It used to be when you ran out of deodorant, you would grab another stick of Teen Spirit. But those days are long gone, and now the deodorant aisle is a mile long and full of options. There has also been some chatter about aluminum in deodorant and conflicting reports about whether it can be harmful. But what is aluminum exactly, why is it used in many deodorants, and is it something to worry about? Let’s discuss!
Before We Get Started, Did You Know…
We often use the words deodorant and antiperspirant interchangeably, but there’s a difference. Deodorant is formulated to make us smell better, while antiperspirant is formulated to help us sweat less. Why is this important? Antiperspirants often contain aluminum to plug pores to reduce sweat. Meanwhile, deodorants don’t contain aluminum because they only aim to reduce body odor.
Aluminum and Health Concerns
There has been some speculation that aluminum in deodorant is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Let’s break this down.
Regarding breast cancer, the concern is the proximity of the underarms to the breasts. Some scientists thought aluminum from antiperspirants would enter your lymph nodes and travel to the breast. There has also been concern regarding parabens, but the jury is still out on this. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, at this point, there is no clear link between aluminum in antiperspirants and breast cancer.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it was thought that aluminum exposure was to blame for Alzheimer’s disease. Fast-forward to the mid-1980s, scientists found that Alzheimer’s patients had high levels of aluminum in their brains. Now, the possibility hasn’t been entirely ruled out. But according to the Alzheimer’s Society, no conclusive updated research suggests aluminum contributes to a person developing Alzheimer’s.
The Bottom Line
Your skin acts as a barrier to your internal systems and bloodstream to keep certain substances out, and there is no conclusive evidence that antiperspirants containing aluminum are to blame for any disease. (Side note: If you have severe kidney disease, you probably have been advised not to use antiperspirants. If not, please consult with your doctor.)
The Million-Dollar Question: Should You Switch Antiperspirants?
The short answer: you certainly can switch to aluminum-free deodorant, but you don’t have to. With the research we have right now, there is no direct correlation between aluminum and health conditions. If you are experiencing excessive sweating, you may want to talk to your doctor about a prescription-strength antiperspirant.
If you prefer more natural, aluminum-free options, here are our picks: