Yesterday I wrote about how bras impact your breast health. Today is a continuation of breast health, but with an emphasis on something very “near and dear” to your breasts: deoderant and antiperspirant.
Deoderant and antiperspirant look the same, but deoderant covers up body odor from sweat, while antiperspirant prevents you from sweating at all, thus eliminating any source of odor. Both, however, are usually scented–and not just the “shower fresh” or “gardenia and aloe” ones; even “unscented” varities contain fragarance, which contains phthaltes and other great estrogen-mimicking carcinogens. As I talked about in this term paper, estrogen-mimicking compounds have been determined to be a significant contributor to breast cancer development. And of course, deoderant and antiperspirant are applied directly next to the breasts, and these compounds can be absorbed through the skin and stored in the fatty tissue of the breasts.
Antiperspirant keeps you from sweating by plugging the sweat glands under your arms with aluminum. That does not sound very natural to me! And of course, it isn’t.
The aluminum in antiperspirant presents several problems for breast health, and health over all.
Aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment, as it is one of the most common metals on the face of the Earth. Most exposure to aluminum comes from drinking water and pharmaceuticals–and antiperspirant is actually considered an over the counter pharmaceutical. Different research will tell you different things, but it appears that aluminum is more easily absorbed through the skin than through the gastrointestinal tract. Of course, every little bit adds up, and I still love my reverse osmosis water filter, but perhaps the bigger concern should be wearing antiperspirant, not wrapping your banana bread in aluminum foil.
Aluminum is a problem because exposure to too much aluminum has been shown to have profound health effects. People with Alzheimers have very high levels of aluminum in their bodies. I won’t get into it here, but a plausible connection is also being drawn between exposure to persistent metals and autism and ADHD.
Rigorous scientific studies have linked length of exposure to antiperspirants to the probability of developing breast cancer. Girls who start using antiperspirant a younger age have a higher chance of developing breast cancer later in life. The aluminum in antiperspirant does two things to influence tumor growth. First, aluminum is a known DNA disruptor; and whacked out DNA is what causes cell growth rates to go from normal to cancerous. Second, the form of aluminum found in antiperspirants can be estrogen-mimicking, thus contributing to breast cancer development (see link above to my term paper). If you are interested in more, I recommend this website.
Although I was not able to easily find information to back this up, I think there is a third reason that antiperspirant is bad for breast health. Sweating, like urinating, is a method of waste excretion. There is a reason your body is trying to get rid of this wate: it isn’t good for you! When you literally block your body’s ability to excrete wastes, toxins build up in surrounding tissue and your entire body. As most of us are acutely aware, our underarms are a major place for sweating, and therefore, getting rid of waste. It makes sense to me that by preventing the waste from leaving the body at that site, you cause it to get a bit backed up near your breasts, where the toxins sit around and have a higher chance of being abosrbed into surrounding breast tissue. Just a thought.
Sweating is a great thing: it helps to cool us off and maintain a constant body temperature via the process called homeostasis. The fluid itself does not smell. Sweat does, however, provide a moist, warm environment for the bacteria on your skin to flourish in and on, and these microbes are what produce a smell as they excrete gases and other metabolic wastes.
But what are you supposed to do? Sweating does, admittedly, cause stinky body odor. This is not pleasant to be around, nor is it socially acceptable in modern day America. If you want to avoid smell, but avoid what is essentially poison in deoderants and antiperspirants, there are now lots of options.
You can make your own deoderant. My friend Michelle does this; her recipe is on her blog. You can buy a natural deoderant from a health foods store. I have not personally tried of any of these. I would make sure to read the ingredient list very, very carefully to check for fragarances and other hidden things, but at least some of them must work, or the companies would go out of business.
My favorite option is the Thai Crystal deoderant stone. I paid $4 for the golf ball sized stone, and it lasts a really, really, really long time. Like, years. And still works great. You pour a tiny bit of water on it, rub it under your armpits, let it dry (just like you have to let normal deoderant dry) and then continue on with your day. I do reapply it once or twice a day during the summer down here in FL since simply walking t0 the end of my driveway to get the mail is a sweat-inducing activity. The deoderant stone works by suppressing the bacteria growth on your skin–remember, that is what causes body odor, not sweat itself.
In order to be completely honest, I will admit that I just recently bought a fragarance free antiperspirant. Although I have gotten used to dampness on my shirts, there are just times and places that I don’t want to have to worry about “pitting out.” I was happy to find fragarance free antiperspirant at my local grocery store, because I figure that I’m eliminating one of the problems of antiperspirant. I certainly do not use it every day, and maybe that is a really good approach, too. On days when it really matters how you look, use a fragarance free antiperspirant. On days that you are just going to be around the house or with friends, and not wearing a grey shirt, use a natural form of deoderant. Every little bit that you reduce your exposure to fragarances and aluminum makes your breasts a little bit healthier!