Dirty Dozen: 12 Harmful Ingredients Found In Deodorant for Women

Dirty Dozen: 12 Harmful Ingredients Found In Deodorant for Women

Let’s be honest: those 10-syllable ingredients listed on your deodorant labels (and other household products) don’t sound too safe. 

These are not just the thoughts of a conspiracy theorist! Many of these ingredients have been linked to a wide spectrum of health problems when they’re absorbed through the skin. This article will take a look at 12 ingredients found in most deodorants for women.

1. Parabens

You’ve probably heard about parabens before. Manufacturers use these compounds as preservatives in deodorants and other personal care products. And they’re just about everywhere! 

But what is the issue? Parabens tend to mimic estrogen and interfere with your body’s natural hormonal balance. Researchers also found that this disruption can promote the growth of cancer cells, especially in the breast which can lead to breast cancer. 

Fortunately, identifying parabens in deodorant can be fairly simple. Any ingredient that contains a “methyl”, “ethyl”, “propyl”, “benzyl” or “butyl” in its name, is likely a paraben that is best to avoid.

2. Silica 

We’ll preface the effects of silica as not being entirely harmful. It’s a foundational mineral that improves skin and bone health, especially in older adults who may face age-related diseases. 

But the silica used in deodorants for women (and men) may be contaminated with crystalline quartz, which is carcinogenic (a cancer-causing agent). 

Additionally, silica is a skin irritant for some and its presence in deodorants can lead to unpleasant allergic reactions. Knowing this can be crucial, especially if you have sensitive skin.

3. Triclosan

The bacteria-killing power of your deodorant comes from this handy little compound: triclosan. 

Of course, it’s a double-edged sword because it kills all bacteria - good and bad - which means that it can disturb your skin’s natural microbiome (which isn’t a good thing). 

But the real danger of triclosan is that it is an FDA-certified pesticide that has been labelled as a potentially cancer-causing compound since it disrupts normal hormonal function and gene activity. In fact, in a fish and amphibian study, triclosan impaired thyroid function which had an effect on brain development. It could pose a threat to humans, as well. 

4. Aluminum 

The focus of this piece is on deodorants, but many of you use antiperspirants, meaning you’re exposed to aluminum. 

Aluminum compounds act as a “plug” within your sweat glands, blocking the flow of sweat. While this means you can be temporarily spared from the embarrassment of soaked armpits, aluminum compounds mimic estrogen and cause gene instability. 

Like parabens that trigger the growth of cancer cells, in theory, aluminum can be particularly dangerous for women because the majority of breast cancers begin near the underarm region. 

5. Talc

Talc is a mineral derived from magnesium, silicone and oxygen and used to make talcum powder. It’s used in cosmetic and personal care products to absorb moisture and reduce friction, which prevents skin dryness and rashes. 

On its own, talc doesn’t seem to be harmful, but it may contain asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. The most concerning aspect of this is that there are no clear guidelines on how much asbestos is allowed in deodorants since it's largely unregulated. 

6. Steareth-n 

This strangely-named family of compounds describes a series of ingredients that arise from the weakening of harsh chemicals during the manufacturing process. These waxy compounds help prevent other ingredients from separating. 

They’re derived from vegetables and the “n” stands for a number since there are a few types of this compound. Unfortunately, some of them, like steareth-1, are mixed with carcinogens to become active. 

7. Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol helps to form a base in deodorants to give it that slick consistency we’re all familiar with. In other words, deodorant wouldn’t be deodorant without it! 

The caveat with it, however, is that the compound can cause widespread health issues. They include heart and liver damage, allergic reactions and central nervous system effects. A product that’s just 2% propylene glycol can be harmful and yet some deodorants are as high as 50%. Yikes!

8. Phthalates

Pronounced “tha-lates”, these compounds are used to make other ingredients in deodorant more flexible and to prolong the life fragrances. 

The problem with phthalates is that they disrupt the endocrine system, especially in men. They can wreak havoc on male reproduction since they can reduce testosterone levels. Exposure to phthalates can also disrupt female hormones, leading to early-onset puberty and breast cancer. 

More concerningly, phthalates have been linked to fetal development issues which may lower IQ and trigger asthma. 

9. Fragrance 

In your free time, look for the words “Fragrance/Parfum” on your deodorant label. You probably never noticed this on the label, and you don’t have to second-guess what they mean. But then again, you might want to!

“Fragrance”, can mean anything and the manufacturers behind big deodorant brands aren’t obligated to tell you what those compounds are: those scents are protected by trade law. They could be compounds like the others listed in this article or substances that are poorly understood. They may or may not be harmful, and they’re speculated to be a cause behind many problems such as allergic reactions. Oh, the uncertainty!


The use of triethanolamine (TEA) and diethanolamine (DEA) are chemicals that are often used in deodorant … and in airplane engine coolant/antifreeze

Yep, these compounds are so toxic that they’ve been banned from products in Europe because they are well-known as carcinogens. Additionally, TEA and DEA can infiltrate the skin and damage the liver and kidneys. Without telling you much more, it’s clear that these two chemicals won’t do your body good.

11. Artificial Colors

The brilliant ranges of colors found in deodorant for women can add some visual appeal to a stick, but they can lead to trouble, as well. A significant number of artificial colors and bleaches trigger serious allergic reactions and may even cause cancers since some of them are carcinogens. 

12. Propellants 

Last but not the least risky compounds to watch for are propellants. Essentially, they are gasses that put pressure in aerosol spray cans so you can expel the deodorant mist when you push down on the nozzle. 

Two common propellants are butane and isobutane. Not only are they flammable, but they’re also damaging toxins as well. Both Canada and the EU have put restrictions on them because they have been linked to cancer and reproductive system issues. 

Deodorant for Women that Cleans Without Being Dirty

It’s inevitable that if you buy your run-of-the-mill deodorant from the department store, you will bring some of these unwanted chemicals into your home. We’re not telling you this to cause panic, but rather, to empower you so that you can make sound choices for the sake of your health!

If you want a more natural deodorant, take a look at our own selection of Joban Beauty products.

We’ve created a safe deodorant plus concealer for women who want an alternative to the chemically-laden products you typically find at stores. Our formula combines deodorant, makeup and an applicator in one, without some of the harmful chemicals mentioned.

Your health is your ultimate currency. Don’t throw it away just for the sake of smelling good and avoiding sweat. Joban wants every woman to stay clean and fresh, without exposing yourself to unnatural chemicals! It doesn’t have to be a choice for one or the other. 

With Joban, you can (and should) have both.

Back to blog