Why You Should Make the Switch to Clean Deodorant
The Science Behind Better Smelling Armpits is In (And It’s Good News)
If you are still sitting on the fence when it comes to swapping out your traditional antiperspirant for an all clean deodorant, it’s time to make the transition. As a personal care product that most of us use daily (and often on freshly shaved skin), antiperspirants and deodorants are always on our list of top clean beauty swaps, especially as traditional formulas often contain ingredients with potential health concerns such as parabens, phthalates, and triclosan, all potential endocrine disruptors; propylene glycol, a common irritant; and aluminum, an estrogenic metal that can have an influence on estrogen receptors. While the thought alone of transitioning from an antiperspirant to a deodorant might have you breaking out in a sweat, a new crop of next-level, clean offerings that employ both natural odor-fighting and skin-beneficial ingredients (backed by new science, no less) make it a breeze.
Here, the 101 on all things BO and why you should make the switch.
What is the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?
Antiperspirants prevent you from sweating by blocking your body's eccrine and apocrine (aka sweat) glands. An antiperspirant is classified as a drug product and therefore is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All antiperspirants contain some type of aluminum salt compound to block sweat ducts and thereby prevent perspiration.
Deodorants are formulated to prevent and mask odor through a combination of antimicrobial properties that reduce the number of bacteria producing odor and fragrance to mask any odor that is produced. Deodorants are considered cosmetic and are not regulated by the FDA.
What causes BO?
Humans have two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands that cover the body and open directly onto the skin, and apocrine glands that open into hair follicles and are specific to particular areas of the body, such as the armpits. Researchers at the University of York traced the source of underarm odor specifically to an enzyme called C-T lyase, found in the bacterium Staphylococcus hominis, which dwells in human armpits. These bacteria feed on odorless chemicals released in sweat, which the enzyme then converts into thioalcohols—a pungent compound responsible for underarm odor.
Furthermore, the researchers found that in the same way that antibiotics can upset the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, deodorants have the potential to upset the balance of healthy bacteria on the skin. “The trick with body odor is to target the specific bacteria that cause BO without wiping out all the other beneficial microorganisms at the same time,” explains Dr Michelle Rudden, a Postdoctoral Research Associate, Biology at the University. The conclusion? While traditional deodorants and antiperspirants act by non-selectively killing underarm bacteria or by blocking our sweat glands, a deodorant that targets the specific bacteria causing the smell will be more beneficial to our overall skin health.
What are the benefits of aluminum-free deodorant?
The two main concerns surrounding aluminum in personal care products have been breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease. While links between both have been found inconclusive by numerous studies, there are other benefits to switching out your aluminum antiperspirants for aluminum-free deodorants.
- Aluminum-free deodorants do not block perspiration, allowing you to sweat normally with no interruption to your natural body function. Sweat's main purpose is to help the body cool down, but sweating also helps to detox heavy metals and eliminate chemicals from the body.
- As explained, antiperspirants simply work to block the production of sweat, not address the underlying causes of unpleasant body odors. Studies have also found that the aluminum salts in antiperspirants can cause an imbalance of bacteria and stimulate the proliferation of more odor-producing bacteria.
- If that isn’t enough to convince you, do it for the sake of your wardrobe. The chemical reaction that occurs between aluminum and sweat causes yellow stains to form on white clothing (ruining many a favorite t-shirt).
What are the best ingredients to look out for in clean deodorants?
Clean deodorants have come a long way in the last decade, going beyond simply masking odor to incorporating naturally-derived ingredients that can prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that actually cause it and improve skin health in the armpit area. Here are some to look out for.
AHAs: Commonly used in skincare, Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as Glycolic and Lactic Acid help reduce body odor by lowering the pH of the skin and creating an environment that is less hospitable to the Staphylococcus Hominis bacteria responsible for odor.
Pre and Probiotics: Another increasingly popular skincare ingredient, Prebiotics are plant-derived compounds that promote the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that help to maintain a healthy microbiome on the skin, thereby reducing the levels of Staphylococcus hominis bacteria that feed off of sweat.
Essential Oils: In addition to acting as a natural fragrance, plant-derived essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Juniper, Lavender, and Grapefruit have antimicrobial properties that have been found to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus bacteria.
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