What is armpit detox? Armpit detox is the latest trend where the goal is to detox your armpits of potentially hazardous, chemical-laden antiperspirants and deodorants, and switching to natural deodorants instead.
Underarm detox requires an armpit cleanse of some sort, usually involving a clay mask or another agent like vinegar or coconut oil.
In theory, this armpit detox will rid your armpits of the chemicals that may be harmful to you while opening up your armpit pores, allowing them to sweat and release more toxins out of your body. This not only boosts your health, but also helps you switch to a natural deodorant. But does the technique really work and is an armpit detox really necessary?
In this article, we will examine armpit detox: what it can actually do for you in terms of toxins and the transition to a natural deodorant, the different ways that you can detox your armpits, and recipes to make your own armpit detox cleansers.
Do You Need an Armpit Detox?
Strictly speaking, armpit detoxification is not needed to help release toxins from your body. While sweat does help release waste minerals from the body, toxins are handled by the liver and kidneys. The number of harmful toxins and waste that may be released from the body via the armpits is inconsequential.
So, why bother to do an armpit detox? The answer is two-fold. While your armpits may not release harmful toxins from your body, the antiperspirant or deodorant you may be wearing might contain harmful chemicals. And although studies are still in progress about the harm these products could actually do to your body, the possibility that they might be detrimental is enough to make you want to cleanse your armpits.
Once you have made the decision to switch to a natural deodorant, an armpit detox can help with the transition. When you have used the same types of deodorant and antiperspirant over the years, research suggests it can create a bacterial imbalance of sorts.
When changing from a traditional deodorant or antiperspirant to a natural one, one study observed that new organisms called actinobacteria can move in. These bacteria may cause you to feel and maybe even smell a bit worse than you normally would when going without deodorant.
An armpit detox can help smooth out that transition between chemical product and natural, as well as keep the smell down. It should be noted that a good cleaning with soap and water may also do the trick. After the cleaning, the bacteria will eventually settle into a balance and the possible over-smell will die down.
Toxins in Antiperspirants and Deodorants May be Harming You
Much of what you will read about armpit detox, the chemicals found in underarm products, and how they may cause health issues like cancer are, as of this writing, not entirely substantiated. The truth of the matter is that there are not many long-term studies on this subject, and a number of those that are lengthy are inconclusive in their results.
But the fact remains that many deodorants and antiperspirant contain ingredients that may be hazardous to your health with exposure over an extended period of time. For example, most antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds like aluminum chloralhydrate and aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine, as well as chemicals like silica and triclosan.
1. Aluminum Compounds
The compounds aluminum chloralhydrate and aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine stop armpit sweat by forming a temporary “plug” in the sweat ducts, blocking the sweat from flowing out.
They can also exhibit an estrogen-like quality in the body. Given that they are absorbed by the skin and enter the body via the armpits, there is the potential for those compounds to build up in the breast area.
Estrogen can promote the growth of cancer cells, and in this case, breast cancer. Again, a link between the deodorant and breast cancer has not been proven conclusively, but it is currently under research and should be something to keep in mind, especially if your family has a history of cancer.
Many antiperspirants and deodorants also contain the chemical compound silica. Silica alone isn’t as much of an issue.
Most reactions to silica are relatively harmless, but when contaminated by quartz, the chemical can become crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is a known carcinogen.
Triclosan is an ingredient that may irritate the skin of some people. The primary reason that it is sometimes included as an active ingredient in antiperspirant and deodorant is because it has very potent antibacterial and antifungal properties.
There are good bacteria and bad bacteria, and our body carries both. Triclosan does not distinguish between the two, working against all bacteria. This can trigger the bacterial imbalance that may cause your armpits to smell worse when not using deodorant.
It is also important to note that triclosan has been studied as a potentially harmful product to human health and the environment. In 2016, the U.S Food and Drug Administration ruled that triclosan is not generally recognized as safe and effective.
Parabens are a preservative compound that is often used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, including antiperspirant and deodorants. There is some concern that parabens may contribute to breast cancer as parabens do have an estrogen-like quality when they enter the body, much like aluminum compounds.
While there have been no definite connections made between the two in terms of cause, parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors. So, they are a chemical to be concerned about.
Most people are familiar with formaldehyde due to its use in preserving bodies, but it does have wide usage in products like cosmetics, including deodorant. Formaldehyde has been linked to cancer with prolonged exposure.
It should be noted, however, that there are currently no studies that conclusively connect formaldehyde in cosmetics and deodorant to cancer. But, the fact that it has been linked to cancer in other prolonged uses is a reason for concern.
6. Chemical “Boogey Men”
Phthalates are often pointed to as a “boogey man” chemical in antiperspirant and deodorants as a number of sources will connect the plasticizers to medical conditions like cancer and infertility among others. However, the FDA determined in 2010 that the levels in these cosmetics products are too low for any true effect.
