Wondering if aluminum-free products are better for your body? I’m shining some science on deodorant, antiperspirant and aluminum.
This blog post is written in partnership with Secret. I was compensated for my time and my expertise, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All facts are based on scientific-evidence and the research that is available to date.
Myths, misinformation and opinions – they flood the internet. Every day I read something about food, nutrition or fitness that simply isn’t true. I’m blown away by how many people believe what they read, without any consideration that it might not be true. If you ever wondered how misinformation spreads so quickly – that’s how! One person reads something, they take it for truth, they repeat or share it, and the rumor begins. Before long, it is accepted as fact. I’m here to tell you, not everything you read is true!
Early in my career, I spent hours busting myths and correcting misinformation I read. It was like a second job that didn’t pay anything, and it was exhausting. Still, I couldn’t help but chime in. I hate seeing people stressed and confused when all they are trying to do is live a healthy life.
SCIENCE VS OPINION VS MISCONCEPTION
Science and critical thinking have always come natural to me. I was the annoying kid in class that asked way too many questions; that wanted to understand the how and why of everything. My mom jokes about it, but I’m sure my constant probing drove her crazy. I’m the same way today. When I read or hear something, I don’t automatically believe it. I have to investigate things for myself before I know for sure. I get excited to review evidence that will prove or disprove a theory, and form conclusions. I know, I’m a total science nerd!
I’ve come to realize that is not the case for everyone. In fact, science is widely misunderstood. One of the biggest misunderstandings is the difference between science, opinion and misconception. Science looks at evidence; opinion does not. A scientific conclusion can only be made when multiple studies show the same outcome. An opinion can be made based on one person’s belief. A scientific fact exists because it has evidence to support it. An opinion has no evidence to support it, nor does it need evidence.
For example, you can hate seafood (your opinion), even if everyone else in the world loves it. It’s your opinion. You can’t, however, claim that eating seafood will result in a negative health consequence, unless you have evidence to prove it. Making that claim is not your opinion, either. It is a misconception. Spreading misconceptions is spreading factually wrong information.
That leads me to the purpose of this post. There are rumors floating around that aluminum-free products are “better” for women. Before you ditch your favorite products out of fear, let me shed some light on the science. That way, you can make an educated and informed decision about what products are right for you.
DEODORANT VERSUS ANTIPERSPIRANT
First, you have to understand that deodorant and antiperspirant are not the same thing. I see these two terms used interchangeably a lot, but they contain different ingredients, and they have very different purposes.
Deodorant is designed to cover-up odor – the odor that comes from your sweaty armpit. They often contain fragrance and an ingredient that helps to control the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Antiperspirant, on the other hand, is designed to reduce sweat. They contain aluminum salts which work by plugging the sweat glands and temporarily blocking perspiration in the area that it was applied.
ALUMINUM VERSUS ALUMINUM-FREE PRODUCTS
Now, back to the aluminum myth. As I mentioned above, there is a myth floating around that using aluminum-free products are “better” for women. My first question is, “better how?” Aluminum is the ingredient that makes antiperspirant, an antiperspirant. It is the only ingredient deemed safe and effective by theFDA to control sweat. So, is this rumor implying that women shouldn’t use antiperspirant?
When I am evaluating scientific misinformation, I try to find the original cause of the concern. Most of the time, there’s a real story. The case of aluminum is no different. Years ago, the theory was proposed that aluminum-based antiperspirants may increase the risk of breast cancer. Scary, right? The theory started because researchers noticed that tumors of the breast are more frequently diagnosed in the upper quadrants of the breast – the area closest to the armpit where antiperspirant is applied. For the record, the upper quadrant is an area with more glandular tissue, which is a more likely explanation for the higher rate of tumor development in that area. Either way, as a woman who uses antiperspirant deodorant, I say let the research studies begin! If the theory proves to be true, I want to know ASAP so I can tell everyone I know to stop using antiperspirant!
Well, the studies did begin – multiple studies. That was years ago, and I can tell you that I still use antiperspirant. That’s because to date, there is no consistent data from epidemiological studies showing a link between aluminum exposure and breast cancer.
The FDA, The American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Cancer Institute have all refuted claims that link products containing aluminum to negative health outcomes.
The question now is, “if there is no scientific evidence to support it, why does the myth still exist?”
WHY MYTHS AND MISINFORMATION LIVE ON
There is not one answer to this question, but fear likely plays a role. The idea that aluminum based products could result in negative health consequencesis downright scary. I don’t blame anyone for being concerned. But, it’s important to understand that the rumors are based on opinion and misconception, not evidence.
The fact that you believe something doesn’t make it true. Remember, science is based on evidence – not an opinion. Though this idea started with a theory, to date, there is no evidence to show that using aluminum-free deodorant is better for you.
So, WHAT IS BEST?
The next time you head down the aisle at a large retailer, take a look at how many deodorant and antiperspirant products are on the market. There are a TON! Most products are a combination of deodorant and antiperspirant. There’s a reason why there are so many options. It’s because we are all different. Just like I stress over and over that there is not one best diet or one best type of exercise, the same is true here. There is not one best product for every single human. You have to find the product that is best for you.
Think about your lifestyle – Are you active? How active are you? Are you already a heavy sweater, or do you hardly sweat? Do you smell bad when you sweat? How bad?Do you get sweat stains on your clothing? Maybe you’re someone that would benefit from a stronger antiperspirant product on a day you’re doing heavy cardio, but a combination product would work fine on a strength training day. You can’t assume that the best product for your friend is the best product for you. If, even after understanding the science, you still prefer an aluminum-free deodorant over antiperspirant, there is a product available for you, too.
I didn’t write this post to persuade you to purchase one product over another. I wrote it so that you can determine which product is best for you based on the facts, not myths. The most important thing is that you are comfortable and confident in your purchase.