The Protection Racket
grandmother used to say that men sweat —
women “glow.” But, who among us hasn’t taken a surreptitious
whiff under the arms on a hot, humid summer’s day?
Forget the glow — as temperatures soar, so does our tendency to worry
about body odor and wetness.
no wonder we worry. The skin, considered the largest organ of the body, is
home to some two million sweat glands. Under normal circumstances, these
glands secrete up to 6 cups of sweat per day. But, when the weather turns
toasty that amount can easily increase to more than 17 cups!
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as a (Chemical) Daisy
not surprising that, as the weather turns warmer, our use of deodorants and
antiperspirants increases. Although we often use the two words
interchangeably, deodorants and antiperspirants have two entirely different
functions. Which should you use? And, are they really good for you?
as a cosmetic, modern deodorants are formulated to fight odor using antiseptic
and antibacterial ingredients, along with synthetic fragrance to mask any
drugstore varieties may keep you smelling sweet, they do have a dark side. The
active ingredient most conventional deodorant products rely on is triclosan, a
can cause allergic contact dermatitis, a problem for sensitive users as well
as anyone who shaves their armpits. Long considered a relatively benign
biocide, a recent study by Boston’s Tufts University Medical School reported
that triclosan may cause some bacteria to mutate, creating new strains which
are resistant to antibacterial chemicals.
shelf space with deodorants, antiperspirants are designed to inhibit wetness
by shrinking the pores, temporarily blocking the flow of perspiration.
Considered an over-the-counter drug by the FDA, typical antiperspirants
contain a variety of aluminum compounds.
Although products containing aluminum can effectively reduce
perspiration by as much as 50%, studies have linked the cumulative effects of
this metal with Alzheimer’s disease. One study, published in the
of Clinical Epidemiology
, found that the risk for Alzheimer’s disease
increased with the use of
“Aluminum is a highly toxic substance in your brain,” warns Theo Kruck,
Ph.D., retired associate professor of physiology at the University of Toronto,
Dr. Kruck, who has participated in several studies
investigating aluminum’s impact on health, believes “antiperspirants pose
unnecessary exposure to aluminum.”
is another dubious ingredient found in some antiperspirants. Used as a
suspending agent during the manufacturing process, the National Toxicology
Program has found cosmetic grade talc to be a potential carcinogen in animal
Since talc’s chemical composition is similar to
asbestos, prolonged inhalation can cause other respiratory problems as well,
including inflammation of the lungs,
irritation, and the development of fibrous lesions. To reduce the risk, avoid
using aerosols. The fine mist produced by aerosol antiperspirants contains not
only talc and aluminum particles, but petrochemical propellants which are
easily inhaled into the respiratory tract.
If the thought of slathering all these chemicals under your arms sends you looking for healthier alternatives, you need look no further than Mother Nature. Instead of the potentially harmful chemicals found in traditional deodorants, natural products use a bevy of bacteria-fighting herbs such as chamomile, rosemary and extracts of green tea. Some natural brands also include antiseptic herbs such as lavender, sage and tea tree oil.
Another alternative to conventional deodorants is the deodorant stone. Unlike mainstream products, which clog pores and can be absorbed into your bloodstream, these fragrance-free stones work on the surface of your skin. Made from mineral salts, the stones not only kill the bacteria that’s already present, they inhibit the growth of future microbes. “Essentially, mineral salts have a very good antiseptic effect,” says Andrew Scheman, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Deodorant stones are not only effective, but economical and environmentally friendly. One stone can last up to two years.
A light dusting of
baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot can absorbs excess perspiration. Botanical
astringents are also effective, tightening skin cells to
Germ-fighting Chemical Could Create Harmful Bacteria.”
5 August 1998.
13 May 1993: p.
“Aerosol Propellant Gases Shown Toxic to Animals.”
tips on natural hygiene – and formulas for making your own non-toxic personal
care products – can be found in
Dead Gorgeous: Protecting Yourself from the Hidden Dangers of Cosmetics.
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