Good Things Come To Those Who Sweat.

Come On Let’s Sweat!

Remember the old ads where a man or woman attracts a partner just by spraying anti-perspirant across his or her body. Not just under the armpit, but a full sweeping spray motion. These ads imply that a good dose of deodorant is what you need to stop stinking, stop sweating and find love. But just as we are starting to understand the ramifications from using perfume with a bucket load of ‘not so great’ ingredients, we are also looking at our armpits in much the same way. When and why did we start thinking sweat was so bad for us?

Why Do We Sweat?

The Better Health Channel gives us a breakdown of why sweat is important. Sweat is produced by glands in the deeper layer of the skin called the dermis. Sweat glands occur all over the body, but mainly on our forehead, armpits, palms, and the soles of our feet. Sweat is made up of water, but it also contains some salts. Our bodies begin to sweat when we heat up, often due to exercise, anxiety, fright, fever, spicy food, or environmental factors. Sweat acts to control our raised temperature, by cooling our skin as the water in our sweat evaporates. So sweat is good yeah!! The issue with sweat is that it creates warm damp conditions for bacteria to thrive. This bacteria in turn can cause that waft of stench we call B.O. And it’s this body odour that gets us all spraying, rolling, swiping and dabbing, to keep our armpits under control.

What Is Hyperhydrosis?

The issue for some (about 2% of the population) is a medical condition called Hyperhydrosis where excessive sweating occurs. People affected often need to change clothes several times a day, have constantly sweaty palms, have difficulty holding items like pens, and can have really damp, smelly feet, that ultimately lead to other skin conditions. Untreated this can have a huge impact on their relationships and mental health. It is best to see a Dermatologist or GP for treatment if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Botox injections can be used to treat excessive sweating. Botox disables the nerves responsible for activating sweat glands in your armpits, hands and feet. Unfortunately this can be expensive, and temporary, so potentially not for everyone.

The Difference Between Deodorant And Antiperspirant.

Deodorant contains antibacterial ingredients that help reduce odour causing bacteria, absorb moisture, and may contain natural or synthetic fragrance to promote freshness and hide any smell. Whereas an antiperspirant contains Aluminium Salts (commonly Aluminium Chlorohydrate), that reduces sweating by blocking pores temporarily, and may contain natural or synthetic fragrance to hide odours. In a nutshell, deodorant allows you to sweat and targets bacteria, whilst an antiperspirant blocks pores temporarily to reduce sweating.

Where Did Deodorant Come From?

The first patents for deodorants were filed in the 1860’s when sanitising agents such as ammonium chloride, and sodium bicarbonate were discovered. The first trademarked deodorant in the U.S. was Mum in 1888, whilst the first trademarked antiperspirant was Ever­dry in 1903. These initial products began as pastes that you applied out of a jar. So, we have well over 100 years of history with these products. But are we using them out of tradition or out of necessity?

An article by Sarah Everts of Smithsonian Mag, delves into the story of Edna Murphey, an early entrepreneur, who’s father was a Surgeon. Edna discovered her father’s antiperspirant, used to stop his hands from sweating during surgery, also stopped the wetness and smell from her armpits. They realised they were on to something and manufactured their first product, called Odorono. But initially they had problems convincing people to buy their product. During the late 1800’s, people preferred to wash more regularly and use perfume instead.

Discussing body fluids in the late 1800’s was also frowned upon and people were unsure whether stopping sweat was good practice. Some people who tried Odorono complained that it caused armpit irritation and stained their clothes. Echoing some of the common problems we still have over 120 years later!

This changed around 1919, when advertising got savvy, and suggested our sweat was socially unacceptable. The ads implied you would be hugely unpopular, and remain single, should you not take care of your woeful armpits. Sales boomed. This emotional marketing tactic has since been the drive of many an advertising campaign since.

What Ingredients Are In Antiperspirant Or Deodorant?

Ingredients you might find in deodorant and antiperspirant include alcohol, antimicrobials, conditioner, moisturiser, fragrance, parabens, propellants amongst others. Typically, you might find some of the following ingredients in the old school variety.

  • Butane, Isobutane and Propane - highly flammable gas that also comes with a danger warning on the can. Helps to propel the product out of the can.

  • Fragrance/Perfume - any natural or synthetic chemicals on the International Fragrance Association list that make up the scent of the product (any mix of the 3000 or so).

  • Aluminium Chlorohydrate - an Aluminium salt used to block the sweat ducts and prevent sweating. With limited evidence regarding a link to breast cancer, studies continue to monitor for links to alzheimers and endocrine disruption.

