Why Do You Develop an Allergy to Deodorants or Antiperspirants?
Many people in the United States and all over the world use deodorants and antiperspirants every day trying to mask underarm odors and reduce perspiration. You can buy these cosmetic products individually, as well as a combination product. However, in some cases, people may have an allergy to deodorants or antiperspirants.
Why Do Reactions to Deodorants/Antiperspirants Occur?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies deodorants as cosmetic agents. They help to prevent the growth of bacteria due to their antimicrobial activities, while fragrances contained in deodorants help to reduce body odors caused by the bacteria. Unlike deodorants, antiperspirants are considered as medications, according to the FDA. Aluminum, commonly contained in antiperspirants, helps to prevent the sweat glands from producing sweat. Normally, both products can be safely applied to the skin.
Many deodorants and antiperspirants used to contain preservatives like parabens. However, recently, most manufacturers have been producing paraben-free products only, due to a concern related to an increased risk for breast cancer in women. Parabens were blamed on the increase in breast cancer among female population, but in fact, numerous studies have disproved this theory.
The development of Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with repeated exposure to aluminum, contained in antiperspirants. There are a number of studies showing that aluminum-containing skin products do somehow increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but the results are rather controversial.
Deodorants and antiperspirants may also trigger an allergic reaction, such as contact dermatitis. The symptoms include red, itchy, and bumpy rash that may ooze, blister, peel, and flake. In most cases, people with an allergy to deodorants and antiperspirants develop contact dermatitis on the site of application, such as the underarm area.
What Are the Allergens Associated with Deodorants and Antiperspirants?
While contact dermatitis can be caused by various chemicals found in deodorants and antiperspirants, fragrances trigger most of reactions.
In fact, up to 4 percent of world population have a fragrance allergy. If you are allergic to fragrances, experts recommend using hypoallergenic, fragrance-free cosmetic products. However, finding one may be quite challenging, since the majority of deodorants and antiperspirants available in stores contain fragrances.
If it’s a fragrance that’s causing your symptoms, allergic reaction to deodorants/antiperspirants can also be caused by chemicals like propylene glycol (that helps to transport the active ingredients), parabens, lanolin, and vitamin E (which is used as a moisturizer and an antioxidant).
How Is an Allergy Diagnosed?
There are various methods to diagnose an allergy. If you experience allergy symptoms after using a deodorant or antiperspirant, you should an allergist-immunologist – a doctor specializing in allergic disorders. The doctor will need to conduct patch testing. T.R.U.E test is the only patch testing system in the U.S. that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, sometime, allergies to rare fragrances and propylene glycol can’t be detected by this test. To make sure the cause of your allergy is detected correctly, your doctor should perform testing using your own deodorant or antiperspirant that triggered a reaction.
Allergy to deodorants or antiperspirants is not the only cause of underarm rashes. They may also be a result of fungal and yeast infections like tinea corporis and candidiasis, acanthosis nigricans, inverse psoriasis, as well as some types of cancer. Therefore, if allergy treatments don’t seem to help you, you should see a dermatologist.
How to Treat an Allergy to Deodorants and Antiperspirants?
If you notice that your deodorant or antiperspirant causes you to have an underarm dermatitis, you can reduce the rash using topical corticosteroids. This medication can help with mild to moderate symptoms occurring on limited areas of your body. In case your rash severe, you may need to take oral or injected corticosteroids.
Allergic diseases cannot be cured or prevented by medicines, meaning the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the trigger. Your allergen can be identified with a help of patch testing. Once you know what chemical is causing your symptoms, you should stay away from products containing it. For instance, you can try using hypoallergenic deodorants and antiperspirants.
Examples of fragrance-free products combining a deodorant and antiperspirant include: Almay Hypo-Allergenic Fragrance-Free Roll On, Stiefel B-Drier, and Mitchum Roll-On Unscented. Certain Dri is a hypoallergenic antiperspirant. Some experts recommend using hypoallergenic Crystal Roll-On or Stick Body Deodorants for Sensitive Skin, or Secret Soft Solid Platinum Deodorant Unscented.
There are also some alternative options such as zeolite crystals, that can be used as natural deodorants and antiperspirants.