Body odor has a long and complicated history, believe it or not! And if you’ve ever stopped to wonder about the ingredients in your deodorant, you’re actually participating in a centuries-long debate.
We’re pretty glad that more people want to make healthy decisions about their personal hygiene products, so we’re bringing you the information you need so you can fight unwanted B.O without putting yourself at risk.
How Does Deodorant Work?
In order to be an educated buyer, you should know what deodorant actually does in the first place. Countless bacteria on your skin feed on the fats and proteins excreted in your sweat, and they produce a byproduct of chemicals that release (gross) smells. Deodorants are designed to work in 1 of 2 ways, and some do both:
The first kind of deodorant targets and eliminates the bacteria which produce unwanted smells. For example, some use triclosan to make your skin too salty of an environment for the bacteria to survive. The second kind of deodorant targets your sweat glands; these are called antiperspirants. Antiperspirants work by blocking up your sweat glands, often with aluminum, so that bacteria have nothing to feed on and thereby produce stinky chemicals (1).
Aluminum Deodorant History & Health Risks
The first commercially available antiperspirant containing aluminum was released in 1903, named Everdry. It was a water-based solution of aluminum chloride that was dabbed onto the underarms with a cotton ball. In 1916, scientists warned that although aluminum was effective, it could cause irritation.
In the 1930’s, Arrid Cream entered the market, using aluminum sulphate to produce a cream-based antiperspirant, and then about a decade later, aluminum hydroxy chloride became the active ingredient of choice. In the 1970’s, the FDA released its concerns to the public about the long-term safety of aluminum-based chemicals in deodorants and personal products (3).
Today, deodorants have evolved into a variety of application styles and scents; but research too has developed, uncovering even more safety concerns for aluminum in deodorants:
Health Risks of Aluminum
Aluminum has been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and some researchers have also noted that most brain studies reveal an increased level of aluminum as well, though further research is necessary to determine the true cause and effect relationship in those cases (2, 4).
Preliminary studies have also connected aluminum to bone abnormalities including weak and brittle bones (4). Several studies have pointed out the adverse effects that working with aluminum has on respiratory tract (including asthma, wheezing, and limited lung function) (4). It has also been reported that aluminum workers have an increased risk of bladder and lung cancers. (4).
What to Do Instead
Instead of trying to stop your sweat glands from producing sweat, (which is perfectly naturally, and for most people, isn’t actually stinky at all) you can try balancing the bacteria cultures of your armpits.
Of course, another simple option is to stick to aluminum-free deodorants. We’ve brought you a list of the best brands of deodorants without any aluminum.
39 Aluminum-Free Deodorant Brands
All Good Deodorants
Aubrey Organics: E Plus High C Roll-On Deodorant, Men’s Stock Natural Dry Herbal Pine Deodorant
Bali Secrets Natural Deodorant – Organic & Vegan
Best Deodorant Ever from Hygieia LLC: all deodorants
Bubble & bee organic deodorants
Burt’s Bee’s Herbal Deodorant and Natural Skin Care for Men Deodorant
Caitlin’s Super Natural Deodorants: Sandalwood & Olive Leaf, Bergamot & Cypress, Lavender & Currant
Close To Me – Uplifting Deodorant Spray
Coconut Snow All Natural Deodorant
Dr. Hauschka Fresh Roll-on, Floral Roll-On (For Sensitive Skin)
EO Organic Deodorant: Citrus, Lavender, Vetiver
Every Man Jack Deodorants: Cedarwood, Citrus, Signature mint, Sandalwood
Fresh Kidz (Natural Deodorants for Kids)
Freedom Stick Deodorants
Greenbody Natural Deodorants
Green People Natural Deodorants
Green Tidings All Natural Deodorant
Good For Girls
Jungleman All-Natural Deodorant
Junior Varsity Naturals (Natural Deodorants for Kids)
Just 4 Kids (Natural Deodorants for Kids) UK
Human Heart Nature (Philippines)
Herban Cowboys Deodorants
Hippy Paste by Earth Conscious
Kaia Naturals: The Takesumi detox made from bamboo charcoal
Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant-Pure Vanilla
Living Libations Classic Poetic Pits Tree Majesty
Louis Widmer Deodorant Aluminumsalts-free
Madara Bio Active Deodorant
Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant
Natio – Natural Australian Beauty: Aluminium Free Roll-On Deodorant (Australia, UK)
Nature’s Gate (Sticks and Roll-ons) all deodorants
Now you know, ladies and gentlemen! Go forth and buy smart!
3. Laden, Karl. Antiperspirants and Deodorants: Second Edition Revised and Expanded. 1999. Accessed: https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=WOoUoiW8FpkC&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=aluminum+in+deodorants&ots=yTJ4ltR_5O&sig=xNjJ8obYPu6cqIEAAbijpmM91-E#v=onepage&q=aluminum%20in%20deodorants&f=false