Deodorant or antiperspirant is a very personal product. Just about everyone needs it and whether you want to control odor under your arms, for foot odor or feminine hygiene, there are other facts to consider. The store shelves offer you deodorant sprays, gels, sticks, roll-ons or powders. Then there’s the issue of aluminum in antiperspirants/deodorants with the Internet buzzing with information concerning it causing cancer and other health risks. For years we’ve been warned about the risk of aluminum in deodorants. So what’s the real story, and can we separate fact from myth? This article will help you do both. You’ll either keep using commercial ones or you’ll opt for an aluminum-free, natural deodorant. Read on about potential aluminum in deodorant health risks and side effects of deodorant and antiperspirant.


Although most people refer to antiperspirants and deodorants interchangeably, there is a difference between them.

  • Antiperspirants control both sweat and body odor. They prevent sweat with aluminum salts dissolving on the surface of the armpit, creating a plug near the top of the sweat glands. Spray and roll-on products usually contain aluminum chlorohydrate for sweat control, while gels and stick antiperspirants use aluminum zirconium.
  • Generic, store brand deodorants mostly contain antimicrobial agents to prevent only body odor, but not flow of sweat. The main antimicrobial chemicals used are either triclosan or polyhexamethylene biguanide. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that frequent use of antimicrobials may lead to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. 


The active aluminum-based ingredient in antiperspirants/deodorants temporarily plugs the sweat glands and that’s how it prevents you from perspiring. A few studies reported in suggest that these aluminum-based chemicals are absorbed into the skin, especially if there is a nick from shaving. They propose that the harmful ingredients may increase the risk of breast cancer, since they are applied to the armpit and therefore, absorbed into an area next to the breast.

The studies further suggeest that aluminum-based compounds that are applied and absorbed near the breast can cause estrogen-like effects. Since the hormone estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, it’s therefore, possible that these aluminum-based chemicals in antiperspirants/deodorants may contribute to breast cancer.

In 2002, one study tested increased risk of breast cancer in women who reported using antiperspirants/deodorants. Having interviewed 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women with no history of breast cancer, they concluded no increased breast cancer risk for women who shaved their underarm and used antiperspirants or deodorants.

However, in 2003, a study with 437 breast cancer survivors suggested underarm shaving followed by applying antiperspirants/deodorants does have a relationship with breast cancer. This study found a higher level of breast cancer in women who began shaving and using an antiperspirant/deodorant at an earlier age in life and more frequently used these types of products.

The studies have continued to be conflicting, and they all conclude there is a need for more research while taking into account other factors, such as age of person, how long they used antiperspirants/deodorants, and frequency of use. 


The connection with kidney disease and antiperspirants began several years ago when dialysis patients were given a drug to help control phosphorus levels in their blood, called aluminum hydroxide. Unfortunately, it was discovered the patients couldn’t get rid of the aluminum fast enough from their body and were more likely to develop dementia.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) now mandates that antiperspirant labels with aluminum chloride contain a warning that reads: “Ask a doctor before using if you have kidney disease.”

Parabens in Antiperspirants

There are other questionable ingredients in antiperspirants/deodorants that may cause allergies or have been reported as a breast cancer risk. One such chemical group is parabens that have been reported to increase the risk of breast cancer. These studies have not been proven, as other scientists question the link, since the report did not establish if the aluminum found in breast tissue caused the cancer, or if it was from deodorants or other products that had accumulated in breast tissue.

By Flora Stay


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