The clean beauty and grooming movement has made its mark on products everywhere, even down to natural deodorants. And as more and more aluminum-free deodorants fill shelves, you’re probably wondering whether aluminum in deodorant is actually bad for you.
If you’re confused, we don’t blame you — in many ways, aluminum in deodorant is a gray zone. That’s why we went to the experts to get the scoop and asked them your burning questions about aluminum in deodorant.
In this post, we’re going to answer a few common questions about aluminum deodorant:
- What’s the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants?
- How does aluminum in deodorant work?
- What are the benefits of using an antiperspirant with aluminum?
- Is aluminum in deodorant bad for you?
- Is aluminum in deodorant really linked to Alzheimer’s disease or breast cancer?
- What are the best aluminum-free deodorants, also known as natural deodorants?
What Is the Difference Between Deodorants and Antiperspirants?
First, it’s important to understand that these two products are not the same. “I get this question pretty often,” Miami-based, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Alicia Barba, who works with Dove, tells SPY. “‘Deodorant’ and ‘antiperspirant’ are often used interchangeably, but there is actually a key difference between the two. While both protect against body odor, antiperspirants traditionally use the ingredient aluminum, which keeps you dry by controlling the flow of sweat to avoid the feeling of wetness under your arms. Deodorants, on the other hand, do not use aluminum and rely instead on other ingredients to help you feel fresh throughout the day. They just mask the smell.”
How Does Aluminum in Antiperspirant Deodorant Work?
“Aluminum-based deodorants work by blocking the sweat ducts to reduce the amount of sweat that reaches the surface of the skin,” explains Danielle Raynor, Founder and CEO of Lavanila Laboratories. “When the aluminum compounds come in contact with your sweat, the pH rises, causing the aluminum to form a plug over the sweat glands. While your body continues to produce sweat, it is physically prevented from reaching the surface of the skin.”
What Are the Benefits of Using an Antiperspirant with Aluminum?
“Both deodorants and antiperspirants are suitable for everyday use depending on what benefits you are looking for, and some may even choose to use both for different occasions,” says Barba. “If you are looking for all-day-freshness and odor protection, but don’t necessarily need or want the sweat protection that a harder working antiperspirant provides, you may choose to use a deodorant product. If you’re looking for protection against odor and wetness, an antiperspirant is for you. It is not unusual to use an antiperspirant for more active days when sweating, therefore, body odor may be more likely.”
Are There Drawbacks of Using a Deodorant with Aluminum?
“Sweating is an important bodily function that works to filter toxins out of the body while regulating the body temperature,” Raynor says. “Aluminum-based deodorants disrupt this natural process by preventing the body from sweating.” However, Barba has a different take: “Although it is a common misconception, the body does not sweat to remove toxins — around 95% of toxins are removed by the liver and kidneys, not by sweat,” she says.
“Rather, the body sweats to control temperature, and using an antiperspirant in the underarm does not affect this process. Sweat is produced from two to five million sweat glands around the body, and antiperspirants and deodorants only affect some in the armpit, which amounts to 0.6% of the body’s total. Stopping sweat underneath the arms with an antiperspirant covers a teeny tiny surface area. There are many other sweat glands to compensate for regulating body temperature.”
Are Aluminum-Free Natural Deodorants Healthier?
In terms of the long-term health consequences of aluminum in deodorant, we couldn’t find any medical studies that indicate natural deodorants are better for your health. In fact, even many “natural” cosmetics companies like Tom’s of Maine still use aluminum salts in deodorant. On top of that, research from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association all indicate that aluminum deodorant is not a proven health risk.
Of course, there are other potential benefits to using the best natural deodorants, including a better environmental footprint.
“The pros of natural deodorant include that they allow the body to sweat, an important natural bodily process; they typically contain natural ingredients and essential oils with additional skin benefits, and they alleviate the stress of potential longer-term health implications,” Raynor tells SPY. “Plus, they’re better for the skin and environment. Finally, they don’t leave yellow stains. Aluminum combined with sweat is typically responsible for underarm shirt stains.”
Is Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Aluminum?
“There have been a number of research studies that look for a link between antiperspirants, deodorants and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Barba. “However, none of these studies provide conclusive evidence of antiperspirants or deodorants increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. On the contrary, there is strong evidence to show that antiperspirants are safe and effective products for everyday use. Experts and research bodies including the Alzheimer’s Association and the FDA have concluded that at the present time, there is no evidence that convincingly demonstrates a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to remember that antiperspirants are regulated like an over the counter drug, so they have to follow more stringent guidelines than cosmetics or natural agents, which have much fewer hoops to jump through.” (Emphasis added.)
What About Aluminum in Breast Cancer?
Many women are concerned that aluminum deodorant will heighten their risk of breast cancer, in part because many breast cancer tumors are found near the armpits. However, the current scientific consensus is that there is no link between these products and breast cancer risk.
“There is no scientific evidence that the risk of developing breast cancer increases if you use antiperspirants,” according to Barba. “The overwhelming majority of evidence confirms that antiperspirants are safe and do not cause health problems. According to the Personal Care Products Council, the leading independent cosmetics trade organization, the overwhelming mass of toxicity data available does not indicate any risk of harmful effects from using any cosmetic products that contain aluminum.”
