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.
I used to think LUSH was all natural (their tagline is “Fresh Handmade Cosmetics”) but really it’s not. Just so you know, I’m not a LUSH fan. I find their strong fragrances overwhelming and I can “taste” the chemicals when I walk by the doorway. I am sensitive to that, having had a bad skin reaction to a solid perfume when I was a child. One of the reasons I started No Tox Life is to create chemical-free alternatives to commercial skin care products. Most of the time, we don’t really NEED to use chemicals to get the same (or better) result.
So, back to LUSH. There are many ingredients used in their products that, while they do list them, they don’t highlight or talk about them. I call them “secret” ingredients. Here are some of their “secret” ingredients that I have issues with:
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE. Lots already written about SLS so I don’t need to beat this one too much. It’s found in commercial shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, and detergent. It’s also found in many LUSH products. It’s the main ingredient in all their shampoo bars, and it’s an ingredient (along with many other nasties such as EDTA) in COALFACE facial soap.
LUSH knows SLS is not a great ingredient, admitting on their website “We have recently begun to replace sodium lauryl sulphate with a milder surfactant…” But they’re still using it in COALFACE facial soaps. And their shampoo bars, with it being the first ingredient listed … my goodness! That could mean it’s being used well above the recommended 1% maximum concentration level. Eww.
Did you know Sodium Laurel Sulfate is used as a SKIN IRRITANT in animal and human testing? According to the International Journal of Toxicology, “…Sodium Lauryl Sulfate had a degenerative effect on the cell membranes…” Meaning, SLS causes cellular breakdown.
This is not the kind of stuff I want to put on my skin. For sure I don’t want to put it into my MOUTH (commercial toothpaste and mouthwash commonly contain SLS). And I for sure don’t want it on my face.
EDTA is used to dissolve limescale. I’m not making this up! Also it’s used medically to treat mercury and lead poisoning. It binds to metals. It’s been linked to calcium being leached from the blood, respiratory illness and asthma. It increases penetration of chemicals through the skin (in or out).
Um, no. Just nope. Not a product I want on my skin.
Some alternatives: Almost anything! Jeeminee, I just can’t think of any good reason to use EDTA in a skin care or body care product.
There are many other LUSH ingredients I take exception to, such as:
Benzyl Alcohol, used as paint solvent, and is toxic to newborns. It’s highly toxic to the eyes, producing corneal damage. LUSH uses it in their shampoo, shower gel, and hair moisturizer.
(PVP) polyvinylpyrrolidone, used in making glue sticks, added to batteries and fiberglass, oh, and in LUSH’s mascara, eyeliner, and hair cream.
Okay, I’m done talking about all these icky ingredients! There are so many more but I can’t stand it any longer. I just stay away from LUSH stores and products.
Note: We love Trader Joe’s and shop there all the time. The store is awesome and the people are great. (No, they’re not paying us to say this!) But we don’t buy the soaps they sell right now. Read below to find out why.
No Tox is dedicated to reducing toxins in our lives. We make our premium body care products the old-fashioned, natural way, in small batches and without adding irritating, unpronounceable ingredients that you don’t want on your skin.
Recently, I was in my favorite store (Trader Joe’s, love them!) and did a little snooping around in their soaps department. I was kind of shocked (but not surprised) when I looked at the list of ingredients in their soaps.
From my viewpoint, there’s only one Trader Joe’s-branded soap that probably doesn’t have toxic ingredients: their Ginger Almond Oatmeal Exfoliant bar soap marketed under their “Trader Jacques” Savon de France label. And I say “probably doesn’t have toxic ingredients” because I don’t know what fragrance they’re using (they’re not required to specify that on the label), and they don’t list their complete ingredients list.
The ingredients read: “Contains: pure vegetable oils (olive, palm, and coconut oils, oatmeal, fragrances and/or essential oils.” Interestingly, they don’t list lye (sodium hydroxide) which is a key ingredient for making soap. Probably a label typo – a significant omission, since it’s a necessary ingredient. Maybe it’s not a complete list of ingredients? Not sure. I didn’t see ingredients listed elsewhere on the label.
