a cooling sensation for your skin. Unfortunately, it can dry your sensitive skin and irritate it. You'll find alcohol in your gels, roll-ons, and aerosol deodorants.
Aluminum – Aluminum is popular among antiperspirants because of its ability to plug up the sweat ducts and prevent the flow of moisture to your skin. However, aluminum can be irritating to sensitive skin, and can cause a wide range of additional problems (see the "Dangers of Aluminum in Deodorant" section below). Always search for aluminum-free deodorants!
Fragrances – All deodorants come with chemicals that add perfume and fragrance. Sadly, these perfumes can lead to rashes and skin irritation. Deodorants almost always contain these odor-masking fragrances, so you may want to use antiperspirant for very sensitive skin.
Parabens – These are preservatives used in cosmetics, and they're known to irritate sensitive skin, especially if the skin is already irritated or damaged. You'll need to check the ingredients to find any words that have "paraben" in it, such as methylparaben or propylparaben.
According to the experts, men with sensitive skin should consider an antiperspirant over deodorants, as antiperspirants (particularly aluminum-free products) are less likely to cause irritation.
If you notice any rashes or skin problems when using a product, stop using it and wait until the irritation clears up. Then try the same product once more and watch for a negative reaction. If you get even a hint of the previous reaction, it's time to change products. In extreme cases, consider using baking soda to combat body odor and sweat.
Harmful Ingredients in Deodorant
While there are natural ways to combat odor and sweat (see the final section), the truth is that chemicals do the job much more efficiently—which is why most deodorants are made using chemical ingredients. Unfortunately, some of those chemicals can be quite harmful:
Parabens – As mentioned above, parabens are a preservative that keep the deodorant from spoiling or the ingredients from degrading. However, parabens have been known to interfere with your body's hormone production, particularly estrogen. Given that the underarms are VERY close to the estrogen-sensitive tissue in your chest, there is the worry that regular application of deodorant could lead to the growth of cancer cells. This isn't just a concern for women, but for men as well!
The National Institutes of Health has stated that there is "a possible connection between their use and breast cancer. However, no scientific evidence links the use of these products to the development of breast cancer."
Triclosan –Triclosan is an antibacterial agent used to protect the deodorants and antiperspirants from being contaminated by the bacteria forming in your armpits. It's also used to kill off the bacteria forming on your skin. While the FDA states there are "no known hazards" to triclosan, recent research has indicated the opposite.
Triclosan has been linked to affected microbiomes (beneficial bacteria in the body), altered gene expression, and even unusual hormone activity. There is evidence suggesting that triclosan can impair thyroid function, which can affect brain function and development. While there isn't yet definitive proof to back up the claims, there's enough initial evidence to make you think twice about using this ingredient.
Propylene Glycol – This petroleum-based chemical is used to keep your deodorant or antiperspirant soft and easy to apply. It has been linked to central nervous system damage, along with damage to your heart and liver. Definitely not something you want to be exposed to!
Phthalates – This ingredient is used to encourage the deodorizing and sweat-reducing particles to stick to your skin. While this is a good thing, the not-so-good is that it may disrupt the function of androgen hormones like testosterone. Specifically, it may alter your hormone production, uptake, and expression. This can lead to reduced energy, decreased muscle growth, and even impaired metabolic function. Some evidence suggests phthalates could negatively affect male reproduction. Low IQ scores and higher asthma risks are also directly linked to phthalate exposure.
Silica – Silica crystals are used in a number of deodorants and antiperspirants, as the crystals stick to the skin and provide a vehicle for the deodorizing and fragrance particles. However, silica is a known irritant that can increase your risk of rashes and skin irritation, especially among men with sensitive skin. If contaminated with crystal quartz, it could lead to a higher risk of cancer. It's a known immunotoxin and allergen, making it one more ingredient you'll want to avoid.
Talc – It's hard to believe that talc, the ingredient we've all used in our talcum powders, could be harmful for your health. However, some talc contains asbestiform fibers, which are known carcinogens. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how much/little asbestiform fibers are contained in your talc, making it an ingredient that could put your health at risk.
Want to find out if your deodorants or antiperspirants contain these dangerous chemicals? Skin Deep has a database listing more than 70,000 products, giving each a safety rating according to the chemicals they contain.
Dangers of Aluminum in Antiperspirant
Aluminum is one of the ingredients most commonly used in antiperspirants, thanks to its ability to block moisture production by plugging up the sweat ducts. Unfortunately, it's one of the most controversial ingredients used in deodorants and antiperspirants.
First off, aluminum may affect the way your body produces and utilizes estrogen. Anything that throws off the delicate hormonal balance may increase the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast or prostate cancer. Animal studies have provided a tenuous link between aluminum exposure and cancer. The fact that the aluminum is applied so close to estrogen-sensitive breast tissue in your chest is definitely cause for concern.
