Things I Quit – Antiperspirant and Deodorant

Studies show chemicals in antiperspirants and deodorants can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and cause cancer, but major government bodies say they are safe, so do I keep using them or not?

I have thought about this off and on for years.

Antiperspirants and deodorants are very different and I never really cared much for the latter because I didn’t find they worked that well. While there has always been a bit of controversy surrounding the safety of antiperspirants, in the past I chose to ignore any risks assuming that if they were really dangerous they would be banned.

I have since changed my views on most of these products after researching the risks.

Here is a comparison of the different types of under-arm products.

Antiperspirants block the sweat glands preventing sweat from leaving the body. They are extremely effective. Most antiperspirants contain Aluminum Zirconium, and parabens.

Deodorants allow sweating and either mask or neutralize the smell. The leading commercial brands of deodorant contain petrochemicals and parabens which are used as a preservative. Crystal/mineral salt deodorants usually don’t contain parabens, but do often contain aluminum potassium sulfate (even though they claim to be “all natural” and aluminum free, read the ingredients as the “natural” part is often BS and the “free” part usually means free of aluminum zirconium).

What Are the Downsides
1. Increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease – Your body absorbs the aluminum in these products and there is evidence that exposure to aluminum contributes to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease – several studies have shown higher than normal amounts of aluminum in tissue of those with Alzheimer’s.
2. Increased Risk of Cancer – There is plenty of evidence that parabens have potentially harmful impacts on the body – according to EPA parabens displayed estrogenic activity in tests (see Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment: agents of subtle change?) and the cosmetic industry has been forced to prove several times that parabens are safe (see Parabens – FDA).
3. Harm to the Lymph Nodes – Antiperspirants prevent the sweating process, which means that toxins from the body are locked inside the sensitive underarm tissue which is near your lymph nodes.
4. Neurotoxins – Many perfumes used in these products are considered moderate neurotoxins which means they can impair nerve and brain function.
(For more info on these risks, see the Skin Deep Database at – hosted by a coalition of public health, educational, religious, labor, womens, environmental and consumer groups working to protect the health of consumers and workers by requiring the health and beauty industry to phase out the use of dangerous chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives)

So are antiperspirants and deodorants safe or not?
First of all, Aluminum is known to be a neurotoxin in high doses, and the FDA suggests avoiding products containing aluminum if you have health complications such as renal dysfunction, but overall the FDA claims underarm products containing aluminum are safe. They regard the studies showing risks as inconclusive. Even the Alzheimer’s Society advises that a link between aluminum and the disease is unlikely. The Skin Deep website is not so carefree and lists antiperspirants and most deodorants as moderate hazards, while it lists some of the mineral salt deodorants as safe.

What about the possible links to cancer either from parabens or toxins being locked inside the sensitive under-arm tissue near your lymph nodes? According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), these claims are largely unsubstantiated by scientific research.

While FDA, AS, NCI and ACS all claim there is no overwhelming proof of the dangers of underarm products containing aluminum and parabens, there is also no proof that they are safe either and all agree that the evidence of risks merit additional research!

In my experience a lot of science and policy is agenda driven, especially where profits are involved. Cigarettes are, after all, legal in spite of the absolute dangers. If there is only “inconclusive” evidence that antiperspirants and deodorants represent health haazards, there certainly is a lot of inconclusive evidence and for me there is enough smoke to suspect fire.

Our body is meant to sweat. It is one of the primary ways we secrete toxins so it makes sense to me to let it work the way it is supposed to. Plus I want to enjoy a long and happy life, so it also makes sense to me to try and avoid anything that is linked to Alzheimers, no matter how weak are the links.

That’s why, after many years of putting it off I finally switched off products that contain aluminum or parabens.

I had been using the natural deodorants and then learned that the mineral salts also contain aluminum so I switched off them. The natural brands of deodorant, such as Tom’s of Maine, have no aluminum, or parabens, but have petrochemicals that I would prefer to avoid. I haven’t been able to find a product that doesn’t contain any of the nasty stuff and I had heard an old wives tale that baking soda applied like talcum powder so I have been trying that. So far so good.

Applying once a day should be enough, but since baking soda doesn’t actually stop sweating, on long days you may want to have some deodorant handy in case you need a refresh (you can slip into a restroom and give yourself a quick splash of water underarm if really needed, or you can always apply an eternally handy babywipe then reapply deodorant). Haven’t lost any friends yet, so I am sticking with it.

If avoiding antiperspirants and deodorants sounds impractical and weird, I will bet my health that Alzheimer’s is more impractical and weirder.

16 Responses to Things I Quit – Antiperspirant and Deodorant
  1. Helen
    February 20, 2010 | 16:41

    I have found that making my own deodorant is better than buying commercially made ones. 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tbsp baking soda, 1 tbsp olive oil. Mix in a small jar. Add a few drops essential oil if you prefer a scent. Apply by dabbing your finger in the mixture and applying to your armpits.

  2. Eliot Burdett
    February 21, 2010 | 02:32

    Helen – great suggestion, thanks! I will definitely try this and see how it works.

  3. Elaine
    February 21, 2010 | 13:20

    Try coconut oil – it works great!

  4. Eliot Burdett
    February 21, 2010 | 14:36

    Thanks Elaine! I am eager to experiment with a couple of options to see what works best and will share what I find.

  5. Eliot Burdett
    February 28, 2010 | 00:28

    Tried mixing essential oil with my baking soda and thought I should recount my experience. After seeing a display of essential oils in my local natural products store and buying several bottles, it never occurred to me to ask someone how it can be applied to the body. So the next morning, I took a couple of drops and put it under my arms, then added my baking soda as I normally do….the smell was extremely strong and withing seconds my armpits were on fire. I approached my wife to ask how I smell and before I got within ten feet, she said I smelled awfully strong. The my daughter in the other room said she smelled something funny. LOL. Then my wife informed me that she uses only two drops of essential oil when she takes a bath. No one told me! So, if you plan to use essential oils, make sure to use a tiny drop or mix it with some other base oil such as coconut as other readers have suggested.

  6. […] Aluminum – This year, I stopped using antiperspirants which include the controversial ingredient Aluminum Zirconium. This was a tough one to give up, but I switched to deodorants for a short period and then cut them as well and now use baking soda as my “perspiration manager” (read more about Aluminum here Things I Quit – Antiperspirant and Deodorant) […]

  7. Karryfamily
    September 11, 2010 | 14:49

    love your blogs–but am looking forward to having Alzheimer's–think it just may be a way of getting a new life without all that baggage of knowing all your relatives. just kidding. by the way I am one of your relatives in a way, kind of, sort of. truly, Eliot–your blog is really interesting and Mr. Hill is one of my favourite guys too.- Aunt LouAnn

  8. Eliot Burdett
    September 21, 2010 | 23:36

    Haha that's funny LouAnn…I often joke that having Alzheimers might make it easier to live through my daughter's teen years 😉 Thanks for reading and your kind words.

  9. AxillaryMike
    September 28, 2010 | 21:26

    Good going Eliot for taking the safe road on deodorant. Deodorants can contain suppressive chemicals including alum salts and aluminum. Women have a lower internal PH than men and can experience congested lymph nodes closest to the armpit from alum salt cluster. I see the young guys are using the new commercial deodorants by the breakout in the sides of their necks and headaches. With all the alum salts in air water foods it’s no wonder we are stinking up the planet. Metals smell coming out of our bodies like a terminal of a car battery. Take a break and use Herbalix Detox deodorant to absorb at night the junk in the underam and experience a cleaner body and you won’t lose sleep over the fact that you will return to a cleaner you. the nighttime deodorant takes a few weeks to get the junk out but you’ll be way ahead of your friends.

  10. Eliot Burdett
    September 29, 2010 | 01:49

    Thanks Mike, Will check it out. Eliot.,

  11. Jeremiah Stanghini
    April 2, 2011 | 19:32

    I hear you on the antiperspirant/deodorant. Outside of physical exertion, I think that the only reason we “smell” as humans is a result of the food we eat. In my own experience, I’ve learned that the more junkier food (ie. inorganic, actual junk food) I eat, the more I smell. Contrary, the more healthy I eat, the less offensive I smell.

    I wonder how you feel about more natural or organic (maybe more organic than natural as natural can still be harmful) deodorants? I don’t often put deodorant on unless I feel I need to, and I when I do, I have an eco-friendly deodorant that I picked up from one of the many abundant health food stores in my area.

    With Love and Gratitude,


  12. Eliot Burdett
    April 2, 2011 | 20:38

    Thanks for adding to the discussion. I am generally ok with non-aluminum deodorants, but as my wife points out (she runs an organic body care business – sometimes there are toxic perfumes in the “natural” deodorants. You can find out about your favorite product at SkinDeep – – they rate the toxicity of various brands.

  13. Jeremiah Stanghini
    April 4, 2011 | 19:54

    Yeah — I hear you on the “natural” deodorants still being toxic. When my wife and I are out shopping, she still has to remind me (sometimes) that when I reach for the ‘natural’ food, it doesn’t mean it’s any better than the GMO-food right next to it.

    It’s amazing to me that people in the food business can feel good about their product, promoting it’s naturalness to customers, and yet it still may contain natural “poison.” *sighs*

    With Love and Gratitude,


  14. Eliot Burdett
    April 5, 2011 | 01:18

    We share experiences and feelings on this. Seems “natural” has no distinct meaning in the retail trade. Always pays (excuse the pun) to learn how to read labels! Eliot

  15. Brady
    July 30, 2011 | 21:37

    Hey Eliot, I’m so glad I found your post. You’ve almost been a year into finding a deodorant that doesn’t contain aluminum or parabens. I’m also searching for an alternative. What have you found so far?

    Brady Holden

  16. Eliot Burdett
    August 1, 2011 | 04:45

    Hey Brady. There are a couple of brands, Ie Tom’s that don’t have any aluminum but they may have other chemicals that aren’t so great. I used baking soda for a while and now usually just go without. Eliot

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