Why Are These Deodorant Ingredients Bad?

vintage deodorant ad

If you’ve been paying attention to beauty industry news, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about parabens. But just in case you don’t know, parabens are preservatives that keep our beauty products from growing mold and bacteria over time. Sounds like a good deal, right? Sure, except for the fact that parabens are suspected to be carcinogens.

Few deodorants have parabens in them these days. Most deodorants are alcohol-based, and alcohol is self-preserving. But if you have sensitive skin, you really don’t want to be using an alcohol-based deodorant, either.


Fragrance or Parfum

Wait, what? No nice-smelling deodorants? What just sounds like a pleasant smell is actually a lot more than that.

When any beauty product has fragrance or parfum listed as an ingredient, it doesn’t just mean that it smells good. The FDA allows brands to use “fragrance” as a catch-all phrase to mean any chemical that contributes to the formula’s smell. It helps brands to keep their formula a secret from competitors.

But on the flipside, if you have sensitive skin, a fragrance is a potential danger. You don’t know exactly what is included in the fragrance, so you won’t know if you’ll get a bad reaction without trial and error. Better just stay away from deodorant with fragrance.

Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of fragrance-free deodorant for sensitive skin. Most beauty companies are aware that people with sensitive skin will avoid fragrances in all topical products.


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The majority of deodorants have alcohol in them for two reasons. 

Mainly, alcohol helps to dry the deodorant faster. (Through trial and error, I’m sure you probably already know how ineffective non-drying deodorant can be.)

Secondly, it’s a natural bacteria-killer, which helps preserve the formula. The fact that it kills bacteria also helps with keeping you fresh. Why? When it comes down to it, sweat doesn’t have its own smell. When we smell our own body odor, we’re actually smelling the bacteria breaking it down.

So alcohol: doesn’t sound bad, right? Well, it can be if you have sensitive skin. Deodorant with alcohol is going to dry out the sensitive skin under your arms, leading to irritation.

Looking for alcohol-free deodorant for sensitive skin? Try deodorants that use these alcohol substitutes:

  • Baking soda
  • Antibacterial essential oils, like tea tree oil (Note: Some essential oils can irritate sensitive skin, so always be sure to test the oil diluted with a carrier oil on your skin first.)
  • Coconut oil


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Aluminum is in most antiperspirants. It’s what clogs up the sweat glands in your armpits and prevents us from sweating. But for some people, it can also cause negative skin reactions, like irritation, itchiness, and rashes.

Truthfully, this will probably be your biggest obstacle in finding a deodorant for sensitive skin that works. The majority of aluminum-free deodorants will probably give up on you if you start to sweat too much. That’s especially true if you live somewhere hot and humid, or if you have a physically demanding job.

Again, B.O. is caused by bacteria, not our actual sweat. So if you’re going aluminum-free, try a deodorant that’s good at killing bacteria.

What are the best deodorants for sensitive skin?


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