Alum Vs Aluminium

March 31, 2019 4 min read

Alum Vs Aluminium

You may have seen reports raising health concerns with antiperspirant and the aluminium salts they contain such as aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate, and aluminium zirconium chlorohydrate complexes.

The main difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is the mechanism. What causes body odour is bacteria breaking down the sweat in your armpit and being warm and dark it's the perfect conditions for bacteria to thrive. Deodorant either masks, neutralises the odour or may have anti bacterial properties which keep the bacteria at bay.

Antiperspirant cuts the problem off at source. No sweat no smell. The molecules of the aluminium salts are absorbed into the cells surrounding the sweat glands, causing water to be absorbed by these cells and the glands to swell, which in turn closes the sweat duct. After a while the water is absorbed back into the bloodstream along with the aluminium. The process is dependent on the number of aluminium ions applied.

In short your body is absorbing aluminium to stop it doing something it is designed to do by nature, which is why antiperspirants are covered by the OTC monographs in the USA and are quasi-drugs in Japan. Unfortunately in UK legislation there is no difference made between deodorants and antiperspirant.

We think that blocking the skins pores completely is not advisable and that the physiological action of the skin should be left intact as far as possible. Alums low degree of antiperspirant action means that your skins pores are not blocked completely, yet its high degree of antibacterial action mean that it acts as an effective deodorant and only partial antiperspirant

The principle concerns are the long term exposure effects of accumulation as your body finds it difficult to remove the aluminium salts from the body.

Our Natural Deodorant uses Potassium Alum, a naturally occurring aluminium salt which is anti-bacterial and the molecule of which is too big for the body to absorb so does not utilise the same mechanism as the other man made aluminium salts. Potassium Alum is considered by the EWG* Skin Deep database of cosmetic ingredients to have the lowest risk level they award and is therefore the safest.

*EWG is an independent body that evaluate all the available studies and reports of cosmetic safety and give each product and ingredient a safety score out of 10, 1 being the safest. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

THE TRUTH ABOUT ALUM AND ALUMINIUM

Many people get confused about Alum because the press talk about Aluminium being bad for us. Aluminium is the third most abundant element on the planet and we ingest it in large proportions every day in water and food. In fact, in some parts, its presence in water is the only thing that allows it to be drunk without harm. It is not particularly good for living organisms in the body so over eons we have evolved a particularly efficient and effective system for allowing naturally occurring Aluminium and its salt derivatives to pass through the body without effect.

However it is specific types of manmade Aluminium that have the health scares associated with them. Aluminium Chlorohydrate is a synthetic ingredient of antiperspirants/deodorants, designed to be absorbed into and to block the pores under the arms, to prevent perspiration.

THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ALUM AND ALUMINIUM CHLOROHYDRATE

The Alum we use in our Natural Deodorants occurs naturally, Aluminium Chlorohydrate is a synthetically made product.

Aluminium Chlorohydrate is an active antiperspirant ingredient. Alum has low degree of antiperspirancy and functions more as a deodorant than an antiperspirant.

Aluminium Chlorohydrate is a small molecule and works by aluminium ions being absorbed by the body, Alum is a stable larger molecule and is not absorbed and works as an antibacterial agent on the surface.

Aluminium Chlorohydrate blocks the pores and stops you sweating. Alum Lets you sweat but kills the bacteria that smell

HOW ALUMINIUM CHLOROHYDRATE WORKS

It is thought to work when aluminium ions are taken into the cells that line the eccrine-gland ducts at the opening of the epidermis in the top layer of the skin.

As aluminium ions are drawn into the cells, there is water that passes in with them and causes the cells begin to swell and squeeze the ducts closed so that sweat cannot get out.

There is a limit to the amount of water that each cell can accept and the cells reach a balance. Sweating stops until slowly the water escapes and the cellular swelling decreases and then the sweating process will resume.

The process is dependent on the number of aluminium ions applied. The supposition that Aluminium Chlorhydrate blocks the pores is substantiated in the Merck Manual online “Aluminum chloride hexahydrate in a 6 to 20% solution in absolute ethyl alcohol is indicated for topical treatment of axillary, palmar, and plantar sweating; these preparations require a prescription.

The solution blocks sweat ducts and is most effective when applied nightly and covered tightly with a thin polyvinylidene or polyethylene film; it should be washed off in the morning.” Reiber et al. 1995 also suggest that Aluminium chlorhydrate salt, is thought to form an obstructive plug of aluminium hydroxide within the sweat duct.

There possibility that Aluminium in antiperspirants can be absorbed through the skin has been suggested (Graves et al. 1990), but this hypothesis has not been clinically confirmed.

*Studies on Breast cancer and Antiperspirants/deodorants - taken from the National Cancer Institute website at www.cancer.gov

REFERENCES

Jones J. Can rumors cause cancer? Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2000; 92(18):1469–1471.
Darbre PD. Underarm cosmetics and breast cancer. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2003; 23(2):89–95.
Darbre PD. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 2005; 99(9):1912–1919.
Harvey PW, Everett DJ. Significance of the detection of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2004; 24(1):1–4.
Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller WR, et al. Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology 2004; 24(1):5–13.
Mirick DK, Davis S, Thomas DB. Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002; 94(20):1578–1580.
McGrath KG. An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving. European Journal of Cancer 2003; 12(6):479–485.
Fakri S, Al-Azzawi A, Al-Tawil N. Antiperspirant use as a risk factor for breast cancer in Iraq. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 2006; 12(3-4):478–482.


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