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Is Old Spice Antiperspirant or Deodorant Toxic?

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like …  Smell Like a Man …  Do these lines ring a bell?  They are from the Old Spice commercials.  My husband used to “smell like a man” a few years ago when he was using an Old Spice antiperspirant.  Frankly, I didn’t like the scent, so I asked him to stop using it.  At that time, I didn’t even know anything about toxic chemicals yet.  In search of a new deodorant for my husband, I studied the ingredients of another Old Spice deodorant, and then another.  What I learned left me with the feeling that the Old Spice ingredients were not safe enough for him.

But that was several years ago.  Things change rapidly nowadays, and there is a possibility that Old Spice has undergone some alterations.  Before we look at what the brand has to offer today, let’s talk about the difference between antiperspirants and deodorants.

Is Old Spice Antiperspirant or Deodorant Toxic? A photo of a man lying on the grass on his back in a resting pose.

Antiperspirants

Antiperspirants work by blocking the sweat glands from releasing sweat.  The substance in antiperspirants that blocks the release of sweat is normally some form of aluminum.  The forms of aluminum include aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, and aluminum citrate. Also, there is aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex gly, potassium aluminum sulfate, and potassium alum.

Thus, for an Old Spice antiperspirant to fulfill its function, it must contain aluminum.  The question is – how safe is it?

Is aluminum in antiperspirants safe?

To clarify, if a deodorant has aluminum, technically, it’s not a deodorant but an antiperspirant.  Hence, deodorants, including Old Spice deodorant, have no aluminum in them.

The fact is that aluminum’s negative effects are controversial.  While the International Agency on Research for Cancer has classified aluminum production as “carcinogenic to humans,” aluminum itself has not been established as a carcinogen (source).

However, recent studies have shown that aluminum may negatively impact the breast microenvironment.  It may cause disruption to iron metabolism, oxidative damage to cell components, and inflammatory responses.  Additionally, it may cause changes to the movability of cells (source).

This study found that aluminum increases the migratory and invasive properties of cancer cells.  It suggests that the presence of aluminum in the human breast could influence metastatic processes.

Furthermore, in this study, scientists investigated the amounts of nickel, cadmium, and aluminum in breast cancer and normal tissues.  They found that the amounts of cadmium and aluminum were significantly higher in breast cancer tissue.  It suggests that there is a possible connection between cadmium and aluminum and cancer.

Thus, I believe that it is prudent to avoid antiperspirants with aluminum compounds.  Is this true even in an Old Spice antiperspirant that makes your man “smell like a man” (whatever that means)?  Well, if it has aluminum, yes.  In addition, sweating is a normal function of your body and is vital for detoxification.  It is not a good idea to interfere with the normal detoxification processes of the body. 

Deodorants

As opposed to an antiperspirant – including an Old Spice antiperspirant – that blocks the sweat glands from releasing sweat, a deodorant does not prevent sweating.  Instead, it neutralizes the smell of the sweat.  Therefore, an Old Spice deodorant as well as any other deodorant does not need aluminum compounds.  Hence, there is no such thing as a “deodorant with aluminum.” 

While this is good news, there are other concerns with deodorants due to some ingredients in them.  

Ingredients in deodorants to avoid

The common ingredients to avoid in deodorants are synthetic fragrance and triclosan.   

Fragrances are usually mixtures of lots of different chemicals.  The FDA does not require the disclosure of individual ingredients used to create fragrances.  Fragrance mixtures have a rating of 8 in the Skin Deep database, because many ingredients are associated with contact allergy (source).  I have a post about Natural Fragrance and its safety – please, feel free to read it. 

As for triclosan, it is an antibacterial chemical that the FDA banned in 2016 from use in antibacterial soap (source).  However, it is still allowed for use in other personal care products, such as deodorants. 

Also, triclosan is an estrogen-mimicking chemical.  Studies show that triclosan may penetrate the skin and get absorbed from products that we apply to the skin.  It can bind to estrogen receptors and induce proliferation in cultured estrogen-sensitive cancer cells.  This means that triclosan may interfere with the successful treatment of estrogen-dependent cancers such as breast, ovary, uterus, and prostate cancers (source).  Thus, it is best to avoid deodorants that contain triclosan.   

