Stand up for your pits


Conventional deodorants may not be good for your armpits – so does it make sense to move towards natural solutions?


Many of us start the day with a shower and a quick spray of aerosol deodorant, but should we be putting more thought into what we apply to our armpits?


Part of the problem, scientists say, is that the chemicals in aerosol deodorants can enter our bloodstream directly, rather than being broken down by our digestive systems. Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University, says “when you put something on your skin, there are times when it can enter your bloodstream without being metabolised”.


The problem is that some of the chemicals in aerosol deodorants may be ‘endocrine disruptors’, which interfere with the body’s hormonal system.  Endocrine disruptors can be stored in the fat cells that surround the armpits and could also affect hormone receptor cells.  Other ingredients commonly found in aerosol deodorants may be carcinogenic or may interfere with the microorganisms of the gut biome which play a part in digestion.


For instance, parabens, used as preservatives in deodorant and other products, may interfere with the regulation of oestrogen and other hormones, and could affect oestrogen-sensitive tissues in the breast.




Aluminium, found in antiperspirants, is thought to cause “gene instability” in breast tissue, and may lead to the development of tumours or cancer cells. Research shows that over 50 percent of breast cancer starts in the upper outer quadrant of the breast local to the underarm region, and while this isn’t conclusive, doctors suggest that it may be worth avoiding using antiperspirants containing aluminium, particularly if you shave your armpits.


The antibacterial Triclosan is commonly used in aerosol deodorants, and though there are no known human hazards associated with it, it may be worrying that it is so common that it is detectable in most people’s urine.


Phthalates, which helps the deodorant adhere to the skin, may interfere with the body’s use of testosterone, and the catch—all term ‘fragrance’ covers a whole range of potentially allergenic compounds.


While research into many of these compounds is inconclusive, researchers argue that the cause of conditions such as cancer are sometimes hard to pin down, and they prefer to err on the side of caution. Looking for natural deodorants without parabens, Triclosan, aluminium or fragrance may be a start towards treating our armpits better.


Article from ‘Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones’.