Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Overshare: My "Body Tears"....

Cancer has been a backdrop in my life from my earliest memories. Although only my father in my immediate family has had cancer, it has made appearances (some more dramatic than others) in many of my extended family, friends' families and local village members lives. At the age of four I remember walking up our driveway to visit Grandpi one last time. My Aunt Anna was diagnosed with Leukemia and actually lived with us for a week before I was ten. A woman in our village was diagnosed with cancer but refused to go for treatment and I remember smelling her while in Church. Mom informed me it was the smell of her body rotting from the inside out.

My Tante Virginia was diagnosed with breast cancer followed by liver cancer and passed when I was 15 years old. Most check-ups were in Halifax, a three hour drive away. My mother was the only family member willing (although I'm sure they had valid "excuses") to drive her even though the drive to the city terrified her. She was the one who stayed with her those last few days in the hospital, during which she listened to her say how she didn't want to die yet, smelled her rotting breath with each painful turn on the bed, saw how she bled from all orifices and prayed with her.

I could go on, the list is ridiculously long, aunts, cousins, friends (including my 26 year old childhood friend who was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and at the age of 27 he is now a survivor)...and I am certain that there must be some sort of pollution effect from the gulf stream up to Yarmouth County. Needless to say, cancer is a big deal for myself and my family.

As rising evidence is linking our chemical soaked lives to cancer it just makes sense to cut out as much as I possibly can from my life.

Antiperspirant has been a looooong time coming. Containing ingredients such as aluminum and parabens (both linked, although controversially, to cancer) and being used daily for decades I would say there is some concern. The U.S. National Cancer Institute sums up the political correctness of this entire thing: first stating that there is no link to antiperspirants and cancer... followed by statements indicating that research HAS shown hormonal effects and links to cancer with regular skin exposure to aluminum and parabens. Although the terminology is so caught up with the word "cause", essentially there have been studies linking ingredients in traditional antiperspirants and deodorants to cancer-type precursors (FAQ sheet on NCI). Unfortunately my antiperspirant- Degree, doesn't list anything beyond aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly on the actual container OR on their website. So I can't even check to see whether there are parabens (which the NCI recommended to avoid).

If there are chemical-free alternatives why would we want to take the risk?

Now here's the part of the overshare! Ok... I am confessing that I, Lisa, am a profuse "body-tears" extraordinaire. Ahem, I sweat a LOT. No really, it's most likely at the upper limit. I hate this about my body... and have resisted anything other than antiperspirants with the *hope* that it would reduce the amount even by a tiny bit. Nothing has worked. As a result, I'm left with stained clothing, smelly arm-valleys (who likes the word "pit" anyways?) and increasing feeling that I don't want these synthetic chemicals absorbed into my skin every day.

So, over the past few years I've tried quite a few chemical-free alternatives. None of them worked well at all. Most of them were grimy, slimy and honestly I had terrible wafts of smells every once in a while. I'd run to the bathroom and make sure that smell really was coming from me!!! (oh the horror!!). I tried NO deodorant... THAT was a catastrophic idea. So back I was, using regular antiperspirant and accepting that I would be sweaty and chemically for the rest of my life. I would NOT become one of those weird hippies who used a rock. WHO does that??? We made fun of my friends mother for YEARS for having that weird rock in her bathroom.

Finally, my friend H. announces that she caved and bought the mineral salt deodorant (I laughed at her inwardly but as a fellow eco-warrior showed some support). A few days later, while practicing yoga, she proclaimed that "Holy crap, it actually works!!" NO WAY. I didn't believe her. Then, Andrew ran out of deodorant and we both decided, what the eff, we were taking the mineral salt plunge. (exhibit A)

I felt so embarrassed buying this little pillar of mineral salt encased in a pretty container (make sure no one is watching me peruse the B.O. section! I'm not stinky I swear!!). I had zero hopes. Even after reading Crunchy's posts on the "rock" and her excellent reviews I seriously thought it was b.s. Whatever, maybe for you "non-sweating buckets" people.

