The big stink

Photo: istockphoto.com/Alex Gumerov
No one wants to be smelly or sweaty. But in our quest to stay cool and dry we may be compromising our health using toxic deodorants. Read the label on your deodorant and you'll find more than a few harmful ingredients. For instance, propylene glycol is the active chemical in antifreeze; aluminum chlorhydrate has been linked to cancer and Alzheimer's; triclosan can lead to skin irritations, circulatory collapse and heart problems; and cyclopentasiloxane, a volatile form of silicone, is a known estrogenic and endocrine disrupter. There's also the concern that suppressing a natural bodily function is inherently harmful. Sweating is the body's way of removing toxins, but if we cover our pores with silicone and antifreeze, there's no place for toxins to head but back inside. The fear is these trapped toxins migrate to the breasts, liver and kidneys, where they may cause untold damage. What's an armpit to do? Don't sweat it. There are plenty of alternatives to slathering ourselves with noxious chemicals. From the earth's crust Crystal deodorants, either in a spray, roll-on, cream or the original crystallized rock, are the most popular green deodorants. Also know as rock deodorant, this type of green deodorant contains ammonium alum sulphate, a naturally occurring mineral found in clay and soil. Alum is perfectly healthy for humans since it's hypoallergenic, doesn't permeate the skin and prevents bacteria from forming. It's also plentiful —it makes up eight percent of the earth's crust, making it the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon. Essential oils Vegetable glycerin based deodorants are also a good choice. Glycerin is a natural byproduct of soap-making and contains nothing harmful. Enviro-friendly companies have taken the product one step further by adding classic body-care essential oils like lavender, calendula, rosemary, green tea extract, tea tree oil, olive oil, vitamin E and lemon extract. Just be sure to check the essential oil used is not synthetic. Simple and practical Head over to the baking section at your grocery store for some baking soda or cornstarch. Both make excellent natural deodorants. Combine them or use them separately and brush on after your shower. You can customize your homemade deodorant by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil. For the less industrious, there are several brands of pre-made baking soda deodorants or you can go with a classier version using French clay. Just make sure to read the fine print, since sometimes a dash of baking soda has been added to the usual chemical mix so an "all-natural" label can be slapped on. Prices can range from $4 up to $10. You can buy these alternative deodorants at your local health food store or over the Internet. You may need to experiment to find the one that works best for you, but your green deodorant is out there waiting for you.