In almost every one of our Girlology Live programs, when we're talking about hygiene, moms ask about deodorant. Specifically, they want to know if “natural” deodorants are safer or healthier for their daughters.
🙋🏽♀️ Is “natural” always better? (No, I’ll explain)
🙋🏻♀️ What chemicals should I avoid? (The research may surprise you)
🙋♀️ How do we balance harmful exposures versus keeping her comfortable and confident?
When it comes to managing sweat and body odor in growing girls, there are 4 things I like to share with concerned moms. I’ll never tell you what to buy, but I will share what I know from science and medicine. With these facts in hand, YOU can make the choice that’s best for your family — which is ultimately what we all have to do, right?
1️⃣ Soap & deodorant reduce stink. Anti-perspirant reduces sweat. 😅
Our body has sweat glands on nearly every skin surface, but we get “sweatiest” in areas where there is less “ventilation,” more hair, and thus more bacteria (armpits, groin creases, feet). Body odor is caused by bacteria digesting that sweat plus oils to release the scent we call “body odor.” The relationship between sweat + body odor is the reason most people choose deodorant with antiperspirant.
Why both? The active ingredient in antiperspirants is an Aluminum compound that reacts with water from sweat to form a plug that physically blocks sweat glands wherever the product has been applied. Less sweat in bacteria-heavy areas = less body odor. Deodorant works by either absorbing odors or preventing skin bacteria from digesting sweat and oils, but it doesn’t do anything to the volume of sweat.
2️⃣ Aluminum does not worry me, but other chemicals do. 🙀
Aluminum is the main ingredient left out of “natural” deodorants. It got a bad rap many years ago with some unsubstantiated claims that it was linked to Alzheimer's Disease and possibly breast cancer. Nope and nope. There is no such link – never has been, even after extensive research into the possibility of each.
But I understand the mom-worry. For my own daughters, I definitely like to steer clear of products that contain chemicals we recognize as “endocrine disruptors.” These chemicals can act like hormones in the body to alter the way our natural hormones work – especially reproductive hormones.
There are many known endocrine disruptors, but when it comes to deodorants (and many other personal care products), one of the biggest offenders is artificial fragrances. If you see the generic term “fragrance” as a listed ingredient, you may want to look for something else (preferably “fragrance-free,” not just “unscented” because that can mean it has fragrances to cover-up other fragrances).
Parabens are another endocrine disruptor, but most deodorants no longer contain them.
3️⃣ She will never sweat more than during puberty and adolescence. 💦
She also may never be as self-conscious as she is during puberty. That might mean that helping her reduce sweating and pit stains becomes the priority. Life is a balance. Based on mental health and scientific research, there are more harmful long term effects from bullying and extreme self-consciousness than anything we know about antiperspirant.
4️⃣ Capitalism is capitalism. 💸
The “natural” product industry uses the same marketing tactics as large corporations to get you to spend your money on their (often more expensive) products. Natural or not, be a wise consumer. If a company makes claims that sound too-good-to-be-true OR that create fear or shame for you, don’t accept that! You deserve better. Instead, let it raise a red flag to dig deeper and look to trusted science, not media-hype, for guidance. We’re always here to help you Know MORE & worry LESS.
Did you know Girlology has grade-by-grade video on demand playlists to support her and you — on topics like this and lots others? Learn More