We are now on week two of the mineral salt and I am appropriately humbled. Holy POOP it actually works. It's the most weirdest thing to rub a wet rock on my arm-valleys but even after over 12 hours after application, a sweaty yoga practice (this has been several sweaty yoga practices in the past week) and sleeved shirts I am smell-free. NO SMELL AT ALL. Andrew actually spent sporadic moments throughout one of his first evenings saying: "Seriously, SMELL THEM! Nothing!!! WEIRD". We looked like a bunch of dorks walking around the apartment smelling our armpits.

How does it work? We purchased Lafe's Deodorant and according to their website, the mineral salts used naturally destroy odor causing bacteria. The crystal deodorant is made with natural mineral salts (potassium alum) and is 99% natural ingredients. Unlike aluminum in traditional antiperspirants or deodorants, potassium alum in crystal form does not inhibit sweat and is a compound as opposed to a metal. Alum molecules are too big to be absorbed through the skin. Further, according to "The Crystal" (another brand) website, Aluminum chlorohydrate (familiar?) is a neurotoxin and is rated a 3-4 on Skin Deep's website. According to Skin Deep: potassium alum rates only a 1-2 risk level (although lacking in research). No parabens and no other preservatives.

A few little tips I have learned:
  1. It works best when you apply directly after washing (I apply mine right after the shower)
  2. Wetting and applying liberally worked much better for Andrew (i.e. SLATHER, it will dry :) )
  3. Careful after shaving- may be stingy! I've been trying to shave the night before to allow "heal" time.
  4. I do not actually sweat "less" that I can tell. But NO residue whatsoever!
Yay for a new "eco" success discovery!!! Almost as awesome as the divacup. Almost.


Article and photos copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. As I was reading this post, I kept thinking "but,but,but, mineral salt!!!!" So I was delighted to hear that you tried it with success. I had the same revelation and for years now, I've been one of those people who 'doesn't have body odour'. By the way, it has the same effect on smelly feet! Also, it's a 'positive' that it doesn't quell perspiration - you definitely want your body to sweat in order to release body toxins. Now, I just need to try the Diva Cup.

  2. Awesome! I'll have to try this. And thanks for the arm-valleys term. I hate "armpit," too.

  3. ohmygoodness! i just saw this stuff at pete's frootique last week and i was intrigued. i almost bought one on the spot, but decided i'd come home to do my research first. but you got to it before me! so, now i say - thanks for making my research easier, and i'll pick some up tonight when i'm downtown!

  4. Well...anything that ranks up there with my beloved Diva cup is worth investigating...

    I, too, laughed (quietly) at the hippie pit-rock users....I am suitably humbled, of course...

  5. I will have to re-visit the crystals. I too, sweat buckets and have had a hard time using natural deoderants. I found a great one in St.Thomas that is Almond based and love how it smells, but ran out. Need to check out their website...
    The thing with me is they all seem to wear off by about 3 (the sweatiest and hottest time of the day). Maybe with winter approaching, it's a good time to start experimenting again :)

  6. hmm this is an area i need to explore. i tried to go off deodorant but decided it was a bad idea. i think it'd rather get some homemade deodorant off etsy than the rock though. and way to remind me about cancer and start off my day in a depressing way. ha.

  7. I am so trying this cuz all my natural ones don't work. Jason worked for a while but it is not anymore. Thanks for letting me in on this. I will let you know how it works for me.

    BTW, I am with you on the cancer front. There are too many people that I know and love that have or have had cancer. I can't help but think environment plays a part....

  8. Just got home from buying a crystal, which my hubby said "you know that doesn't work..." hmph. Gonna try again dangit! Now that I am pretty detoxed, I don't smell to bad anyway (xcept when I eat the red onions. But trying to stop the sweat, not gonna happen. I heard botox to the "Valleys" works though...haha.
    Gave you a shout out on my blog...

  9. I love love love my "magic rock" (as my husband calls it). It definitely ranks up there with the menstrual cup as a product that everyone should know about but no one does.

