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The Hidden Dangers of Using Antiperspirant

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Ever take time to wash off your deodorant at the end of the day? Probably not. Yet the effects of a deodorant or antiperspirant don't seem to last more than a day. So where does that product end up going?

When you leave deodorant or antiperspirant on your skin it is eventually absorbed and deposited into underlying tissues. And unfortunately, many of these products contain harmful chemicals that have been linked to serious medical problems like hormonal imbalances, asthma, reproductive impairment, and cancer.

deodorant, antiperspirant, toxins, sweat, sweaty

Deodorant v. antiperspirant:

It is common knowledge that deodorant and antiperspirant perform 2 different jobs. While deodorant stops you from smelling bad, antiperspirant prevents you from sweating. But how exactly do deodorants and antiperspirants execute these functions?

  • Deodorants prevent a foul odor by increasing the skin’s acidity. The FDA labels them as a "cosmetic", a product meant to cleanse or beautify. Deodorants do not affect your ability to sweat, rather they will eliminate the smell of armpit odor that often accompanies sweat. They turn your skin into a more acidic environment, which makes it less attractive to the bacteria that cause the bad smell the often accompanies sweat. Deodorants are usually alcohol-based with some fragrance or perfume to further mask an unpleasant odor.

  • Antiperspirants reduce the amount of sweat produced in the applied area. The FDA has labeled such products as a "drug", a product intended to prevent or treat disease, or affect the function or structure of the body. Most antiperspirants utilize aluminum chloride or other aluminum-based compounds to block sweat glands and prevent sweat from escaping. Aluminum salts are used in many antiperspirants and will dissolve in order to block the pores from releasing sweat.

Today, many products function as both a deodorant and an antiperspirant. This means double the chemicals on your underarm. And the underarm is an especially delicate and vulnerable part of your body for a number of reasons.

  • The skin of the armpit is thinner than skin in other regions of your body. This is because the armpit is rarely exposed to the elements, not allowing the formation of callouses or weathering.

  • The armpit features the densest region of sweat glands on the body. These sweat glands offer an easily accessible entry for toxins and harmful chemicals.

  • Shaving and waxing can further damage the delicate skin and leave open wounds. These open wounds are another easy way for toxins to enter your bloodstream and spread throughout your body.

  • The armpit is close to the upper outer part of the breast. The tissue in this region for both men and women is denser and more likely to develop breast cancer. Dense breast tissue also makes it more difficult for medical professionals to see cancerous or abnormal tissues in a mammogram.

4 Main Toxins in Deodorant & Antiperspirant:

As described earlier, chemicals in deodorants and antiperspirants are absorbed by the skin throughout the day. For natural and organic products, this is not something to be worried about. However, due to the toxins and chemicals in non-organic products, you should be cognizant of exactly what these toxins are and the harmful effects they can cause.

Aluminum: Compounds containing aluminum are prevalent in antiperspirants and some deodorants. As mentioned above, aluminum salts are absorbed into sweat glands where they block sweat from escaping. But if used frequently, over time, this aluminum can build up and accumulate in nearby tissues, like that of the breast. This is especially concerning for people with impaired kidney function. As the kidneys are responsible for processing and removing toxins like aluminum from the body. People with weakened kidneys are unable to filter out aluminum fast enough, especially if they are using an antiperspirant every day. This is why the FDA requires an aluminum warning label on antiperspirants specifically for people with kidney disease. Research has linked aluminum to several harmful health conditions, including:

  • Breast Cancer- Several studies have discovered aluminum in the breast tissue of people with breast cancer. Further, over 50% of breast cancers start in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast, coincidentally exactly where antiperspirant is applied. Researchers have suggested a link between antiperspirant use to the development of breast cancer, but according to the American Cancer Society, more research is needed.

  • Breast Cysts- Beyond breast cancer, some medical professionals worry that aluminum may cause breast cysts to arise. Breast cysts are caused by blocked ducts within the breast, and a buildup of aluminum could potentially cause such a blockage. This notion was bolstered by rising aluminum levels in human breast cyst fluids.

  • Bone pain & fatigue- One study found that these symptoms were associated with toxic blood levels of aluminum. When the participants halted their antiperspirant use, their pain and fatigue disappeared.

