How Worried Should You Be About Aluminum In Your Deodorant?

Many products tout their ingredient omissions on their labels, such as gluten-free, fat-free, paraben-free, and oil-free. If you've been paying enough attention to the labels in the hygiene aisle, you may also have noticed the words "aluminum-free" printed on some of the deodorant products. Reading these words on a stick of Secret or Degree begs the question: Is aluminum harmful to me?


Some product ingredients, like gluten, are harmful only to certain people. If you know you don't have gluten sensitivity, you don't need to buy gluten-free options. But can the same be said of aluminum in deodorant? Is it dangerous for some people, but not others?

To answer these questions, it's important to understand the purpose of aluminum in deodorant, what organizations like the FDA and American Cancer Society have to say about it, and what research has revealed about the correlation between aluminum and certain health problems. Spoiler alert: the reality isn't as bad as the rumors may have led you to believe.

Why is aluminum in deodorant?

Technically, aluminum salt is the active ingredient in antiperspirant, not deodorant (via Healthline). However, since many deodorants now include antiperspirants, you'll often see a mention of aluminum on the label. It may be printed on the front of the deodorant/antiperspirant stick, only on the back, or on both sides.


If you flip your deodorant over and read the Drug Facts section, you'll likely see "Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY" (or a similar hard-to-pronounce name) as the active ingredient. Next to that is probably a percentage and the word "antiperspirant" listed as the purpose. As the word implies, an antiperspirant prevents perspiring (sweating). But how exactly does it do this?

According to the National Library of Medicine, aluminum salt prevents perspiration by blocking the pores in the armpits to prevent sweat beads from escaping or by absorbing the sweat. Secret claims it's the only safe ingredient the Food and Drug Administration has identified that successfully blocks sweat, which then reduces the amount of bacterial growth and unpleasant smells.


Can aluminum cause or increase the risk of breast cancer?

The American Cancer Society asserts that the link between breast cancer and antiperspirants/aluminum is primarily based on rumors rather than facts. "Part of the reason this theory emerged is because we used to tell patients that they couldn't use aluminum-containing antiperspirant during radiation because there were concerns that the aluminum would increase the skin irritation that can result from radiation cancer treatment," radiation oncologist Chirag Shah, MD told Cleveland Clinic. "I think there are other things we should probably be more concerned about when it comes to breast cancer risk."


However, case-controlled studies have still been conducted on the topic. Typically, these studies have involved asking people about their antiperspirant use, but the results aren't always reliable since they depend on the subjects' memories. How many times has your memory failed you? One study involving 800 women with breast cancer found no connection between aluminum in antiperspirants and the disease, while two other small studies suggested only a possible connection.

An article published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry states that aluminum's ability to damage DNA may be why so many people believe that the metal can cause breast cancer. However, a systematic review from 2014 printed in Critical Reviews in Toxicology made the same assertion as the American Cancer Society: that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that aluminum in antiperspirants causes or increases the chances of breast cancer.


Is there a connection between aluminum and kidney disease?

Some deodorant labels include a warning statement on the back that reads, "Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease." This label has caused many people to wonder about the correlation between deodorant and kidney disease, much like the rumors about aluminum causing breast cancer.


The National Kidney Foundation states that an incident involving dialysis patients and a specific drug led the FDA to require a warning about kidney disease on antiperspirants. Patients were given aluminum hydroxide, but their bodies were unable to rid themselves of the aluminum at a quick enough rate. This caused them to develop bone disease and made them more susceptible to dementia.

It's important to note that the aluminum in this case didn't cause kidney disease. However, it can lead to other health problems for individuals who already have the disease and have progressed to Stage 4 or 5. "if you have normal kidney function, your kidneys can usually process the amount of aluminum from antiperspirants and cosmetics that is absorbed through your skin," Benjamin Chan, DO of Penn Medicine explained.


Aluminum-free deodorants

If you're concerned about developing health problems as a result of using antiperspirant, you can opt for deodorants that contain no antiperspirant. To simplify your search, you can choose from a range of deodorants that say "aluminum-free" on the label. However, keep in mind that these products won't prevent sweating, so you may need to adjust to a bit more wetness under your arms if you've been using deodorant for most of your life.


The good news is that aluminum-free deodorants are designed to block odors, so although your pits might be saturated during exercise, at least you won't have to worry too much about funky body smells. And, of course, you won't have to even think about the potential risks of developing aluminum-related health problems either.

Some of the aluminum-free deodorants that you can purchase in stores and online include Suave Rosemary & Mint Invisible Solid Formulated Without Aluminum, Secret Aluminum Free Deodorant in your choice of eight scents, and Dove 0% Aluminum Deodorant. To find more options, simply search for "aluminum-free deodorants" on Google.

Are there aluminum-free antiperspirants?

While it is great to have an aluminum-free deodorant that still blocks odors to alleviate concerns about applying aluminum to the underarm area, there is no aluminum-free antiperspirant option. Unlike keto-friendly foods that offer alternatives capable of giving you similar results using different ingredients, antiperspirants rely solely on aluminum salt as the only FDA-approved ingredient that can safely and effectively prevent sweat. Therefore, removing aluminum salt from a product that prevents sweat would render it ineffective.


So, how worried should you be about aluminum in deodorant/antiperspirant? Many organizations, including the American Cancer Society and National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., state that there isn't enough evidence to support claims that aluminum in deodorant/antiperspirant can cause breast cancer. Unless you have kidney disease or have been advised by a doctor to avoid products with aluminum, there is no need to worry about aluminum in your deodorant the next time you go shopping.