Antiperspirant is good for us

How toxic are aluminum salts in deodorants? And how do they work?

Antiperspirants should help against sweating due to the aluminum chloride they contain by closing the sweat glands of the skin. However, the aluminum salts are controversial: Among other things, they are suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer.

Not everyone wants to use an antiperspirant containing aluminum chloride (aluminum chloride hexhydrate, ACH). Especially since until recently the substance was suspected of having a negative impact on health. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) gave the all-clear for the use of such deodorants on June 20, 2020. The statement states: "Significantly less aluminum is absorbed through the skin than calculated on the basis of the limited data available to date," says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR. But how does ACH work in antiperspirants? And what are the alternatives?

How does aluminum chloride work against sweating?

Those who sweat frequently and heavily under the armpits can try an antiperspirant or antiperspirant instead of a deodorant. Manufacturers promise that the aluminum chloride it contains helps against sweating. But the way it works has a reason: it actually closes the ducts of the glands and thus suppresses the production of sweat and thus also the formation of odors. An effect is noticeable even with a low dosage.

Most pharmacies even offer an antiperspirant, usually a solution based on 20 percent aluminum chloride hexahydrate. The concentration can vary depending on the part of the body where the antiperspirant is to be used.

Antiperspirants and Deodorants - What's the Difference?

Even if there is usually no distinction made in everyday language, antiperspirants and deodorants are two different products: While antiperspirants are supposed to prevent or reduce sweating, deodorants primarily neutralize the smell of sweat. Because of their antiperspirant effect, aluminum salts are only found in antiperspirants, not in deodorants. However, a "48-hour deodorant" and a "72-hour deodorant" is an antiperspirant in most cases.

Does aluminum chloride in antiperspirants cause breast cancer?

The use of aluminum salts has become controversial following a study linking aluminum chloride to breast cancer risk. In 2001, researchers found that breast cancer occurred more often near the armpit, and in 2007 it was discovered that these tumors had an increased concentration of aluminum. It was suggested that salts containing aluminum promote breast cancer. According to the German Cancer Society, however, deodorants containing aluminum have not been proven to cause breast cancer.

According to an epidemiological study by the Medical University, intensive use of aluminum-containing deodorants several times a day can increase the risk of developing breast cancer at a young age. Researchers compared 209 cases of breast cancer patients with 209 healthy women. The concentration of aluminum in breast tissue was examined in 100 women. The scientists came to the conclusion that women who regularly use aluminum-containing deodorants are likely to have an increased risk of breast cancer. In addition, an increased aluminum concentration was found in the breast tissue of women with cancer.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) stated in a revised statement on aluminum chloride hexhydrate in deodorants from July 20, 2020 that although the ACH exposure is still too high in some population groups, antiperspirants, which contribute significantly less to aluminum chlorohydrate than previously assumed .

Link to nerve damage and Alzheimer's disease

Various studies suggest a connection between the intake of aluminum chloride and the development of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, the metal is suspected of having effects on bone development. And according to the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), a long-term increased intake of the metal can also lead to brittle bones, anemia and brain damage.

According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), it has been proven that high amounts of aluminum can damage nerves and offspring, i.e. have toxic effects on reproduction (effects on fertility and children in the womb). Researchers from Australia and Great Britain presented papers on the possible breast cancer and Alzheimer's risk from aluminum. It is therefore currently not possible to say with certainty that aluminum causes nerve damage and / or Alzheimer's disease, but must wait for future study results.

What are the disadvantages of an antiperspirant?

Deodorants containing aluminum chloride can also cause another problem: the substance dries out the skin and makes it more prone to irritation. Many people experience discomfort such as burning or itching after application. The higher the active ingredient concentration, the more likely such side effects are to be expected. A 20 percent solution can already cause skin irritation.

You should only apply the antiperspirant thinly and observe how well your skin tolerates the active ingredient.

Aluminum is also found in other cosmetics

Many consumers already ingest large amounts of aluminum through food, and the weekly tolerable intake is probably exhausted in part of the population through food alone, explains the BfR. Lipstick and eye shadow, toothpaste or sun cream can also contain aluminum. The light metal can also transfer to food via cooking utensils, cans, foils and tubes and thus get into the body.

So make sure that you do not apply aluminum-containing antiperspirants immediately after shaving and that it is best not to use them in the first place on damaged armpit skin. This allows the ACH to get into the body faster. Deodorants without any aluminum salts are also a way to reduce your overall aluminum intake. Numerous manufacturers now offer these.

Which deodorants do not contain aluminum?

The list of deodorants without aluminum has been growing steadily for years. You can easily see from the list of ingredients whether the product contains aluminum. The page "deoohnealuminium.de" offers a complete overview. For example, the following brands offer aluminum-free deodorants and can be found in many supermarkets and drug stores:

  • 8x4
  • Adidas
  • Ax
  • Bac
  • CD
  • Dove
  • Nivea
  • Old Spice
  • Rexona
  • Tabac

The own brands of drugstore chains and discounters are also often made without aluminum salts. The following providers sell aluminum-free deodorants:

  • Aldi Nord (Kult Clear Touch Deodorant)
  • Aldi Süd (Ombia Deodorant Sprays)
  • dm (Balea Med, Balea Deodorant Sprays, Alverde Deodorants)
  • Rossmann (Isana, Isana Med, Isana Men)

Deodorants without aluminum are marked as such - in case of doubt, let an employee advise you on site. In the case of deodorants without aluminum from the supermarket, however, it should be remembered that they do not necessarily do without other problematic substances, such as parabens, palm oil or plasticizers. You are on the safe side with deodorants from natural cosmetics, such as those from the following manufacturers:

Another disadvantage of products without aluminum salts is that they do not stick together the sweat glands and thus do not suppress the feeling of wetness. This bothers a lot of consumers.

What are the ingredients of deodorants?

Not only aluminum chloride is used as the basis of many deodorants. Alcohol is also often used as an alternative by many manufacturers. It kills odor-causing bacteria. However, since not every part of the armpit can be caught during an application, not all bacteria are killed. The odor-inhibiting effect therefore only lasts for a certain period of time. In addition, alcohol damages the protective layer on the skin. The skin becomes very irritated and dries out. This can lead to strong, allergic reactions, especially with sensitive skin.

Aluminum chloride against sweating: the application

If you still cannot or do not want to do without an aluminum-containing antiperspirant, it is best to use it in the evening before going to bed. In the morning, it is sufficient to shower or wash and care for your skin with a lotion or cream. The "schwitzen.de" portal, a website of the German Hyperhidrosis Center, recommends adhering to this rhythm consistently for two weeks.

After that, you can reduce the application to two to three times a week. However, only after at least two months will you be able to clearly determine how successful the active ingredient is for you.

If you experience some sort of "relapse", you can pause the application for a while and then start again. If the product does not work for you, you should have a doctor clarify whether an illness is the cause of profuse sweating.

Conclusion: No all-clear possible

"We cannot give the all-clear regarding the use of deodorants with aluminum salts", summarizes Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Hanno Ulmer, Director of the Section for Medical Statistics and Computer Science at the Medical University of Innsbruck, summarized the research results.

Until the importance of aluminum salts as a potentially carcinogenic substance has been fully clarified, the scientists recommend careful handling of cosmetics that contain aluminum. They especially advise against using them excessively at a young age.