Each container of aluminum deodorant (antiperspirant) contains 10% – 25% aluminum salts, the “active ingredient” that makes it “work”. When you have used up that container, you’ve spent the last few weeks slathering 6 to 8 mg of aluminum salts on your armpits. And you’ll do that for years. Most of that will wash away, but some of it will bind with the body’s fatty tissue and start accumulating. For years.
But what’s really the issue with aluminum salts? Let’s dig in and find out.
Aluminum salts are listed as the first ingredient in antiperspirants. They go by names like aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum hydroxybromide, and aluminum zirconium chlorohydrate (such as trichlorohydrex, tetrachlorohydrex, pentachlorhydrex, and octachlorohydrex).
Aluminum deodorants or antiperspirants do not “work” by reducing your body’s natural perspiration, but by reducing the amount of natural perspiration that can exit the armpits. In other words, sweat still happens but it can’t get out.
There are two main explanations for this.
One explanation is aluminum salts plug up the pores, so the body’s sweat can’t get out because the pore is blocked. The aluminum salt creates a gelatinous plug which wears away after time, and so several hours later you need to reapply.
Another explanation is aluminum ions are drawn into the outer skin cells, along with water, which puffs up or swells up the cells around the pores and eventually swells the pores shut. Again, your body is sweating but the pores are swollen closed so the sweat can’t get out. After a while the water evaporates and the pores open up and you need to reapply.
Either way, the body keeps sweating. It’s supposed to! Perspiration is one of the four ways the body eliminates toxins. Toxic buildup can cause kidney or liver issues, as the body is working overtime to stay healthy by expelling toxins any way it can. Bodies need functioning livers and kidneys to survive. Seems silly to overload them unnecessarily.
Perspiration is one of the four ways the body eliminates toxins.
A 2005 report, “Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer,” ** points out “Aluminium is known to have a genotoxic profile, capable of causing both DNA alterations and epigenetic effects…” Genotoxic means “damages the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer.” Epigenetic means “modifications around the genes due to non-DNA related factors that will alter those genes over time.”
Now let’s take a look at some popular aluminum deodorants or antiperspirants and see what’s inside.
Tom’s of Maine Naturally Dry Antiperspirant uses Aluminum Chlorohydrate in their aluminum deodorant/antiperspirant. (Aluminum causes mutations.)
Arm & Hammer uses Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly in their ultra-max antiperspirant deodorant. They also use Cyclopentasiloxane which has concerns of neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and organ toxicity; oh and tumors, too.**
Axe uses both Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly and Cyclopentasiloxane.
Secret Antiperspirant/Deodorant uses Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex Gly. They also have a notice on their packaging “Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease.” They use cyclopentasiloxane, too.
Dove Invisible Solid Antiperspirant/Deodorant also uses Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly and cyclopentasiloxane. They have a few other ingredients I don’t recommend, but let’s just concentrate on these two for now.
Old Spice Antiperspirant/Deodorant contains Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex Gly and Cyclopentasiloxane. It also contains Petrolatum, and there’s some concern that Petrolatum contains PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) released from incomplete combustion or high-pressure processes. PAHs are persistent organic pollutants and many are considered “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens” per an article in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.**
With all this toxic material being swiped on the armpits, it’s appropriate to mention the detox period some people experience when they cease using aluminum deodorants or antiperspirants.
Sometimes the body needs to detox from aluminum deodorants.
Sometimes it takes several days (or even several weeks) for the buildup of aluminum salts and other unnatural ingredients to work its way out of the armpit pores. We call this “detoxing” from the chemicals. Depending on diet (how much red meat, coffee and alcohol), this detoxing period could include some bad smells. Normally we use deodorants because we don’t want to smell, so here are some tips for getting through the detox period a little easier:
Keep the armpits clean. We suggest using a warm washcloth at night to gently clean the armpits, pat dry, and then apply aluminum-free deodorant before bedtime. The body sweats during sleep, so this helps minimize odor. In the morning, clean again, pat dry and apply deodorant. For the first week or so, take the deodorant along during the day, and if you notice odor, clean, dry and reapply.
Consider using a clay mask to gently pull toxins from the armpit pores. A five-minute clay mask once or twice a week will help do that.
Drink clean water. This helps flush out impurities and helps you sweat normally.
Eat fresh vegetables. This helps eliminate toxins.
But there is some good news.
So, if you’ve been using an aluminum deodorant or antiperspirant, that’s the bad news. The good news is, you can make your own natural aluminum-free deodorant (we have a few recipes on our website) and if you want to buy something already made, we offer aluminum-free natural deodorant that really works. Give it a try.
** Reference: “Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16045991