What you need to know about aluminum

Girl looking at deodorant

Credit photo: cottonbro on Pexel

This is the fourth of our series about the different nasties you can find in mainstream care products and we are now looking at aluminum.

What is aluminum?

Before we start, it is important to explain and understand two different terms. Deodorants and Antiperspirants.

When we launched our line of natural deodorants, we explained the ingredients we use and how they work together to control body odour. The key element to remember is that sweat in itself doesn’t have much of an odour. When sweat gets in contact with bacteria (and moist armpits are growing grounds for bacteria), this is when bad smells happen. Deodorants mainly aim at controlling the amount of bacteria in the armpit though will have a limited effect on stopping sweat.

Antiperspirants on the other hand are designed to prevent sweat. Aluminum salts are the most common and effective ingredients used to this effect as applying aluminum to the armpits will block the pores and prevent sweating. Sometimes deodorants and antiperspirants are combined.

And in case you were wondering, yes, aluminum salts are derived from the metal known as aluminum.

Why does aluminum have a reputation as a nasty?

Aluminum salts started gathering a bad reputation when they became linked to breast cancer. Some women with breast cancer revealed a higher amount of aluminum in their breast tissues and testified of their regular use of antiperspirants containing aluminum. However, the medical community hasn’t been able so far to scientifically establish whether aluminum was a factor in breast cancer or whether tumors simply attracted and stored more aluminum rather than causing the tumors.

High exposure to aluminum has also been suspected to have adverse effects on the feminine endocrine system and the hormones it secretes, which could link it back to increasing the chances of breast cancer.

On the same note, some people are also concerned that, as aluminum acts as plugs on the pores to prevent sweating, it also prevents the body from “sweating out” toxins, potentially cancerous toxins. The medical community has pointed out that the liver and kidneys fulfill this function and that antiperspirants are used nowhere near such organs hence do not agree with such a claim.

Other concerns have been associated with aluminum such as kidney issues. In the US, the FDA requires products containing aluminum to be labeled that you should ask a doctor before use. This really applies to people whose renal function is down to 30% or less as their bodies don't flush aluminum fast enough and it starts accumulating.

Finally, aluminum used to be questioned whether it was linked to Alzheimer’s disease when patients were found having high levels of aluminum in their brains in the 1960’s. At the time, pots and pans, aluminum cans and antiperspirants were prime suspects. However, further research couldn’t establish a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. As far as antiperspirants, the quantity of aluminum they contain is anyway deemed too low to trigger such a disease.

What is the alternative to aluminum?

If you are concerned about aluminum and its side effects, it is better to stir clear from antiperspirant and prefer deodorants. Natural deodorants are aluminum-free and use other ingredients to control sweat and body odours. Some deodorants may use baking soda as a natural antiperspirant, which is a viable natural alternative. However, baking soda can be irritating for the skin. If you are concerned about skin irritation, make sure to use natural deodorants that are gentle on the skin.

Fargeot Natural Perfumes' deodorant range for example, is free of baking soda and uses arrowroot starch to absorb sweat. Arrowroot is an effective and gentle alternative to keep your pits dry. We combine it with other ingredients to create 100% natural, vegan and effective deodorants that are gentle on skins but hard on odours.