What’s Under Your Armpits?

A majority of Americans wear deodorant, and many chose names brands found in most stores. But, most mainstream deodorant brands “stink” to put it simply. Whether you are wearing a deodorant, antiperspirant or both, you are exposing yourself to a whole new world of toxicity.

Most popular, mainstream brands of deodorant for both men and women have toxic ingredients, including:

  • Aluminum, which is linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer and increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Parabens, which disrupt our hormonal balance, leading to early puberty in children, increased risk of hormonal cancers, birth defects and organ toxicity.
  • Propylene glycol, which can cause damage to our central nervous system, disrupt hormone receptors and increase cell mutation.
  • Triclosan, which is classified as a pesticide by the FDA, and as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.

Let’s talk sweat. There are more than 20 lymph nodes (small lumps of tissue that are part of the body’s lymphatic system, which helps fight infection) in the armpit. These lymph nodes normally cannot be felt through the skin. The armpits have a high concentration of hair follicles and sweat glands.

Your skin has two types of sweat glands that help to cool you down: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands cover most of the surface of your body, and are responsible for that thin sheen of sweat on your brow and extremities during heat and exercise. However, your armpits are abundant in apocrine glands (also found in your groin). These glands are copious in places with more hair follicles, and the sweat they secrete tends to be thicker.

The secretions our armpits make don’t stink. Bacteria break down the compounds, and those breakdown products stink, according to Alex Berezow, a senior fellow of biomedical science with the American Council on Science and Health. The bacteria that live in the moist crevices of your armpits interact with your sweat, which contains volatile fatty acids and odorous steroids (among other compounds). That creates a product known as thioalcohols, whose oniony, meaty scents you’re likely familiar with if you’ve ever been stuck in a crowded elevator, subway, or gym at peak workout time.

Regular deodorants change your armpit microbiome — Betaproteobacteria, Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus. “Deodorants change the composition of the microbiome,” Berezow says. He cites a study that found “antiperspirant reduces the number of bacteria in our armpits, but interestingly seems to encourage a greater diversity of microbes.” He adds, “deodorant seems to increase the number of bacteria compared to people who don’t wear deodorant.”

Scientists have also found that the pits of people who usually use antiperspirants or deodorants, but stopped for a couple of days as part of the study, grew crowded with an overabundance of Staphylococcaceae—the bacteria that causes staph infections.

The theory is that because coconut oil is an antibacterial, it will protect against odor-causing bacteria. “Coconut oil does have some mild antibacterial properties, so it’s not inconceivable that it could act as underarm deodorant,” says Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist and the brains behind thebeautybrains.com.

Simple, natural ways to detox your armpits & reduce body odor include:

  • Wear natural fibers
  • Eat organic leafy green vegetables
  • Drink plenty of water and incorporate alkaline water into your routine
  • Take chlorophyll or probiotic supplements
  • Apply apple cider vinegar, lemon or witch hazel
  • Try an organic bentonite clay mask on your armpits