3 Essential Tips for Choosing Deodorant

Deodorant surrounded by orange peels
Carla Burns Carla Burns

by Guest Blogger Carla Burns, Senior Director of Cosmetic Science at Environmental Working Group

When I give talks, I often get questions about deodorants and antiperspirants and whether they can increase the risk of cancer. The available data are conflicting, with some studies showing links to health harms and others showing no evidence that aluminum-based deodorants cause breast cancer. With that said, here are some precautions to keep in mind when selecting a deodorant.

Tip #1: Avoid deodorants/antiperspirants containing aluminum, out of caution
More studies are needed to reach a consensus regarding the human health impacts of aluminum in consumer products. Aluminum came under investigation as a possible carcinogen because studies have shown that at high enough doses it can damage DNA and prevent repair, which are mechanisms of the formation of cancer. Unfortunately, the human evidence provides little clarity and the epidemiological studies and data have mixed results and are not conclusive that aluminum-based deodorants cause cancer.

If you want to use extra precaution I recommend opting for a deodorant or antiperspirant that is aluminum-free until the data concerning a possible connection to cancer or other health impacts is more robust and conclusive. At EWG, we continue to review the new research and data on this topic. In this case, we are guided by the precautionary principle–better safe than sorry. 

Tip #2: Limit exposure to talc
Talc is a mineral-based ingredient, mined from the earth. There is potential for impurities in many earth-based ingredients; some talc may contain asbestos. We recommend caution. If you are going to opt for a product that uses talc, reduce inhalation concerns by avoiding loose powders (such as body powders) and aerosol sprays to reduce potential lung health harms.

Tip #3: Avoid fragrance directly on the skin (especially on broken skin)
You have probably seen the generic term “fragrance” on many product labels. If you see this vague term in the ingredient list, it can be representative of nearly 4,000 chemicals that do not need to be disclosed to the consumer due to the proprietary nature of the fragrance mixtures. Deodorant can be used on the part of the body that may have broken skin, from shaving. To avoid potential harmful chemicals, especially on areas with broken skin opt for fragrance-free products or products that disclose their fragrance mixture so you can be informed about what you are putting on your body. Products that are used around your eyes or your mouth are areas to pay attention to as well, due to thinner skin and direct access to your skin’s barrier.

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