Deodorant – Worth the Risk?

Is Most Deodorant Harmful

“God Dammit, you smell like a rotting corpse that sh*t itself!  Stay the f**k away from me!” Jake barked at Anthony.


“Jake, it’s 98 degrees and I was just welding.  Of course I’m going to smell a little!” Anthony sheepishly replied.


“Smell a little?  Your stench is making me gag.  And it’s NOT because it’s hot. Nobody else on this entire jobsite smells like a Porta-John.  It’s because you’re not wearing deodorant, you animal!” Jake angrily responded.


“Of course I’m not wearing deodorant!  Every moron knows it causes cancer!” Anthony shrieked back as he took a long drag off his unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarette.


Jake got a crazy look in his eyes, began to turn red, and appeared to be about to have a major meltdown.  “Travis, this is total b*llsh*t! I can’t work under these conditions! Please force Ant to wear deodorant, or lay him off!”


Travis, the foreman, concerned that the situation was escalating, thoughtfully replied, “Well, gee, I don’t really know if I can force anyone to wear deodorant or lay them off for smelling badly.  This is really a question for John, the shop steward.” A shop steward is appointed by a labor union to represent the interests of his fellow tradesmen and interact with the company to resolve any potential contentious issues.


Jake stomped up to me, the veins bulging in his thick neck, and demanded, “John, what’s the deal here?  Can we force Anthony to wear deodorant? If he refuses, can Travis lay him off?”


I calmly replied, “Well, this is a tough one.  Ant, you really do smell absolutely awful. It’s not fair to force Jake to work anywhere near you.  Then again, I don’t think Travis can force you to put toxic chemicals on your skin. No job is worth getting cancer over.  But I think I may have a solution.”

Persuasive Advertising

Why We Wear Deodorant

If you’re living a “clean” lifestyle in which you dramatically reduce your exposure to dietary and environmental toxins, your sweat will be close to odorless.  When you stink like Anthony, it’s not your natural odor that is so repulsive, but toxins being expelled. Sweating is an important way for your body to eliminate these harmful toxins.  It supports proper immune function and helps prevent diseases related to toxic overload. If you don’t want your sweat to stink, reduce your toxic load and avoid certain foods.  

While most of us apply deodorant every morning, it is a relatively recent societal custom.  In fact, it wasn’t until the early to mid-1900s, less than 75 years ago, that people began regularly applying deodorant.  This daily activity is due in large part thanks to the efforts of a clever marketing man who created exploitative advertisements warning women that their armpits might be smell badly.[1]  The strategy of capitalizing upon female insecurities worked as is evidenced by the fact that Americans now spend $18 billion (yes, that’s BILLION) a year on deodorant and antiperspirant in a quest to cover up body odor and reduce sweating.[2]  As more and more people began to use deodorant, many resisted applying such products because they thought them to be unnecessary and unhealthy.  Maybe there were right…

Is Most Deodorant Harmful?

What’s In Your Deodorant?

Ever read the ingredients in your deodorant?  Take a look. Most of it will be unrecognizable, but you probably have enough common sense to know you wouldn’t want to ingest all those unpronounceable chemicals.  We’ve talked about how the skin is a great delivery system for drugs and toxic chemicals in the post Commonly Applied Toxic Beauty Products.  In that post I failed to mention that in some cases you actually would have been even better off drinking the toxic chemicals you are rubbing on your skin because if you swallowed them, your digestive system would have broken the toxins down, softening the effects of the chemicals during the metabolization process.  When you put them on your skin, especially if you have a nick or scratch, you are “main veining” the chemicals directly into your bloodstream.  Blood tests regularly prove that many of the substances found in deodorant penetrate your epidermis and wind up in your body, remaining there indefinitely.



Most deodorants/antiperspirants contain aluminum, which acts as a “plug” in your sweat ducts to reduce sweating.  Tinkering with natural processes, like sweating, is just about always fraught with risk. Research suggests aluminum may accumulate in breast tissue in women.  This is problematic for a number of reasons, as aluminum may cause alterations to DNA as well as epigenetic effects that could potentially support cancer development.[3]  Over 50% of breast cancers start in the upper outer quadrant of the breast local to the underarm region.[4]  While that’s certainly not proof aluminum is to blame, breast cancer incidences are correlated with use of products that contain the metal.  Especially if you shave under your arms, applying a product containing aluminum to that broken skin could be perilous.



Parabens, Phthalates, and Triclosan

Parabens are used as preservatives in deodorant and other personal care products. Research suggests some parabens may interfere with the way your body produces and regulates estrogen and other hormones, which may promote the growth of cancer cells.[5]  Research published in 2012 found one or more parabens in 99 percent of the 160 tissue samples collected from 40 mastectomies.[6]  This fact should get your attention!  


