If you’re a health nut like me you probably see a ton of articles out there promoting psuedo-scientific advice on how to treat or avoid illnesses. I’ll be the first one to question some of these claims (oil pulling being one of the most recent health fads circulating the interweb). However, I do think there is some advice that you just can’t go wrong following: the less toxic chemicals we are exposed to, the better.
It’s estimated that over 80,000 chemicals are in use today in the United States, the vast majority of which have not been tested for safety. The American government registers an average of 2,000 newly synthesized chemicals each year. With so many chemicals being added every single year, it’s physically impossible for governmental departments that are understaffed and underfunded to adequately research and examine health and safety concerns for every single product. Of those few that are studied, research focuses on short term, high-quantity exposure, often ignoring long term effects of continued exposure or the health consequences of exposure to the smorgasbord of chemical combinations out there in the real world (rather than the one, isolated chemical in the laboratory petri dish).
Cosmetics are made from at least 5,000 different chemicals; more than 3,200 are added to food. As many as 1,010 chemicals are used in the production of 11,700 consumer products, and about 500 chemicals are used as active ingredients in pesticides, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. In fact, even furniture as innocuous as your couch is chock full of chemicals. Scared yet? Yeah, me too. (Welcome to America and the brave new world!)
While we can be exposed to these chemicals through contaminated water, the food chain, air pollution, household products, or even our couches, one of the most common ways we are exposed is actually through body products. In case you didn’t know, our skin is porous, meaning that it’s possible for us not only to sweat out water, minerals, and the like from our pores, but also for things to be absorbed into our bodies through our skin, a process called skin absorption. Skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and according to National Geographic the average adult has about eight pounds, or about 22 square feet of skin. Compare this to a standard doorway at 21 square feet, and the average adult’s skin would fill all of that space.
Since both men and women use body products full of chemicals on their skin nearly every day, that’s a lot of chemicals entering into our bodies. Women are at higher risk, since they often use more of these products than men: women use an average of nine personal care products each day, exposing themselves to a mixture of over 100 individual chemicals. All the toxins that we’re exposed to eventually become part of our body burden, the total amount of these chemicals present in the human body at a given point in time.
There’s a whole slew of reasons why this situation is a recipe for disaster, and I won’t get into all of them here. But what I’d like to focus on here is a part of the body, and our skin, that is often ignored: the armpit and our use of deodorants.
Most commercial deodorants, including the Dove one included in the humorous video above, are antiperspirants that rely on an aluminum base and parabens (chemicals used as preservatives), along with other harsh and toxic substances such as solvents and some fragrances. Aluminum compounds are easily absorbed through the skin and have been associated with higher risks of Alzheimer’s, seizures, kidney problems, and bone formation disorders. There is also evidence that these chemicals are associated with higher rates of breast cancer.
While there is some speculation as to whether these studies are true, given how little research is actually being done on chemicals in the US or the long-term effects of continued exposure to chemical combinations, I think it’s a safe bet to assume that more chemicals equals worse health. So one of the best things you can do for your health is to avoid commercial deodorants that contain any form of aluminum or parabens.
Making the switch from a commercial deodorant to an aluminum-free, all natural version can be a bit daunting since there are a number of great options out there and the consequences of trying out different products can be, let’s face it, smelly. Nothing is worse than trying a new deodorant and realizing halfway through a work day that the product is just not the right fit for you. (Trust me! I’ve been there.)
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my all-time favorite company for aluminum-free deodorant: Jungleman Naturals. I tried some other (more well-known) natural products that just didn’t live up to their reputation before happening upon this one. I’ve been using their deodorants ever since, and have even converted my boyfriend (who works as a restaurant manager, so you can imagine how awesome this product is if it can last through his workday). I’ve tried several different versions of their original deodorant, all of which are great, but my favorite is the Junglemint:
You can buy their products on their website: http://www.junglemannaturals.com/, or through amazon.com. Trust me, you won’t regret it! If you do try to go for a different company/brand, I’d suggest reading some reviews before buying, and having a back-up, reliable deodorant on hand until you’re sure your new one is a good fit for you. Keep in mind, it takes your body a few days to adjust to the change so you won’t be able to tell immediately how effective the new deodorant will be. Make sure to try it for a few days (maybe applying two times a day or as needed) until your body transitions to the new (and healthier) version. If, after a few days, it still isn’t working for you chances are it’s not a good fit and you’ll want to try a different brand.