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December 15, 2007
Posted in: Beauty,Body Care,Skin Care by cindypk @ 10:39 pm

Nobody wants to go around smelling like a compost heap (or be around someone who does), but what price do you pay for keeping shower-fresh all day long?

This old question was recently resurrected when UK researchers highlighted the potential risks associated with the preservatives parahydroxybenzoic acids, or parabens, in deodorants.
Parabens are used in a wide variety of cosmetics, and studies suggest they are oestrogenic. Used in formulas absorbed into the skin, such as body, face and suncreams, it is speculated that these xenoestrogens (from outside the body) could build up and cause health problems.

Speculation came closer to reality when researchers at the University of Reading found traces of parabens in every single tumour sample taken from a small group of women with breast cancer (J Appl Toxicol, 2004; 24: 5-13).

They concluded that the chemicals had seeped into the tissue after being applied to the skin, probably via deodorants. As parabens are oestrogenic, they can act as fuel for human breast tumours.

The UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association was quick to counter that parabens have a good safety record, but it is only recently that anyone has bothered to examine how these widely used chemicals behave in the body. So, cosmetic companies have, for years, been able to broadly interpret the absence of evidence as evidence of safety.

From the outside in
Body odour can be caused by bacteria in your armpits, but can also reflect what’s inside your body. What you eat and how ‘polluted’ your body is by toxins and allergens may also be involved. Deodorants combat the problem of body odour at skin level, using a mixture of strong perfumes and antibacterial ingredients. Antiperspirants block the pores and prevent sweat from leaking out of the armpits.

Today, a vast range of deodorants, antiperspirants and antiperspirant/deodorants is available in a variety of formulations – creams, gels, roll-ons, solids and sprays. A quick look at labels will tell you that there isn’t much difference between them. Antiperspirants and deodorants typically contain moisturisers, solvents, preservatives (like parabens), synthetic scents and antibacterial agents such as triclosan (absorbed through the skin and known to cause liver damage in animals).

Some contain dibutylphthalate (DBP), a hormone-disrupting chemical implicated in reproductive abnormalities.

Aluminium worries
However, until the news about parabens, it was the aluminium content of antiperspirants that was the major cause of concern.

Most antiperspirants contain some form of aluminium, usually aluminium chlorohydrate, aluminium zirconium, aluminium chloride, aluminium sulphate and aluminium phenosulphate.
No one knows exactly how aluminium compounds reduce underarm wetness. They may prevent sweating by clogging sweat ducts. But clogging leads to pressure from the sweat buildup inside the ducts, and it’s thought that this may cause the sweat glands to stop secreting.

Alternatively, they may perforate the sweat glands so that sweat seeps out into the surrounding tissues rather than exiting through the surface of the skin. Or they may block the transmission of nerve impulses that activate sweat glands.

Either way, aluminium is absorbed through the skin, albeit superficially. The link between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminium has raised considerable debate over the safety of using aluminium compounds in deodorants. Yet, only one study (J Clin Epidemiol, 1990; 43: 35-44) reports a link between Alzheimer’s and a lifetime’s deodorant use. No other studies have been conducted to confirm these findings.

A look at the incidence of breast cancer among 400 US women suggests it may be a combination of underarm shaving and deodorant use that allows chemicals to seep into breast tissue (Eur J Cancer Prev, 2003; 12: 479-85). Those who shaved three times a week and applied deodorant at least twice a week were almost 15 years younger when diagnosed with the cancer than women who did neither. The researchers suggested that aluminium compounds could be a breast-cancer trigger.

Certainly, aluminium-based deodorants are a major cause of skin irritation – reason enough to be approached with caution by users. Aluminium zirconium products are known to cause granulomas (small nodules of chronically inflamed tissue) under the arms with prolonged use.

Alum vs Aluminium
Rock crystals are the newest alternative to aluminium-containing antiperspirants. Some of these are made from magnesium sulphate while others use alum. These products often claim to be free of aluminium chlorohydrate, yet alum by its other name is aluminium sulphate. Manufacturers say that, as this is a much larger molecule than aluminium chlorohydrate – which is true – it cannot pass via the skin.

However, aluminium chlorohydrate is much less soluble in water (sweat) while sulphates are highly water-soluble, so alum may more readily break down into its component parts in a warm sweaty armpit. So, is aluminium then absorbed into the skin? With no research evidence, no one knows. Although it is unlikely, the widely promoted idea that all deodorant crystals are aluminium-free may need more careful scrutiny in future.

Ref. Extract from PROOF! – Vol: 8 Issue: 8

At The Organic you will find chemcial-free natural and organic skincare, haircare and cosmetics, click below for a natural deodorant.

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