Dangerous Deodorants: Are You Creating A Chemical Cocktail In Your Armpits?

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Have you ever heard the phrase “Your skin is a mouth”?

It's true.

It may not have teeth or a tongue, but your skin is extremely permeable and able to absorb just about anything you put on it, which is why the administration of drugs and medicines is often through “transdermal” skin patches – since this is up 95% more effective than oral medication.

In other words, drug manufacturers know that if you want to get a drug delivered into the bloodstream fast, you figure out a way to put it on the skin.

Now, let's take this one step further: which area of your skin do you think is best at absorbing chemicals?

I'll help you out: any area that has a combination of high blood flow and sweat pores is going to be an area of high skin absorption.

And your armpits rank pretty high in that category.

So when it comes to the deodorant that you slather in your armpits, you need to start looking at the label. There are specifically seven ingredients that you need to look for that must not be in your deodorant:

#1) Aluminum: This is added to deodorants to prevent sweat by causing cell swelling which squeezes the sweat ducts closed. Check the label of your deodorant for aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium or any other chemically phrase that includes the word “aluminum”. This metal can easily accumulate in your body, and is associated with neural issues such as Alzheimer's. The last thing you want is your deodorant destroying your brain.

#2) Triclosan. You can find this in many deodorants, and it is a carcinogenic pesticide that you can absorb through you skin and easily store away in body fat. It's added as an antibacterial, but ironically, may actually encourage growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

#3) Talc. Talc, or “talcum powder” can often contain asbestos, and is classified as carcinogenic if so (you can read more at cancer.org) It is typically added to deodorants to prevent rash and help keep the skin dry – but should be avoided.

#4) Parabens. Parabens include anything that begins with methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl or butyl, and these are all toxic petrochemical compound that can disrupt your hormones, mimic estrogens and other hormones, harm your reproductive system, and act as carcinogenic compounds.

#5) Propylene Glycol. This is a form of mineral oil that is also found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. In deodorant, propylene glycol works as a humescent, which preventing the escape of moisture or water. But it is neurotoxic and can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

#6) Steareth-n. When you're looking at your deodorant label, you need to know that the “n” in steareth-n could be any number. But this can react with another compound called “ethylene oxide” to form a carcinogenic compound.

#7) Silica.  Silica is added to deodorant to absorb moisture, but it can be contaminated with crystalline quartz, a carcinogenic compound, and the inhalation of crystalline silica can lead to silicosis (a respiratory disease) or cancer.

If you look at the label of your deodorant and see any of the compounds above, toss it out. And check for these as warning signs when you're purchasing deodorant.

So which deodorant do I personally use?

If you read my article “4 Easy Ways To Ensure Your Skin Doesn’t Look Like A Wrinkled Elephant From Your Outdoor Exercise Habits”, then you learned that I use products made by a company called Everyman Jack (sorry ladies, this one is for the guys, but my wife uses Alba brand as a natural solution for women).

I met the owner of Everyman Jack when he kicked my butt at the Wildflower triathlon last year, and I've been hooked on all their personal care products (including their deodorant) ever since.

Instead of using the dangerous chemical cocktails described above, Everyman Jack uses lichen extract and rosemary as natural antibacterial agents that help control odor-causing bacteria.

Cotton extract and witch hazel absorb wetness, essential oils of rosemary and sage refresh and a crtified organic aloe vera soothes sensitive skin. There's no aluminum, no propylene glycol, no parabens, no phthalates, no animal testing and no animal byproducts.

In other words, it's clean stuff (and it's owned by a cool triathlete, so there's even more props).

I was able to get BenGreenfieldFitness readers a proprietary 25% discount with code SKINSAVE at Everyman Jack. So enjoy your chemical-free deodorant, and leave any questions, comments or feedback below. 

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

53 thoughts on “Dangerous Deodorants: Are You Creating A Chemical Cocktail In Your Armpits?

  1. Lila McGrew says:

    If you want to plug an product, do so, but don't confuse fact with fiction:

    #1) Aluminum: … causing cell swelling which squeezes the sweat ducts closed. NO.
    It blocks, or clogs, the pours that produce sweat. This can be irritating and cause inflammation, but inflammation is not the mechanism for reducing sweat.

    This metal can easily accumulate in your body, and is associated with neural issues such as Alzheimer’s. Again – NO.

    #2) Triclosan. You can find this in many deodorants, and it is a carcinogenic pesticide … NO http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/u…

    #3) Talc. Talc, or “talcum powder” can often contain asbestos … This is about the only thing you go right – BUT –

    "In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos, a substance known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled (see our document Asbestos). All talcum products used in homes in the United States have been asbestos-free since the 1970s." http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/otherca…

    #4) Parabens. Parabens include anything that begins with …. OMG! NO!

    Methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl or butyl are prefixes to many different compounds, including alcohols, and refers to the number of carbon chains in the compound.

    #5) Propylene Glycol. This is a form of mineral oil … NO

    Glycol: Any of a class of organic compounds belonging to the alcohol family http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/236134/…

    #6) Steareth-n. But this can react with another compound called “ethylene oxide” to form a carcinogenic compound. NO Stearyl alcohol is combined with ethylene oxide to create steareths.

    "5: Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Steareth-2,-4,-6,-7,-10,-11,-13,-15, and-20. Abstract:

    The steareth group is a series of compounds prepared by reacting stearyl alcohol with ethylene oxide to form polyoxyethylene stearyl ethers. Steareths are waxy solids used primarily as emulsifiers in cosmetics at concentrations of up to 25%.

    Steareth-2 and-10 were nontoxic to rats in acute oral toxicity studies. In subchronic testing, steareth-20 was nontoxic to rabbits when administered dermally at concentrations of 4%. Steareth-2 and-10, at concentrations of up to 60% in water, were at most mildly irritating to rabbit eyes and only mild irritants when tested in cosmetic formulations at concentrations of up to 60%.

    Structurally similar polyoxyethylene alkyl ethers were neither mutagenic nor tumor promoters.

    Steareth-2,-10, and-20 in water were neither primary irritants nor sensitizers to human skin. Steareth-20 was not phototoxic.

    On the basis of the available data it is concluded that steareths-2,-4,-6,-7,-10,-11,-13,-15, and-20 are safe as cosmetic ingredients in the present practices of use and concentration."

    #7) Silica. Silica is added to deodorant to absorb moisture, but it can be contaminated with crystalline quartz, a carcinogenic compound, and the inhalation of crystalline silica can lead to silicosis (a respiratory disease) or cancer. OFFS! – NO!

    Silica (aka Silicon dioxide) is most commonly found in nature as quartz. Crystalline silica (crystalline quartz) is basically sand. Crystalline silica can cause silicosis only when we breathe it into our lungs as dust or a fine powder (particles so small you can see them only with a microscope). In deodorant, it is encapsulated in a gel and not an issue.

  2. Mompoint says:

    Any way keep up wrinting.|

  3. Jason says:

    I bike every morning and run every evening, 6-7 days a week. Been using Lavilin for the past couple of years and it works really, really well. I use their underarm cream since it lasts longer than the roll-on. One application lasts me 4 days on average, but I know people who only need to apply it once a week. No need to re-apply it after I work out, my armpits are still odorless. Highly effective brand and I would recommend to anyone, especially athletes. They have a foot deodorant cream too – I’m going to try that soon.

  4. Jeff says:

    I just purchased an Every Man Jack stick but was dissapointed to see that the main ingredient is actually propanediol, which according to some quick research is essentially the same thing as Propylene glycol (one of the ingredients you suggest to avoid).

    Can anybody confirm whether these two ingredients are in fact the same thing?

    1. Interesting. You must have the Signature Mint deodorant. The Sandalwood and Cedarwood don't contain Propanediol. That being said, Propanediol and Propylene Glycol are not the same thing. The biggest difference being that Propanediol is carbon based and is miscible with water and is unlikely to be bioaccumulative. The Environmental Working Group has found it to be safe… although there are a few "data gaps".

    2. Also, I should clarify that I personally no longer use Everyman Jack, even though it is the lesser of most the evils, I pretty much just use baking soda or a dab of coconut oil now.

  5. JoeyHinton says:

    This is Tom’s of Maine’s explanation regarding the high grade 1,3-Propanediol that’s been formulated for the base of their deodorants. What I’ve read is that 1,2-Propanediol is the chemical name for propylene glycol which is a.) definitely a petrochemical since it’s sourced from natural gas and b.) definitely not green because, as Tom’s of Maine mentions, natural gas is an abundant resource but a non-renewable one. So of course any plain Jane or average Joe checking out any list of ingredients on a deodorant containing propanediol is not expected to know that there are two different propanediols, one of which is actually propylene glycol. It’s the difference between a non-renewable resource and a renewable one. That’s… kind of a big deal to a lot of people who care about this shit. Why is it legal to not explicitly disclose which resource this ingredient is derived from in the processing of our cosmetics?
    Big difference btw 1'3 and 1,2. 1,3 has a european ECO CERT and approved inUS by the Natural Product Assoc. 1,3 is made out fermented corn sugar, NOT gas. I've been in the natural supplement and skin care industry for over 15 years. Definitely a lot of conflicting information out there. One must check several sources and find the trend of consistence information and not jump on just one bandwagon. Www.thecrystal.com is top recommendation on the EWG ski deep report. Top Onocology doctors all suggested using the crystal. Slica is mineral and anything CAN be contaminated by whatever, but is really….probably not with NSF And GMP standards.

