There are a select number of products that we use on a daily basis. One of those items, for most people, is deodorant. As part of the basic hygiene routine, it’s important to know what is actually in this product. More importantly to some, how can this product actually affect one’s fertility health and ability to conceive?
To answer this, we need to look at what’s in the product. Just like with everything we consume or apply, ingredients do matter.
How can deodorant affect fertility?
Phthalates are added to make fragrance stick to skin. They can be listed as DBP, DEP, DEHP, etc and are known endocrine disruptors. They act as estrogen in the body and have been linked to other conditions such as infertility, endometriosis, and decreased sperm count. It’s not just reproductive concerns either. They’ve been found to cause concern during sensitive times of gestational and infant development as well.
Animal and human models have demonstrated that increasing exposure to phthalates, particularly metabolites of di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and DEHP, can disrupt the development of male reproductive organs (Moore et al., 2001; Nassar et al., 2010; Ormond et al., 2009; Parks et al., 2000; Swan, 2006; Thomas et al., 1982). Postnatal exposure to phthalates has also been associated with health effects. Phthalate metabolites in breast milk have been associated with neonatal hormone levels (Main et al., 2006). Additionally, adult exposures have been associated with adverse impacts on male reproductive health (Duty et al., 2003; Hauser et al., 2006; Hauser et al., 2007; Meeker et al., 2009). (Source)
Parabens are preservatives added to products to help prevent the growth of bacteria and extend shelf life. The most common parabens are methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Found in many self care products, parabens artificially mimic estrogens in the body, and have been linked to potential fertility issues, birth defects, and even possibly cancer of the reproductive organs.
Aluminum is typically the lead active ingredient in conventional deodorant. It is what is responsible for the “antiperspirant” portion of the product. Aluminum acts by blocking the sweat glands and reducing the sweat that is actually released. Health risks associated with aluminum have included Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer, but more recent research also includes reduced male sperm count and quality.
When you see the word “fragrance” on a list of ingredients, there’s no telling what it actually is. This ingredient is best avoided whenever possible. According to Beautycounter’s Never List, fragrance is
“an engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed.”
What are endocrine disruptors and how do they work?
The endocrine system is what controls different aspects of the body through the help of hormones. Involved in this system are organs such as the adrenal glands, the thyroid, and the reproductive organs. These organs secrete specific hormones to help systems function properly. In order for that to work, the cells that are intended to receive those hormones need to be able to bind to, or receive, the hormone. Endocrine disruptors are exactly what they sound like. They are chemicals that disrupt this natural process by mimicking hormones in the body. The chemical will bind to the cell’s receptor site and therefore block the true hormone from doing so. As a result, the signal that normally would’ve been sent with reception of the hormone fails to occur and the body can’t properly respond. So in terms of fertility health and the presence of endocrine distruptors, the body wouldn’t be able to respond to hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone properly.
Make your own deodorant
There are many recipes out there using very simple ingredients. Here’s a recipe from Wellness Mama with just 3-5 ingredients.
Start using a pre-made natural deodorant
With any natural deodorant, DIY or pre-made, these options can be a bit daunting as others share their experiences. It’s said that they don’t work because the person ends up stinking or sweating like crazy when they make the switch. There are a few things to consider here.
Sweating – When your pits suddenly stop being clogged with the aluminum from the regular deodorant, your body needs time to adjust to that change. Sweating is a natural process, and that clogging that has occurred consistently for however many years changes how the body tries to make it happen. It’s kind of in constant overdrive, but the aluminum blocks it. So when the aluminum is suddenly missing, the overdrive still happens for a while, but adjustment will occur. For most people it takes about 2 weeks. Just remember the extra sweat is temporary and your body will thank you.
Bacteria – Typically the odor that accompanies sweating is not necessarily from the sweat itself, but from unwelcome bacteria thriving in a moist environment. The toxins from deodorant throw off the natural microbiome of the pits but are able to mask that odor and stop the sweating. So when the toxins are taken away, things are kind of out of whack for a while, and sometimes a bit smelly. A good rule of thumb, particularly during this adjustment period is to wash your armpits thoroughly and often, possibly multiple times during the day. Another helpful option would be to introduce healthy bacteria to rebalance the microbiome with the help of a spray, like this one by MotherDirt.
Consider a detox – Some people find it helpful to lean on a pit detox to speed up the adjustment process. For this, we can return to Wellness Mama for guidance.
Diet – If you’re following a diet full of processed foods, it can affect the natural body odor. Foods like caffeine, alcohol, and damaged oils can cause an unpleasant odor. Fortunately, avoiding these foods are also in favor in fertility. Others such as garlic and onion can also have an impact on the odor so use those sparingly while adjusting.
Here are my favorite brands for natural deodorant
Primally Pure – I love the lavender one. They also offer a sensitive version if you tend to react to baking soda.
Primal Life Organics – Again lavender, but they also have a charcoal version to help with pit detox. They also just came out with an improved formula that’s now available as well.
Schmidt’s – I have been using the Charcoal & Magnesium stick, which smells like rain to me and it’s lovely. I just recently got the holiday spice stick and it’s as amazing as it sounds. Update Dec 14, 2017: I’m sad to say Schmidt’s Naturals is now owned by Unilever, who owns brands like Ben & Jerry’s and VO5 Shampoo, and this is no longer a brand I can support or recommend.
It’s interesting how everything is connected in the body, but it’s unfortunate how our modern day lifestyles are doing damage to it. These effects, though, don’t happen in a day. As deodorant is something that is applied repeatedly, daily, and is left on the skin rather than wiped off, the ingredients are left to build up over time. If you’re considering making the switch to more natural self-care products, particularly for the sake of fertility, and are overwhelmed, starting with deodorant is a great first step.
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