Unless you’re just thawing out from a century-long snooze in the cryogenic chamber, you know antiperspirants are bad news. Schmearing and shellacking the delicate skin closest to our complex breast tissues and important lymph nodes with noted carcinogens does not bode well. And while the C-word is a major fear factor that comes along with these harmful ingredients, it’s more than what you think.
What was once a tender beacon of our alluring pheromones is now perceived as a black hole of scathing atrocities. We are offended by even the slightest whiff of someone’s human-ness, whether that be in passing, pressed up against us in the subway, or perhaps least tolerable, on a date. Yeah, we’re talking about B.O.
“Body odor” does not connote anything pleasant. Perhaps it’s simply the word “odor,” or the fact that the cute little acronym B.O. has been marketed against us by antiperspirant brands so hard that you can almost see the animated cartoon odor trails wafting off it like Linus and his never-laundered blanket. We’re not here to make a case for B.O., but hold on a tick.
With every day there is a new detox. A new cleanse. A new way to purge our beautiful bodies of the toxins we consistently input, involuntarily as well as by choice. But we sometimes forget—unless sitting in an infrared sauna with all good intentions—one of the major ways our body detoxes on its own. With sweat.
Sweat doesn’t have to mean rancid body odor. If you stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet with fruits, veggies, and plenty of fiber, your body will naturally detox that buildup of sludge in other ways, rather than causing your natural release of coolant to give off embarrassing stank. And if you have a chronic issue with sweat overproduction, this doesn’t exclude you. It just might be time to explore root causes and see a professional, like an endocrinologist.
Our armpits are, more often than not, over-exposed and over-exfoliated due to frequent shaving and small, undetectable nicks. This leaves the thin skin here super vulnerable to whatever we apply to it, and aluminum compounds are the most common ingredients in antiperspirants. Aluminum compounds vary in their toxicity, according to a study by Beauty Schools Directory. Some are linked to neurotoxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and yes, even cancer.
Aluminum works essentially by clogging your sweat glands and plugging up these toxin eliminators like a cork. This is bad over time because as Nadine Artemis explains in her book Renegade Beauty, if the liver is carrying a full load of toxins that are unable to purge and circulate within the lymph system (important lymph nodes are in your armpits, remember?), it can struggle to process hormones like estrogen, leaving us in excess.
Ultimately, an excess of any hormone is an endocrine disruption, which is a serious issue that can be systemic to a slurry of other problems that manifest other places in the body. Not only is the delicate breast tissue at risk, but the balance of your body depends on it. Another caveat is that antiperspirants can throw off your pits’ natural pH, as well as changing the important, functional microbiota on the surface of the skin, looping you into a cycle of dependence on the product. An unbalanced pH can mean more foul smells, as soon as you wash or wear off the surface layer.
Ah, but if only it were so easy to rid ourselves of the deep-rooted dirty work of antiperspirants simply by rinsing them off. The harsh aluminums found in antiperspirants can build up in the system, so weaning yourself off of them to make way for more natural deodorant options can be a smelly journey that will leave you more than willing to jump back into that toxic relationship.
But wait! Before you pull the contraband from the garbage and fall back into its duct-clogging ways, there’s a way to speed up the process. A mask, for your armpits. That’s right! We don’t recommend applying to freshly shaved pits, as the pH adjustment might generate some heat and cause a bit of a burning sensation. Day-after shaved is best. Try this recipe three days in a row to do a deep cleanse on your delicate underarms and freshen things up before going for safer choices.
1 tablespoon bentonite clay (we love Aztec)
1-2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Mix the ingredients until you get a consistency like that of Greek yogurt.
Spread this on your pits and wait 5-15 minutes. Try chilling on a towel on your back holding a book (or OK, fine, your phone) overhead to keep your arms elevated. Wash off the clay in the shower or with a warm washcloth. We recommend doing this in the evening if you have sensitive skin because it may turn your pits a little rosy from elevated circulation in the area.
Try this for three consecutive days to purge, and then you’re ready for your greener transition. Shop a few of our fave antiperspirant-free options below.