Aluminum-based antiperspirants also contain a cocktail of other chemicals. These compounds can mimic estrogen hormones which can increase breast cancer risk. Is something as common as an antiperspirant really worth the risk of disease?
Are health concerns surrounding antiperspirants worth the risk?
My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 32. When something like this happens to a loved one you begin asking a lot of questions. As a scientist, I dissected as much information as I could and was surprised to find that many products we use every day are potentially harmful to us. One of these is right under our arms: Antiperspirants. Several studies have suggested that aluminum-based antiperspirants may be linked to breast cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. I'm not suggesting that antiperspirants caused my sister's cancer. But why not err on the side of caution and minimize the impact of potentially harmful chemicals on our body – after all, it's the only one we have.
Why are aluminum compounds used in antiperspirants? Aluminum is the active ingredient in all antiperspirants and many deodorants. Chemically-treated aluminum compounds, such as aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, are used to temporarily “plug up” your sweat glands and prevent you from sweating. Alarmingly, a typical antiperspirant contains anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent aluminum. This can't be good for you.
Can aluminum compounds in antiperspirants be absorbed into your body?
Studies have shown that small amounts of aluminum in antiperspirants are absorbed by the skin, and this absorption is higher when applied to stripped skin (which can occur when you shave).
Aluminum antiperspirant defenders will point out that these are extremely small amounts and don't pose any danger. While it's true that the amount of aluminum absorbed after a single application is very small, what about the the accumulated effects of using an aluminum-based antiperspirant every day over many years? One study concluded that earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis is associated with women who started using antiperspirant at a young age.
Can aluminum compounds in antiperspirants cause disease?
My job as a scientist is to be objective, to analyze all available data, and to base my conclusions on hard facts. While I can't say with absolute certainty that the aluminum in antiperspirants lead to breast cancer or Alzheimer's, I can say that scientific research has shown that the chemically altered aluminum in antiperspirants is absorbed by our body. These compounds can mimic estrogen hormones which can increase breast cancer risk. Is something as common as an antiperspirant really worth the risk of disease?
It’s not only about the chemically treated aluminum
Aluminum-based antiperspirants also contain a cocktail of other chemicals, such as cyclopentasiloxane, stearyl alcohol, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, PPG-14 butyl ether, hydrogenated castor oil, petrolatum, phenyl trimethicone, talc, cyclodextrin, fragrance, mineral oil, behenyl alcohol, and blue 1 lake (CI 42090).
Do you really want to apply all these chemicals onto your skin? Here's an example of the warning listed on a typical antiperspirant: For external use only. Do not use on broken skin. Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease. Stop use if rash or irritation occurs. Keep out of reach of children. If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away. That's quite ominous, isn't it?
To be continued...
In part two, we'll discuss the benefits of using an all-natural deodorant instead of an aluminum-based antiperspirant.