In my life I have travelled into some deep rabbit holes onto the internet looking up crazy stuff. I remember growing up before the internet, and I was around 14 when high speed internet started to take off. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I realized I can literally look up anything I want. As a result, I have heard of pretty much every conspiracy out there.
One of the smaller niches in the conspiracy world is the toxins in our environment niche. It was here that I somehow came across an article talking about toxins in our deodorant. At the time I believe I was using Old Spice antiperspirant. I was getting tired of this stuff because it seemed to always be leaving some kind of stains on my shirts. I thought what the hell and gave the Tom’s natural brand deodorant a try.
The reason for this was that I was walking through whole foods and it looked like the most legit of all the other hippie brands that were there. I looked at the label and saw that it had hops in it. This struck me as funny as I am a fan of home brewing. It wasn’t until recently that I started looking at how hops may be estrogenic and I thought twice about applying it to my underarms.
This was the genesis of my one week no deodorant challenge. I figured why stop at one day? Go a whole week without wearing deodorant and document the results.
Save money by not buying deodorant
One of the things I’m trying to do more of in my life is to cut the stuff that I don’t need. Video games, television, alcohol, and energy drinks were among the biggest things I cut. I’m not doing this out of some idea that cutting these costs will help me with retirement or something, but more of a mental cleaning house. Hell, if I don’t need deodorant, why not cut that as well?
Deodorant is actually pretty inexpensive. It’s about 2 dollars for a stick that will last you around 1-2 months usually. However, your costs go up if you start buying hippie brand deodorant or that axe spray bullshit. These will run you anywhere from 5-7 dollars per stick. That brings us to around 24 dollars per year for regular deodorant and about 84 dollars per year for the hippie brands. I have no idea how fast people go through those axe sprays, but I assume it’s faster then regular deodorant.
Before you scoff at these low numbers, realize that the deodorant is an 18 billion dollar a year industry. Why is this? It’s because everyone is conditioned to apply deodorant every day to their underarms.
What causes you to smell?
Before we get into the pros and cons of deodorant, we should tackle what actually causes you to smell bad. What happens is that bacteria builds up on your body. Your sweat will interact with this bacteria and cause you to smell. That’s it pretty much. So the battle to not smell has usually attacked one area of that equation.
Deodorants work by masking the smell with perfume. Antiperspirants work by blocking your sweat glands stopping you from sweating at all. These are the two major ways of stopping the smell, but some hippie brands like Toms of Maine use hops to kill some of the bacteria. It does this by using hops which have antibacterial properties.
Toxins in traditional deodorant
For the purposes of this article, when I say traditional deodorant I just mean your Speed Stick and Old Spice type brands. Full disclosure, I am not a scientist. So take what I have to say with a grain of salt as I’m just some random guy on the internet. What I can say is that I am a certified Broscientist.
The first toxin I’ll talk about is aluminum. Aluminum’s use in deodorant is it’s ability to clog up sweat glands. This stops you from sweating. They are featured mostly in antiperspirants, but a lot of deodorants are actually both an antiperspirant and a deodorant. What happens is aluminum gets absorbed into the skin and picked up by estrogen receptors in the breast. Some believe this contributes to breast cancer.
Another toxin in deodorants are parabens. Parabens are used as preservatives in order to keep deodorant fresh? I’m not exactly sure why deodorant would need to be fresh, but who cares? This stuff gets into your body and mimics the hormone estrogen. This causes havoc for men by confusing their endocrine systems into believing they are actually women.
Finally, a toxin called propylene glycol is put in deodorants to keep the stuff from drying out. This stuff is also a neurotoxin that will destroy your liver and kidneys. The reason it’s allowed in is because it’s in such low amounts that it’s considered to be safe.
I haven’t done any tests to see if these chemicals were harming me. I have no idea if the stuff was disrupting my hormones or slowly killing my liver. That is the point. If there is any actual damage going on, no one can tell. It may just be a small amount that you don’t realize is hurting you, but after years and years perhaps the damage adds up.
Switched to Tom’s of Maine brand deodorant
Tom’s of Maine brand is a company that markets products to people concerned about their health, hippies, and conspiracy theorists everywhere. I looked on the label of their deodorant and found that the only toxin they have listed from above is propylene glycol. Not as bad as the traditional brands of deodorant, but still a toxin.
I looked further and found that Tom’s of Main contains hops. They put this in to fight the bacteria that interacts with your sweat causing bad odor. The problem with that is that hops are considered to be estrogenic. What this means is that like soy, it gets in your body and mimics the hormone estrogen turning you into a girly man. Like I was mentioning earlier, as a home brewer I was intrigued. Digging a little further, I found some old quotes about the use of hops in beer, and it was very enlightening.
