Natural Deodorant 101: A Guide To Embracing The Good Stuff
Maybe you've tried natural deodorant, feel stinky three hours later and spend the rest of your day wondering if you can only smell yourself or if you've become a roving human stink cloud? Maybe you don't know much about deodorant, conventional or natural, and wonder why the topic even warrants an entire article? Maybe you do your yoga, eat mostly clean food, and purchase non-toxic personal care products- except for your guilty cheat: mainstream deodorant.
Here's the short of it: conventional deodorant is the pits. It's toxic and full of crap that should never enter a human being. Natural deodorants can be lame and ineffective. Choosing the right natural deodorant (ours!), combined with other small lifestyle tweaks, can make non-toxic deodorant work for you, so you'll never look back and long for your days of misinformed antiperspirant bliss...
Underarm perspiration serves a purpose vital to survival: our body temperature regulation. Armpits are packed with nerve endings, giving constant and immediate temperature feedback to our brain. Because a major artery passes through the underarm, this area is a good indicator of our deeper core body temperature and why we often apply a thermometer to our armpit to take our temperature.
As blood moves through this artery, it can be cooled if we sweat, which in turn helps cool our entire body. The underarm is not only anatomically unique, but also specialized in the type of perspiration it generates.
Not all sweat is created equal. Your groin, armpits, and scalp secrete a thicker form of sweat called apocrine sweat. Because of its thicker viscosity, this perspiration acts as a medium on which bacteria grow and populate. This bacteria is the cause of most underarm odor.
Think back in time to periods that predate conventional deodorants and antiperspirants. Many of us imagine our human history being riddled with poor hygiene and intense body odor.
Maybe. Or maybe not! Our ancestors may actually have had less body odor due to:
1 Less toxicity
2 Better lymphatic flow and function
3 Abundant microflora
4 No synthetic fibers
5 Accurate scent perception
Our armpits house a network of lymph nodes, part of the immune system responsible for moving toxins out of our bodies. The lymphatic system is a passive- it requires movement, massage, or physical exercise, in order to flow optimally and remove waste. Our present day sedentary lifestyles create lymphatic systems that are more sluggish and less robust than our ancestors'. Their daily lives necessitated the consistent moderate movement and exercise that our lymphatic systems require to maintain proper function.
Decreased lymphatic function can lead to increased body odor since the body isn't properly removing waste and toxins. In addition to a decreased lymphatic system function, we're inundated with chemical exposure and toxicity- at rates unprecedented in our entire human history. We are now at risk of exposure to over 10,000 chemicals in our personal care products alone. These chemicals require our body to labor harder to stay "clean" and the accumulation of these chemicals contributes to body odor.
Many modern chemicals are beyond what the human body has evolved to manage and are a challenge for our systems to eliminate. Currently, there are 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States, with 2,000 new ones being introduced each year. The majority of this drastic chemical increase has occurred within the past 100 years, making these chemicals largely foreign and new to the human system. Our ancestors didn't have this chemical toxicity threat to contend with.
Synthetic chemicals wreak constant and systematic havoc on our natural state of balance. Recent studies out of the UK, found that as much as 90% of all breast cancers are caused by environmental factors including lifestyle choices, environmental contaminates, and radiation.
While toxins in deodorant are a health concern for all of us, breastfeeding mothers need to take extra precaution. Chemicals can and do travel from mother to baby via breastfeeding and accumulate in an infants bloodstream. Some studies indicate that this accumulation of chemicals from mother's milk can cause infants to have higher concentrations than their mothers of some chemicals. The ingredients of a mother's personal care products are at risk of being passed to gestating and nursing infants. In other words, mothers risk passing toxic chemicals contained in personal care products to their nursing infants.
Amanda, of MyWellBalancedLife.com, lists the seven common ingredients to avoid when selecting beauty and personal care products:
Parabens are commonly used preservatives, used for their anti-bacterial properties and ability to increase shelf life. These potent preservatives are toxic and damaging to our endocrine systems because they mimic the human hormone estrogen. This fake estrogen can lead to elevated estrogen levels, which can lead to skin cancer, breast cancer, decreased sperm count, and hormonal and reproductive issues.
