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What's the deal with aluminum in deodorant, and what are my alternatives?

What's the deal with aluminum in deodorant, and what are my alternatives?

Aluminum has been a prominent ingredient in deodorants as an antiperspirant since 1903. Over the decades, more and more research has come out about the effects of aluminum and how it reacts with the human body. Penn Medicine describes the original reason for this way:

"Aluminum compounds are used extensively in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. In antiperspirants, aluminum salts are the ingredients that prevent sweating. The salts need to dissolve to block sweat from forming on the surface of your pores."

Because aluminum clogs the pores, it not only prevents sweat, but it also prevents unwanted smell. Which, in theory, sounds like a win-win situation, right? We don't think so.

Unlike some other naturally occurring metals like iron, our bodies don't really need/want aluminum. Recent research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that frequent use of antiperspirants can cause aluminum to accumulate in breast tissue, which is being debated to whether it causes breast cancer. But something that isn't debatable is that it can affect kidney functions. 

"Too much aluminum in your body can cause bone diseases or dementia. Usually, excess aluminum is filtered out of your body by your kidneys. So, people with weakened kidney function can’t filter aluminum fast enough. However, 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, a physician at Penn Family Medicine in Phoenixville, PA. 


Another key component is that sweating is GOOD. Sweating is a natural way to:

1. Cool yourself down.

2. Expel toxins from your skin and lymphatic system, reducing build-up and burden on the liver.

But here's the thing: science has advanced a fair amount in the last 120 years, and there are aluminum-free deodorants out there that prove it. 

 Some folks swear that there's a "transition period" that's necessary when switching from aluminum to aluminum-free deodorants. And while that might be the case for some people (and some products), we actually haven't found it to be something that affects the immediate efficacy of the deodorants we carry. But it doesn't hurt to help that detox along, right?

We've tried A LOT of natural deodorants on the market. Like, a lot. We're pretty smelly (and picky) around here, and we've curated a collection of daily-use products to keep our pits smelling fresh.

Natural deodorant offerings at Ware in Asheville, NC.

1. The Underarm Detox Bar. This bar isn't a deodorant, but is actually a soap that helps to deep clean those clogged pores. I (Rhianna) like to suggest that you use it every time you shower when actively going through the detox process. After that, it isn't necessary to continue using it, however, many people do, particularly during the sweaty summer months, because it reduces the smell associated with sweat long after you have converted to natural deodorants. Now to the deodorant itself.

2. The very first (and only for a long time only) deodorant at Ware was Underarm Balm, which you can refill if you're local! Incredibly effective at masking scent, this option is baking soda based with a high concentration of essential oils like mint and eucalyptus. It's what makes this balm so effective. If you do have very sensitive skin, it can sometimes be a little too strong and cause some irritation. We suggest to not put it on directly after shaving or showering while you learn how your body will react to it. If you notice some irritation, try applying some gentle lotion or oil to your armpit before applying Underarm Balm to create a bit of a barrier that may allow you to successfully use the product and eliminate reactions.

3. Out most recent offering is the baking soda-free Deodorant Stick (formally blocks, if you've been following along for a while). For those the Underarm Balm may be too strong for (or if you just want a different scent), this may just be your answer. It's magnesium-based, and very gentle on the skin, while still extremely effective. It comes in two variations: Unscented and Rose & Citrus. Both in full-sized tubes and travel-size, so you can try before you commit. They come in commercially-compostable packaging, which we'll compost for you if you're local and don't have access to your own composting service!

As always, do whatever works best for you and your body, but feel free to drop in and talk about anything underarm related—we don't mind the stinky questions!!

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