  6. Kris Renfro says:

    Only 5 natural ingredients, WORKS and smells GREAT!! Made in Colorado Springs, USA!! https://www.etsy.com/listing/104166774/one-colora…

  7. PitStik says:

    Try our vintage all natural deodorant made with Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Beeswax and Melaleuca Oil. Proudly made in Colorado Springs, USA!!

    PitStik – Changing the way you stik your pit and ¤°.¸¸.•´¯`»★ It WORKS!!!¤°.¸¸.•´¯`»★

    ★:★:★:★:★:★ COMING SOON ★:★:★:★:★:★

    Our all natural milder deodorant for your junior or tween – ❀twit-Stik❀!!

    Like us on facebook @ www.facebook.com/pitstik and get a free sample!!!

    1. Happy to check it out man. Ping me at [email protected]

  8. I’ve been using a cream deodorant called DeodoMom (from www.30sdomeweeks.com) since my pregnancy a few years ago because I needed something completely non toxin and non allergic. It took me some time to convince my husband to use the cream but once he got over the “name” hurdle, he was sold on it too (I use the cream and he uses the rollon). As far as we know, it’s the only water-based deodorant on the market. The active ingredient (magnesium hydroxide) is actually safe to eat and used in antacids (go figure)! And the best part: it WORKS as effectively as the commercial aluminum based stuff! Good luck.

  9. Twncryer says:

    This has Propanediol, When I did some research on Wikipedia here is what it said:
    1,3-Propanediol is the organic compound with the formula CH2(CH2OH)2. This three-carbon diol is a colorless viscous liquid that is miscible with water.[2]

    1 Products
    2 Production
    3 Safety
    4 See also
    5 References
    6 External links


    It is mainly used as a building block in the production of polymers such as polytrimethylene terephthalate.

    1,3-Propanediol can be formulated into a variety of industrial products including composites, adhesives, laminates, coatings, moldings, aliphatic polyesters, copolyesters. It is also a solvent and used as an antifreeze and in wood paint.

    1,3-Propanediol may be chemically synthesized by the hydration of acrolein, or by the hydroformylation of ethylene oxide to afford 3-hydroxypropionaldehyde. The aldehyde is hydrogenated to give 1,3-propanediol.

    Two other routes involve bioprocessing by certain micro-organisms:

    Conversion from corn syrup effected by a genetically modified strain of E. coli by DuPont Tate & Lyle BioProducts (See: bioseparation of 1,3-propanediol). An estimated 120,000 tons were produced in 2007".[3] According to DuPont, the Bio-PDO process uses 40% less energy than conventional processes,[4][5] and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.,[4][5] Because of DuPont and Tate & Lyle's success in developing a renewable Bio-PDO process, the American Chemical Society awarded the Bio-PDO research teams the "2007 Heroes of Chemistry" award.[5]
    See also: Bioseparation of 1,3-propanediol

    Conversion from glycerol (a by-product of biodiesel production) using Clostridium diolis bacteria and Enterobacteriaceae.[6][7]

  10. joshrunner says:

    I tried everything too. I found the best stuff is backing soda, it is cheap too.

  11. Chris N says:

    In the last 2 weeks I have tried switching from Old Spice to both Everyman Jack, and Tom's of Maine. Neither seems to work for me for deodorizing, after a few hours I smell very bad (…think Woodstock). When I use Tom's I am not AS offensive to people around me, but I am far from confident when standing near someone. I seem to recall, perhaps on a podcast, that you recommend a protocol to "clean" the underarms? Would a few cotton balls with Oil of Oregano be a good WMD for my underarms, that these deodorants would be able to work better after? Other thoughts or pointers?

    1. If you smell that bad, sometimes it is diet related. Are you eating clean? If not, I'd use something like http://www.revdiet.com. Oil of oregano is OK, but can be a weird smell…I'd instead look at this from a dietary standpoint…

      1. Chris N says:

        Interesting point, especially since I noticed it on the weekend when my diet consisted of more pizza, vodka soda, and miller lite, and less protein, leafy greens, brocolli, sardines, greek yogurt and blue berries. I will try to keep track of it. Thanks!