Phthalates are akin to plastic. As plasticizing chemicals that help lubricate other substances, they are used in lotions and makeup to penetrate and soften the skin and extend fragrances. Asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity and Type II diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, endocrine disruption, impaired reproductive development and male fertility issues have all been linked to exposure to and presence of phthalates in the body.
Fragrance sounds nice, but isn't. Companies are able to disguise alarming amounts of chemicals by listing this single ingredient. Unfortunately, these cryptic “fragrances” which are found in many creams and hair products are largely linked to allergies (both food and environmental), skin issues, respiratory problems, hormone disruption and reproductive issues.
4) SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) AND/OR SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES)
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a synthetic soap which creates a foamy lather as it cleans, and is present in most body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. Since people have grown accustomed to its presence, many feel as if products MUST have significant lather or they do not work. That is not the case. SLS/SLES has been known to be an irritant to the skin and eyes, and helps other chemicals get into the body because of its identification as a penetration enhancer. It has also been linked to allergies, which have become so common and prevalent these days.
5) BHA AND BHT
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants which are used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers, among other cosmetics. You can also find these widely used as food preservatives. It is obviously cost effective for companies to use ingredients which make their products last longer, but it is disturbing when it is at the cost of our health. BHA and BHT are linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and liver damage, and they also have been identified as carcinogens.
It is common knowledge that lead is very harmful, though most associate it only with paint. Yet more than 60% of all lipsticks and lip glosses contain this neurotoxin, in addition to other makeup items. Neurotoxins are toxins that are poisonous or destructive to nerve tissue. With women applying lipstick multiple times a day, this leads to significant exposure over time. Lead exposure is extremely dangerous as it has been linked to many negative issues which are becoming more and more common, such as learning disabilities, behavior issues, menstrual irregularities, and infertility.
Though this one is not found as much in makeup or traditional skin care, it is in a few products used daily by most people. Triclosan is a widely used antimicrobial chemical which can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps, and deodorants. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor (especially harmful to thyroid and reproductive hormones) and a skin irritant.
Our ancestors not only had a leg up on us because of better lymphatic flow and freedom from toxic chemicals, they also had robust and diversified microbiomes. Our microbiome is a collection of specialized bacteria that live on the surface of our skin, and also populate the digestive system. These bacteria are "good" and serve numerous vital functions, such as helping our bodies make neurotransmitters like seratonin and dopamine that are essential for mental and emotional health. "Good" bacteria also support our immune system by keeping "bad" bacteria like e coli in balance, and also help our bodies maintain a healthy weight.
We acquire and are colonized by "good" bacteria from our mothers and also from our environments- most importantly the soil. Beneficial soil bacterias are called SBOs- soil based organisms- and they are essential to optimal health. Our ancestors enjoyed consistent daily exposure to SBOs because they lived lives that were closely intertwined with the soil and earth. Farm animals living just beyond the threshold of the front door was common as recently as 75 years ago. Today, we are largely disconnected from the life enhancing benefits of soil and animal organisms and most of us have very little, if any, contact with soil in our daily lives.
Because "good" bacteria keep "bad" bacteria in check, our "good" bacterial deficiency allows less desirable, odor producing bacteria to accumulate and proliferate on our skin. The skin's bacterial balance greatly impacts overall body odor. Harsh antibacterial agents in conventional deodorants can result in an increase in body odor over time. These potent antibacterials not only kill the "bad" odor causing bacteria, they kill the "good" odor preventing bacteria. They are additionally harmful because the skin's "good" bacteria is the immune system's first line of defense against pathogenic illness producing bacteria.
Chris Callewaert at the University of California, San Diego recently conducted fascinating research on this microbiome-body odor connection.
Callewaert says, "The skin has its own microbiome too and it varies by region- there can even be a difference between the bacterial ecosystem of your left and right armpits. The bacteria that live there probably have a role in producing the volatile compounds that give sweat its smell."
Callewaert recently conducted research on identical twins- one twin had poor body while the other twin had a neutral body odor. He transplanted dead skin from the neutral twin to the armpit of the poorly odored twin. The odored twin's negative body scent quickly disappeared and as of the last assessment, the effects were still positively the same a year later.
Ingredients in conventional deodorant, like triclosan, are harsh antibacterial chemicals and disrupt the underarm's natural ecosystem. Eradicating "good" bacteria by exposing the underarms to these chemicals can actually increase negative underarm smell over time.
