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Antiperspirant Health Hazards

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  • You've likely suspected antiperspirant isn't all that good for you, but do you know what exactly poses a threat to your health? Here's a look at some of the ingredients found in antiperspirant and why you might want to seek a safer alternative, at least part of the time.

    Aluminum

    The active ingredient in nearly all antiperspirants is an aluminum compound, usually aluminum chloride, AlCl3. You encounter aluminum everyday in cans and foil. As a pure metal it still isn't good for you, but as a salt in antiperspirant it is better-able to participate in biochemical reactions. Aluminum acts as a neurotoxin and has been implicated in a number of health issues.

    Penetration Enhancers

    Ingredients such as propylene glycol and disodium EDTA help other ingredients travel deeper into the skin, making the antiperspirant more effective. While penetration enhancers tend not to be toxic, they increase your exposure to the other chemicals in the product.

    Triclosan

    Triclosan is an antibactial agent that is absorbed through the skin into the body. While you might want your antiperspirant to be antibacterial because bacteria produce odor, you probably don't want the negative health effects associated with Triclosan exposure, plus the antibacterial agent promotes the development of resistant strains of bacteria.

    BHT

    BHT is a preservative that has been associated with nervous system effects, among other health concerns. This chemical is not found in all antiperspirants, so it is easier to avoid than aluminum or penetration enhancers.

    Fragrance

    Most fragrances are potentially toxic synthetic chemicals. The biggest problem with fragrance is that the exact chemicals used to create the characteristic scent of a product are not disclosed so you don't even know what the ingredients are. Fragrances may cause headaches and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

    Safer Alternatives

    So... if you want to avoid some or all of these chemicals yet remain welcome in polite society, what are your options? You can seek antiperspirants which contain fewer of the offending chemicals (e.g., unscented, without antibacterials) or use a deodorant part of the time rather than an antiperspirant.

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