So, here’s a roundup of the OTHER soaps I found on the shelf, and what’s in them, and why I wouldn’t recommend purchasing any of them.
(Statements of fact, presented below, are from the sources noted at the end of this article.)
Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness Oatmeal & Honey Soap Pure Vegetable Soap
(In case you’re wondering “where’s the lye?” — let me explain. “Sodium Palmitate” is marketing-speak for “Palm Oil that’s been mixed with Sodium Hydroxide (lye) and is now soap.” Similarly, “Sodium Palm Kernelate” means “Palm Kernel Oil that’s been mixed with Sodium Hydroxide and made into soap.” So it’s actually there, it’s just listed differently.)
Of all these ingredients, the only unnecessary and potentially irritating ingredient is Pentasodium Pentetate. According to the “Final report on the safety assessment of pentasodium pentetate and pentetic acid as used in cosmetics,” published in the 2008 International Journal of Toxicology, “Pentasodium Pentetate is nonirritating to moderately irritating…” Also, “Pentasodium Pentetate [applied] to shaved and abraded rabbit skin produced moderate erythema after the first week and throughout the study, but no systemic toxicity.” WHAT THIS MEANS is they tested it on rabbits by shaving and scraping the rabbits’ skins, then applying the diluted chemical, and a week later the rabbits developed skin redness from inflammation or infection (erythema), and it didn’t go away but lasted the entire four weeks of the study, but it didn’t kill them. (See references.)
What’s wrong with Pentasodium Pentetate?
Firstly, this chemical isn’t necessary. It’s added to help make more suds by overcoming water hardness. But you don’t need suds to get clean, you need soap. A well-formulated soap will clean regardless of suds, and most will produce lather even in the hardest water conditions. (We have very hard water at my home yet my handcrafted soaps lather well.)
Secondly, eww! They tested this on rabbits. Yuck. And you know what? They had to test it before it could be released as a cosmetic ingredient. So you know those labels that say, “Cruelty Free”? Well, you shouldn’t put that label on a soap that has Pentasodium Pentetate in it, because it actually was tested by hurting rabbits and dosing up rats and hamsters (and their unborn embyros) to find out how much they could take before it killed them. I know this is gross but it’s all detailed in the report of results, referenced at the end of this article. And yes, I notice the label says “Cruelty Free” — I’m not sure how they justify doing that.
Look at that: Pentasodium Pentetate. ‘Nuff said. Don’t put this stuff on your skin, and especially don’t use it if you have any sores or scrapes or cuts or damaged skin, because Pentasodium Pentetate can be skin irritating and just aggravate the wound.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps “All-One Hemp Peppermint” PURE-CASTILE SOAP “Made With Organic Oils”
Actually my only issue with this soap is what I consider to be misleading labeling. “Pure Castile Soap” means 100% Olive Oil soap, but this has a very small amount of Olive Oil (notice it’s listed as the SIXTH ingredient, even after Mentha Arvensis (wild mint). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “pure” as: “unmixed with any other matter.” I don’t want to support a company that says something is pure when it’s obviously not. Nothing in their ingredients list is toxic. I just don’t care for misleading the public.
Bisous de Provence Lavender with flowers Lavande Triple Milled Soap 100% Pure Vegetable Enriched with Shea Butter Made in France
Tetrasodium EDTA has been linked to respiratory illness (increased asthma and sinus irritation), increased penetration of chemicals through the skin, and leaching calcium from the blood. (See references.)
Tetrasodium etidronate has a similar warning. Both are used to soften water and therefore increase lather and sudsiness. But they’re not necessary, as noted above.
Etidronate disodium (chemically similar, but not exactly the same) is used in some forms of treatment for osteoporosis. It has many cautions, such as not using it for very long, because it can – if used improperly – aggravate osteoporosis and lead to jawbone rotting or legbone fractures, especially in post-menopausal women. (See references.) I know, it sounds disgusting. Hope you never need to take that drug.
