Want to improve your health? Stop using antiperspirant!
Wait, I know what you’re thinking….
- I’ll smell bad!
- My girlfriend/boyfriend will dump me!
- I’ll sweat through my shirts!
Let me give you 3 reasons to ditch the antiperspirant:
- Better sleep!
- Clearer skin!
- Less stinky sweat!
Now you’re probably thinking how is this possible? Let me tell you a few things you probably didn’t know about perspiration! What a fun topic!
Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It serves as a protective layer for our organs, bones, and cartilage. It acts as a barrier to external bacteria and viruses. It allows toxins and metabolic waste to exit the body via perspiration (more on this later). It also regulates our body temperature. When it’s cold, blood vessels in the skin constrict and retain warmth keeping the body temperature higher than the external environment. When it’s warm, sweat glands under the skin excrete a mixture of water and salts we commonly call sweat that pools on the exterior surface of the skin and cools us down.
There are actually two different types of sweat. Exercise-induced sweat is produced by the eccrine glands and is actually sterile and odorless as it passes through skin pores, then gets increasingly stinky as it mixes with bacteria living on the skin. The thicker type of sweat that really stinks comes from the apocrine glands. In times of emotional stress, these glands get revved up and secrete sweat containing water, salt, lipids (fatty acids), sterols (waxy solids), and proteins. Sweat from the apocrine glands has been shown to be so pungent, it can literally clear a room of your friends, family, work colleagues, or strangers. It serves as a primitive non-verbal warning to anyone in your proximity that they should back off because you’re under stress.
Obviously, no one wants to smell so bad that they repel others. I’ve seen patients apply and reapply clinical strength antiperspirants throughout the day to combat sweaty body odor. The not-so-funny thing is, antiperspirants can actually make sweat smell worse, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Those who used antiperspirants saw a definitive increase in Actinobacteria, which are largely responsible for foul-smelling armpit odor. In some participants, abstaining from antiperspirant caused the population of Actinobacteria to dwindle into virtual nonexistence.”
In Oriental Medicine, sweat is a fluid of the Xīn (心). When the Xīn has the correct balance of qi and blood, sweating is regulated. Antiperspirants can wreak havoc on the Xīn ability to regulate sweat because the mineral-chemical compounds actually block skin pores from releasing sweat (hence the name anti-perspirant). The pores become plugged and will not allow any fluids to escape. Wearing an antiperspirant essentially traps sweat inside your body, inhibits body temperature regulation through perspiration, and prevents the body from clearing toxins (including heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and lead) through the skin.
A little known fact is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies antiperspirants as a drug because they affect the function or structure of the body. Drugs usually have side effects and antiperspirants are no exception. The side effects I most often see from antiperspirant use in my clinic involve sleep disorders such as insomnia or waking up the middle of the night, anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations, memory issues, night sweats, acne, excessive worrying, and depression. These symptoms all occur when the Xīn is suffering from imbalance.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, isn’t it worth a try to give up antiperspirants for a month and see if you sleep better, look better, and feel better? The first few days may be “fragrant” as the body clears out weeks/months/years of accumulated sweat, but over time most people discover they actually sweat less and smell better all over!
These are products I recommend to my patients when they ditch the antiperspirant:
- Piper Wai: An all-natural charcoal-based deodorant that really lasts all day. My top pick!
- Primal Pit Paste: Comes in a variety of essential oil scents or unscented.