I thought I would start off this month’s exposé of personal care products by answering one of the questions I am most frequently asked: “what is the best natural deodorant?” I guess people trust that I know what I am talking about (and I do), but when it comes to natural products, there is never one solution that suits everyone. Since every body is different, we each have our own unique chemistry that reacts, or fails to react with what we put in our bodies and on our skin.
First, let me explain the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. Antiperspirants work by clogging, closing, or blocking the pores with powerful astringents such as aluminum salts so that they can’t release sweat. In recent years, the aluminum in antiperspirants has come under scrutiny because of its possible link to Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. Deodorants on the other hand, work by neutralizing the smell of the sweat and by antiseptic action against bacteria. Deodorants are preferable because they don’t interfere with sweating, which is a natural cleansing process necessary to release toxins and also cool the body.
Besides aluminum, regular deodorants and antiperspirants contain other undesirable ingredients that we can simply do without. One ingredient is called Propylene Glycol and it is one of the most common humectants (chemical agents that prevent products from drying out). It is used in many other cosmetic products including most shampoos and conditioners, some soaps, liquid foundation, baby lotions, suntan lotions, emollients or moisturizers and lipsticks. Propylene Glycol has been linked with health problems such as contact dermatitis, autotoxicity, kidney damage and liver abnormalities. It was originally developed for use in industry as an anti-freeze, brake fluid, airplane de-icer among other applications. Despite its possible carcinogenic properties, it’s been used in the cosmetics for over 30 years.
That being said, I have been using Burt’s Bees Herbal Deodorant for 3 or 4 years with great success. I have also recommended this product to many friends that swear by it. The liquid, which comes is a spray bottle, contains an essential oil blend of Sage, Lemon and Lavender minimizes and neutralizes odors naturally. Sage is a natural antioxidant, the leaves of which are used for their tonic, astringent and soothing properties. It has a spicy, herbal scent, which some people do not like, however, the smell disappears once it dries. And when the bottle is empty, I re-use it to hold my own personal after-shower spritzer (pictured above). I mix lavender and sandalwood essential oils with a little water, which has a relaxing affect on the senses. This makes a really nice gift too!
Remember that our skin is less of a suit of armor, and more of a sponge that absorbs up to 70% of what we apply to it (just think about the nicotine and hormone patch). Since we are already exposed to a plethora of chemicals through the air we breathe and the food we eat, we may as well try to reduce our exposure by using the purest products possible.
You should also remember that a natural deodorant that works for your best friend might not work for you. Don’ give up! Try a few brands and varieties to see which one you prefer. Your local health food store will offer the widest selection. Here’s to sweet smelling and brake fluid-free armpits!