Propylene glycol is similarly characterized as bad for you because it is a main component of antifreeze, which human beings know is poisonous. The truth of the matter is that, yes, it is harmful in large quantities, but in the proportions used in antiperspirant and deodorant, it is pretty safe.
But, all of these experiences may differ from person to person. Allergic reactions and skin irritation are still very possible. Some of the antibacterial agents may cause itchy armpits, rashes, and even burns in some people. If you are affected in these ways, considering an alternative natural deodorant is a good way of avoiding them.
Natural Ways to Detox Your Armpits
Cleansing your armpits of chemically-based antiperspirants and deodorants can be a simple task. Soap, water, and a good scrubbing can clean out your arm pits quite effectively. Remember, your body deals with toxins through your liver and kidneys, not your armpits.
That being said, antiperspirant and deodorant can build up in your armpits if not properly cleaned on a regular basis. As mentioned, the use of deodorants and antiperspirants can disturb the balance of bacteria in your armpits, resulting in a stinkier-than-usual smell, especially if you are trying to transition to a natural deodorant. The following are some armpit detox tips and methods that may be able to help you out.
1. Wash Regularly
Again, soap and water can often eliminate the residue (chemical and otherwise) left by antiperspirants, especially if you go with a natural soap. Make sure you lather up the armpit areas well and scrub them out. This can clean out most residual deodorant and antiperspirant.
2. Dry Underarms Thoroughly
It may be something you haven’t given much thought to, but drying your armpits thoroughly can help reduce the bacteria that make them smell. The armpits are a crevice-like structure, and excess water can create small, damp areas where bacteria can take hold. Soaking up the moisture from your armpits not only gives bacteria fewer places to breed, but it also helps makes sure there is no leftover water to reduce the effectiveness of any deodorant your put on afterward.
3. Wear Natural Fibers
Man-made fibers have an easier time trapping sweat and bacteria, which can make for a foul-smelling home in your armpits. Natural fibers like cotton are light when they need to be and warm when they need to be. They also don’t trap moisture, sweat, or bacteria as well as artificial fibers, and due to the nature of the fibers, they also cause you to sweat less.
4. Drink Enough Clean Water
Keeping yourself well hydrated is good for your overall health, but in the case of an armpit detox, it helps keep your internal temperature regulated and makes you sweat a little less. It is also good for helping to flush toxins out of your body.
5. Try Apple Cider Vinegar and Witch Hazel
Applying a small amount of traditional or apple cider vinegar to your underarms can also work to keep your armpits smell-free. Vinegars have antiseptic and antibacterial qualities that could help drive off the bad bacteria that cause smelly armpits. Witch hazel may have a similar effect.
6. Take Probiotics and Chlorophyll
Probiotic and chlorophyll supplements are often advised to help with body odor, and in turn, could help when detoxing the armpits. As for probiotics, they are used to fight off the bacteria that make armpits stink.
Chlorophyll, on the other hand, has a slightly different value. It has often been described as a great way to prevent not only body odors but bad breath as well. For the most part, chlorophyll has a negligible effect on odor. However, chlorophyll does have the ability to bind with certain minerals like mercury and aluminum. This allows for easier passage of those minerals out through the body’s waste disposal systems. Chlorophyll could help you get rid of traces of aluminum compounds that any deodorant may have left in your body.
7. Change Diet
Changing your diet in order to include more leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, and kale can also be beneficial. Leafy greens contain chlorophyll as well as fiber that can help you pass waste in your system.
8. Wipe with Natural Sterilizer
When you are unable to shower, or if you’re just getting a not-so-fresh feeling from your armpits, try wiping them with a natural sterilizer, like witch hazel or tea tree oil. This might help get rid of bad bacteria as they are starting to grow and reduce or eliminate odors.
9. Apply Natural, Aluminum-Free Deodorants
Using a natural deodorant is always an option to help keep smells away and keep your underarms feeling clean. These come in many varieties and how effective they are may depend on your body’s chemistry.
It is important to note that when researching armpit detoxification, you will come across numerous ideas that have no support in science-based research. Dry brushing, for example, can exfoliate your armpits, but there is no substantial proof that it can eliminate toxins from your body in any way.
A bentonite clay mask or an organic overnight oil mask is also often suggested, but there is no evidence that these work any better than soap and water.
Armpit Detox Recipes Natural Replacements
Many natural concoctions can be used in place of chemical-based deodorant and antiperspirant. Armpit detox with coconut oil and armpit detox charcoal are only two examples of mixtures you can make at home that can help you and your armpits out.
Coconut Oil Natural Deodorant
- ¼ cup of coconut oil
- ¹⁄8 cup of baking soda
- ¹⁄8 cup of arrowroot starch
- 15 to 20 drops of essential oils (your choice for scent)
In a sealable container, mix all of the listed ingredients together. In order to avoid melting, it is best if the mixture is kept in a cool, dark place or even in your refrigerator.
