What’s in my deodorant?
If you wash, spray on some deodorant and moisturise in the morning then you may well have exposed yourself to 75 chemicals1 before you’ve even left the bathroom. Add on some make-up and hair spray and you’re into the hundreds. Many of these chemicals smell good, do a useful job and are harmless. However, some may be linked to cancer.
Breast Cancer UK’s campaign #ditchtheJunk, is raising awareness about our exposure to all these chemicals, urging us to check for harmful ingredients. Giki has therefore decided to use our new app to take a closer look at what’s in our bathroom cabinets. This week our focus is on deodorants – so what’s in them and should we be worried?
What exactly is deodorant?
When you sweat, bacteria under your arms break down your sweat and this is what creates an odour. Deodorant prevent these bacteria from multiplying thereby preventing the odours forming. Sounds simple. Deodorants also contain synthetic fragrances too to make us smell nice. Antiperspirants, often found in deodorants, actually prevent sweating by plugging the sweat glands.
What’s in the can?
Deodorant may contain many synthetic chemicals, on average 24 ingredients per can2, and you probably won’t recognise many of them. Each of the chemicals has a specific function, be it creating an aerosol spray effect, providing a pleasant smell or acting as a preserving or antimicrobial agent. A common brand’s list of ingredients could therefore include ingredients such as: Butane, cyclopentasiloxane, PPG-14-Butyl Ether, Aluminum Chlorohydrate, Parfum, and BHT. Confused? Most people are.
Chemicals of concern
What we really care about though is chemicals of concern. In deodorants this includes aluminium salts which are the active antiperspirant ingredients and which are found in around 70% of deodorants. The aluminium salts react with sweat to form a gel plug in the sweat gland duct, preventing sweating, while the aluminium is actually absorbed through the skin3.
Buy why is this a concern? We spray deodorant in a region where breast cancer often arises4 and aluminium has been found in breast tissue and breast cysts5, with evidence that aluminium may be linked to increased breast cancer risk6. At the very least a precautionary approach seems reasonable.
Governments are certainly taking this seriously. When the EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety conducted a risk assessment of aluminium in antiperspirants they concluded that there are significant gaps in scientific data and further risk assessment needs to be done; the results of this are not yet published7. In Switzerland the government is considering a ban or warning labels on all aluminium-containing antiperspirants8.
In fact, the EU has actually issued a caution about antiperspirant being applied to damaged or irritated skin9. This is interesting based on the fact that most women would apply it after shaving their armpits and surely this should be taken into account?
How to #ditchthejunk
So where can we look for help? Breast Cancer UK’s advice is to look for aluminium free deodorants and antiperspirants. This can be tricky however as the aluminium salts could be labelled as slightly different things such as aluminium chlorohydrate or aluminium zirconium.
This is where Giki can help.
Simply download the Giki app and scan the barcode to find out if your deodorant contains aluminium salts or any other ingredients of concern. The Giki database has a list of chemicals to look out for and the app will check the ingredients of your products against this list. No ingredients of concern means the product will be awarded a badge. If you want to check our products without ingredients of concern then look at the alternatives.
Other ingredients to look out for in deodorant, that are also on the watchlist, are BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Triclosan and parabens. We are going to be looking into these in the coming weeks, so watch this space.
Finally if you are looking for a natural product alternative, we love Salt of the Earth deodorant sticks, available in many supermarkets now. They last well and the ingredients haven’t been tested on animals. Great!
- Giki Social Enterprise 2018 using three representation products
- Giki Social Enterprise 2018 using a popular brand of deodorant
- Flarend, R. et al. (2001). A preliminary study of the dermal absorption of aluminium from antiperspirants using aluminium-26. Food Chemical Toxicology 39: 163-168. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11267710
- Darbre P. D. and Charles, A. K. (2010). Environmental oestrogens and breast cancer: evidence for combined involvement of dietary, household and cosmetic xenoestrogens. Anticancer Research 30: 815-828. http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/30/3/815.full.pdf
- Mannello, F. et al. (2009). Concentration of aluminium in breast cyst fluids collected from women affected by gross cystic breast disease. Journal of Applied Toxicology 29(1): 1-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18785682
- Linhart, C. et al. (2017). Use of Underarm Cosmetic Products in Relation to Risk of Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study. EBioMedicine 21 (2017) 79-85. https://www.ebiomedicine.com/article/S2352-3964(17)30233-5/fulltext
- European Commission Scientific Committees 2016-2021 List of mandates and Opinions State of play April 2018. https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/scientific_committees/docs/overview_opinions_042018_en.pdf (accessed May 11, 2018)
- Swiss move to ban aluminium in antiperspirants https://www.hippocraticpost.com/cancer/swiss-move-ban-aluminium-antiperspirants/ (accessed May 11, 2018)
- EU Cosmetics Directive 76/768/EEC (accessed May 11, 2018)