Updated: May 11
Body odour is natural.
Chemical communicators, called pheromones are contained within these odours. They are important in the animal kingdom to stimulate a wide range of behaviours and they play a role in the human world too. However we have been conditioned to believe we should disguise our natural body odour, and that it's best to smell like soap, shampoo, perfume & deodorant.
Unfortunately many of these products are synthetic in origin with a number of questionable ingredients. Ingredients we absorb through our skin and inhale every day. Absorbing chemicals through our skin, may even be more detrimental than via ingestion, as they go directly into the bloodstream, avoiding the waste eliminating processes of the gut.
It is also natural to sweat.
Sweating reduces heat and removes toxins from our body. A 2011 study published in the journal Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology found many toxic elements appear to be excreted through sweat.
But then we use antiperspirants that contain the active ingredient aluminum to clog our sweat ducts and stop our glands from producing sweat.
Aluminium is an ingredient many in the natural health industry avoid. There has been some suggestion that aluminium may play a role in genetic alterations, interfering with oestrogen action, and breast cancer. Although absorption of this toxic metal is likely to be negligible, a study did also find that those with serious kidney disease had high levels of aluminium and were more likely to develop dementia. Like all toxic metals, it appears your ability to detoxify plays an important role in reducing accumulation and its toxic effects. The question is, do you know how well you detoxify?
We've all been near that person whose body odour wasn't natural, just outright offensive! So we should sweat, but we don't want to stink. Unlike antiperspirants, deodorants won't stop the sweating but instead aim to kill the bacteria responsible for the toxic odour. Perfumes, synthetic or natural, are also used to mask the smell.
Because I want to reduce the toxic load on my body, I choose a natural deodorant. One with no aluminium, no parabens and no synthetic fragrances.
Paraben is a preservative used in a huge variety of cosmetics and beauty products. You may have noticed a number of health and beauty products proudly state they are paraben free. This exploded after studies (eg 1, 2, 3) found parabens in breast tissue and that they can spur the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells. Though not conclusive, many felt it wasn't worth the risk. Also the Environmental Working group (EWG) has rated some types of parabens a 7 or 8, indicating a high hazard ingredient, and one to avoid.
I do find with any natural deodorant you need to apply it more frequently than the chemical laden alternatives. But I prefer to sweat and remove toxins from my armpits, rather than retain or add toxins to my body.
This might be a bit too much information, but when I first switched from a toxic antiperspirant to a natural deodorant, I reacted with a large angry boil in my armpit! I viewed it as my body trying to rid itself of a build-up of toxins. It disappeared within a few days without the help of any cream or antibiotics, despite insistence from my GP at the time, that only antibiotics would get rid of it! Interestingly I have heard of similar reactions by others when they first switched.
So which natural deodorant do I recommend?
I love the smell of the Weleda Citrus deodorant spray or roll-on. Some say it smells like a gin and tonic! It is easy to apply, drys quickly, and it works. A spray once in the morning and another before exercise or at lunch keeps me fresh smelling all day.
The Schmidt natural deodorant range is another great option. You need to hold it on to your armpit briefly to warm and soften the stick before applying. But this totally natural product contains baking soda, coconut oil, arrowroot powder, vitamin E, shea butter and jojoba seed oil. Plus it has a number of fragrance options. Bergamot & lime is my favourite. Ylang ylang & calendula is Gwyneth's! Then there is Charcoal & Magnesium. The guys love using this one too.