No one likes to smell bad, but we all perspire in hot weather during the summer, during physical exertion and sometimes during illness, which may lead to body odor. Perspiration is the body’s way of regulating its temperature and excreting toxins. Deodorant and antiperspirant products that use aluminum to prevent underarm perspiration interfere with an important and necessary bodily function. Witch hazel is a safe, natural alternative to deodorants with aluminum and other chemicals.
Photo by Fotolia/Linda Macpherson
Most deodorants’ main ingredients are aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, or aluminum salts. Although considered safe by many authorities, recent research on aluminum’s effects on the body is investigating elevated estrogen levels and links to breast cancer. There is circumstantial evidence linking aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease that has not been proven. Warnings on deodorants include “do not use on broken skin,” “stop use if rash or irritation occurs,” and “ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease.” Other ingredients in deodorants include denatured alcohol, propylene glycol, cyclopentasiloxane, and, in the case of aerosol deodrants, hydrofluorocarbons.
Propylene glycol is in almost any commercial personal care product. It’s a chemical penetration enhancer that allows chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and enables them to reach the blood stream quickly. It’s linked to a host of maladies including cancer, developmental disorders, allergies and endocrine disruption, and is in many chemical ingredients, including methylethy glycol, propanediol, hydroxypropanol and dihydroxypropane. Cyclopentasiloxane is a chemical based on silicon and is an agent used in personal care products to impart shine and to dry quickly after application. It is very closely related to the material in silicon breast implants. While it is listed as a safe chemical for personal care products, it is also listed second on the Cosmetic Industry Review panel’s priority list. If using these chemicals on the sensitive skin under your arms causes you any concern, you may want to consider using witch hazel instead.
Witch hazel is a clear liquid distillate derived from steaming the twigs of the North American Witch Hazel shrub, Hamamelis virginiana. It has many beneficial natural ingredients, including tannins, flavonoids, saponins, choline, gallic acid and bitters. It has antibacterial properties and is a superb astringent, removing excess oil and moisture and constricting tissue to which it is applied. It is a good treatment and toner for oily facial skin. These same properties make it a good deodorant when applied to the underarm area. To use it instead of your regular stick or aerosol deodorant, pour a generous amount onto a large cotton pad and dab liberally under arms, letting it dry before dressing. For those with thick underarm hair, using witch hazel in a spray bottle to thoroughly penetrate hair and reach the skin may be necessary for effective odor control.
If you’d prefer a scented odor control, mix 3 tablespoons of vodka, 6 drops of essential oil of lavender, 8 drops of essential oil of cypress, 4 drops of essential oil of neroli and shake well, then add 1/2 cup of witch hazel and 1/4 cup of rose water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle for daily use.
Witch hazel is an effective and economical natural alternative to aluminum-based deodorants that may irritate sensitive underarm skin and allow metals and chemicals to be absorbed into your system.