HomeBlogCan Your Deodorant Kill You?

Can Your Deodorant Kill You?

If there are two much-dreaded letters, it would be BO – body odour. Everyone would have suffered from it at one time or another, either by being a ‘producer’ of the pungent smell or a recipient of it especially while taking public transport. So what exactly is the cause of body odour – food, habits, biological factors or genetics?

BO: Food, body or habits?

Sweat is actually odourless. It is when the bacteria that live on our skin breaks down the sweat into acid that odour is emitted. Everyone sweats and has bacteria on their skin, so how is it that some smell and some don’t?

Diet, habits and health are all factors that determine if you smell.

We are what we eat and what our body gives out reflects what we have put in. Thus, food such as garlic, onion, cumin and curry are known to make sweat smell more pungent. Some experts also claim that red meat is the number one cause of body odour while other researchers blame body odour on a diet high on junk food and processed food.

Habits related to personal hygiene play a part too.

It is obvious that someone who isn’t fond of taking showers or changing clothes regularly would definitely smell worse than others. As hair on the skin delays the evaporation of sweat, those with thick hair on the underarms would have more severe body odour problems.

Medical conditions cause one to smell stronger than the others.

Diabetics and those with kidney, liver and thyroid problems tend to either perspire more or give out a stronger odour due to the higher presence of sugar or toxins in the blood.

What is the difference between deodorant and anti-perspirant?

Deodorants reduce body odour by making the skin too acidic for bacteria to live on. On the other hand, as the name suggests, anti-perspirants work by entering the sweat glands and reacting with the protein molecules present in sweat to form a gel-like substance. This gel-like substance then blocks the sweat glands, reducing perspiration.

Anti-perspirants have been linked to breast and prostate cancers due to the fact that they block the pores and prevent the release of toxins from the body. Deodorants are also linked to a myriad of health problems ranging from the big C to Alzheimer’s disease, fertility disorders and dermatitis.

Do your deodorant and anti-perspirants contain these harmful ingredients?

Most of us do not read the labels when buying a product meant for external use. Even if you do, do you know what to look for? Here is a list of harmful ingredients for you to cross check against your existing BO-reducing solution:

Aluminium-containing compounds

Aluminium remains in the body after being absorbed through the skin. Research has suggested a close link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease, thus keep a look out for ingredients such as aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly.


Parabens, such as benzyl, methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl, are derived from a petrochemical derivative called toluene. Toluene is a substance toxic enough to cause harm by just being inhaled or coming in contact with the skin. Long-term exposure to toluene can lead to reproductive difficulties. Parabens are also known to act like estrogens, promoting the growth of cancerous cells.


Triclosan is a common ingredient found in deodorants and anti-perspirants. It serves by killing not only the odour-causing bacteria but the healthy ones as well. Triclosan is a skin irritant and may cause dermatitis, which is why you might see a warning on the label asking users to discontinue use should any itch, rash or allergy occur. On top of that, triclosan also messes with the thyroid functions and hormone systems and is another cancer-causing agent found in your daily BO-reducing solution.


Used as an absorbent and colour additive, talc will be a carcinogen if it contains asbestiform fibres. However, the quantity of asbestiform fibres in cosmetic grade talc is unregulated, so you wouldn’t know if the talc mentioned in the label contains any of these fibres.

Triethanolamine (TEA) and diethanolamine (DEA)

These two chemicals have already been banned in Europe due to their carcinogenic effects but interestingly, they are still present in the products off our shelves. TEA also causes eye-related allergies while DEA is linked to liver and kidney cancer.

Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol was developed as a chemical to prevent substances from drying. It is one of the more harmful ingredients found in deodorants as it increases the risk of users developing kidney or liver damage, eye and skin irritation, dermatitis, gastrointestinal, nausea, headache, vomiting and central nervous depression. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) advises workers to avoid contact with the chemical due to its hazards and yet we are applying it to our underarms daily!

Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) colours

Although these colour additives have been approved by the FDA, they aren’t entirely safe for human use. Most colours are synthetically created from coal tar, a petrochemical which have known to be carcinogenic. FD&C colours also frequently cause skin allergies and have been linked to learning and visual disorders, hyperactivity and nerve damage in children.

Go for organic and natural deodorants?

You are bound to be terrified now knowing what is contained in the deodorants and anti-perspirants that you have been using for years. However, this does not mean that you have to trade smell (and friendship, relationships and self-esteem) for health. Organic or natural deodorants ply the market these days, thanks to the awareness and ongoing demand for natural and organic products.

Natural deodorants do not contain any of the foreign-sounding and hard-to-pronounce ingredients mentioned above. Most of these deodorants work by masking BO with essential oils, flowers and other natural ingredients. Others, like the crystal deodorant, work by forming a topical layer on the skin that is not conducive for bacteria to live in.

It might not be easy to find an organic or natural deodorants at your regular pharmacies or supermarket but do not let that deter you from reverting to your regular deodorant. Familiar brands such as L’Occitane and Country Farm Organics have a wide range of organic products, including deodorants, and as such you’d be able to switch to healthier personal care product alternatives once and for all.

Leave a comment