I have promised to write about a subject that is near and dear to my heart…sweating. And not so much the sweating part as the stinking part that usually happens along with sweating. Because, when you do ask the question, to sweat or not to sweat?…the answer is obviously to sweat, because humans eliminate toxins from their bodies via the sweat glands (why do you think they have saunas in health clubs and gyms?). Sweating, of course, is less than comfortable when you are wearing nice clothes or just any clothes that reveal obvious sweat-marks. Perhaps we need to take a page from the rest of the world and just, well, be sweaty and okay with it as a natural thing our bodies need to do. But, in our American society, this just isn’t okay, because although we may be able to overlook your embarrassingly sweaty pits in a meeting, we will not forgive you for bringing your stanky funk with you.
So, what’s wrong with anti-perspirant? Aside from not letting your body eliminate toxins from your underarm sweat glands? 1. These products can make you just sweat more in other parts of your body…this happens to me. So while my pits might be lovely and dry, my whole back will be drenched to compensate for it…this is even worse than sweaty pits in my experience, especially when you go sit in the air conditioning afterwards…freezing! Since it isn’t summer, this may be less of a concern, but keep it in mind when summer rolls around again. 2. Not sweating causes toxins to accumulate in your body and this has been associated with cancer of the lymph system and possibly breast cancer. Enough said. 3. Aluminum is one of the main ingredients people want to avoid, but alas, this is the key ingredient for keeping the sweat glands in check. There is already a lot of aluminum in the world, but applying it directly to one of the most absorbent areas of the body gives one pause when you consider that an increased risk of Alzheimer’s has been associated with increased levels of aluminum in the body. Most anti-perspirants (even the “natural” crystal ones) use some form of aluminum salt to keep those sweat glands in check. Your cells literally swell from the aluminum salt application enough to close up the sweat glands. Depending on the strength of the anti-perspirant, you may only need to apply once a day. However, the other problem I have with these products is my tender, sensitive skin begins to react to this application of salt in my underarms every day so that they hurt and feel…well…crusty. Even the pretty, made for a woman anti-perspirants do this to me. So…deodorants for me!
But wait. What’s wrong with deodorants? If any of you have been paying attention to my blog you can probably guess…it’s phthalates and other endocrine disruptors. And I thought I was being so clever and healthy. I replaced my Secret solid for some fancy Bath & Body or Victoria’s Secret body spray about five years ago. I rationalized that the alcohol would be killing the bacteria that are actually responsible for making sweaty pits into stinky pits, and then the fragrance would cover up anything that may develop throughout the day. Well, although that worked pretty well except for during the deepest Texas summer and trips to the gym, I was still applying harmful chemicals to my skin, half the time on freshly shaved skin, no less.
No doubt, some of you may have already tried the natural crystals. I suggest that you read your package ingredients and see if it contains an aluminum salt. If it does, I would also suggest looking for a different type. It just doesn’t seem worth the risk to use a product that may impact your brain function in later years, and since it runs in my family, I am absolutely concerned and will not use aluminum-based products if I can help it.
Some of you may have already tried Tom’s of Maine deodorant. I have tried three different scents over the years, and I don’t know if they have been tinkering with the formula or if the essential oil used for scent makes that much of a difference, BUT…the only kind that kept me from being stinky was the lavender version. This product is not powdery or silky, but rather on the sticky/goopy side. I have applied, then blotted before putting on clothes to keep the white-marks from getting everywhere. You must remember that Tom’s is only a deodorant and not an anti-perspirant, so you are still going to sweat. This brand is easy to find in most places you can buy personal products at about $5/tube. Tom’s is also all-natural and never uses phthalates. You might want to give it a shot just to see if works with your body chemistry or well enough for you to be happy. I can live with it until I find a replacement that is better…and these are the ones I think I am going to try in the near future.
The gold standard seems to be La Vanila brand Healthy Deodorant. These babies cost $18/50g (1.7 oz) unless you buy a three-pack for $44 (that’s a $3.33 savings per tube). La Vanila swears by natural perfumery (they also have some apparently to die for fragrances/lotions/soaps) and science that exclude “petrochemicals, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oils, silicone, synthetic dyes, sulfates, or parabens” and additionally, since we are talking deodorant, they also have eliminated aluminum from the mix. You can buy these at Sephora and according to the reviews there, these are actually even acceptable for men to use (and they like it and don’t complain about smelling girly). If Santa Claus doesn’t bring me a gift card to Sephora, I might have to splurge and go get this anyway.
Options to consider. Honestly, you have decide for yourself on this. Do you care more about being sweaty or being stinky? If you care more about being sweaty, you are probably going to have to opt for some form of aluminum containing product. IF you choose this route, I suggest Lafe’s Natural and Organic Deodorant Spray. It uses potassium alum, which is a mineral salt containing, you guessed it, aluminum! It contains less per content than many other brands and works decently to keep you dry AND stink free. It only contains water, potassium alum, and aloe vera juice. I’m not sure about the plastic bottle it comes in, because it seems to have no recycle symbol on it, so that’s something of a question (I’ll contact them and see what they say about that). This brand is made right here in Austin, too, it seems, and you can get it on-line for about $6/4 oz. bottle, but I think I got my last bottle at the local fancy grocery store for about $4-something. On the up-side, it is unscented and therefore if you have found a natural perfume/body spray you like, it won’t clash with it at all, and you can share it with the men in your life without complaint. I confess that if need be, I might use this again during the high heat of the Texas summer if La Vanila or the recipe below can’t cut it.
Weleda spray deodorant was recommended by someone online, but a review of its ingredients (via drugstore.com) turned up benzyl benzoate, which is similar to phthalate in the fact that it is an endocrine disruptor. It’s even been used as an insecticide. However, when you go to the Weleda.com website, a different set of ingredients are listed and benzyl benzoate isn’t there. So, there could have been an update to the formula and drugstore.com hasn’t updated that info (or aren’t selling it yet). Read the label and if the benzyl benzoate is there, don’t buy it. This brand is also on the costly side…$13 from Weleda’s online store. It comes in Sage, Citrus, and Wild Rose fragrances. The company is natural certified six different ways to Sunday, so it seems ridiculous that they would put anything crappy in their formulas (like benzyl benzoate or phthalates), so in this instance, although it does not say “phthalate free” anywhere, I think we can assume it is. Or should be.
Now, for the real nitty-gritty hippy version. If you’ve done any sort of “greening up” your house, you’ve surely heard the praises of baking soda already. You can scrub with it like a scouring powder, you can brush your teeth with it, you can wash your hair with it, you can polish your silver, settle an upset stomach, get the stink out of your refrigerator, and, of course, make your baked goods rise. Now, too, you can keep your armpits from being smelly. You can dust it on like a powder using ½ c. baking soda mixed with ½ c. cornstarch. Or you can (and this is what I did) combine about 1 ½ cups of distilled or filtered water with ¼ c. baking soda. Mix well and pour it in a spray bottle. It’s that easy. AND it is ridiculously cheap at probably about $0.15 per batch. You might try adding some witch hazel, alcohol, aloe vera juice, or rosewater to improve your recipe. Witch hazel and alcohol will help kill the stink-causing bacteria, aloe vera will moisturize, and rosewater just smells good (but make sure it’s natural or make it yourself). Essential oils can be added with an alcohol mix, but without alcohol they won’t disperse properly. Spray this on your underarms after you get out of the shower and let it dry before putting on clothes. I’m trying this right now, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
But I’m still gonna try La Vanila just because I want to.
Sweat on, dear friends, sweat on.