Aluminum Based Antiperspirants: does the research support a problem?

Is there research to support that antiperspirant and aluminum
based deodorant is bad for you?

There are limited to no human studies that support a link between breast cancer and aluminum chloride and antiperspirants in women.  The theory is based on the notion that most breast cancers are found in the upper outer quadrant of the breast.  The thought was that maybe if women who shave their underarms and use antiperspirants introduce more aluminum into their bodies as a result of minor nicks. It's easy to see how this theory takes off because it seems to make logical sense.  However, epidemiological studies (these are studies that measure the prevalence of a disease in the population) have not shown any difference between women with and without breast cancer that use antiperspirants.  This all being said there are a few laboratory studies in mice that show a possible link.  It's obviously difficult to say how relevant this is to humans.  

The words antiperspirant and deodorant are good to differentiate.  Antiperspirant is meant to denote a product that reduces overall sweating.  Deodorants do not stop sweating, they simply mask the odor that develops as a result of sweating.  Odor from sweat is the result of bacteria acting on sweat to produce an odor.  We really need the recipe SWEAT + BACTERIA = ODOR.  If there was no sweat, chances are there would be reduced or no odor.  Also, If no bacteria then no or reduced odor. 

Is there research to say if natural is better than
antiperspirant?  

The key to understand here is that these work in completely different ways.  Natural antiperspirants do not really stop us from sweating.  Most contain cornstarch, baking soda and essential oils.  These ingredients do not stop sweating.  These ingredients absorb sweat to keep the area dry.  True antiperspirants that contain aluminum salts physically block the sweat ducts to prevent sweat secretion. Glycopyrrolate is a class of topical and oral medications called anticholinergics to reduce the amount of sweat produced.

Due to the difference in how these products work, I cannot find a study that says that natural antiperspirants are better.  This is simply because its not really a fair comparison.  Aluminum salts and glycopyrrolate will clearly perform better simply because they reduce the overall amount of sweat produced.  Practically speaking, most people find that natural antiperspirants have improved over the years but can still be somewhat unpredictable in terms of effectiveness simply because their effectiveness depends on how much they can keep up with the overall sweat produced.

Is crystal deodorant as effective as natural deodorants?

Crystal deodorants form a mineral layer on the skin to prevent the overgrowth of odor- causing bacteria.  Although the traditional aluminum chloride is not found in this product, there is a different type of aluminum compound in these.  Because it can take a few days for this to change the bacterial environment under the arms, it may not be as effective initially on odor but can gain effectiveness over time by reducing bacterial overgrowth.  

The only case reports out on crystal deodorants are reflective of some of the irritant reactions to the product.

Is crystal deodorant as effective as antiperspirant? how so?

No research that i could find on this but understandably so as they are not utilizing the same mechanism of action.  Since crystal deodorant is focused on bacteria and not sweat and antiperspirants are focused on reducing sweat and not necessarily bacteria it may be difficult to compare head to head based on the same criteria.

Is it worth the hype as a great safe deodorant or is it sorta
BS and not better than others? 


If you are looking for an alternative to traditional antiperspirants, this is a reasonable option to try.  Although still focused primarily on odor and not reducing sweat, many do find it is effective as a deodorant.

It  is always such a difficult question as to whether it is worth the hyper.  The answer is completely based on the patient’s perspective.  The overall answer is that it really has not been shown in epidemiological studies that breast cancer and traditional antiperspirants have a connection.  Alzheimers is clearly a big unknown in terms of etiology (I have published with a colleague a possible connection between untreated Lyme and Alzheimers- this has nothing to do with antiperspirants!).  

Personally I have a family history of breast cancer and I use traditional antiperspirants.  I have not seen convincing data to support trying other options.  I have tried the natural products and find them to be unpredictable in terms of effectiveness.  Some days they work, some they don’t.  

That being said,  it is important to do what makes you feel best.  If you have a personal concern then by all means this is why the alternative market exists.  These products can help those looking of a reasonable option.  The other option is considering botulinum toxin injections under the arms to reduce sweat for 6-9 months.   

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