Sweat itself is almost odorless—it is the bacteria feeding on the sweat that emits an odor. Antiperspirants reduce sweat, deodorants prevent bacterial growth or in some cases bind to foul smelling molecules to eliminate odor. Sometimes scents are also used to mask unpleasant odors. Here are tips you might want to consider when choosing your deodorant or antiperspirant.
Stay away from Triclosan. Many deodorants use an added chemical called Triclosan to kill odor-causing bacteria. The wide use of Triclosan may also be promoting a Triclosan drug resistance in that same bacteria. Drug resistant bacteria reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics and thus reduce the tools we have to treat infections or prevent the spread of infection in hospitals. In addition, Triclosan has been detected in many U.S. waterways and is extremely toxic to aquatic wildlife.
Avoid Aluminum. Aluminum compounds in deodorant are the culprits in yellow armpit stains. Aluminum salts, such as aluminum chlorohydrate, were some of the first antiperspirants developed to reduce perspiration. Newer and more effective aluminum zirconium chlorohydrate-glycine complexes have been developed and are used in several brands of solid and gel antiperspirants. These ingredients have the added benefit of having antimicrobial activity, meaning they also act as deodorants. There is inconclusive evidence that aluminum-containing compounds increase the risk of certain neurological diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease).
Stop the (aerosol) spray. If you are concerned about the environment, you may want to avoid aerosol antiperspirants. Some propellants used in these products can be toxic. Others, such as tetrafluoroethane, are not toxic but are global warming agents.
Deodorant crystals which are made from alum-based mineral salts.
An age-old alternative to Triclosan is tea tree oil which is often listed as TTO on the label.
Zinc ricinoleate reduces odors by binding to stinky chemicals, making them imperceptible to most noses. If you use a zinc ricinoleate-based deodorant, opt for a fragrance-free formulation because fragrances can interfere with zinc ricinoleate’s odor fighting capacity.