a woman who has an allergic reaction to antiperspirants

Antiperspirants and Allergic Reactions

Antiperspirants are used more than almost any other grooming product by both men and women. Because of this high exposure, it is inevitable that some people will develop allergies to these products. If you think you may be allergic to your antiperspirant, there are a few things to know.

First, an allergic reaction to antiperspirant is not life-threatening. It is not like a bee sting or peanut allergy, in which your whole body is affected. The allergy causes what is called “contact dermatitis,” which means the skin becomes irritated where something touched it. This can become quite severe if left untreated, so address the problem when it first becomes apparent.

Most people who are allergic to antiperspirants are sensitive to the fragrances used in almost every brand. It is also possible to be sensitive to the active ingredient, which is a form of aluminum, or other miscellaneous ingredients such as vitamin E or lanolin.

Antiperspirant Fragrances

When you develop red, irritated skin under your arm, stop using all grooming products on that skin until it has returned to normal. An over-the-counter cortisone cream may speed healing. During that time, you can dust your underarms with baking soda morning and night to help protect against odor. Once the irritation is gone, try an antiperspirant that does not contain fragrance. There are a few offered by major brands, and others may be available in natural food stores. Be aware that products labeled “unscented” may contain fragrance; read the label to make sure there is no fragrance, perfume or essential oil.

Antiperspirant Aluminum

If fragrance-free antiperspirants do not solve the problem, you may be sensitive to the aluminum salts that make the products work. The best solution in this case is to switch to a deodorant. Deodorants will not prevent sweating, but they do mask odor. One note of caution: The zeolite crystals that are a popular natural alternative to commercial antiperspirants are aluminum salts, so if your problem is an aluminum sensitivity, the crystals are not an alternative for you. 

Additional Considerations

If you have tried various fragrance-free and aluminum-free options and still have underarm irritation, see your doctor to rule out the very small chance that something more serious than an allergy is causing the rash.

As a last resort, you may wish to talk to your doctor about Botox. Botox can be injected into the underarm area to disable the sweat glands for up to six months. This procedure can be costly and has potential side effects, but it does eliminate the need for antiperspirants. 

An allergic reaction to an antiperspirant may occur suddenly in reaction to a new brand you are trying, or you may develop a sensitivity over time to a product you have been using for years. In either case, your goal is to avoid the component that is causing the irritation. Carefully reading labels and experimenting with different brands will likely bring success in finding a product that works for you without causing dermatitis.

Last Updated: November 05, 2014