Parabens: These toxins are found in nearly every cosmetic product. They are useful in preventing the development of fungi, bacteria, and yeast on products. Parabens are easily absorbed by your skin, allowing them to wreak havoc throughout your body. Time and time again, research has labeled parabens as endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the way your body produces and regulates hormones. Estrogen is one of the main hormones parabens have been found to interfere with. Constant application of an endocrine disruptor like antiperspirant on a region of the body with estrogen-sensitive tissue, like the breast, is generally a bad idea. Harmful health conditions linked to parabens include:

  • Breast cancer- A 2004 study found that 18 out of 20 breast cancer patients contained traces of parabens in breast tissue. While this study does not prove that parabens cause breast cancer, it offers strong evidence for a link between the two.

  • Hormone disruption- Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors within cells. This will disrupt the normal function of hormone systems within the body and cause problems for male and female reproductive functioning, fertility, reproductive development, and birth outcomes. Studies on animals have found that paraben exposure is linked to decreased sperm production, lowered testosterone, and harm to the female reproductive system.

Triclosan: This chemical is added to many cosmetic products to kill bacteria on the surface of the skin and prevent bacterial contamination. Triclosan is actually one of the most common chemicals we are exposed to. One study found that 75% of Americans have traces of the chemical in their urine. While on its own, triclosan isn’t necessarily deadly, when combined with water, it can create the carcinogenic gas chloroform. Triclosan has also been linked to:

  • Hormonal imbalances- Several animal studies have found that triclosan can cause disruptions and imbalances for your endocrine system. One study found that triclosan inhibits thyroid function, a hormone crucial for brain function.

  • Harm the gut microbiome: Triclosan is antimicrobial, so naturally, when exposed to microbes in the gut, it will cause damage. One study found that when mice were exposed to triclosan for only 3 weeks, they suffered from inflammation of the colon and a depleted microbiome. The same study also introduced triclosan to mice with colon tumors, and upon exposure, the tumors spread and increased in size rapidly.

Phthalates- Similar to parabens, phthalates are another well-known toxin found in many everyday items, including antiperspirant and deodorant. These compounds help cosmetic products to stick to your skin. Phthalates have been linked to many, many detrimental health effects, these include:

Above are just a few types of chemicals in deodorants and antiperspirants. Other common additions include: Propylene glycol, triethanolamine, diethanolamine, fragrance, steareth, artificial colors, butane, isobutane. Several of these chemicals have already been banned in Europe for being known carcinogens.

How to Avoid Toxins in Your Deodorant & Antiperspirant:

The best way to avoid exposing yourself to harmful toxins in deodorants and antiperspirants is to ditch them! Your body needs to sweat, so embrace it! Sweating helps to regulate body temperate and assists your overworked kidneys and liver in detoxification. Research has suggested that sweating helps your body to eradicate:

  • Heavy metals- A 2016 study found that those who sweat regularly have lower levels of heavy metals in their urine. Those who did not sweat had significantly higher levels of heavy metals in their sweat and urine. Further, multiple studies have found evidence of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury in sweat.

  • Toxic chemicals- According to a 2011 study, sweating is a very effective way to rid your body of BPA's, toxins that researchers have suggested could cause harm to the brain and blood pressure. In 2013, researchers found that sweating also assisted in ridding the body of PCBs, chemicals that have been linked to a number of adverse health effects.

Another way to avoid detrimental health effects like the ones mentioned above is to use a natural, organic deodorant. A great resource to discover deodorants and antiperspirants free of toxins in personal care products is This website gives you access to a database of thousands of different personal care products and breaks down the hidden ingredients and toxins, so you know exactly what you’re putting onto your skin. Through using EWG, you can identify which products are free and harmful toxins and know which products to avoid.

You can also make your own deodorant! The Healthy Maven has a great all-natural deodorant recipe that actually works.


  • 2 1/2 tbsp unrefined coconut oil

  • 2 1/2 tbsp unrefined shea butter

  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch/flour

  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking soda

  • 6 drops lavender essential oil

  • 6 drops grapefruit essential oil

  • 1 drop tea tree essential oil (optional)*


  1. Place coconut oil and shea butter in a glass bowl or jar and place the bowl/jar inside a medium saucepan.

  2. Add water to the saucepan (enough to surround bowl/jar but not to overflow it) and bring to a boil.

  3. As water is heating up, ensure to stir coconut oil and shea butter and continue to do so until it melts.

  4. Once melted, add arrowroot starch, baking soda, and essential oils.

  5. Place in a 3-ounce jar and allow to cool at room temp or in the fridge (will harden faster in the fridge) until it’s reached a solid-state.

  6. Cover with lid until use.

For more information on the importance of detoxification and avoiding harmful chemicals in your personal care products, click here to contact us!

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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