You don’t want to stink.
So of course you put on deodorant. Every morning, without fail, for as long as you can remember.
My mother bought me my first deodorant about the same time I got my first bra. (Er—training bra.) She taught me to splash baby powder under my armpits to absorb wetness when I got out of the shower.
I applied deodorant with pride. Deodorant was a sign of adulthood. Of becoming a woman. It was part of the ritual of beautification, an essential precursory to getting close with a boy.
Who would ever guess that deodorant—and that innocuous baby powder, with its comforting scent—would be implicated in one of the biggest cancer scares of this century?
Rethinking Baby Powder
First up, baby powder.
Baby powder, made from scented talcum powder, has been flying off the shelves for over 100 years.
Any product intended for use on babies, one would think, must be completely safe. No one would put known carcinogens on a baby’s skin.
But recent lawsuits have argued that the maker of the most popular brand of baby powder, Johnson and Johnson, knew of a link between the use of their product and ovarian cancer … and failed to warn consumers.
The first study linking talcum use with cancer came out in 1971. We now know that a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer increases from 1 in 70 to 1 in 53 if she uses talcum powder.  The company has been barraged by lawsuits from women, claiming they should have been warned of the risks.
The company denies the connection but offers an alternative. Baby powder made with cornstarch instead of talc is just as effective and sells for the same price.
If baby powder could be hiding such a dark secret, what else don’t we know?
What You Don’t Know about What’s Going on Your Armpits
Antiperspirants stop you from sweating.
They’re different from deodorants, which neutralize odors. Many products combine the two, to keep you dry and odor-free all day long.
Who doesn’t want that?
But there’s concern about the way antiperspirants work. They use a form of aluminum (alum) to plug sweat glands.
Professor of dermatology Dr. David Pariser explains:
“They work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in the sweat to form a physical plug… which is deposited in the sweat duct, producing a blockage in the areas that it’s applied.” 
You know those crystal antiperspirant stones, that are marketed as a safer alternative? They contain alum, too.
And that’s not great.
The human body doesn’t need aluminum. It’s a neurotoxin that’s found in high concentrations in the tissues of Alzheimer’s patients. Aluminum can also interfere with estrogen receptors, which has been implicated in the development of breast cancer. 
And maybe that’s not a problem.
The National Cancer Institute  and the American Cancer Society both believe there’s no compelling case that using antiperspirants causes aluminum to build up to harmful levels in the body.
However, the American Cancer Society acknowledges that some aluminum is absorbed with each swipe of that stick:
“One study that looked at the absorption of aluminum from antiperspirants containing aluminum chlorohydrate applied to the underarms found that only a tiny fraction (0.012%) was absorbed. The actual amount of aluminum absorbed would be much less than what would be expected to be absorbed from the foods a person eats during the same time.” 
Dr. Joseph Mercola, a popular osteopath and leading voice for “whole person” medicine, argues that even a fraction as small as 0.012% adds up, when you consider that antiperspirants are used on a daily basis over an entire lifetime. 
It’s the build-up of aluminum from a variety of sources—not just topically, but also from drinks in aluminum cans or food cooked in aluminum cookware—that pushes aluminum levels high enough to be of concern.
So what can you do?
How to Safely Keep Yourself from Not Smelling
One option is to rely on deodorants instead of antiperspirants.
Your underarms will get wet, but at least you won’t smell.
Some natural health enthusiasts splash milk of magnesium—yes, the laxative—under their arms, claiming that it works as well as commercial deodorants.
However, many popular brands of milk of magnesium contain bleach as a preserving agent. Not something you want on your skin.
The market for natural deodorant alternatives has exploded in the meantime.
One popular brand, Native, offers an aluminum-free, paraben-free deodorant stick chocked with good things like shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and even our old friend milk of magnesium.
Although Native doesn’t claim to be an antiperspirant, it includes baking soda and arrowroot powder to absorb wetness.
What I find fascinating is that the product includes probiotics and acidophilus.
I keep coming across probiotic skincare in the latest beauty magazines. According to gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Raj, it’s good stuff:
Topical application of probiotics also helps strengthen natural skin defenses, lower the stress level in the skin and re-balance the skin’s pH level.” 
Women with skin prone to flare-ups can benefit from the healthy bacteria.
The benefits of acidophilus are clear, too. That’s the bacteria that turns milk into yogurt. I’ve been using yogurt face masks for years. I haven’t started smearing yogurt under my arms yet, but maybe I should.
The reason for Native’s unusual formula is innovation. The product only launched in July 2015, but it’s on its 24th version. Founder Moiz Ali explains, “We’ve been iterating on our deodorant the same way other companies make software.” 
Native is advertised as “deodorant that isn’t a chemistry experiment,” something that sounds pretty appealing by now.
Most of Native’s customers are women—about 90%—and a hefty chunk of those are mothers. Nothing makes you think more about what you put on your skin than pregnancy.
What You Need to Remember
Is wearing deodorant a risk to your health?
Not at all. In fact, not wearing a deodorant might be a risk to your social life.
But you may want to think twice about wearing antiperspirants.
And please powder your baby’s bottom with a cornstarch-based product instead of talcum. Some traditions are meant to be broken.