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Is it time to stop using antiperspirants containing aluminum?

Published: 04 Aug 2017

One thing we feel passionate about at Penguin Cold Caps is encouraging women and men to live healthier lifestyles, which can help to reduce the risk of contracting cancer. 

Many people think about the impact that diet and exercise can play on their cancer risk, but fewer think about the effects of the beauty products they use – including antiperspirants and deodorants.

Although we tend to use the term ‘deodorant’ for both antiperspirants and deodorants, there is a difference between the two. Antiperspirants work by blocking sweat ducts in the underarm to reduce perspiration. Deodorants work by masking body odor; they don't help to prevent sweating in the first place. 

While there are plenty of ‘safe’ natural deodorants available that don’t contain aluminum, most antiperspirant products on the market today contain aluminum.  Do you know if yours does?

Although, at present, it is deemed safe to sell antiperspirants that include aluminum as an ingredient, leading healthcare experts are concerned that there could be a correlation between using aluminum-based antiperspirants and the risk of developing cancer. 

In fact, medical experts in Switzerland, Europe, are on the road to banning aluminum-based antiperspirants across the entire country because of health concerns. Additionally, the sale of aluminum cookware is illegal in some countries due to similar concerns about the metal’s impact on the human body.

How can excess aluminum impact the body? 

The body contains most minerals found in nature, including metals such as iron, zinc and copper, which are essential for brain and muscle function. The human body also contains around 50-150mg of aluminum.

In small amounts, aluminum is not poisonous to people. However, if excess amounts enter the system – for example, as a result of using aluminum-based products such antiperspirants - it can have a toxic effect. 

Excess aluminum can inhibit the body’s take-up of essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, calcium and iron. It is also known to affect the kidneys, nervous and digestive system, brain and nerve function, and there has been a link drawn between aluminum-based antiperspirants and cancer – particularly breast cancer. 

How can aluminum-based antiperspirants cause cancer? 

Most breast cancers develop in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, which is the area closest to the lymph nodes. It is thought that the close proximity to antiperspirant application exposes the lymph nodes to any chemicals these products contain. 

The active ingredient in most antiperspirants is aluminum.  When applied under the arm, the chemicals from the product soak into the skin – including the aluminum. 

The metal then has a hormonal effect on breast tissue beneath the skin, raising estrogen levels, which can promote the growth of cancerous cells.

Which antiperspirants are safest to use to prevent breast cancer? 

It seems the only way to completely reduce any link between antiperspirants and breast cancer is to stop using these products altogether. However, going cold turkey isn’t something most people are prepared to do, so the alternative is to use products that are aluminum free.

The good news is that there are plenty of natural deodorants available on the market that don’t contain any harmful metals. Here are some good examples.  

Look for more natural types of products for preventing perspiration, such as mineral salts, which form a temporary layer over the skin to prevent sweating, rather than blocking sweat ducts. Always check the label before purchasing, to make sure it is aluminum free.

As soon as you stop using an aluminum-based antiperspirant, the excess harmful metals these products contain will start to leave the body through your urine. Drink plenty of water to help flush any remaining aluminum out of your system. 

If you are still worried about contracting breast cancer, discuss your concerns with your doctor. They can perform a check-up on your overall health, and suggest further lifestyle changes you may wish to make to reduce your risk of developing cancer.