antiperspirants & deodorants

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While catching up on the obnoxious amount of blogs that I read daily I came across this
from the Everygirl about aluminum free deodorant options. This had me thinking about how I’ve heard about the harsh effects that aluminum can have, but I really wasn’t sure about any reasoning behind it; so naturally I did some research.

Let’s start with the basics here, what exactly is the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant. Essentially, deodorants are used to mask odors and absorb any sweat that may be present. While antiperspirants prevent sweating and odors by plugging the apocrine glands found in underarms.


Looking closer at deodorants. “Deodorants are classified as cosmetics by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and typically feature fragrance, formulated into a solid or liquid base”. Little known fact is that sweat does not have a scent, it earns it’s token sweat smell when it mixes with the bacteria found on your skin. This is why most deodorants contain fragrance in the mixture. An article from Chemists Corner has a great breakdown of the formulation and ingredients behind a stick of deodorant. The following is a breakdown of a common deodorant formula from the articleScreen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.23.28 PM.png



From the name one can see that the purpose of this product is to prevent perspiration. The FDA has classified antiperspirants as an Over the Counter (OTC) drug “because they do prevent sweat formation and normally include an aluminum-based compound as the active ingredient“. Additionally, because antiperspirants inhibit the odor that comes from sweating, they are also classified as deodorants, which is typically why the category is called antiperspirant deodorant sticks. Again an article from Chemist Corner has a breakdown of these APD (antiperspirant deodorant sticks) products about their formulation and role of ingredients.

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The reason that APD products are under a lot of speculation is because the main active ingredient is Aluminum zirconium tetrachorohydrex glycine. This aluminum compound is what actively plug up the pores in your under arms and prevent perspiration. There has been a lot of controversy out in the beauty world about whether this compound causes breast cancer. The basis behind this claim is that some people believe that because this aluminum compound prevents the body from releasing sweat it prevents toxins from being released from the body. The link to breast cancer comes from the idea that some people believe that this prevention of sweating being releases affects lymph nodes which is often a cancer related area.

The simple fact is that the body detox’s via the kidney and liver. While sweating is definitely great for your health, which is why a good sweat-inducing workout is important, the body will not lose its toxins from anywhere besides the kidneys and liver. An article from Cosmetic highlights studies from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute which  “state that there is no evidence linking deodorants or antiperspirants with cancer”. They have the studies from these reliable sources listed on their site.

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So what’s my overall take away from this? Personally, as a chemistry student I have a hard time not trusting facts from studies conducted by reliable sources that state that this aluminum compound does not cause cancer. Additionally a simple biology class could tell anyone that the body only detoxes through the kidney and liver. However, I like many, have breast cancer in the family and could completely understand how one would be sensitive towards this information. Luckily for you, the beauty market has become conscious to everyone’s preferences and there is a large variety of aluminum-free APD products in the market for purchase. So no matter your preference, there is a product out there for everyone.

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