Does an Old Spice deodorant and antiperspirant contain fragrance and triclosan?  Let’s check it out.  

Old Spice antiperspirant

There are 14 kinds of antiperspirant on the Old Spice website, and all of them have a form of aluminum in them as an active ingredient and fragrance. 

Aluminum in an Old Spice antiperspirant

Old Spice uses two forms of aluminum – aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly and aluminum chlorohydrate. 

The Skin Deep database has limited data on aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex gly and rates it at 3 depending on usage (with 10 as most toxic).  As for aluminum chlorohydrate, the Skin deep database also rates it at 3 and has fair data on it. 

As I mentioned above, some form of aluminum is necessary to make any antiperspirant.  I spent a great deal of time reading the US National Library of Medicine and found the following.  While some studies link aluminum to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, there is no conclusive evidence that it causes Alzheimer’s or breast cancer.  Also, scientists do not know whether our skin can absorb an amount of aluminum large enough to make a difference.  Nevertheless, I exercise caution and recommend personal care products with less controversial ingredients. 

Fragrance in an Old Spice deodorant and antiperspirant

Both Old spice antiperspirant and deodorant contain fragrance.  It is great, though, that the company discloses all the fragrance ingredients, and I applaud it for it!  The highest number of fragrance ingredients in one antiperspirant or deodorant is 55.  It means that 55 ingredients composed fragrance for this item while on the label you will see only the word “fragrance” as one ingredient.  In a way, they are hidden ingredients.  Please, read my post about hidden ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.

But there is one antiperspirant that has only seven ingredients in its fragrance.  So, before we read the label of some Old Spice deodorant, let’s look at the ingredients of an Old Spice antiperspirant slash deodorant.  It is Old Spice Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant for Men Fiji with Palm Tree Scent.

Old Spice Fiji antiperspirant ingredients

The ingredients of the Fiji antiperspirant are as follows:

Active: Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly 15% (Anhydrous)

Inactive: Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearyl Alcohol, Mineral Oil, PPG-14 Butyl Ether, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Petrolatum, Fragrance, Talc, Cyclodextrin, Ozokerite, C20-40 Pareth-10, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Behenyl Alcohol (source).

Since we have already discussed the aluminum compound used in this product, let’s talk about the other ingredients.

The ingredients in the Old Spice antiperspirant of low concern

These ingredients are stearyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, ozokerite, hydrogenated castor oil, cyclodextrin, PPG-14 butyl ether, and cocos nucifera (coconut) oil.  Let’s see what role they play in this Old spice deodorant and antiperspirant.

Emulsifiers and viscosity agents

To begin, stearyl alcohol and behenyl alcohol are emulsifiers and viscosity agents with a rating of 1 in the Skin deep database with limited data.  You can see stearyl alcohol quite often in organic and natural skincare lotions and creams.  

The other two viscosity controlling ingredients which help adjust the thickness of ingredients to give the product its form or shape are ozokerite and hydrogenated castor oil.  The Skin Deep database gives them both a rating of 1 with limited data.

Other ingredients

Next, there is cyclodextrin, which is produced from starch by means of enzymatic conversion.  It also has a rating of 1 in the Skin Deep Database.  Studies in both humans and animals have shown that CDs can be used to improve drug delivery from almost any type of drug formulation.

Then, there is PPG-14 butyl ether, which is a polypropylene glycol ester of butyl alcohol with a rating of 1 in the Skin Deep database with limited data.

Finally, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil is a skin-conditioning agent with a rating of 1 in the Skin Deep database with fair data.

The ingredients in the Old Spice antiperspirant of some concern

Somewhat concerning ingredients in this Old Spice deodorant and antiperspirant are cyclopentasiloxane, petrolatum, mineral oil, and talc.

Cyclopentasiloxane and petrolatum

First, the full chemical name of cyclopentasiloxane is decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5), and it may contain trace amounts of cyclotetrasiloxane (D4).  The Skin Deep database rates it at 3 (with 10 as the most toxic), because it is classified as an endocrine disruptor.  The European Union has evidence that it interferes with human hormone function and human fertility.  It has a controversial impact on the environment, which you can read more about here. 

Next is petrolatum, which is a semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons originating from petroleum.  Petrolatum has a rating of 4 in the Skin Deep database, because of its possible contamination with carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons).