  10. Your comment about parabens being linked to cancer is inaccurate - we have to fight against cancer causing agents based on scientific evidence. Here's an expert on my blog reviewing the topic:

  11. oh this is excellent news. i've taken to getting one of those clinical strength deodorants for the summer because the regular strengths don't cut it (knowing that i'm putting my body at risk). i will happily try this out. thanks for sharing!

  12. Ouuu, I'm glad everyone's pumped about this as I am!!! I agree that sweating is normal... so i'm fine with that :)

    Jessica: actually, Skin Deep, an Independent, well respected, cosmetic safety database

    rates methylparaben (a type of paraben) as an 8 or high risk. when you check their references, they actually have several that refer to parabens as being implicated in endocrine disruptors etc. According to their references:
    RTECS Food and Chemical Toxicology is referenced 9 times as having known toxicological affects.... Although I do agree that the internet is NOT a reliable place to get non-biased information...

    However, although I am sure that Dr. Abdullah is an intelligent, well educated man (he IS a plastic surgeon after all) I would also have to point out that he DOES have a vested interest in keeping parabens as a "safe" alternative. As he IS the founder of a huge skin-based line...
    So not exactly the most unbiased source.
    At the same time, Wiki has some interesting info on parabens- stating that although they CAN be found in nature (like methylparabens in blueberries) unless otherwise stated all cosmetic parabens are SYNTHETICALLY produced... a bit misleading when Dr. Abdullah stated they were naturally occurring (implying that the parabens used in Lexli skin products are literally taken from natural sources).

    I understand that one study cannot be conclusive. However, we'd be remiss to state that enough research has been done in order to properly determine how our bodies are reacting to the increasingly high amounts of chemicals we are exposed to each and every day.

    If there are safe, non-synthetic, chemical-free alternatives why wouldn't I use those?

  13. Haha, arm valleys...

    Yeah, I love my rock. My dad was actually the one who finally convinced me to start using it (and my logic was, ok, if a stinky man is happy with it, it HAS to work for my dainty feminine "arm valleys"). And it does! And it IS weird! I still don't totally believe it.

    And by the way, I used to have REALLY sweaty armpits. Like, I would only wear black because of the staining. My mum always tells me "What you resist persists", and it's true. While I was using anti-persperants, I was sweating buckets. Once I stopped caring so much and started using natural deoderants, I began sweating less!

    Anyway, I especially liked this post because I also wrote a related post today on natural cosmetics! I encourage you to link back to this post in the comments :)

  14. I LOVE mine. I ever got my hubby to start using one. They last a really long time too! And if the salt starts to smell just wash it with a little soap. :)

  15. Wow! Great post and almost as good as The DivaCup. We are going to try it.


    The DivaCup Team

  16. Hi

    I think your site is great. I was wondering if you wanted to do a link exchange. If you can add me to your blog roll? My site is:

    Hope to hear from you soon

  17. Oh how I laughed about the smelling armpits because it was all too familiar! We too went through that but with our homemade deodorant! Although, the rock sounds better...did you buy it a Pete's? Thanks for the overshare! It seems we all have the same issues! :) Why wouldn't we...we are all human after all! ;)

  18. I want to quote some info from Daniel Yarosh, PH.D who is a pioneer in the science of DNA repair & invents ingredients in other skin care lines. "Not understanding the basic precepts of science can also lead to bouts of temporary hysteria. In 2004, a group of scientists at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom used excruciatingly sensitive equipment to detect trace levels (parts per billion) of the preservative methylparaben in some breast cancer biopsies. The study did NOT compare the levels in cancer tissue to levels in normal tissue, nor did it determine whether the biopsies came from women who even used methylparaben products.
    But since methylparaben is found in deodorants, the news immediately circled th globe that the parabens in deodorants caused breast cancer. Websites sprang up accusing cosmetic companies of hypocrisy for raising money to fight breast cancer while including parabens in their products. Fearing consumer backlash, major cosmetic manufacturers reformulated their brands, & word went out to suppliers to minimize or eliminate paraben preservatives, even though the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Products reviewed the scientific data in 2005 & concluded that "there is NO EVIDENCE OF A DEMONSTRABLE RISK FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF BREAST CANCER CAUSED BY THE USE OF UNDERARM COSMETICS." This episode shows how susceptible consumers are to hype & alleged horror stories. Had the scaremongers carefully examined the original study,I doubt that the ensuing craziness would have occured."
    This man has nothing to do with my company, but wants people to understand the truth about myths in the skincare industry.