  • Propylene Glycol - a small organic alcohol used as a skin conditioning agent, that is a known skin, eye and lung irritant.

  • Phthalates – potential endocrine disruptors (such as DEHP).

The Future Of Antiperspirants And Deodorants.

The deodorant and antiperspirant global market is estimated to be worth approximately $64 billion by 2024. That’s a SERIOUS amount of money that a lot of companies are quick to protect. Stopping sweat is big business, and marketing will continue to try and convince us that this is what we should do. And if you sweat excessively or simply choose to sweat less, then that’s ok. But if you’re looking for a product with less chemicals, then the new breed of deodorants might be for you. Let go of any previous misconceptions of this being only for the hippy community. These are the real deal.

Our desire for cleaner living has brought about formulations with safer ingredients, that allow you to sweat a little, are effective, and still provide freshness to your beloved armpits. I’ll be honest and say I tried about seven natural deodorants before I found two that actually worked for me. Some formula’s were too hard and hurt on application. Others sticky to apply or left stripes in my armpits. Some needed reapplying after 3-4 hours and didn’t stand up against a workout, or left a funky smell. Eco packaging has become very important in consumer choice as well, with eco tubes and tins taking over from plastic. My deodorants work so well that I’m converted and never going back!

Ingredients In Natural Deodorant.

Not all ingredients or concentrations are created equal. If you are concerned about potential skin sensitivities, then check a small amount on your arm before applying any new product. Typically natural formulations aim for organic, plant based ingredients wherever possible. Here are some common ingredients you might find in a natural formula.

  • Baking Soda - often used as it neutralises odours and helps absorb moisture. High concentrations of bicarb can irritate some people. Look for a lower pH level so that it is close to the natural pH of the skin to help prevent irritation.

  • Kaolin Clay - easily absorbs oil and moisture so naturally popular as a deodorant ingredient. Kaolin Clay is said to offer detoxifying properties as well.

  • Essential Oils - essential oils like tea tree oil, are chosen for their antibacterial properties and help eliminate bacteria causing odour. Others are chosen for the scent that they provide.

  • Coconut Oil - offers antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to a deodorant formula.

  • Corn starch - is used to help absorb sweat and is often interchanged with arrowroot or tapioca starch.

  • Zinc Oxide - non-nano zinc offers mild antiperspirant properties.

  • Shea Butter - extracted from the African Shea Tree nut, Shea butter is widely used in the beauty industry for it’s fatty acid profile and moisturising properties.

Do You Need An Armpit Detox?

Personally, I didn’t do an armpit detox. It is suggested to do a detox to transition to a natural deodorant. There are plenty of articles explaining reasons why it’s a great idea and others that suggest it’s all a myth. The choice is yours. An article I read explains people detox to remove the buildup of antiperspirant/deodorant, remove toxins, make the natural deodorant more effective, reduce irritation, and to eliminate odour.

The article points out potential issues with these ideas too. That the initial odour experienced may be from an imbalance of bacteria types. That soap and water may be just as beneficial as the Armpit Detox Mask. That the liver and kidneys do the main detoxing of the body, and that deep toxins may not get pulled out by clay. Redness or irritation may also occur from an ingredient in natural deodorant. Important side Note, avoid putting any deodorant or antiperspirant on broken skin! Like immediately after shaving or waxing. This is likely to sting, the ingredients more likely to absorb into the skin and hence cause the irritation we want to avoid.

How Do I Make A DIY Armpit Detox Mask?

Really easily!! A quick search in Google finds recipe’s that suggest the following ingredients (give or take a Tablespoon).

  • 1 Tbsp bentonite clay

  • 1-2 tsp water

  • Washcloth

  • 1 tsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar (optional, avoid if your armpits are sensitive)

  • Cotton Balls


  • Mix the bentonite clay and water together until you get the consistency of thick yogurt.

  • Spread a layer of the mask over your armpits and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

  • Shower off the clay, or wipe off with a warm, wet washcloth.

  • Once dry, swipe the ACV over your armpits with cotton balls.

  • Repeat daily whilst you transition to a natural deodorant. 

To Sweat Or Not To Sweat.

Clearly, I’m on team sweat. Maybe on a Melbourne 40 degree day I’ll waiver from that assertive statement. But for the last few months my armpits have seen less irritation, effective long lasting results, clean tops, and no stench. The fact that I’m minus flammable gas and dubious chemicals brings me happiness that my body and the environment are safer too. And that’s the future I want for my kids! When I ask people what deodorant they’re using, everyone has a story about the trials of finding a great deodorant. Hope this makes it easier for you.

Signature by Mel.

Further Reading.

1 comment

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