Apply the mixture by taking a small amount in your fingers and massaging it into your underarm area.
Baking Soda and Cornstarch
Mix one part baking soda with eight parts cornstarch. If a large amount is made, place in a resealable container. Apply by sprinkling your armpits with the mixture.
For sensitive skin
- ¾ cup of arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- ¼ cup of food grade diatomaceous earth
- 6 to 9 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
Combine the arrowroot powder or cornstarch with the diatomaceous earth and mix well. Add six tablespoons of the melted coconut oil and mix all of the ingredients together. If the consistency is not to your liking, add a tablespoon or two more of the melted coconut oil until it is right for you.
Apply a small amount of the mixture by massaging it into your armpits. Keep the leftover mixture in a resealable container.
Armpit Detoxification and Natural Deodorants
When you are entering the realm of armpit detox and natural deodorants, there are a few things to remember:
- Soap and water may clean your armpits out just fine
- Bacteria in your armpits is the most likely culprit for bad smells, not toxins
- While there is no conclusive evidence that store-bought deodorants and antiperspirants cause serious health issues, they do contain chemicals that might be harmful in the future.
With these in mind, and armed with the recipes we have included for natural deodorants, hopefully, you will come out the other side with clean and nice-smelling armpits.
Sullivan,D., “Do Armpit Detoxes Work?” Healthline, August 23, 2017, http://www.healthline.com/health/armpit-detox#overview1, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Callewaert, C., et al., “Deodorants and antiperspirants affect the axillary bacterial community,” Archives of Dermatological Research, Oct. 2014; 306(8):701-10; doi: 10.1007/s00403-014-1487-1, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Urban, J., et al., “The effect of habitual and experimental antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome,” PeerJ, 2016; 4:e1605, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4741080/, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Snider, J., “How to Detox Your Armpits and Switch to a Nontoxic Deodorant,” Branch Basics, July 29, 2015, https://branchbasics.com/blog/2015/07/how-to-detox-your-armpits-and-switch-to-a-nontoxic-deodorant/, last access September 13, 2017.
“Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer,” National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet, last accessed September 13, 2017.
“7 Harmful Ingredients in Your Deodorant,” Organics, http://www.organics.org/7-harmful-ingredients-in-your-deodorant/, last accessed Sept 13, 2017.
“Crystalline Silica Exposure,” United States Department of Labour – Occupational Safety and Health Administration, https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/crystalline-factsheet.pdf, last accessed September 13, 2017.
“Natural home remedies: Body odour,” Best Health Magazine, http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/home-remedies/natural-home-remedies-body-odour/#0IoUpsIhO3IUcBS1.97, last accessed September 13, 2017.
“9 Ways To Balance Your Armpit Bacteria and Seriously Minimize Body Odor,” Food Matters, http://www.foodmatters.com/article/9-ways-to-naturally-treat-body-odor, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Lebow, H., “Why Switch To Nontoxic (Natural) Deodorant To Detox Armpits?” Alternative Daily, September 21, 2016, http://www.thealternativedaily.com/why-you-should-switch-to-nontoxic-natural-deodorant-to-detox-armpits/, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Nussbaum, R., “Does Dry Brushing Really Work?” Greatist, February 4, 2016, https://greatist.com/live/dry-brushing-benefits, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Sefcik, L., “Chlorophyll & Underarm Odor,” Livestrong, August 14, 2017, http://www.livestrong.com/article/150423-chlorophyll-underarm-odor/, last accessed September 13, 2017.
Held, M., “You Asked: Should I Dry Brush My Skin?” Time Magazine, March 25, 2015, http://time.com/3756761/dry-brushing-skin/, last accessed September 13, 2017.
“Homemade Deodorant Recipe For Sensitive Skin,” Mommy Potamus, https://www.mommypotamus.com/homemade-deodorant-recipe-for-sensitive-skin/, last accessed September 13, 2017.
“All-Natural Homemade Deodorant,” The Free Spirited, March 16, 2015, http://www.thefreespirited.co/blog/homemade-deodorant, last accessed September 13, 2017.
“Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk,” American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk.html, last accessed September 14, 2017.
“’Dirty Dozen’ cosmetic chemicals to avoid,” David Suzuki Foundation, http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/, last accessed September 14, 2017.
Mejia, L., “Formaldehyde in Cosmetics: What’s the Verdict?” Women’s Health, October 4, 2011, http://www.womenshealthmag.com/style/formaldehyde-in-cosmetics-whats-the-verdict, last accessed September 14, 2017.
“Phthalates,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productsingredients/ingredients/ucm128250.htm, last accessed September 14, 2017.
McKay, T., “The Truth About Propylene Glycol, According to a Chemist,” Naturally Curly, January 12, 2016, https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curl-products/curlchemist-the-truth-and-fiction-about-propylene-glycol/, last accessed September 14, 2017.