The skin is the largest organ on your body, and it acts like a giant sponge, soaking up whatever it contacts. Thus, it comes as no surprise that while your skin can soak the good things up from your skincare products, it can also soak up the bad. One of the products most of us use every day is deodorant. But, this medicine cabinet staple may be filled with ingredients that can disrupt systems in your body. Here is a look at four ways your conventional deodorant may harm your hormone health.
4 ways conventional deodorants may harm your hormone health
#1 Chemicals enter the bloodstream without first being metabolized
The skin is one of the ways things can enter our bodies. Indeed, when something breaks the integrity of our skin (like a cut), it can offer a pathway for pathogens to get inside our bodies. However, even when the skin is intact, we can still absorb chemicals and toxins from the skin’s surface to the bloodstream.
Unlike the digestive system, where non-sterile items outside our bodies enter the inside, the skin does not have a filtration system. The skin does not break down toxins like the gut or metabolize them like the liver before entering the bloodstream.
Instead, chemicals on the skin enter the bloodstream directly once it passes into the blood vessels of the deeper layers of the skin. We know this because some people have tested their blood for common skincare toxins, which have been detectable in the bloodwork. What is more, our bodies sometimes store toxins in fat cells, which are prevalent in the armpit area.
#2 Conventional deodorants contain potential endocrine disruptors
There are several known ingredients in everyday skincare products that are labeled endocrine disruptors. An endocrine disruptor (EDC) is a chemical or molecule that may interfere with how the body’s hormones work. Indeed, EDCs often mimic hormones in your body, which can send confusing messages to your cells.
Endocrine disruptors can affect all hormones, including sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, and other hormones like thyroid hormone and cortisol.
These three primary ingredients in conventional deodorants may mess with your hormones:
As one of the most well-known ingredients in antiperspirant deodorants, aluminum suppresses sweating, which has made it a common ingredient in deodorants for several decades. However, research shows that genes may become unstable in its presence. Because of the armpit’s proximity to the breasts, many researchers hypothesize that aluminum may play a role in the growth of cancerous cells. However, there is no proof that this metal directly correlates with breast cancer at this time.
Parabens are in personal care products as preservatives. Parabens may interfere with how your body produces hormones like estrogen.
This compound helps your deodorant stick to your skin. It is also commonly found in ingredients with fragrance (which again is usually in deodorants). Phthalates may disrupt androgenic functions, which is how both men and women produce testosterone.
Other concerning ingredients in deodorants include fragrances, triclosan, diethanolamine, butane, and isobutane.
#3 Conventional antiperspirants prevent you from sweating
One of the primary reasons we use an antiperspirant is to prevent wet armpits. Indeed, it is a miracle product when you have a big presentation to give at work or are on a first date. However, our bodies sweat for a reason, and blocking our ability to sweat may be harmful.
Firstly, sweating is one of the ways we can get rid of toxins in our bodies. Thus, when we do not sweat, we cannot shed toxins as quickly. Couple that with the fact that most deodorants plug your sweat glands with toxins, and you have a problem.
It is important to note that sweating is not one of the primary ways our bodies get rid of toxins. Instead, that is the job of the liver and kidneys.
Secondly, sweat is a way the body regulates temperature. When our body temperature is at risk of going above average, the hypothalamus releases a cascade of hormones to tell sweat glands to secrete fluid to help cool off our skin via evaporation. Without this effect, it can be harder to regulate body temperature and homeostasis and may cause stress.
#4 Deodorants may exacerbate allergies
It is not uncommon for people to have an allergic response to some of the chemicals in deodorants. Suppose a person does have an allergic reaction to a chemical in any personal hygiene product. In that case, it can cause the immune system to overreact and force uncomfortable symptoms like itching, swelling, irritation, and inflammation.
If a person consistently uses an ingredient that causes an immune response, it may exacerbate other immune-related conditions like autoimmune disorders (for instance, Hashimoto's thyroiditis).
What deodorant should you choose?
What we put on our bodies matters. With that said, most of us will not say goodbye to our deodorant for fear of offending others with our body odor (including ourselves). So, what deodorant should you choose when you are trying to be conscious of your thyroid hormones?
Look for a deodorant that is free of EDCs like parabens, phthalates, fragrances, and aluminum. You will want to research products that do not contain toxins and EDCs and give them a try. Likely some products will be more effective than others, as people respond differently to different deodorants. So, prepare yourself for some trial and error involved in this process.
If you are searching for a non-harmful deodorant, consider scanning the following resources:
- Made Safe
- The Environmental Working Group
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
- Endocrine Society
- Hormone Health Network
If you’re worried about how your deodorant may be affecting your thyroid health, consider taking a thyroid blood test to understand your thyroid function. It’s critical to use a complete thyroid panel to measure thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), and TPO antibodies. These four markers help you understand the big picture of what’s happening with your thyroid function and where specifically to make improvements.