Are Deodorants, Antiperspirants Safe To Use?

Whether you prefer to roll them on or use a spray, deodorants and antiperspirants are an indispensable part when it comes to most of our hygiene routines. But if health concerns are making you rethink your use of these products, here is what you need to know.

What is the difference between antiperspirants and deodorant? 

Simply put, deodorant does not protect you from sweat. Instead, it masks your body odor by targeting the bacteria on your skin. Meanwhile, antiperspirants actually block the sweat glands of your skin, thereby reducing perspiration.

When it comes to the list of ingredients, it should be noted that antiperspirants always contain aluminum while deodorants tend to have fragrances and antibacterial agents.

These ingredients sound rather toxic. Can they hurt our skin?

"Deodorants can sometimes contain antiseptics such as benzalkonium chloride, triclosan and ammonium products," Dr. Rodney Sinclair, a dermatologist from Australia, told the Huffington Post. "But a lot of these antiseptics are often deactivated when they hit the skin."

But some individuals with sensitive skin may be prone to rashes, itching, and irritation as the underarm is a delicate area. The severity of the reaction is usually tied to how high the levels of aluminum, alcohol, etc. are.

What are the alternatives for people who have sensitive skin?

"Seek out something that is aluminum- and paraben-free with easy-to-pronounce ingredients," Faisal Tawwab, M.D., of Multicare Physicians, told Prevention. The website recently recommended crystal rock deodorant which is free from phthalates, artificial dyes, and fragrances.

"Natural deodorants are made effective using baking soda, potassium, salt crystals, and essential oils. If you have sensitive skin, be cautious of scented variations and formulas with baking soda," Tawwab added.

Is it true that the aluminum can be absorbed into our body?

In the past, there was some speculation on whether the aluminum particles in antiperspirants could be absorbed by our skin, leading to the growth of tumors. However, the pores of our skin are luckily not designed in a way to allow this process.

"You're not absorbing your antiperspirant. Your skin is biologically designed to keep all the bad things out, and it actually does a great job at that. It's a really good barrier," Teri Greiling, an associate professor of dermatology at the Oregon Health & Science University, told VICE.

So is it safe to say that these products do not cause cancer?

Yes, the evidence is notably lacking, to say the least. Most studies over the years have not even been able to find an association between the two. The National Cancer Institute also acknowledges the absence of a link to warrant any such concerns.

Some researchers have said that parabens may need to be examined more in studies — while these preservatives have been detected in breast tumor tissue, it has not yet been proven that they directly cause cancer. Either way, the good news is that many products on the market these days are free of parabens.