Interestingly, when hops finally DO appear in written history as a preservative in beer, its medicinal purposes are turned on their heads. The Abbess Hildegard of Bingen wrote about hops in the 1150s AD in the “Physica Sacra,” the first documented use of hops in the Germanic region and the first time in history hops were acknowledged as a preservative. She writes, “[The hop plant] is warm and dry, and has moderate moisture, and is not very useful in benefiting man, because it makes melancholy grow in man and makes the soul of man sad, and weighs down his inner organs. But yet, as a result of its own bitterness it keeps some putrefactions from drinks, to which it may be added, so that they may last so much longer
This revelation made me rethink using Tom’s of Maine brand because if it contains estrogen mimicking chemicals just like traditional brands to, what is the point of switching over at all?
Considering Tom’s brand is more expensive and frankly doesn’t last nearly as long as the traditional brands, there really wasn’t any point to using it at all. The only benefit is that it won’t stain your shirts nearly as bad as the traditional ones.
Commonly held beliefs
Due to the internet, a number of commonly held beliefs by people have been decimated. The power of the internet is that it gives everyone a little bit of authority, and at the same time diminishes some authority from the former lords. Some commonly held beliefs are that steroids are bad for you, getting married is a good idea if you are a man, and working a 9-5 for 40 years til retirement is a guarantee.
Another commonly held belief is that you have to wear deodorant every day in order to not stink like shit. Unfortunately this message is taken way too far by hippies who never shower. That is gross. You will hear people spout things on the internet about this or that, but without testing, what is the point? The theory that you don’t need deodorant is nice, but what happens when you actually test it?
I decided after looking at the Tom’s brand ingredients that I wasn’t going to put it on that day and see what happened. This turned into me doing it for a whole week to document the findings.
Besides being a neat and useful little experiment, one of the reasons I decided to try not wearing deodorant was because of conditioning. How is it that everyone learns to use deodorant? The way I learned was that my parents told me to start wearing it because I smelled. But was this really the reason or was it just something they always did?
People didn’t always rub deodorant under their arms, so how was it that we went from then til now where everyone does it? How much of that transition was a marketing campaign from corporations that may or may not be in your best interests? How much of the transition was due to group think? Everyone is doing it, so it must be correct, right?
I’m generally a contrarian minded person, when I see some activity that people are doing without thinking about it, red flags usually go up for me.
Preface to experiment
Full disclosure: I don’t sweat that much. I currently weigh around 170 lbs and have always been on the skinny side. I have had full workouts where I didn’t sweat at all. I know there are some people who tend to sweat more than the average person. If you are someone who sweats profusely, this may not apply to you 100%. Do your own experimentation with my findings.
I went through a number of scenarios in the last week in order to get different ideas of what I would smell like. I didn’t want to just do what I normally do, which is sitting at my desk and typing all day. Some days I did just that, but other days I was out playing sports, and I even went to a dance club and cut it up on the dance floor. All in the name of science.
I found the results to be very interesting. I found that my armpits definitely smelled worse than if I was using deodorant for the day, but the difference was so small that in order to tell the difference you would have to stick your face right into my armpits and take a big whiff.
I found that my natural smell isn’t that bad at all, and it makes me wonder what I was trying to hide all these years.
When I was sitting at my computer all day typing, there wasn’t really any difference in smell between using deodorant and not using it. My armpits had no smell at all.
When I was out playing football and running routes, it was only a little bit worse, but nothing that was noticeable to other people. No one was saying I smelled bad, believe me I asked.
When I was out at a nightclub dancing with a bunch of other sweaty people, it got a little worse as well, but again only marginally. I was only able to tell when I took my face right next to the armpit. In order to make sure I wasn’t just glossing over my own funky smell, I asked this girl to give me a smell. After asking me why, I explained my experiment to her. She took a whiff and said I smelled like I didn’t put any deodorant on, but that she couldn’t tell until I asked her.
The worst smell was when I tried to take it as far as I could. I purposely didn’t shower for a day to see how bad it would get, and on the second day it got really bad. If you go without showering it will unquestionably get noticed by other people. The key here is that if you are going without deodorant, you have to absolutely make sure you shower every day and wash well under your arms with soap. I realize that a lot of the same toxins that are in deodorants are in soaps as well, just make sure you use a soap made from coconut oil or something.
My analysis is that if you are showering every day, using deodorant is mostly useless. Why waste money and face possible long term health hazards by using deodorant if it will only give you a marginal enhancement in the way you smell?
I may go back to using deodorant here and there if I know I’ll be at an event where I will be sweating, like a wedding. Other than that, I think I’ll just skip using deodorant from now on. It’s just not necessary for me.
For you, you’ll need to do your own experimentation and your own risk/benefit analysis, but for me, I find deodorant to be highly overrated.