What Is Aluminum Deodorant?
Aluminum deodorants have received a bad reputation in the beauty industry over the last five to ten years. There have been claims that aluminium deodorants have links to breast cancer, cause hormone disruption and prevent the body from detoxing.
Now, before we get into the exact science of why, these claims are unfounded and a product of greenwashing.
Aluminum-free deodorants do have some benefits over aluminium deodorants such as having more interesting, complex and delicious scents. However, the claimed safety implications of using aluminium deodorants just isn’t supported by the science.
Why Is Aluminum In Deodorants?
Aluminum and aluminum-containing ingredients are used in anti-perspirants. Anti-perspirants are different from deodorants as they interact with your sweat glands to form a plug, preventing sweating.
By preventing sweating they are able to also prevent the smell that is produced and reduce bacterial growth under the arms when you do sweat.
Is Aluminum In Deodorant Bad For You?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that aluminum deodorant is bad for your health.
According to the Canadaian Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, Cancer research UK, National Cancer Institute and The European Commision’s Scientific Commitee on Consumer Safety, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminum is linked to any increased risk of breast cancer.
It takes a lot of evidence for scientists to state a negative such as they do regarding aluminum and breast cancer. So these statements by these groups are pretty strong.
The claim that aluminum increases your risk of breast cancer didn’t appear out of thin air. It came from an in vitro studie that suggested a possible link. In vitro studies, refer to studies outside of the body.
These conditions do not reflect how aluminum actually interacts with the body under normal conditions. However, the media and the clean beauty industry ran with this suggested possible link, despite the overwhelming evidence in stronger studies that negates this link.
This in vitro study looked at how aluminum affects estrogen receptor function in cells. The link was extrapolated due to the fact that estrogen can speed up the growth of breast cancer cells, particularly in estrogen-linked breast cancers.
However, as mentioned in vitro studies don’t always translate to how things work in the body. One of the reasons that this study doesn’t add up to a link is that the concentration of aluminum used was much higher than would ever be absorbed by the body. In fact most of our aluminum exposure occurs through diet.
Other studies that have been linked to this myth are studies that looked at aluminum concentrations in breast tissue of breast cancer paitients. Aluminum was found to be higher in breast tissue of breast cancer paitients, however, the scientific consensus is that breast cancer tumours collect more aluminum than other tissues. This suggests that aluminum is part of the tumour progression rather than a causing factor.
Part of this myth has come from the fact that breast cancers often originate near the armpit. However, this is due to a high number of lymph nodes that occur there and their proximity to the breast tissue.
Unfortunately, this myth of breast cancer and aluminum has become so prevelent that despite an overwhelming amount of evidence and recommendations by a number of the world’s leading cancer research centres hasn’t undone this myth.
What Are The Risk Factors For Breast Cancer?
There are many risk factors that can increase your risk of breast cancer other than aluminum. Perhaps our efforts are better spent exploring these. Here is a list of potential risk factors:
- Ethnitcity (Caucasian’s are at a higher risk)
- Family history of breast cancer
- Genetic markers such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Early menstruation such as before the age of 12
- Late menopause
- Never having given birth
- Dense breast tissue
- Alcohol consumption
- Poor diet
- Being overweight
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Sedantary lifestyle
- And radiation in the chest area.
As you can see there are a number of other factors that can actually increase your risk of breast cancer. These are the factors that we should be talking about, not aluminum.
Does Aluminum-Free Deodorant Work?
Aluminum-free deodorants generally work in a slightly different way to aluminum deodorants as they are not anti-perspirants. This means that they mainly reduce the odor produced by sweating by having a stronger, more pleasant smell that covers up the scent of your body’s natural odor.
Occasionally you will find aluminum-free deodorants that contain water resistant ingredients, such as nut butters and oils which can trap sweat between the skin and the deodorant. This may reduce the appearance of sweating a little, think those wet patches through your shirt. Many aluminum-free deodorants also focus on antibacterial ingredients such as tea tree to combat bacterial growth.
There are some benefits to using an aluminum-free deodorant. One of these benefits is that these products often have more unique and pleasant scents than comercial, aluminum-based deodorants. Another benefit is that some people have sensitivity to aluminum-based deodorants. However, this goes both ways, with many people finding that aluminum-free deodorants can irritate the skin as many of them contain essential oils and bicarbonate soda.
American Cancer Society, Antiperspirants and breast cancer risk, 14 Oct 2014.
NIH National Cancer Institute, Antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer, 9 Aug 2016.
Cancer Research UK, Causes of cancer: Cosmetics and toiletries, 13 Mar 2017.
Canadian Cancer Society, Do antiperspirants cause breast cancer?, accessed 26 Feb 2020.
Cancer Council Western Australia, CancerMyths: Deodorant and cancer, Jul 2015.
European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, Opinion on the safety of aluminium in cosmetic products: Submission II, 31 Oct 2019.
Gorski D, Science-Based Medicine, Breast cancer myths: No, antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer, 6 Oct 2014.
Willhite CC et al., Systematic review of potential health risks posed by pharmaceutical, occupational and consumer exposures to metallic and nanoscale aluminum, aluminum oxides, aluminum hydroxide and its soluble salts, Crit Rev Toxicol. 2014, 44 Suppl 4, 1-80.
Darbre PD, Mannello F & Exley C, Aluminium and breast cancer: Sources of exposure, tissue measurements and mechanisms of toxicological actions on breast biology, J Inorg Biochem. 2013, 128, 257-61.
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