Aluminum in Antiperspirant, Why Is It Used and Are There Any Health Risks



There is a lot of concern around the various compounds in deodorants and antiperspirants. The most common concern seems to be about the use of aluminum and whether it’s safe or not. Most people are unsure of why aluminum is even in such a common body-product, so let’s start with some basics.

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

Deodorant is basically armpit perfume whereas antiperspirant stops you from sweating. The active ingredient in antiperspirants is an aluminum salt, often aluminum hydrochloride (ACH). Aluminum-based compounds are found in antiperspirants because it’s the compound that prevents sweating. Your armpits have eccrine (sweat) glands. When an antiperspirant is applied to your underarms, the ACH will fill the sweat glands. As with any salt, the compound will attract water and expand. This creates a plug to prevent sweat from escaping.

The addition of aluminum in antiperspirants is often a topic of concern. Aluminum when ingested in high doses, long-term, is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Many assume that your skin will absorb the aluminum in your antiperspirant and that it will have the same effects as ingestion.  Others are concerned that there is an association between aluminum and breast cancer. Luckily, the skin is designed to keep dangerous substances out of our bodies! In fact, the amount that may be absorbed through the skin is around 2.5% of the amount absorbed through your diet each day. The scientific literature has not found a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer. As long as your kidneys are functioning, aluminum and other heavy metals are continuously cleared through your urine. Therefore, aluminum will be expelled from the body whether it is absorbed through your skin or through digestion. That said, be sure to follow the warnings on your antiperspirant, and do not apply to broken skin; this includes freshly shaven underarms as this may increase aluminum absorption.

As with most things, aluminum in antiperspirant has both Pros and Cons, as listed below:

Pros:

  • Effective at stopping sweat
  • Reduces body odor
  • Even the cheapest options contain Aluminum

Cons:

  • Some people may have reactions
  • Lack of research on adverse reactions
  • Your ability to detox heavy metals may be compromised

 

Avoiding Aluminum

For those that choose to avoid aluminum, there are quite a few options out there. You can usually find aluminum-free antiperspirants in the ‘natural’ section at your grocery store. Most of these products are applied like your traditional deodorant stick, but there are also spray-on versions available. A common mistake when avoiding aluminum is to use a solid mineral antiperspirant. These are made from Alum, which is actually aluminum salt. Keep in mind, anything without aluminum will be a deodorant and not an antiperspirant.

DIY Deodorant

For those who prefer to avoid aluminum, here is a DIY deodorant recipe:

 

3 Tbsp. Baking soda

5 Tbsp. Cornstarch or arrowroot powder

6 Tbsp. Coconut oil or Shea butter

20-40 drops essential oils

 

Simply mix the powders together in a large bowl and fold in the coconut oil/shea butter until you have a thick paste. Mix in your favorite essential oils (I am a big fan of lavender and patchouli, or tea tree). Store in a resealable container in a cool, dark place. To use, rub a small amount into your armpits as needed.

The jury is still out on whether or not aluminum in antiperspirants is dangerous since your skin does not readily absorb it and/or the amount that may be absorbed is minimal. What are your thoughts on aluminum in your antiperspirant?

 

References:

Mirick DK1, Davis S, Thomas DB. 2002

McGrath KG1. 2003

Flarend R, Bin T, Elmore D, Hem Sl, 2001

 

The opinions shared in this article are those of the contributor and not Total Gym Direct.

Josh Wood

Coach Josh Wood, BHSc, is a Fitness Coach and Wilderness Guide who lives in Hobart, Tasmania, and works to help people find their passion for activity. He spent most of the last decade studying the body through manual therapies, health science, and fitness. With a background in teaching Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers he also writes for various online publications which keeps his communication skills sharp. His diverse background brings the many facets of health and fitness together. Head over to coachjoshwood.com to learn more!

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