|Are deodorants safe? According to studies and reports conducted by ( CU)
Consumers Union, and the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) they're not. Old
medical studies that were performed between 1960-1979 recommended totally
avoiding feminine deodorant sprays, ( FDS's ) and some other body odor
controlling products as well. However, we do need to control body odor! An
anti-odour bar is a deodorant. Deodorants work by neutralizing the smell of sweat
and killing odor causing bacteria.
But what have federal regulations done over the years to help insure the safety
of these products? That's a question that's well worth investigating before
purchasing any product that's going to be used in such a sensitive area as the
genital. So lets take a look at earlier reports concerning some of these products.
In the early 1960's, the cosmetic industry expanded from the underarm deodorant
to a more private part of the body-the genital. By 1971 there were thirty brands
of feminine deodorant sprays on the market and Americans were spending well
over $67 million annually in an attempt to, in some cases, satisfy a paranoia of do
I smell good. In the process, women were unaware of the hidden dangers of such
an attempt;ingredient side affects of theses products were not known. During that
period, (60-70's), the cosmetic industry was not require by law to list any
ingredients on product labels. Since their products were not considered to be a
drug,and did not affect bodily functions, they did not fall under labeling
regulations. However,antiperspirants did have to list ingredients because these
products affected bodily function sweating,and therefore were considered drugs
under the Food, drug,and cosmetic act.
In January 1972 Consumers Reports published an article on genital deodorants,
listing them as being potentially hazardous. The decision was based on numerous
reports of serious injuries. In October 1973 the (FDA) issued regulations
requiring ingredient labeling for all cosmetic products. Labels would have to list
ingredients in descending order of predominance. During that same period the
(FDA) was also receiving consumer complaints about deodorant sprays,the
offending ingredient or ingredients, had not been identified. Doctors of the (FDA)
believed the pressure from the propellant may have aided in setting up
inflammation of the urethra (short passage from the bladder to the outside) which
can cause narrowing of the urethra, pain, retention of urine in the bladder,that can
lead to recurrent urinary tract and other infections. Manufactures of these
products suggested holding the can at least six inches from the genital area. But
to quote CU, "we never seen one of these products come with a ruler included."
During that period the list of consumer complaints not only included feminine
sprays. It also included deodorant soaps,antiperspirants,and just plain everyday
deodorants such as Right Guard, Soft & Dri, and Mennen E, which added the
vitamin E to their formula. "The (FDA) received numerous letters from
consumers telling of allergic reactions and severe rashes. Shipments of the
product were discontinued, but the (FDA) permitted remaining stocks of Mennen
E to stay on the shelves."
In several lawsuits filed against Alberto Culver,one involving a fourteen year
old girl was described by her physician as suffering "incredibly"swollen labia. In
another case a woman alleged that she developed large lumps after using an
( FD) spray."The swelling was as big as a grapefruit",her physician said. "You
never saw a more miserable girl in your life". Her lawsuit against Alberto Culver
was settled out of court. In 1971 Alberto Culver had reports of 107 women users
of feminine sprays who had complained of irritation,allergic reactions, burns,
infections, dermatitis of the thighs, stinging, swelling, itching, inflammation,
lumps,and even a burned hand. The company had to present this information in
court due to a lawsuit that had been filed by a woman claiming she had been
injured by a feminine deodorant spray. The number of injuries that can be
contributed to the use of feminine sprays will never be known,since most people
don't bother to write or call,they simply stop using the product. And of the ones
that do consult a physician, most never suspect the spray as the cause of their
pain,and or irritation.
Consumers Union medical consultants also advise against using a genital
deodorant just before intercourse. The freshly applied spray can be carry into the
vagina creating various complications such as irritation,swelling,and tract
infection . According to "Today's Health,"an American Medical Association
publication,feminine sprays can also cause irritation to a male sexual partner that
comes in contact with the freshly sprayed vagina."In October of 1972 an FDA
advisory panel of obstetricians and gynecologists voted unanimously that genital
deodorants be considered drugs and subject to extensive controlled testing for
safety and effectiveness before further marketing would be permitted." Dr.
Bernard A. Davis, a Montreal gynecologist, reported treating about thirty cases
of inflammation of the genital area following the use of feminine sprays.
"Surely," he said,"in this gadget-conscious,product-oriented civilization,we must
resist those instances where a demand is being artificially created for a product of
questionable value. This is especially true where even the minimal advantage can
be more than out-weighed by significant complications."
When genital sprays first came onto the market,some saw them as being
offensive to women. Germaine Greer, Author of "The Female
Eunuch",commented that she had never seen anyone lying around overcome by
vaginal fumes." Other leaders of the women's movement joined in condemning
the vaginal spray as a totally useless and demeaning product. Dr. Natalie
Shainiss, a New York psychiatrist, said at a senate hearing in 1971,"the
implication of need for such a spray conveys a message of a woman being dirty
and smelly-extremely damaging to a woman's sense of self".
The external genitals,the vulva, contain glands capable of producing mild odor
secretions. Close fitting clothing such as underwear, slacks, and pantyhose tend
to delay the evaporation of perspiration. Normal skin bacteria act on those
secretions and produce an unfavorable odor. Vulva odors occur naturally in a
greater or less degree in most healthy women. Consumers Union medical
consultants advise soap and water as the most effective and certainly the safest
hygiene. The Medical Letter states,"It is unlikely that commercial feminine
hygiene sprays are as effective as soap and water in promoting a hygienic and
odor free external genital surface."
However, some odors may be caused by an unsuspecting tumor of the uterus or
cervix, menstrual flow, a forgotten tampon or contraceptive device." Soap and
water does not control odors from these sources,but neither does a chemical
spray." Most importantly, CU's medical consultants are concerned that use of
genital sprays may make some women with medically significant odorous
discharges, put off seeking medical advice while using the spray instead." But if
one does choose to use one of these sprays,medical advisers recommend never
spraying directly into the Vagina!
Though many changes have been made in these products over the years,people
with allergies, and those hypersensitive to certain chemicals will still be playing
guessing games with the cosmetics they use. CU states, "The one cosmetic
consumers can surely do without - even should all its ingredients be clearly
marked on the label - is the genital spray deodorants."