    Jessica O'Dair

  19. Hi Jessica:
    thank you for this information. It is true that caution should be held when evaluating results from scientific data (as we can see from the Autism-vaccine hysteria that was based on faulty and fraudulent science).

    I do appreciate you providing this information for my readers and taking the time to find a quote from another, independent scientist.

    I also would point out that it is unfortunate that consumers, due to loose and faulty FDA regulations, media manipulation and greenwashing now have to rely on their OWN judgment as large companies can no longer be trusted on their word alone.

    when it comes to exposing myself to chemicals, my issue is that if there is a safe, less chemical alternative that works just as well, then I will take it. So I'm not hysterical, just cautious. Which I believe I have the right to be. :)

    However, I do believe that I will change the wording in the post to reflect this.

  20. also, after re-reading my section I would like to point out that my wording actually was: "has been linked to cancer" and my quotes regarding avoidance of parabens and paraphrasing their review of studies 'linking' (keyword, I didn't say they CAUSED cancer anywhere, as neither did NIC) were also taken from the National Institute of Cancer- which I link.

    There was actually no place in this post where I "hysterically" state that parabens cause cancer.

  21. You are correct Eco Yogini...and I didn't mean to make it sound like you made such a statement. :) I just continue to see so many blogs misinterpret the research. My hope is that more people will learn and understand the facts behind parabens and preservatives.

    I also want to thank you for sharing and being open to discussing the research. While there will always be studies that show both sides of an argument, I can appreciate your stance on educating consumers and encouraging them to investigate and learn about products and services they use.

    Keep up the great posts and I'd love to have you contribute something on my blog if you'd be interested.

    Thanks again,

    Jessica O'Dair
    Paramedical Esthetician

  22. Glad to hear so many success stories about "the rock" and other alternative deodorants... I'm amazed that there are so many out there. I canned chemical deodorant over a year ago, and I have tried a few, all with much success. My favourite by far is a cream deodorant made by a holistic health practitioner in Toronto.

    There are a few very good options, available in Canada. Check out Raindance Cosmetics, a family company who researches to DEATH everything they carry. I happen to be a personal guinea pig for them, have tried everything.. the stuff that works and the stuff that doesn't (which is not on the site LOL)

    For deodorant options check out this page: and for cosmetics and everything else you need, explore the site.

    Hope this helps in your quest for non-cancer-causing mascara and stuff. :-)

  23. These are great to use for sweaty smelly feet too. Just use a different one for your feet than you do for your pits.

  24. Hey Eco. I wanted to let you know that I picked one of these up and have been using it for 3 days now and I love it!!!! Thanks for tipping us off to this great product!

  25. So nice to find this blog, and especially written by someone from 'back home'! :) I haven't lived in Nova Scotia for years now, and looking at your pics of the fall leaves was very nostalgic...thank you for sharing. :)

    I had to comment on this post - I'm so glad to hear that the mineral salts work! I'm currently living somewhere that making my own products is not possible, and a lot of the time it is so hot all you do is sweat. I used to make my own deoderant out of coconut oil, some baking soda and a drop or two of lavender oil (took my 'arm valleys' a while to 'normalize' after stopping with the commercial products, but it worked!), but since that is not possible here I caved and went back to the paraben and aluminum-containing commercial version. I will have to get some of the mineral salts sent to me...thanks for sharing your experience! :)

  26. Firstly- I love your blog! Reading it has become my favorite thing to do while bored at work ;-)

    I wanted to leave a quick comment of agreeance- I too feel that whether research on certain chemicals has proved that they are harmful or not, why not opt for a chemical-free alternative if it is available? Especially if it works! We are completely bombarded by so many chemicals in our daily lives that we don't even know about, it seems that the best thing we can do for ourselves and our environment is to cut them out any time we have the opportunity to do so. That being said, I have been using the Jason Tea Tree Oil deo for awhile and am somewhat satisfied, but I can't WAIT to try "the rock" :-) I'm also getting pretty interested in this Diva Cup thing!

