|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
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."
|Side Effects of Feminine Sprays