  12. K.A.C. says:

    This deodorant has Propanediol which has the same molecular structure as Propylene Glycol (listed above)

    #5 Propylene Glycol. This is a form of mineral oil that is also found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. In deodorant, propylene glycol works as a humescent, which preventing the escape of moisture or water. But it is neurotoxic and can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

  13. So "Propylene Glycol", you're saying companies which are developing deodorants don't care, don' test for dangerous components, and there is no control bodies to prevent those "sharks of capitalism" from killing us with poisonous deodorant components? Excuse me, but I cannot believe you. Any scientific studies supporting your claims, please? Or is it just regular "green" hysteria?

    As I posted here earlier, there is *no* studies which prove any connection between aluminium in deodorants and breast cancer or Alzheimer either. But this article works well as [unfair] competition tool used by producers of "natural" deodorants against regular producers.

  14. GreenguyNYC says:

    I love your post but have you looked at the second ingredient in Every Man Jacks deodorants?!?!?
    Its Propanediol… another name for Propylene Glycol. Sorry guys! Another brand name trying to be something they are not. Sad.
    Cant anyone make a deodorant that smells great and good for the body!!!!

  15. rob says:

    I just picked up some herban cowboy and I still smelled very nice after my soggy 18 mile run today.

  16. Jenell says:

    So would you suggest that anything we use on our skin (ie. face wash, lotion,etc.) be as natural as possible? Reason being all fash washes have chemicals in them that are used to clear up skin how would a natural one do the same

  17. Luis says:

    Never mind, just noticed the article is dated February 24 and the coupon was only for one week…


  18. Luis says:

    The discount code you posted (SKINSAVE) is not working. Message: "The coupon code you entered expired on 1st Mar 2012 so it can't be used."

    Thanks, great show and site!

  19. rob says:

    I am working on reducing the amount of carbs in my diet, after listening to your pod casts. I would say my most carb heavy meal right now fluxuates between breakfast and lunch. I have for the last month or so eating cooked eight grain cereal, baked oatmeal and the occasional waffle with the kids. Lunch is usually a sandwhich, V8 and a piece of fruit, usually an apple as oranges are kinda hard to eat in the car. We eat as clean as we can afford. We just subscribed to a CSA this year and will be getting into grass fed beef this summer. thanks for the feedback.

  20. rob says:

    So, I read this article, and looked at some "natural" deodrants, I even tried a few a few years back, however, I feel I have genetics going against me. I consider myself a stinky, greasy italian. I am bald, and my scalp is very greasy even after I shave and well, if I do not wear a good deodrant, I smell like all the men in my family. I have switched to a more natural soap, but cannot committ to a natural deodrant, what other thoughts have you on this?

    1. How's your diet? Are you eating relatively "clean"? That's where I'd start. Insulin can really upregulate skin glandular activity…so if you're eating high carb or high calorie that will affect it…

  21. Rick says:

    I am a heavy sweater. I have looked into Botox treatment to stop the sweating, but I've read that it is painful among other risks. What does everyone think?
    I currently use a product called Liquid Rock. It is an aluminum based deo, Potassium Aluminum to be exact. I presume this variation of an aluminum based deo is also bad??

    1. I would be steering very clear of Botox and the aluminum you're talking about. Have you tried baking soda?

    2. justine says:

      I don't' know if this is entirely true, but it makes sense to me – I've always heard that sweating is your body's way of regulating temperature. if you get treatment to lower sweating in one area, you may well see an increase in a different area.

  22. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk…
    Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer – National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov
    A fact sheet describing studies on whether there is a link between underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer. National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet

    Some studies have found that alzheimers affected cells contain more aluminum but a cause-effect relationship has not been proven. besides you are exposed to tons of aluminum in food and water and foil every day, it isn't avoidable.
    Long-term oral intake of aluminium or zinc do… [Neuropathology. 2011] – PubMed – NCBI www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
    PubMed comprises more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites

    1. Susan says:

      @ Vladimir….just because the sudies have not 'proven' the aluminum in deodorants to be the cause of breast cancer, it does not mean people should continue putting more aluminum into their bodies!! Also, deodorants contain many more harmful ingredients that end up producing excess estrogen….not to mention the other carcinogens and neurotoxins. There is no reason not to go out and find the cleanest, most natural one available or make your own. Also, there are many other studies that basically prove otherwise…this is just one source and they are owned by lobbyists so stop being fooled! Ask any good endocrinologist and they will agree that commercial deodorants are a toxic soup. Just because we are exposed to toxins everyday does not mean to keep consuming them especially when we have a choice!

