You Don’t Need to Worry About Aluminum in Your Deodorant

There’s a whole market for aluminum-free deodorants. They’re marketed as natural or primal or somehow vaguely better for you. But hold up a sec: why are you avoiding aluminum, which (unlike those natural deodorants) can actually stop you from sweating? It’s fine.

Aluminum—yes, the same metal that “tinfoil” and beverage cans are made of—turns up in trace amounts in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and in breast tumors. However, people who work with aluminum don’t develop dementia or Alzheimer’s at higher rates than anyone else, and aluminum is found in healthy breast tissue at the same rates it’s found in tumors. There is zero evidence that avoiding aluminum will reduce your risk of either condition.

So where did we get the idea that aluminum in your deodorant is a problem? The American Cancer Society takes time to address the myths set out in a chain email from 1999 or earlier (debunked by Snopes here). That email said that antiperspirants work by “inhibiting the body from purging toxins from below the armpits.” According to this story, the unspecified “toxins” build up in the lymph nodes of the armpits, and cause breast cancer in the areas of the breast nearest the armpits.


This story is all wrong: that’s not how sweat glands work. That’s not how lymph nodes work. That’s not how cancer works. Most breast tumors are in the “upper outer quadrant” of the breast, but only because that area has the most breast tissue. Research on an aluminum-cancer link has so far failed to turn up any convincing evidence.

What does aluminum actually do?

Aluminum-containing ingredients are in deodorants—technically, only in the ones labeled antiperspirants—because they can plug up sweat glands. They literally stop you from sweating.


Once sweat is on your skin, bacteria eat the sweat and excrete stinky chemicals. So the other active components of deodorants (natural or otherwise) either kill the bacteria, or provide a fragrance to cover up the stink. Some non-aluminum deodorants will include an ingredient like cornstarch that helps to absorb moisture so that even though you’re still sweating, you won’t feel as wet.

If you prefer non-aluminum deodorants, great! But it seems people often suffer through natural deodorants because they’re afraid of the aluminum ones, not because they enjoy the alternatives. “I tried 11 natural deodorants on a quest to find one that actually works,” says a Greatist review. Chatelaine claims to have found 10 non-aluminum deodorants that actually work, but the review contains quotes like “Our dedicated tester said her body odor did eventually level out but stresses the deodorant works in ‘stages’ so you may smell along the way.”


So if you’re avoiding the stuff that actually works because you’re afraid it will harm you somehow, relax. Few things are proven in this world—researchers are still working on that aluminum/cancer link just in case—but it’s not the kind of thing that should keep you up at night.

from Lifehacker