The Antiperspirant Debate

Most people do not particularly enjoy sweat, especially if there is an odour to it.

Did you know that human sweat is odourless? Any foul smell is produced by bacteria on the skin.

It isn’t the first time I’ve said this and it won’t be the last: we are mostly bugs! In fact, we have BILLIONS of bacteria living in EACH armpit. (I’m suddenly itchy, are you?)

When we sweat, bacteria on the surface of our skin breakdown proteins in the sweat and release an odour as a bi-product.

All this is completely normal, however most of us spend at least a portion of every day trying to prevent body odour—showering with pleasant smelling soaps and body washes, applying deodorants or antiperspirants regularly, and using scented lotions and perfumes to avoid any trace of stink.

The downside to smelling good is that many conventional body products contain chemicals that aren’t that great for you.

Antiperspirants that contain aluminum salts create plugs that prevent or decrease sweating. Less sweat on the skin means less for bacteria to work on and therefore, less odour. Deodorants and other fragrant body products work by providing a nice smell to mask other not so nice smells.

The point is, sweating is a healthy, natural response to exercise, stress, and other triggers. Using products that block this process might not be the best choice.  But, unless you live alone at the top of a tower with very little human interaction, I bet you’d prefer not to smell like a hockey team’s locker room.

So what are our options?

  1. Manage your stress. Stress can often trigger sweating and also increases apocrine secretions, which tend to be smellier. If you suffer from anxiety or have performance stress, consider speaking with a naturopathic doctor to help calm your response.
  2. Consider reducing your use of conventional antiperspirants . Use them only for times you cannot go without – like maybe for a work presentation, giving a speech at a wedding, or working out with friends (at least if you want to keep them).
  3. Try using natural deodorants. There are lots of great options available. These products work by reducing the amount of bacteria, absorbing odour, and providing natural fragrance to mask it. I really like Sola’s Coconut Deodorant and Weleda has some great spray options as well.
  4. Use essential oils! Many oils not only smell great but have anti-bacterial properties as well. Keep it simple by making a spray or using a roll on (which you can throw in your pocket for touch ups during the day). There is some evidence that using peppermint oil orally can influence not only breath odour but body odour as well.
  5. Support your detoxification pathways. (You knew this was coming, right?) If you notice a change in body odour, it can be a sign that your detox systems need some help. If it is coupled with other signs of toxicity (fatigue, brain fog, skin reactions, headaches, etc) you may want to consider discussing a detox plan with your naturopathic doctor.

Some people sweat and stink more than others, so not all of these suggestions are for everyone. There are also a few medical conditions that can alter a person’s body odour, including diabetes, cancer, and infections. These conditions are outside the scope of this article, except to say, if you notice a change and cannot explain it, talk to your doctor! (As a side note: researchers are currently training dogs to pick up on these odours as part of early detection programs! Science rocks.)


Published by melissablake.nd

Naturopathic Doctor

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