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Is It Safe for Kids to Use Deodorant?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 04, 2021

If your child asks about wearing deodorant or is starting to fight body odor, you may be wondering what the safest deodorant options are for them. 

What Is Deodorant?

Deodorants and antiperspirants can be applied to your underarms to reduce sweating. They often come in roll-on and aerosol spray forms. Since sweat causes odor, most deodorants contain fragrances and odor eliminators. 

A common concern about deodorant is that it stops your body from ridding itself of harmful toxins, but your body doesn't remove toxins through sweat. Instead, toxins exit your body through urine or feces.

Potentially Harmful Ingredients in Deodorant

Aluminum. The aluminum in your deodorant comes in the form of a salt that dissolves into your pores and blocks sweat from forming on the surface of your skin. There are many claims that the aluminum in deodorant causes cells in the lymph nodes to morph into dangerous cancer cells. However, these claims are largely untrue. 

Parabens. Parabens are used in deodorant to prevent fungi, bacteria, and yeast from growing. Since armpits are moist and warm, there is a chance that sweating could lead to an overgrowth of candida, which is a type of yeast. 

Parabens from your deodorant are absorbed through your skin. Once they enter your system, they function as estrogen, a sex hormone. Long-term exposure to estrogen can increase your risk of cancer, but deodorant alone isn't harmful. The amount of parabens in cosmetic products like deodorant is not nearly high enough to increase your risk.

Deodorant for Kids

Children generally enter puberty between the ages of 9 and 14. Around this time, they become more aware of their bodies and may begin to develop body odor. They may feel self-conscious about sweating and smelling. 

Deodorant is safe for your kids to use when they're ready. In fact, many brands make a deodorant that is specially formulated for younger wearers.

Safety Concerns

Avoid aerosol sprays for younger children who may not understand how to use the spray correctly. If your child inhales too much aerosol deodorant, they could have severe respiratory symptoms.

In some cases, the ingredients in deodorant may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. This happens with overuse or accidental ingestion. If you think your child is having a negative reaction to deodorant, stop use right away and talk to your pediatrician.

Natural Deodorant Alternatives

Although no studies have drawn a connection between deodorant ingredients and health problems like cancer, you may still be concerned about beginning your child on a traditional deodorant too early. 

Continued

If that’s the case, check out natural deodorant alternatives until your child needs something stronger:

  • Witch hazel is gentle enough for sensitive skin. If your child has a reaction to the alcohol content in deodorant, consider witch hazel instead. It can shrink your child's pores and evaporate sweat.
  • Essential oils are extracted from plants and bottled in concentrated amounts. They act as a natural alternative for the fragrances found in deodorant. Some oils like rosemary, sage, lemongrass, and tea tree oil have antibacterial properties and can help reduce odor before it starts.
  • Mineral salts are a good alternative for aluminum. They dissolve in your pores, and while they won’t prevent sweating, they will stop bacteria from creating a smell as they break down. 
  • Baking soda neutralizes odor and soaks up extra moisture. It can block your child's sweat glands to reduce how much they sweat. 
  • Coconut oil is an antibacterial moisturizer, so it’s another great ingredient to look for in natural deodorants. 
  • Lemon juice kills odor-causing bacteria, but it should be used sparingly, as the citrus juice may also irritate your child's skin. 
  • Shea butter helps reduce inflammation, so it may lessen the effects of stronger ingredients. It’s also not greasy, so it won’t get on your kid's clothes and stain them.

If you can’t find a deodorant that you and your kid love, try making one of your own using the ingredients listed above. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

A Healthier Michigan: “Natural Alternatives to Deodorant.”

Illinois Poison Center: “Antiperspirant.”

KidsHealth: “When Should Kids Start Using Deodorant?”

Penn Medicine: “Is Deodorant Harmful for Your Health?”

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