Behind the label: Lynx Dry Antiperspirant Deodorant
1st June, 2004
Whether you regularly use a stick, solid or spray antiperspirant/deodorant, the chances are that it contains a cocktail of chemicals that can lead to mental decline, migraine, and breast cancer. Pat Thomas reports
INGREDIENTS: Butane, isobutane, propane, aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY, aluminium chlorohydrate, 14 butyl ether, alcohol, BHT – butylated hydroxytoluene, parfum, distearate
Through clever marketing Lynx antiperspirant/deodorant promises much more than dry, sweet smelling pits. On the long-held advertising premise that you can sell anything to a man if you can link it to sex or sport, this product promises amazing success in both areas.
Lynx was first launched as a men’s body spray in 1985 and the range has since expanded to include antiperspirant/deodorants, shower gels, hair care and skincare. The brand maintains pole position in the marketplace by reinventing itself each year with a new fragrance variant and new advertising celebrating the urban legend known as the ‘Lynx effect’.
The concept of the Lynx effect – underarm dryness and a date on Saturday night – has proved very seductive, especially among younger men. This is all the more amazing considering that underneath it all Lynx is a fairly bog standard antiperspirant/deodorant. While antiperspirants don’t usually contain the laundry list of ingredients that other toiletries (such as shampoos) do, the few ingredients they do contain are worrying and include neurotoxic solvents, toxic metals and potential carcinogens.
A Global Market
Lynx is produced by Lever Fabergé, the UK arm of consumer goods giant Unilever. In the UK deodorants and body sprays are now worth over £400 million a year in total sales. Lever Fabergé’s share of the deodorants and body sprays market stands at a whopping 54 per cent – over three times greater than its nearest competitor. Sales of Lynx make up the greater proportion of this along with Impulse, Sure and Vaseline Intensive Care.
Today Lynx is the UK’s biggest male toiletries brand, accounting for around 35 per cent of all male toiletries sold in this country. It is used by 60 per cent of all boys aged 16 or under. Indeed, half of all users are under 24 and a further quarter are aged 25 to 44. Lynx, which is known in other countries as AXE, can also claim to be the world’s biggest selling men’s deodorant.
Butane, Isobutane and Propane: Propellants. Health effects: Headache; breathing difficulties; mood swings; nausea, vomiting, dizziness; symptoms of drunkenness; high doses can cause convulsions and coma; symptoms of mild frostbite (numbness, prickling and itching under the arm) are also possible. These highly flammable volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are popular with solvent abusers (note the warning on the can) because they produce a quick ‘high’ – however they can also produce quick death. VOCs also accumulate in human breast milk. While these particular propellants don’t destroy the earth’s ozone shield, they do contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, or smog, which can cause serious breathing problems.
Aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY. Aluminium chlorohydrate: Clogs pores to prevent sweat leaking through. Health Effects: Skin irritation; mental decline. Aluminium is absorbed through the skin and there is evidence that a lifetime’s use of aluminium-containing deodorants may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Can cause cancer - In women, a combination of underarm shaving and aluminium containing deodorants has been linked to breast cancer. Aluminium salts are also linked to an increase in male breast cancer. This may be because they damage the DNA of breast cells and have a potential hormone disrupting effect. Spray formulations mean you inhale, as well as absorb these compounds. Inhaled aluminium has fairly direct access to the brain via the nasal passages and chronic occupational exposure has been associated with preclinical signs of Alzheimer’s.
14 butyl ether: Preservative, solvent, antibacterial. Health effects: Skin irritant, neurotoxin. PPG-14 butyl ether is a relative of propylene glycol and potentially toxic to the kidneys and liver. In the US it is a pesticide component used in sprays to protect animals from flies, gnats and mosquitoes. It is poisonous in high concentrations and can enhance the skin penetration of other more toxic chemicals.
Alcohol: Emollient, moisturiser, stabiliser. Health effects: can cause allergies or contact dermatitis.
BHT – butylated hydroxytoluene: Antioxidant. Health Effects: Contact allergies/contact dermatitis. Cancer suspect. May cause reproductive defects. Once absorbed, BHT can accelerate the breakdown of vital nutrients such as vitamin D (which maintains immunity and healthy bones and teeth).
Parfum: Body odour mask. Health effects: Skin irritation, allergic reaction; breathing difficulties (including asthma); headache (including migraine; dizziness, nausea. ‘Parfum’ is a collective name given to hundreds of different chemicals used to produce a fragrance in cosmetics and toiletries. Many of these chemicals are persistent (ie, they don’t break down in the environment and they accumulate in human tissue and breastmilk). Of the top 20 most common perfume ingredients, four – acetone, ethanol, ethyl acetate and methylene chloride – are classified as hazardous waste by the EPA. Other commonly-used chemicals in perfume include propylene glycol (see PPG-14 above); cyclohexanol, a central nervous system depressant; linalool, which can provoke depression, loss of equilibrium and respiratory disturbances; methyl ethyl ketone, toxic to liver and kidneys, irritating to eyes, nose, and throat; and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Spray formulations mean you – and those around you – inhale more of these toxic chemicals.
Distearate: Moisturiser, emulsifier, emollient and antioxidant. Adding PEG to a product will prevent moisture loss during storage. The lower the number the more liquid the product is. Health effects: cancer – Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds can be contaminated with various carcinogens, including ethylene oxide, 1,4-dioxane and polycyclic aromatic compounds (including benzene, benz(a)pyrene, DMBA, and 1-nitropyrene) – potential breast cancer triggers. Neurotoxic - PEGs can be contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic, which are toxic to the central nervous system.
Toms of Maine
This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2007