What is it?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that can be found in plants, fruits, and vegetables and is even produced in the human body by normal metabolism. Pure xylitol appears as a white crystalline substance that is very similar to table sugar.
What does it do?
Xylitol is a multifunctional ingredient. It imparts sweetness, releases a cooling sensation when it dissolves and does not promote tooth decay because it is non-fermentable by oral plaque bacteria.
Our prebiotic deodorant, which contain xylitol, helps support the good bacteria to help reduce odor and keep the skin in a healthy balance. Xylitol in the deodorant is acting as the prebiotic, which according to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) is “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” 
How is it made?
The xylitol used in Tom’s of Maine products is produced by hydrolyzing xylan, which is extracted from birch or other hardwood pulp, or corn, to produce xylose. This material is then converted to xylitol through catalytic hydrogenation. Though there is some processing involved in extracting the ingredient, the end result is the same as the xylitol found naturally in plants.
What are the alternatives?
In our oral care products we use xylitol as a sweetener. There are many natural and artificial sweeteners available for use in oral care products. We have chosen to use xylitol as a sweetener in several of our oral care products because of its natural and sustainable sources, and because it is not converted to acids that cause tooth decay.
In our prebiotic deodorant products we use xylitol as a prebiotic ingredient. There are alternative ingredients that could be used as prebiotics in personal care, such as inulin, however xylitol was chosen based on its effectiveness in our prebiotic deodorant formulation.
Is this the right option for me?
Xylitol is permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration as a non-nutritive sweetener for direct addition to food for special dietary. It has a long history of use in food dating back to the 1960's and is included in such products as chewing gum, syrup, toothpastes, mouthwashes and pharmaceuticals.
Tom’s of Maine recognizes that no two people are alike, and even with naturally derived ingredients, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction that is unique to them. As with any product, be sure to discontinue use if you experience discomfort or other indications that the product may not be appropriate for your individual body chemistry.
1 “Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics.”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28611480
2 21CFR 172.395