Roaming the aisles of your local drugstore, Sephora, or even health food store, you may have noticed a distinction in the world of underarm care: sweat & odour solutions are typically divided into deodorants and antiperspirants.
At Nala we fall firmly into the the deodorant camp for a few reasons we feel passionately about, but realize aren’t necessarily common knowledge.
So, without further ado, we give you: the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants, and the reasons we think you should limit your antiperspirant use as much as you can.
Underarm deodorant is, quite literally, any substance you put on your armpit to improve its smell.
We’re all adults here, and can cop to the fact that, sometimes, we a little stinky. Our armpits are home to the majority of our apocrine - or sweat - glands. These glands create body odour because the sweat they secrete is full of protein, which bacteria can break down easily.
(Fun fact? The other concentration of apocrine glands in the body is in our groin area.)
The standard for conventional deodorants is to employ a chemical cocktail to neutralize the odour, while still allowing the armpits to sweat.
Free-from and natural deodorants work a little differently, by using natural ingredients to detox the area and deal directly with the bacteria, but the goal is the same: improve odour while still allowing the body to secrete sweat.
One caveat we should mention: some of the essential oils used in our formulations do actually help control sweat, due to their antibacterial (tea-tree & bergamot) astringent (geranium, cedarwood, rosemary, peppermint, and citrus) and calming (lavender, Ylang Ylang) properties.
These oils don’t prohibit your sweat, however: they just help your body manage and reduce it naturally.
And then there’s antiperspirants.
What’s in an antiperspirant? Good question.
The chief aim of antiperspirants is to prevent your armpit from sweating.
To be clear, we get how amazing this may sound, especially if you’re someone who worries about sweat stains on the regular and has to avoid fabrics like silk. Unless there’s a large body of water and pina colada involved, it can really suck to be sweaty.
Unfortunately, antiperspirants achieve their aims using aluminium. The aluminium salts in antiperspirants form a plug over the sweat glands, preventing sweat from leaving the gland and funneling it back into the body.
This is worrisome for two reasons:
The aluminium in antiperspirants is absorbed into the body’s circulatory system via the sweat gland, and accumulates. In one study, a regular user of an antiperspirant containing aluminium had a toxic level of aluminium in her system after four years of use. Aluminium at those levels has been strongly linked to breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. (The good news? Eight months after switching to a natural deodorant the issue was resolved.)
Your body is meant to sweat! Sweating is the body’s natural form of detoxification, and it helps us flush unwanted and unhealthy substances from our system. Prohibiting that sweat from leaving the body means all of those toxins are still present, and can contribute to countless health issues.
So while it can be inconvenient or even downright embarrassing sometimes, your underarm sweat is a vital function for your health - and plugging it up with aluminium is not the answer.
Another caveat: some people do suffer from serious conditions, such as Hyperhidrosis, that cause them to sweat excessively. Of course we’d never suggest you just “sweat it out” when you’re significantly damper than most, and self-conscious about it. What we do suggest is focussing on finding the root cause, and eliminating the problem systematically, as opposed to plugging up your sweat glands day after day.
Deodorant vs. antiperspirant, and, in all things, moderation
As we’re careful to explain in our detox guide, we’re not about drawing a hard line - nor the stress that comes with being restrictive - here at Nala.
We get that sometimes you have presentations, dates, award ceremonies and weddings to attend, and a go-to option that prevents embarrassing pit stains can feel like your best friend.
You can absolutely use antiperspirant once in awhile and still be a healthy person. We just encourage to let go of the fiction that sweat = ugly, gross, and unlovely, and put down those aluminium-filled antiperspirants.
If you’re a committed user who wants to make a change, try using free-from deodorants at times when you’re going to sweat anyway, like at the gym or the beach. Or keep using the antiperspirant every other day, and try our detox deodorant at night to help flush out the sweat that’s still in your system.
There a million moderate ways to move away from regular antiperspirant use - we hope you find one that works for you!