Antiperspirants and Deodorants

Personal cleanliness products, like soaps and shower gels, are intended to clean the body. They also include products that help protect against body odors such as deodorants and antiperspirants, as well as feminine hygiene products such as feminine deodorants and douches.

Deodorants are products applied to the body, most frequently the armpits, to reduce the body odor caused by the bacterial breakdown of perspiration. Deodorants work either by using fragrance to cover up malodor or by absorbing perspiration that leads to the formation of malodor.

Antiperspirants are products that prevent the excretion of sweat which leads to malodor. Antiperspirants are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs. As such, they must be shown to be safe and effective and must comply with all other requirements listed in FDA's OTC antiperspirant monograph.  Individual active ingredients in antiperspirants are reviewed for safety by FDA, and only those that are on FDA's monograph approved list can be used in antiperspirant products marketed in the U.S.

MYTH: Antiperspirants cause cancer.

Like all cosmetic products, deodorant and antiperspirant products and their ingredients must be safe before they are introduced for consumer use.  In addition, antiperspirants are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs. As such, they must be shown to be safe and effective and must comply with all other requirements listed in the FDA's OTC antiperspirant monograph.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the breast cancer-antiperspirant myth first appeared in the form of an e-mail in the 1990s, and continues to resurface and recirculate about every year or so. The false information suggests that antiperspirants and deodorants contain harmful substances, which can be absorbed through the skin or can enter the body near the breasts through nicks in the skin caused by shaving. The NCI says that no existing scientific or medical evidence links the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants to the subsequent development of breast cancer. NCI also states that “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.” The Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and WebMD experts agree. The ACS states on its website that “There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim.”

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