  23. Teash says:

    Too bad all of us sweaty Aussies who are training like animals can’t get these products shipped out here. Anyone know of any companies that do?

  24. Karl says:

    I haven't tried Everyman Jack but I tried a ton of organic deodorants and nothing worked until I found http://www.thecrystal.com/ – Its expensive but 1 stick has lasted me almost 2 years now so its actually cheaper than regular crap

    1. nader says:

      yes this is what ive been looking for thanks

  25. Osa says:

    Thanks Ben. I have informed my parents about this news via email AKA texts, which is scary to me because my dad bought a bunch of Sure deodorants as gifts when he came to visit from England. I was using it up until today before I stumbled on this article. I noticed that a majority of the ingredients listed in your article are in the Sure deodorant. Now I have these ingredients listed in my cell phone and will look out for them when I buy a replacement deodorant today.

    1. Awesome, Osa! Good plan.

  26. So do I need to somehow purge my body to change to a new Deodorant? Everything I've read says that if your skin breaks out you need to stop using it till the irritation goes away.

    1. No, you don't need to purge your body, although a detox can always be helpful…for example, you could take 3 capracleanse in morning and evening for 2 weeks…

  27. Mike Douglas says:

    What about Tom's of Maine? It seems to be more along the lines for Women but they make a unscented one that seems ok. I just find it hard to pay $6 for a stick of Deodorant. The other thing I've ran into is switching deodorants seem to send my skin into a frenzy. I will get a rash from trying the new deodorants and end up reverting back.

    1. Toms' of Maine isn't bad, although it's owned by Colgate corporation. I'd rather buy my deodorant from the small business/Ironman triathlete. ;)

      1. @jeffhalsey says:

        I just check my Tom's of Maine and the number 1 ingredient is Propylene Glycol. I'll have to check out Everyman Jack though wouldn't cotton extract, unless organically grown, have large amounts of trace pesticides (a huge reason to avoid cottonseed oil)?

        1. @jeffhalsey says:

          Argh… typos! It's what I get for typing on an iPhone.

        2. I think they use only organic products…

  28. Yeah, but its uber hard to find a deodorant vs an antiperspirant, esp one that works! That use to be mainly true for women, but the hubby now too is finding it increasingly harder(he finds the aluminum irritating). Adidas use to make an awesome deodorant, but it is my understanding they discontinued it (I just opened my last stick). Will look into the Alba. Re Everjack, I love ceder wood & rosemary, I bet it smells great! I suspect ladies looking for a more feminine scent probably could get away with Citrus.

    That said, to those interested in Everyjack, many of the ingredients are skin irritants (including the 3 scents, cedarwood, mint and esp citrus). Not to say the over the counter stuff does not contain these but, esp If you have sensitive skin, I'd take note: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-d… http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-d… http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-d…

    1. Josh says:

      I’ve been using Aubrey Organics Men’s Stock Natural Dry deodorant for a long while now. Smells faintly of pine and several other pleasurable essential oils. I’m a heavy sweater and this stuff is the only essential oil deodorant I’ve found to work. $6.99 on Amazon. Lasts me months!

      Great article to bring awareness, Ben!

    2. candice says:

      This is a deodorant that works like an antiperspirant!!! Without all that crap!

    3. Erica says:

      I used to use the aluminum free deodorant from Adidas as well. When they discontinued it from stores I was very disappointed! I just recently checked on Amazon.com and I found some. I got mine with in 3-4 days of ordering it. It was a bit pricey but was worth it. My dad is a doctor and has been telling me for years that aluminum, among other ingredients in deodorant are horribly bad for the body. Studies show that in some cases, using antiperspirant deodorant over time can lead to breast cancer. Both my parents use a salt rock. It works for them, but not me. I tend to suffer from time to time from eczema and the salt rock tends to make my skin feel as though it's burning.

  29. feerlessfood says:

    Ah, rockin the new kit! Nice!

  30. kem says:

    Personally, judicious use of soap and water seems to do the trick. If you are actually REALLY smelly, like after a few days in the mountains or whatever, everyone else is just as smelly and no one sems to notice (or care).

    1. J says:

      Dude, I can promise you the people around you are suffering even if you can’t smell yourself. Do everyone a favor and get a stick of this stuff ben recommends!

  31. Kelcey says:

    So why can’t a woman use this Everyman Jack deodorant?

    1. I guess mostly because it smells a little more manly – heck, the primary scent is "cedarwood". But, your call!

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