Mineral oil and talc

Mineral oil is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons originating from petroleum.  The Skin Deep database rates it between 1 and 3, because of its possible contamination with carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).

Lastly, a somewhat concerning ingredient in an Old Spice deodorant slash antiperspirant is talc.  Talc is a mineral consisting mainly of elements such as magnesium, silicon, and oxygen.  The Skin Deep database rates talc at 3.  As powder, it absorbs the odor and moisture well in the Old Spice antiperspirant and helps cut down on friction, making it useful for keeping the skin dry.  Sometimes it contains a small portion of aluminum silicate.  

Talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, posing risks for respiratory toxicity and cancer.  It is not clear if consumer products containing talc powder increase cancer risk.  Studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk with the genital use of talc-based products (source).  In fact, the issue as to whether asbestos fibers in talc cause ovarian cancer is currently being litigated.  Juries have returned large verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in several cases, many of which may be currently on appeal. 

The ingredients in the Old Spice antiperspirant of high concern

These ingredients are fragrance and C20-40 Pareth-10.    

Even though fragrance consists of only 7 ingredients, there are some concerning ones such as linalool and geraniol.  The Skin Deep database rates linalool at 5 and geraniol at 7 (with 10 as most toxic) because they are known as human immune system toxicants or allergens.

As for C20-40 Pareth-10, it is an ethoxylated ingredient resulting from the process of ethoxylation.  To make harsh petrochemical raw materials less irritating to the skin, manufacturers add ethylene oxide.  As a result, the final product may have traces of unreacted ethylene oxide.  On top of that, the process of ethoxylation creates 1,4-dioxane.  These two chemicals are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “carcinogenic to humans” and as “probably carcinogenic to humans” respectively.  On my blog, I do not recommend any products with ethoxylated ingredients. 

Old Spice deodorant

There are seven kinds of deodorant on the Old Spice website.  Let’s look at the ingredients of the Fiji Deodorant with Palm Tree Scent Inspired by Nature.  They are as follows:

Dipropylene Glycol, Water, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Stearate, Fragrance, PPG-3 Myristyl Ether, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Blue 1 (source).

Unlike the Old Spice antiperspirant, it doesn’t have aluminum, but it does have fragrance and a colorant.  

The ingredients in the Fiji deodorant of low concern

These ingredients are dipropylene glycol, sodium stearate, PPG-3 myristyl ether, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, and tetrasodium EDTA.

First, dipropylene glycol is a dissolving agent controlling the viscosity of the product.  It provides a base to dissolve useful ingredients and helps adjust the thickness of ingredients to give the product its form or shape.  The Skin Deep database gives it a rating of 1 with limited data.

Next is sodium stearate, a surfactant, or emulsifying agent, which allows ingredients to be combined.  The Skin Deep database rates it at 1 with limited data.

Then there are PPG-3 myristyl ether and cocos nucifera (coconut) oil both of which are skin-conditioning agents with a rating of 1 in the Skin Deep database.  While coconut oil has a fair amount of data, the PPG-3 myristyl ether has none.

Finally, tetrasodium EDTA is a chelating agent that helps to maintain the stability of the product.  It has a rating of 2 in the Skin Deep database with a fair amount of data.

The ingredients in the Old Spice deodorant of some concern

Similar to the Old Spice antiperspirant with the same name, the Fiji deodorant has a couple of concerning ingredients.  They are propylene glycol and the blue 1 colorant.

The Skin Deep database gives propylene glycol a rating of 3, because it may be an allergen.  In the deodorant, it serves as a solvent providing a base to dissolve useful ingredients.

The blue 1 colorant provides color to the finished product.  However, the problem is that this colorant is petroleum-based, and, thus, in addition to heavy metal contaminants, it may contain contaminants related to petroleum. If you want to learn more about colorants and what measures you can take to avoid heavy metals in cosmetics, read my post about Heavy metals in makeup.  The bottom line is this colorant is not a necessary ingredient in this product at all.  

The ingredients in the Fiji deodorant of high concern

Just as in the case with the Fiji antiperspirant, the ingredient of high concern in the Fiji deodorant is fragrance.  As we have already mentioned, fragrance has a rating of 8 out of 10 (with 10 as most toxic).  Thanks to the disclosure of all the sub-ingredients in the Old Spice deodorant fragrance, we know that it consists of 50 ingredients.  Among others, I have noticed phenoxyethanol, linalool, citronellol, citral, and limonene.