Like a rancid, lingering fart, phthalates help deodorant and other fragrances stick to your skin.  They are also an endocrine disruptor as they appear to disrupt the way your body produces and uses the hormone testosterone.  That’s bad, especially if you are a man who is attempting to build muscle. Research has also linked phthalates to impaired reproductive ability in men, lower IQs, and higher rates of asthma.[7]  Is this something you really want your kids putting on their skin everyday?  

Cosmetic manufacturers add triclosan to many products (toothpaste, soap, shaving cream, makeup, plastics) in order to prevent bacterial contamination and to kill bacteria on the surface of the skin.  It also happens to be a pesticide. Triclosan is so common that 75% of Americans have detectable levels of the stuff in their urine.[8]  In September 2016, triclosan was banned from soap products following the risk assessment by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).[9]  But guess what?  Though the FDA banned the use of triclosan in soap, it remains in many other products, including deodorant.  Do you smell a rat? The use of triclosan is linked to: abnormal endocrine system/thyroid hormone signaling, weakened immune system, allergies, asthma, eczema, uncontrolled cell growth (cancer), and developmental and reproductive toxicity.[10]  I cannot fathom why anyone would willingly put this chemical on their skin knowing these facts, especially when there are safe, cheap, effective alternatives!

Is Deodorant Carcinogenic?

The American Cancer Society says there is no “clear” or “direct” link between deodorant, aluminum, and cancer. The National Cancer Institute has a page concerning deodorant cancer risks that falls under the heading “Cancer Myths and Misconceptions” and pontificates that “more research is needed.”  One cannot help but wonder about the institutions receiving government subsidies charged with protecting and educating the uninformed.  Keep in mind that proving that this mixture of chemicals could cause or contribute to cancer is next to impossible.  Time magazine quotes Philippa Darbre, an oncologist, as eloquently saying, “Cancer is a complex multistage process, and its development can take many years.”[11]  If you’re going to wait for a definitive link before you ditch your deodorant or replace it with a safer alternative, you will be waiting awhile.  Smoking cigarettes still hasn’t been definitively proven to cause cancer.

Corporate Web

Media Silence

Even though the overwhelming majority of people load up on deodorant, Anthony has a point.  As we can see, deodorant may cause all sorts of health issues.   You may be thinking that if these chemicals were as dangerous as I suggest, it would be common knowledge and nobody would buy them; or the chemicals would be outlawed.  Well, why isn’t this common knowledge? It’s simple: because no mainstream corporate journalist or mainstream media outlet is ever going to touch that with a ten foot pole!  Why not? Just look at who the advertisers are? Make no mistake; advertisers are the paying customers of the media. If the station, newspaper, or magazine you work for has a handful of really important clients, are you going to run a story exposing them as psychopathic, greedy, murderers?  Would you ever risk damaging your client’s financial bottom line? Of course not! You know that if you did, you would lose either your client, your job, or both. If you want to rise in the company, then make the best customers happy. This is not some kind of wacky conspiracy theory. It is just the way the world works.  Nobody really talks about it though, aside from some academics like Noam Chomsky. Though, much to my surprise and glee, Elon Musk recently complained about it on Twitter here.

Aluminum and Parabens Free Deodorant


Anthony kept his job.  We worked out what I believe to be an equitable solution to the dilemma revolving around his stench and Jake’s refusal to work in close proximity with him.  The company agreed to pay for the same aluminum and parabens free deodorant I use and Anthony promised to wear it for six months out of the year. During the rest of the year, when it is cooler, Andrew would wear no deodorant at all.  I also encouraged Anthony to make an effort to quit smoking and reduce his toxic load so that he would not smell so awful.


Let’s face it: we’re surrounded by threats, many of them unseen, that are putting us at constant risk of seriously ill health.  But if we can remove potential threats easily, why wouldn’t we? Regular readers here at RMA are familiar with one of the site’s recurring themes of, “I don’t really know.”  If we don’t know that the typical mass marketed deodorant is safe, why would we use it? In fact, we do know most deodorants have chemicals that are demonstrably unsafe. So, yeah, the cancer society says there is no definitive link between deodorant or aluminum and cancer.  A better question would be, “Has aluminum, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan been proven to be safe to apply to the skin for a lifetime?” There is, no doubt, a compelling amount of evidence suggesting these chemicals individually and collectively cause problems and the use of them warrants caution.  Considering chemical antiperspirants and deodorants are an optional product, it may be a risk that’s simply not worth taking.  Furthermore, there are cheap alternatives without the chemicals. You can see a list of effective, safe, alternative deodorants here.  I wear a safer alternative and nobody has ever complained about the way I smell.  Regardless, body odor certainly isn’t dangerous; cancer, however, is.


  1. Bob Seitz

    Baking soda works great. It’s odorless, and it keeps you odorless. I keep it on the bathroom sink in a grated-cheese shaker.

    1. Post

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