News about certain ingredients in antiperspirants may alarm you. Learn more about the ingredients in aluminum and if antiperspirant is safe or bad for you.
To keep your body happy and healthy, it is important to know what you’re putting on and in your body. In recent years, rumors have swirled that antiperspirant and deodorant with aluminum may increase your risk for breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, scientists studying these theories have not found a statistically significant connection between antiperspirant use and these diseases. So, antiperspirant is safe as long as it is used as directed. Keep reading to learn more about how the ingredients in antiperspirant safely prevent sweat.
Let's Talk Sweat
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of antiperspirant, you should understand the differences between the two types of sweat glands in your body: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. There are eccrine glands on almost all surfaces of your body—including your forehead, the soles of your feet and your palms. These types of glands open directly into your skin.
Apocrine glands, on the other hand, open into hair follicles. These types of glands are abundant in areas where your body produces hair, such as the scalp, groin, and armpit.
Antiperspirant Vs. Deodorant: What's The Difference?
“Deodorant inhibits bacterial growth which, in turn, prevents body odor. Antiperspirants reduce sweating by temporarily plugging your sweat glands.”
Deodorant, antiperspirant, tomato, tomat-o, right? Not necessarily. Deodorant, as its name implies, prevents body odor. Despite popular belief, sweat doesn't smell. Rather, body odor occurs when your sweat mingles with the microorganisms on your skin.
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Deodorant inhibits bacterial growth which, in turn, prevents body odor. What deodorant doesn’t do is protect against perspiration. Here's where antiperspirant comes in.
Antiperspirants reduce sweating by temporarily plugging your sweat glands. Because antiperspirants hinder a natural biological process, the FDA classifies the product as a "drug." This classification, along with the ingredients found in antiperspirant, causes many consumers to wonder...is antiperspirant safe?
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Why Is Aluminum In Antiperspirant?
Aluminum is the main active ingredient in antiperspirants. When aluminum salt combines with water in your sweat, it triggers a chemical reaction, the result of which is a gel-like plug that blocks your apocrine glands and prevents sweat from reaching the skin's surface. Though there are several natural ingredients that claim to achieve the same effect, aluminum is the only ingredient that the FDA recognizes as an antiperspirant.
Breast Cancer And Alzheimer's: Is Aluminum To Blame?
Various studies have hypothesized that aluminum-based antiperspirants increase one's risk of breast cancer. The rationale behind this hypothesis is that most breast tumors first develop in the upper, outer regions of the breast—or the parts of the breast nearest the armpit where one would apply antiperspirant. These studies imply that the skin absorbs these chemicals, which then interfere with estrogen and/or lead to cancerous changes in breast cells.
Through extensive research, scientific experts reassure consumers that these claims don't hold up. Scientists researching the use of aluminum in antiperspirant and deodorant have not found clear evidence that suggests that the use of these products increases one's risk for cancer.
Origins Of The Aluminum Myth
Older studies linked aluminum to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. This was due to the fact that several analyses revealed high levels of aluminum in the brains of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s. As a result, the safety of everything from aluminum cans to aluminum foil was called into question. However, with further research, scientists ruled out aluminum as a possible contributing factor to Alzheimer's after they were unable to find a statistically significant connection.
Do Antiperspirants Cause Any Damage?
“The more a person uses antiperspirant, the less microbial growth his or her body produces.”
Like any product, some ingredients don’t work for certain skin types. For individuals with sensitive skin, antiperspirants can cause irritation and rashes. Typically, these side effects go away soon after one stops using the product.
Studies reveal that prolonged use of antiperspirants can also affect your personal microbiome—but in a good way. The average human body is host to dozens of colonies of microbial life, and one's daily habits influence how that life lives and thrives on it. The more a person uses antiperspirant, the less microbial growth his or her body produces.
The only real harm antiperspirants can cause is to your clothing. When bonded with your sweat, the acidic properties of the ingredient can leave unsightly stains on the underarms of your clothing. Avoid stains on your clothing by applying antiperspirant per the manufacturer’s instructions and by allowing it to dry completely before putting on clothes.
Should You Worry About Antiperspirant?
No. There is no scientific evidence that aluminum or antiperspirant products lead to cancer or Alzheimer’s. Using them does not harm your body in any way. When using antiperspirant products, make sure to read the instructions on the product and avoid applying antiperspirant to parts of your body with mucous membranes like your mouth, eyes, and genitals.