I have a post on Phenoxyethanol in Skin Care where I explain why I do not like phenoxyethanol in products we use on our bodies. 

As for linalool, we have talked about it before when we described the fragrance ingredients of the Old Spice antiperspirant. 

Both citronellol and citral have a rating of 4 in the Skin Deep database, because they present a high risk of allergy.  In addition, there is limonene rated at 3-6 depending on the use with the same concern of allergy and immunotoxicity.

On a positive note, there is no triclosan in the Old Spice deodorant!

Conclusion about the Old Spice antiperspirant and deodorant

In conclusion, due to several ingredients with health and environmental concerns in the Old Spice antiperspirant and deodorant, I am so glad that my husband does not use it anymore.  My husband was pleasantly surprised that you do not have to use aluminum antiperspirant to get the job done.

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19 thoughts on “Is Old Spice Antiperspirant or Deodorant Toxic?”

  1. I cannot wait! My husband has always said that antiperspirant isn’t healthy. But how to smell good? Please answer soon! 🙂

  2. I look forward to all your findings on everything. I recently in the past year started eating organic and trying to rid my body of all the harmful elements in this world.

  3. After starting a cleaner diet, both my husband and I have successfully been able to give up using deodorant. There is definitely the occasional time (hot sweaty days for example) where I regret that decision, but for the most part I think we smell just fine.

  4. I’m so confused! Right next to your email in my inbox was another email from paulaschoice.com called “Ingrediant Scares That Aren’t True”. Under that are catagories called “The Dirty Dozen of “Bad” Cosmetic Ingredients” and “Making a Safe Ingrediant Seem Scary”. The link is:

    http://www.paulaschoice.com/community/news-and-commentary/_/ingredient-scares-that-arent-true?utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Read+More+%3E%3E&utm_content=Ingredient+Scares+That+Aren%27t+True&utm_campaign=07.03.14+Beauty+Exclusives#dirty

    I really don’t know what and who to believe, though I do tend to lean towards you in that you don’t sell products! Help!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for tending to lean toward me. As you probably noticed, I do not use scary tactics. I always cite scientific studies. The difficulty is that a lot of harms may show up many years later and cannot be traced to any particular product. This is how toxic product manufacturers can get away with it. The cost of manufacturing of toxic product is so much lower. No wonder, they want you to keep buying their products. And as you correctly noticed I do not have any financial interest. In fact, I would be making big money if I were promoting toxic products.

      Thank you for asking the question!

      Best, Irina

      1. Thank you for getting back to me so fast!
        I know you have done great reviews on Laural Whole Plant Organics products and on Luminessance (sp), but why does the good stuff have to be so expensive? I used to use Sequoia Beauty before their rebrand, but then they priced me out. I know one can use baking soda, vinegar and lemon for many things, plus those Ingrediants are cheap, but I’d like something a little nicer. I frequently go to the Marin Farmer’s Market in San Rafael, as you do. Can you find a brand that’s good AND a bit cheaper? I would like to phase out the bad stuff. Thanks!

        1. I know. After rebranding Laurel priced me out too. Have you tried Luminance? They are reasonably priced, in my opinion. I appreciate your feedback. It is funny. I was just approached by a reasonably priced skin care/personal care business but have to do more digging and testing before I recommend them. So good to hear from you!

  5. Thank you for answering my questions. I enjoy your blog. My “baby” is 20 year old college student, but my sister has a 2 year old so I pass on your kid-related things to her! Thanks for your hard work.

  6. Hi Irina,

    Thank you for your information. I am creating an all natural deodorant and would like to use some of your information on my site. But without taking credit for doing the research myself. Fact based comments. I love your info and find it to be consistent with everything i have read on the subject. I would like to ask your permission to use some of your info, if thats ok with you? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Graelon: Thank you for your question. I am also consulting with product makers to help them create the best products. Please contact me by filling out a contact form on the website. Thanks! ~Irina

  7. Mohammad Islam Tahir

    Hi,

    As a guy I’ve always thought about the deodorant issue but was uncertain. Thank you for shedding light send sharing your research/ experiences on this topic.

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