Truly non-toxic and natural deodorants, like Kimberly Parry's, utilize natural ingredients that are more balanced to the skin's ecosystem because humans have evolved side by side with these ingredients over time. Kimberly uses a lighter hand and layered formulation process to create better evolutionary compatibility between her products, people, and planet. But even when utilizing essential oil and natural ingredients, high concentrations can still be damaging to the body's inherent balance. Formulating with this reality in mind, Kimberly aims for product/environmental synchronicity and effectiveness.
Environmental compatibility is important in managing and eliminating negative odors. Embracing our long human history of living and thriving cooperatively with nature, natural elements provide opportunities for creating balance. For example, hemp clothing. Made from a variety of the cannabis sativa plant, hemp clothing discourages negative body odor because it allows air circulation, is naturally absorbent, and also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. As recently as 1920, 80% of clothing was made from hemp. Other natural fiber materials are cotton, linen, silk, and wool. These were the fabrics of our ancestors and have built-in odor resistance.
Our current clothing market is making a strong transition to synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers are made by joining monomers into polymers and when magnified, look like spun plastic. These synthetic fibers, like nylon, polyester, and spandex, encourage negative body odor because they lack breathability and often provide a medium that favors more negative bacterial, and even fungal strains, like candida. If you've noticed you're "extra stinky" when you wear a particular shirt- check the tag. It likely has a high percentage of synthetic fibers.
Speaking of "extra stinky", what does stinky really mean? What are we basing our current scent preferences on?
Scent is often considered our oldest and most survival-centric sense. Currently, we have strong opinions and responses around what scents we perceive as good, bad, or neutral. Historically and in the rest of the animal kingdom, the primary function of scent is to transmit information. Scent is a way for animals to assess where another animal has traveled, a state of health, hierarchy, and fertility, where food sources might be, etc. Scent for animals is utility- it provides vital data. Once upon a time, scent did the same for humans.
Our present assessments of scent are no longer as information-centic and have devolved into more set preferences like: flowers= good, farm manure= bad. Scent culture favors applying artificial scent and oftentimes covering or changing natural scent. Because our sense of smell is wires deeply within our nervous system, and has immediate impact on our entire body, constant scent-manipulation can be depleting to the nervous system.
We now have scented trash bags, scented sheets, scented body products, in addition to our customary perfume, scented candles, scented stickers, scented markers, scented air fresheners, etc. etc. Because of scent-overwhelm, and the toxic chemicals used to create fragrance, scent is increasingly being referred to as "the new second hand smoke". Our current sense of smell if no longer being used to gather data- it is confused and betrayed by the flood of "false" information. We are losing vital and life-enhancing feedback.
Did you know that an attraction to a person's natural scent often indicates a biological compatibility that results in offspring with strong immune systems? If nobody smells like "themselves" how do we leverage our deeper sensory survival wisdom?
What if our primitive ancestors weren't as stinky as we think? What if we currently have more negative odor enhancing factors then at any other point in our know history? What if we are missing important information because of our preconceived ideas on "good" and "bad" scents? What if we are harming our health through excess scent and chemicals?
Kimberly Parry's non-toxic and truly natural deodorant is formulated for health and wellbeing. Deodorant is one of the biggest human health offenders in personal care products. Switching to a non-toxic deodorant is necessary to enjoy full health and prevent future disease processes, like cancer.
As a body transitions from conventional to natural deodorant, an adjustment period may occur. As underarm pores begin to open and regain optimal function, old toxins and bacteria may move out of the skin to be cleansed away. While this may temporarily increase body odor, it will immediately increase systematic health.
Kimberly Parry Organics is conveniently sized and can be easily carried in a purse, workout bag, or briefcase, to safely apply multiple applications throughout the day. While most individuals don't require multiple applications, those cleansing or transitioning to our natural deodorant may find multiple applications helpful.
Tips for naturally decreasing body odor:
-Decrease consumption of meats and fried foods
-Increase fresh vegetable and fruit intake
-Stay well hydrated with water
-Get fresh air, movement, and sunshine
- Avoid clothing with synthetic fibers
-Use a mild cleanser (like Kimberly Parry's Clean) to wash underarms twice per day