Antiperspirant is designed to stop you from perspiring. It typically uses aluminum as a way to clog the sweat-ducts and prevent sweat from escaping. According to How It Works Today (link no longer active),
Ions of this [aluminum] compound – examples of which include aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium chloride – are withdrawn into the cells that line the human body’s eccrine gland ducts. The eccrine glands are responsible for producing the majority of the body’s sweat and are located en masse in the armpits. As the compound’s ions are absorbed into the ducts, they carry water with them, causing the ducts to bulge and swell to a level which forces them shut. As a consequence of this process, any sweat is directly blocked from being excreted through the skin as it normally would.
This use of aluminum is very controversial. One side of the controversy claims that this use of aluminum contributes to breast cancer and Alzheimers. The other side claims it is completely safe.
Of course, each side cites studies to support their opinion.
What Should You Do When the Science Isn't Clear?
When the science conflicts, I find it important to research and make the best, informed decision possible.
When it comes to breast cancer, the argument against anti-perspirants says this: Aluminum (such as aluminum zirconium and aluminum chloride) contain estrogen-like properties. Since estrogen can increase the growth of breast cancer tissue, it should not be used.
One key study that is often cited was done in 2007. The breast tissue of 17 breast cancer patients was measured and found to have higher levels of aluminum in the outer regions of the breast. Opponents of antiperspirant use hold this up as proof that antiperspirants are evil. Proponents of antiperspirant safety point out that breast tissue from non-breast cancer patients was not tested and that there is no link between the existence of the aluminum and the breast cancer.
For me, if I have a viable option, I would rather err on the side of caution. I personally believe that God designed the body and our skin to sweat to help rid itself of toxins and to regulate its temperature. To daily prevent this process for the sake of our physical appearance can't be healthy. To introduce aluminum onto our skin, when it has not been proven safe, simply does not seem like a wise choice to me.
So I created a natural deodorant that is aluminum-free (as well as paraben and phthalate-free) to use on our family's skin. After months of testing and feedback, we made it available in an essential oil blend that is designed to fight odor-causing bacteria.
(2017 update: In addition to this original scent (citrus tea), we now have four other scents - cedarwood, lavender, oatmeal milk & honey, and rosemary mint - as well as an unscented version. These six scents are available in the original formula and can also be purchased in a baking-soda free version at no extra cost.)
If you try the deodorant, please be aware that it can take time for your body to make the adjustment. Some people reported some initial irritation and/or a rash until their body detoxed. Here is some information on how to Detox Your Armpits. If you have a severe reaction, please discontinue use.
Bottom line - more studies need to be done to show whether or not aluminum in anti-perspirant is safe to use. Until then, our family (and hopefully yours) will take the safe route and stick with our natural deodorant.