    Thanks so much for all your posts...

  27. Anna Claire:
    Thanks SO much for your kind words- I'm glad you like my blog :) I ALSO procrastinate by looking at blogs at work lol.

    YAY DIVA CUP!!!! I hope it works- would love if you dropped a line about how it's going (and the rock too) :)

  28. Gosh, We can find 'truth' if we are looking. I so disagree with the post about the PhD who said "no state of evidence" with underarm products and breast cancer. HELLO.

    As a BC survivor, and very active in keeping my environments clean, I follow my Medical Doctor-Goddess' prescriptions for detoxing, and part of that includes proven risk-free body care products. Although there are some deodorants out there, they don't work for me. I usually don't use deodorant, and when I eat right and care for myself properly (minimizing stress - which produces hormones that make me smell), I don't even need deodorant after 90 minutes of BIKRAM hot yoga. If I do start to smell, I use Arm & Hammer Baking Soda power on my pits. Just from the gold box, not made as a deodorant.

    Most body care products contain synthetics (and even natural products) that the body sees as estrogenic, and therefore, I believe that there are many cases of underarm products linked to hormonal cancers, despite another's post.

    I follow a lot of the scientific work and studies of Dr. Deitrich Klinghardt, MD, and PhD...and I also use Skin Deep for research.

    Love to all. Just my opinion. I'm passionate about protection from products, lifestyles, situations that make things toxic for me -- although not always successful. It's a journey, and I'm doing my best!

    Namaste, Mamaglee I believe parabens are linked to breast cancer.

  29. I love the salt stick! It does wear off after a while for me, though that does happen in cycles, hormone changes perhaps?
    I found the PERFECT combo regardless of what funky body chemistry decides to do. After I shower, I use the salt stick and then Scent of Samadhi powder. It never fails. Ever. You have to like sandlewood and use JUST a little but it works amazingly well even after work, hiking, yoga, etc.
    Thanks for the post!

  30. don't worry about it stinging after shaving. I haven't had any trouble with that and I have sensitive skin. :)

  31. I stumbled upon my "crystal" rock deoderant at a "flea' market while on vacation in Florida a few years back. I thought it was foolish but I was so curious I just had to have it. I really was shocked to learn it really did work for me. I also use it on my inner thighs. This is not a big problem for me since I'm a skinny mini person but I know larger people must be aflicted by this!!?? Great product!

  32. I love reading your blog, and the comments, sadly, though I admit that I end up perusing blogs when I am having writers block or trouble focusing on my thesis. I had to write and admit that half way through reading comments, I got up from my computer, went to the bathroom to dig out an old crystal rock that I'd given up on years ago. I never actually gave it a try because I have the small travel size but the applicator/holder broke so I have to hold it and my hands get all wet and a bit slimy and i don't like my having to wash my hands after using it. excuses. This week I am going to give the crystal a fair shot. I hope it keeps me stink free... I've given up on the wetness, no clinical strength anti-perspirant body heat rises from hi stress, exercise, even just a cup of coffee does it. I also refrain from wearing any nice bright colors because i might get embarrassing "bologna" circles. One thing I really dislike about solid antiperspirants is the waterproof residue/film that is so hard to scrub off in the shower. The crystal doesn't leave any residue right?
    I'm also getting more and more curious about the Diva Cup. I'm so afraid of spills...what do you do in case of leak, drop everything to go and change undies, and pants?
    thanks for sharing.
    ps love the thumbprint tree

  33. My husband and I have used a deodorant rock for years. He finds that reapplication throughout the day is key for keeping away the stinkies. I find that I need it less and less. Thanks for the great posts.


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