Is Aluminum in Antiperspirant Safe?

In our last article, we discussed how antiperspirants and deodorants work to keep you fresh. Antiperspirants go one step further by physically preventing the release of sweat from your underarms. Although these products are considered safe by major health authorities, not everyone is convinced. Here are a few reasons why some people think twice about using antiperspirants:

  • Yellow stains on clothing: Yellow pit stains can happen after washing a shirt due to a reaction between the aluminum, bacteria and oil left on the shirt combined with the laundry detergent. I’ll put two links at the bottom to help you deal with this problem.
  • Skin irritation: Aluminum antiperspirants are known to cause irritation on freshly shaved areas. It seems that the pores in the area can be susceptible to being clogged due to foreign bodies, particularly the aluminum. Furthermore, I have found inactive ingredients such as talc, mineral oil and petrolatum in the base of several brands, such as Secret antiperspirant which I would not recommend for sensitive skin.
  • Breast cancer: Some research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells. This theory has been disproved and you can read what The American Cancer Society states here. A study looking at the absorption of aluminum compounds from antiperspirants found that only a tiny fraction (0.012%) was absorbed.
  • Alzheimer’s: This theory was also disprove and you can read what the Alzheimer’s Association says here as well as a New York Times article.

During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.”  -NY Times

  • Blood-brain barrier: Some of the data suggests aluminium can increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, making it easier for toxic compounds to enter the brain. While this has been proven true, it only applies to very high doses of aluminium. The amounts found antiperspirant are far below this threshold.
  • Overheating: The purpose of underarm sweat is to keep you cool and, to a lesser extent, release pheromones. Could blocking these glands cause our bodies to overheat? Fortunately, we have sweat glands all over our body, so we don’t have to worry about that.

Options for Excessive Sweating

Excessive perspiration, also known as hyperhidrosis, affects 2-3 percent of people in the US. This is conditions is not just embarrassing, it can interfere with daily activities and promotes skin infections. One treatment for this condition is aluminum chloride hexahydrate. This is a high-strength, clinical-grade antiperspirant. Another option is Botox (Botulinum toxin). Botox works to disable sweat glands by blocking their activation signals. During treatment, dermatologists typically inject 50 units of Botox into each underarm. Additional units of Botox can be injected to achieve a longer effect.

Common Ingredients in Antiperspirants

FDA AntiperspirantsAluminum Chlorohydrate is the most commonly used active antiperspirant ingredient, probably because it’s been around the longest. A newer active ingredient on the market is Aluminum Zirconium Pentachlorohydrex Glycine Complex. In comparing this ingredient to Aluminum Chlorohydrate, I noticed that they use less of the newer ingredient, however it seems to work better.

Another thing I noted is that the first inactive ingredient found in most antiperspirants is cyclopentasiloxane which is a safe ingredient. It is used to allow the product to glide smoothly along the skin. It’s basically a lubricant, solvent and skin conditioner which gives the skin a slippery, silky feel without leaving it feeling greasy.

Are Crystal Deodorants a Healthy Alternative

Crystal deodorants, such as the Crystal Body Deodorant Stick, are typically promoted as an alternative to aluminum. These products use ammonium alum, a naturally-occurring crystal with antibacterial properties. Despite being marketed as “healthier” these products still contain aluminum. The main difference between ammonium alum and aluminum salts is how they interact with your skin. Ammonium alum is less soluble than aluminum salts and because of this, it is unable to block your sweat glands.

Types of Antiperspirants and Deodorants

There are aerosol sprays, pump sprays, non-butane dry sprays, solids, gels and roll-ons. The propellants in aerosol can cause issues because you will probably inhale the various ingredients, such as butane and isobutane hydrofluorocarbon 152A*. Butane should not be inhaled.

My preferences are pump sprays, solids and gels. I do not recommend roll-ons due to the action of the roller-ball going back and forth over the skin and contaminating the product within.

*Hydrofluorocarbon 152A is not considered a greenhouse gas. However, many other hydrofluorocarbons have a high global warming potential.

How to Remove Yellow Pit Stains

Reader’s Digest and WikiHow have some good tips on how to get stains out of clothing.

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BlackOnYellow

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