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What Happens When You Stop Wearing Deodorant?

I Went Deodorant-Free For 3 Months — Here's Why You Should, Too

OK, let's get this straight for a second — I sweat.

Like, a lot.

I don't understand how some people step out of SoulCycle with the perfect glow and dry hair, needing only to trade their yoga pants for jeans to hit happy hour. I, on the other hand, usually emerge from the studio looking like I took a plunge in the pool.

(Yes — that's me above, braids soaked, ready to wring out my shirt post-Spin.)

So why would someone like me choose to forego deodorant for three months? Well, let's take a look at the little block of fine print on the bottle, my friends: the ingredients.

After being diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) at age 14, I've become hyperaware of endocrine disruptors hiding out not only in what we eat, but in what we put on our bodies. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may mess with our hormones often by mimicking estrogen, which upsets the delicate balance of our bodies. This upset is linked to cancer, birth defects, and developmental disorders. Having PCOS already knocked off my estrogen to testosterone ratio, which meant I needed to focus on even more ways to keep my body in check.

When my doctor first talked to me about switching to natural deodorant, I scoffed. There's just no way a spritz of lavender or swipe of salt crystal was going to calm the madness that was my post-Pilates armpit. But when we began to dive into my stick's ingredients and how toxic they potentially are, I decided to make the switch.

Our skin is one massive, very absorbent organ. Research has shown many compounds in deodorant can make their way through our skin and get stored in fat cells, which are prevalent in the underarm area — which also happens to be the home to many hormone receptors. While research is currently inconclusive about the direct link between the chemicals in deodorant and cancer, studies continue due to alarming apparent connections. In order to make a decision to see if quitting deodorant is right for you, it's important to know how it all works.

The Deal With Antiperspirants

Aluminum compounds, the main active component of many antiperspirants, act as a temporary plug in your sweat glands to prevent those underarm spots we all despise. But because of how absorbent and delicate this area of our skin is, we must be on the lookout for what we're putting there.

Aluminum, parabens, phthalates, and even fragrance are just four ingredients to keep your eyes out for on your deodorants and body projects in general, according to Philippa Darbre, an oncologist at University of Reading in the UK. These compounds may have some connections between higher rates of breast cancer, lower IQs, higher rates of asthma, skin sensitivities, and more. Though research is inconclusive, ongoing studies continue to address the toxicity of these compounds and their potential harm to our bodies.

How My Body Reacted

If you're thinking of making the switch, be prepared for a bodily transitional period. I won't lie — the first couple of weeks after I stopped my deodorant left me feeling less than fresh. Like I said, I am a sweaty person. At first I felt like I was always soaking through my shirt, even when I wasn't coming from a workout.

My doctor reminded me sweat itself isn't where odor comes from. When sweat mixes with the bacteria present on your skin, there's a chance good ol' BO may come to play. As the day wore on, I did find myself needing to do a quick wipe-down or spray on a burst of natural deodorant so I didn't entirely repulse my coworkers.

After two or so weeks, the excess perspiring began to dissipate. In fact, I found I sweat even less! Sure, my workouts still made me appear as though I swam a mile in the Pacific — but the telltale armpit circles that usually appeared before big meetings or when my workload grew too big virtually disappeared, and along with it, any lingering BO issues.

Natural Deodorant Options

Let's be honest — some days we need a little something extra to keep us feeling fresh. When I moved to Hawaii, the change in humidity and temperature from San Francisco left me smelling a little funky for the first few weeks. My bestie hooked me on EO lavender deodorant spray made with pure lavender oil. It kills odors and leaves behind a stress-relieving scent, like deodorant and aromatherapy all in one.

With a little patience — and OK, maybe a few more showers — I discovered it is possible to wean your body off of the chemical antiperspirants.

Another go-to that has worked for me is Crystal Body Deodorant Roll-On. It rolls on easily, has no smell of its own, and doesn't leave any residue behind. These natural stink-slayers work by forming a protective layer on your skin to keep away odor-causing bacteria. I keep a bottle in my bag so I'm always prepared for long hikes, a hot day on the beach, or my killer Megaformer classes.

Remember, always read the ingredients when selecting a chemical-free deodorant. The word "natural" is not regulated by the FDA, so it appears on many packages as a marketing ploy to look healthier for you than it really is. Even some of the "natural" salt crystal deodorants still contain aluminum!

Get Sweaty, Naturally

I'm imagining you wouldn't down a cup of chemicals that may or may not cause cancer, would you? Then why do we continue to put them on our skin? With a little patience, I discovered it is possible to wean your body off of the chemical antiperspirants. I rarely notice issues with excess perspiration or stinky pits, even after my heavy workouts. It's time we really take notice of what we're putting on our bodies just as much as we care about what we put in them. Treat your epidermis well and it'll keep you healthy and glowing for years to come.

Image Source: Avery Johnson
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