One 2007 study found that the use of antiperspirants can lead to aluminum deposits in the outer breast tissue. While the aluminum wasn't highly concentrated in the central breast, there was enough in the tissue near the underarms to be a cause for concern.
Aluminum exposure has also been linked to Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The metal is a known neurotoxin, and is found in higher concentrations among the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer's. Your body only absorbs a tiny amount of aluminum every time you apply antiperspirant, but over decades it could add up and pose a potential threat to your brain health.
However, these claims have to be taken with a grain of salt. There is only tenuous evidence pointing to the dangers of aluminum for your brain and hormone levels. According to John Bailey, PhD, chief scientist with the Personal Care Products Council, "These products can be used with high confidence of their safety. They've been used for many years, and there's no evidence that suggests a problem."
If you want to find antiperspirants and deodorants made WITHOUT aluminum, visit this link to find a list of brands that don't use the potentially toxic metal in their formulas. You can find aluminum-free products to use if you want to be truly safe.
Safe and Effective Deodorant Ingredients
If you want to use deodorants that are safe and effective for all skin types, even sensitive skin, here are a few of the ingredients that you should consider:
- Aloe vera, which can help to soothe irritation, reduce redness and heat, and even improve the condition of your skin.
- Baking soda, which helps to absorb the moisture and neutralizes body odors produced by the bacteria in your armpits.
- Coconut oil, which will soothe your skin, fight off microbes, infuse moisture into your underarm skin, and prevent irritations.
- Vegetable butters like shea butter, cocoa butter, or mango butter, all of which are excellent hydrating and soothing ingredients.
- Essential oils like tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and citrus oil, which have potent antibacterial properties and add a natural fragrance.
- Corn starch, which can help to absorb moisture to prevent excessive sweating.
- Beeswax and vegetable glycerin, both of which can bind the deodorant ingredients together without the need for chemicals.
- Vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant that will help to hydrate and protect your skin.
These are the ingredients that will help to improve underarm skin health while reducing sweat output and body odor.
The Hidden Danger of Antiperspirants
The real danger of antiperspirants has little to do with the chemicals they contain, and more with the way they affect your body.
Remember that sweating is your body's way of cooling off and eliminating toxins. The fact that it causes body odor has more to do with the bacteria living in your armpit than it does to the moisture produced by your sweat glands. Your sweat is just the "damp" that provides the bacteria with the warm, damp environment that helps them to thrive.
When you plug up your sweat ducts or prevent moisture from accumulating in your armpits, you don't stop the actual bacteria themselves. In fact, regular use of antiperspirants has been linked to an increased risk of bacterial infections. According to one study, "
ndividuals who used antiperspirants or deodorants long-term, but who stopped using product for two or more days as part of this study, had armpit communities dominated by Staphylococcaceae, whereas…individuals…who habitually used no products were dominated by Corynebacterium."
Staphylococcaceae bacteria can be potentially dangerous, while Corynebacterium are harmless, simply producing body odor. By trying to reduce odor, you potentially expose your body to more serious bacterial threats.
How to Naturally Reduce Body Odor
Sweat is a perfectly natural thing, your body's way of cooling off and expelling toxins. Antiperspirants and deodorants aren't absolutely necessary for your health.
On the flip side, body odor can be offensive to others. If you want to naturally reduce body odors, try these tricks:
- Rinse off. Body odor is just a combination of moisture and the bacteria living under your armpits. To prevent the bacteria from causing your sweat to stink, rinse off your underarms regularly. A bit of warm water will help to get rid of sweat and keep bacteria in check.
- Spend more time in the sun. Sunlight contains UVB rays, a type of ultraviolet light that can be a potent bacteria killer. A bit more time in the sun can help to control underarm bacteria effectively.
- Use coconut oil. Coconut oil contains a natural coconutty odor that will be pleasant, and the fatty acids in the oil will kill off bacteria. You can make your own deodorizing pastes using a mix of coconut oil, cornstarch or baking soda, and a drop of your favorite essential oil.
- Apply tea tree oil. Tea tree oil will give your underarms a minty fresh scent and kill off the bacteria that causes body odor.
- Wear the right clothing. Wear clothes that encourage proper ventilation and keep you cool. Avoid any polyester clothing, as the mixture of synthetic fabric and sweat can increase body odor.
- Keep your underarm hair trimmed. Bacteria can cling to the hairs, increasing the odor production. A trim, smooth underarm is less prone to odors.
In the end, you may find that you NEED deodorant or antiperspirant to prevent bad smells and excessive moisture. If you're going to use these products, try to find the ones that contain the least amount of potentially harmful chemicals.