Newsflash: Deodorant ISN'T regulated

The dirty truth

Deodorant falls into a category that receives ZERO regulatory oversight. Seems weird since it feels like our lives are over-regulated in every way. But the cold hard truth is that the deodorant industry along with all non-pharmaceutical external body products and home cleaning products have no regulatory standard. Yeah. You read that right. And it's a bit crazy. 

Ever looked at a deodorant label and been dazzled by a strong of ingredients that have no recognizable root in our language system? Things like propylene glycol sound better as such than if the most common use of the chemical was written down. Antifreeze looks pretty gnarly on a body product label. But then again, so does formaldehyde, which is not infrequently used in those deodorants that leave a white mark on your clothes. Mmmm, who doesn't want formaldehyde paste on their pits all day? Gross.

But there's more, right? Propylene glycol is still in a wide range of "natural" and not-even-trying-to-be-natural deodorants. But we've all seen labels proudly claiming "No Parabens" "No Phthalates" or "No Aluminum." What about those?

Why are we so aware of the toxic ingredients then?

Remember the BPA scare with plastic? And now lots of plastic boasts that it doesn't contain BPA? It's a good story to follow in understanding how regulations work in the wild West of unregulated stuff. Basically, plastic has never been exactly good for anyone, it's a great byproduct of the old, faithful petroleum industry. 

It's the same with the body product industry. Since no one is looking over the shoulder of manufacturers, it's a free-for-all until someone gets caught. And it takes a lot to get caught. 

Once SEVERAL people get really really sick and can prove that they got sick from a particular ingredient, then there begins to be awareness of the problem. Really, though, it's potently aware consumers who drive this. You'll notice that several deodorants still contain aluminum, right? Well, it's because pseudo-science was brought to bear on the issue by a very questionable, even sketchy, research project that threw shade at the people who'd proven they got sick from aluminum. People died of breast cancer and the deodorant companies continued to push to use it because our culture believes there's a problem with sweating and the only way to actually stop or reduce sweating is with aluminum. It's ugly.

To make it worse, on non-pharmaceutical products, there is no requirement to disclose every ingredient, so the less savory ingredients are hidden behind the word "fragrance." FRAGRANCE should be avoided at all cost. If they're willing to tell you about the antifreeze and formaldehyde and aluminum, what are they hiding? Neurotoxic BHT? Yes, in the case of some very popular "natural" deodorants.

Anyway, those ingredients you see called out as being removed from deodorant WERE there previously, but those companies removed it after the public became enraged over those ingredients. The companies are using YOU as their moral compass. That's a lot of responsibility for consumers, especially considering you have a full life to live without trying to be the regulatory force for the companies you buy from.

Voluntary regulation 

There are those companies that elect to have oversight, and those companies are changing a lot about the deodorant industry. Natural Grocers is the best large company for this. It's amazing how much they are changing the deodorant industry. They have a large list of restricted ingredients and won't allow products on their shelves that contain those ingredients. They're basically being your middle-man, doing research, and protecting their consumers. 

You can also buy from companies that are entirely focused on ethical behaviors, but they can be hard to tell from the companies that strategically pose as good guys in their marketing. It's messy. 

Generally, if you're looking at a company that is being transparent, you'll know this because they are going above and beyond instead of doing the bare minimum. How do they respond when you ask probing questions? Do they intentionally tell you ALL of their ingredients? The basis of operation in this space is trust. We work hard to build trust and don't hide anything. There are a couple of other companies like this, but not many.

It all comes down to trust

At the end of the day, you are wise, you have good intuition. If you're working with a company comprised of good people and transparent processes, you'll feel good about your interactions. I wish I could tell you it's something more scientific, but you have to trust your gut.

We approach customers through information. We tell you WHY we use ingredients because we trust you to make the best decision for yourself. We sell deodorant that we made to solve our unending search for something that was TRULY natural that ACTUALLY worked. That's why we're here. Asking why is the most important thing. If a company gives you a slick line about their why, question it.

Ask why. Read labels. Empower yourself with information. Don't be afraid to reach out and demand answers.


Erica Feucht