Also, what’s the fragrance? Could be petroleum-based, but we can’t tell because it’s not listed. And one more thing: glycerin is added – but you know what? Glycerin is a natural by-product of soap making, and doesn’t need to be added unless it was removed earlier in the process. So I suspect the way this soap was made, the glycerin was removed, but then it needed to be added back because it helps moisturize the skin. If it was a natural soap making method then the glycerin would still be there and not need to be added later.
My goodness, where do I begin? There are several troublesome ingredients.
Cocamidopropyl betaine helps make liquid soaps slippery – but it was named “Allergen of the Year” in 2004 according to a paper published by the Department of Dermatology, University of Miami School of Medicine. (See references.)
Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate. Used as a surfactant (helps wash away dirt and oils), this chemical is known to cause eye irritation in low doses, is absorbed through damaged skin, and continued use can bring on an increased sensitivity to its effects. Usually made from petroleum, it is expected to be harmful, and poses possible organ toxicity. (See references.)
The Material Safety Datasheet for this chemical states, “Avoid contact with skin, eyes and clothing.”
Phenoxyethanol is a preservative. It can be toxic to infants, per the Food and Drug Administration. It ranks among the top 10 allergens, is a potential neurotoxin, and the EPA data sheets show chromosomal changes and interference with reproductivitity in mice. (There’s that animal testing, again. Bah, humbug.) (See references.)
Potassium sorbate is another preservative. This one negatively affects the immune system and is toxic to human blood and genes.
Fragrance – which one, where did it come from, and is there petroleum in it? Don’t know. The label doesn’t say.
I love shopping at Trader Joe’s and I’ll keep doing so. But I don’t buy soap there.
Want to know what ingredients are in our soaps? They’re listed on every product page. But really it’s a pretty simple list: Pure food-grade oils, filtered water and lye make the soap; if there are colors we use natural colorants such as clay and minerals; we use natural exfoliants such as baking soda, coffee grounds, and oatmeal; and scents are from botanical oils.
Again, we shop at Trader Joe’s. At their stores, we don’t buy meat (we are vegan) and we don’t buy soap (we make our own).
Tetrasodium EDTA http://ps.oxfordjournals.org/content/52/2/540.abstract “Extraction of Calcium from Blood Fibrin with a Solution of Tetrasodium-Ethylenediaminetetraacetate (Na4EDTA)” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22431256 “Occupational rhinitis and asthma due to EDTA-containing detergents or disinfectants.” (Note: rhinitis is irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17087380 “Heavy metal displacement in EDTA-assisted phytoremediation of biosolids soil.” (Gives information about how EDTA helps take heavy metals out of soil and deposit them in the water. It will do the same with your water supply – taking heavy metals out of the water and put it onto your skin, which you then hopefully wash away very thoroughly.) http://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/tetrasodium-edta “The Cosmetics Database considers Tetrasodium EDTA a low to moderate hazard ingredient, depending on its usage. It notes concerns regarding cancer, enhanced skin absorption, organ system toxicity and irritation (due to animal studies that showed skin irritation at low doses). It is classified as a high human health priority and expected to be toxic or harmful.” http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/edta/synthesis_of_edta.htm “EDTA is synthesized on an industrial scale from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde, and a source of cyanide such as HCN or NaCN.” (Note: HCN = Hydrogen cyanide; NaCN = Sodium cyanide) http://www.bubbleandbee.com/topfivechemicals.html “Tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative that’s made from the known carcinogen, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. It is also a penetration enhancer, meaning it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, going right into your bloodstream.”
Trisodium etridronate http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12396676 “Final report on the safety assessment of EDTA, calcium disodium EDTA, diammonium EDTA, dipotassium EDTA, disodium EDTA, TEA-EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA, tripotassium EDTA, trisodium EDTA, HEDTA, and trisodium HEDTA.” “These chelating agents are cytotoxic and weakly genotoxic, but not carcinogenic.” (Meaning, “these chemicals are cell-killing and weakly gene-killing, but not cancer-causing.” God, I hope so!)