One of those subjects we all try to avoid and hope it doesn't apply to us...
Posted on 4th March 2020 at 08:49
There are some subjects which we’ve all learnt – usually by bitter experience (!) – are best avoided in polite company. Well, that is, unless you want to light the blue touch paper and stand back to watch the resulting fireworks. And, in the interests of everyone’s blood pressure (!), we’re going to steer well clear of the top two contenders. Religion and politics. Phew!
However, this still leaves plenty of other less contentious – but equally sensitive – subjects. And it’s one of these we’re going to revisit at today. If you’d like a clue to what it is, then you need look no further than a post we wrote a while ago about why horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow. You can find it here.
Yes, you guessed it, we’re returning to the lovely subject of sweating and the ongoing battle many people have to ensure there’s not a hint of a “whiff” about their person. None at all.
While we don’t like to admit it, sweating is a perfectly natural process. It plays an important part in regulating our body temperature as well as removing toxins from our body. Despite this, we tend to see it as something to be avoided at all costs. And this is where we can, unwittingly, get ourselves into all sorts of problems.
Before we go any further, let’s – once again – dispel the most common myth about body odour, otherwise known as “BO”. That it’s caused by sweating. Well, the simple truth is, it isn’t.
Instead, it’s produced by the bacteria which live in the Armpits, as well as all over our skin as a whole. Without wishing to make you squirm too much (!) they literally “feed” on the sweat we produce, with BO being a by product of this process.
And, if we quickly digress for a moment and think about things from the bacteria’s point of view, our Armpits make a great place to call home. Warm, moist, dark, protected and with food available 24 / 7. And we’ll leave the rest to your imagination…
As we’ve all found out at some time, certain foods can make matters worse. Either by causing us to sweat more or leading to more pungent – if that’s the right word (!) – BO. For example, spicy foods, garlic, onions, alcohol, processed, fatty or sugary foods.
Not surprisingly, the usual solution is to use anti perspirants and deodorants. And it’s these we’d like to focus on today. Why?
Well, for the simple reason that they tend to be made up of a cocktail of different chemicals, many of which are linked to a variety of health problems. More about this in a minute.
However, before we go any further, a quick reminder that anti perspirants and deodorants are not the same thing. While these two words are often used inter changeably, they each do a different job.
Antiperspirants, as the name suggests, aim to stop sweating completely. This deprives the bacteria of their food supply and so prevents BO.
Deodorants, on the other hand, simply disguise the smell of any BO.
Because of their different effects, many off the shelf products contain both antiperspirants AND deodorants to maximise their effectiveness.
What do they contain?
Probably the best known – and infamous – ingredient found in many anti perspirants is aluminium. It’s used because it literally blocks the sweat glands, so preventing sweat being released and BO.
As many people already know, aluminium has been linked to a huge variety of health problems over the years. As one of the most researched heavy metals, aluminium has been found to affect the genes as well as promoting the growth of tumours. It’s also been linked to hormone disruption, although there is currently no definitive research linking it to increasing rates of breast cancer, in both women and men.
Parabens are preservatives, found in many personal care and hygiene products. Again, they have been the subject of much research and found to disrupt hormones. They have been linked to early puberty as well as an increased risk of developing Prostate and Breast Cancer. More worryingly, they have been found to bioaccumulate in the body – in other words, build up – particularly in organs such as the Liver and Kidneys, so increasing their effects.
Phthalates are a large group of chemicals used in many consumer products, including cosmetics and other personal care products. They act as solvents and also help to soften products, making them easier to use. In addition, they help fragrances to “stick” to the skin and so last longer. Again, they have been found to disrupt the hormones in both men and women and may also affect foetal development. More generally, phthalates have also been linked to Asthma and breathing problems.
Tricoslan is used to help kill the bacteria found in the Armpits. Again, it’s been linked to hormonal disruption – particularly the Thyroid Gland – and may also disrupt the balance of bacteria in the Gut. It’s now so widely used in America that detectable levels are routinely found in the bloodstream of many adults. This indicates that Tricoslan can pass through the Skin and into the bloodstream, which may also explain its effect on gut bacteria.
Then there are the various fragrances, preservatives and colourings your favourite product contains, which each have their own particular health concerns. To give it the “right” look, feel and smell.
Let’s quickly dispel another all too common myth about “fragrance free” products. While they may not contain all the usual fragrances, they do still contain fragrances to mask the product’s chemically odour and, ironically, give it a “chemical free” clean smell.
And, finally, don’t forget the propellants used by spray anti perspirants and deodorants which come with their own particular issues. Used in warm bathrooms and bedrooms – usually with the windows closed, as no one wants to get cold after a warm bath or shower – their fine mists of spray are easily inhaled, leading to breathing difficulties and Asthma, as well as allergic skin reactions.
While we‘ve mentioned the particular concerns linked to individual chemicals, there’s very little research on their possible cumulative effects. Whether some combinations are more potentially damaging than others and, yes, we know this may be a rather contentious suggestion. More so, as anti perspirants and deodorants are applied directly on to warm skin, where the pores are more likely to be open making absorption much quicker and easier.
So, when you stop and think about it, does putting such a cocktail of different chemicals on your skin – with open pores – seem like such a good idea?
What are the alternatives?
There are now a huge range of natural deodorants which don’t contain aluminium as well as many of the other nasties. However, it’s important to read the labels carefully as many so called “natural” products still contain aluminium.
Added to this, the trend of “greenwashing” of products – marketing them with confusing labels to make them appear more “green” than they really are – just makes matters worse. While “green”, “natural”, “skin friendly” or “irritant free” may all sound good, in practice, these words are meaningless, providing consumers with no additional safeguards. With greenwashing becoming increasingly common – and sophisticated – we’re going to take a deeper look at in a couple of weeks’ time.
And we know what you’re thinking, do they actually work?
In our experience, yes, although you may need to experiment at bit to find the best one for you. It can also take a little while to get used to the fact that you’re feeling slightly “warm” or are actually sweating again.
So, yes, you may feel slightly uncomfortable to start with, but this feeling doesn’t last long. And, finally, the big concern. “No” you’re not going to smell – or worse (!) – either.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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