What’s the Best Way to Find a Deodorant That Works for You?
“Trial and error, but always allow time for the body to adjust, especially if you are making the switch from an aluminum-based deodorant to a natural option,” says Raynor. “As your body works to transition, this ‘detox’ period may be accompanied by excess sweating and odor. LAVANILA introduced a Healthy Underarm Detox Mask powered by charcoal, malic acid and silica to uniquely speed and ease this transition period.”
Ultimately, the type of deodorant you use is up to you. “It’s really all about choice and preference,” says Barba. If you’re interested in making the switching to natural deodorant, shop our top picks for the best aluminum-free deodorants below.
1. Lavanila Sport Luxe High-Performance Deodorant
“At Lavanila, we created a healthier formula that uses proprietary natural technology to effectively protect against odor by minimizing and absorbing sweat molecules without the use of aluminum,” Raynor says. The natural formula is also free of parabens and propylene glycol. Its Smartsport Technology delivers triple odor protection for protection that lasts.
Lavanila Sport Luxe High Performance Deodorant
2. type:A Deodorant The Innovator
Many of the best natural deodorants trade aluminum for charcoal. This sweat-activated formula proves you don’t need aluminum to stay dry and ward off odor. Activated charcoal absorbs toxins, odor and wetness, while spirulina balances skin and adds another layer of odor protection. It goes on clear, so you don’t have to worry about it staining clothes. Plus, the scent of fresh rain and bergamot is refreshing.
type:A Deodorant The Innovator
3. Schmidt’s Sage + Vetiver Hemp Seed Oil Natural Deodorant
Made with sensitive skin in mind, this deodorant is full of hemp seed oil to neutralize odors and give you that fresh feeling. The all-natural formula is certified vegan, cruelty-free and free of artificial fragrances. It feels soft on skin and gives off an addicting scent.
Schmidt's Sage + Vetiver Hemp Seed Oil Natural Deodorant
4. Love Beauty & Planet Coconut Milk and White Jasmine Deodorant
This plant-based deodorizer delivers 24-hour odor protection, with ethically sourced Moroccan Mimosa flower for a fresh scent that lasts all day. The vegan deodorant also contains coconut water to nurture skin. In addition to being good for your skin, it’s also good for the planet, since the recyclable canisters are made from 43% recycled plastic. The best natural deodorants aren’t just good for your skin, they’re good for the planet, too.
5. Curie Orange Neroli Natural Deodorant
Neroli, cedarwood and citrus make for a killer fragrance combo that smells like a breeze wafting through a forest. The clean, natural formula will keep you fresh for up to 24 hours, courtesy of low baking soda. Another bonus is the packaging is 100% recyclable.
Curie Orange Neroli Natural Deodorant
6. Art of Sport Men’s Deodorant Clear Stick
The aptly named Victory scent will make you feel like a winner, with eucalyptus, orange peel and juniper. Relying on the power of nature, the pH balanced formula contains matcha and arrowroot powder to wick away moisture. It has motion-activated technology to keep you smelling good, while the stick goes on clear without stains.
Art of Sport Men’s Deodorant Clear Stick
7. Tom’s of Maine Men’s Long Lasting Wide Stick Deodorant
Boasting a 100 percent all-natural formula, without any artificial fragrances or preservatives, its Mountain Spring scent is only fitting. Delivering 24-hour protection, you won’t have to worry about any funky odors. Even better, Tom’s of Maine donates 10 percent of their profits to charities devoted to children’s health, education and the environment.
Tom’s of Maine Men’s Long Lasting Wide Stick Deodorant
8. Oars + Alps Natural Deodorant
Instead of aluminum, this natural deodorant relies on corn starch to absorb odors and botanicals to mask body odor. Loaded with antioxidants, the formula does your skin good. The Fresh Ocean Splash scent has notes of cedarwood, lime and fresh greens to awaken your senses. Never sticky, it glides on clear.
Oars + Alps Natural Deodorant
9. Myro Deodorant
Beloved for its eco-friendly packaging, every Myro Deodorant case is refillable and built to last, so you can use it again and again. The case is also dishwasher safe. Plus, the pods are made with 50% less plastic than the typical drugstore deodorant. Great for jetsetters, it’s still TSA-compliant. The formula is free of all no-no’s, including parabens, triclosan, steareths, phthalates, talc, baking soda, artificial colors, synthetic fragrances and gluten. The Big Dipper fragrance blends bergamot, lavender and vetiver.
Myro makes some of the best aluminum-free deodorants on the market today, and SPY editors were impressed with its odor-fighting formula.
10. MARLOWE. No. 024 Natural Deodorant for Men
Simple ingredients can get the job done. This natural deodorant relies on coconut oil, arrowroot, shea butter, jojoba esters and probiotics to keep you dry and odor-free. Completely free of toxic ingredients and aluminum, it’s not tested on animals and made in the US. It leaves a light, outdoorsy scent of pine and agarwood and is safe for sensitive skin.
11. Native Deodorant
Native tested thousands of ingredients before they found just the right mix to ensure odor and wetness control while feeling comfortable on skin. Aluminum, parabens, phthalates and talc are replaced with coconut oil, probiotics, tapioca and shea butter. Scents like Coconut & Vanilla, Eucalyptus & Mint and Citrus & Herbal also make the unisex deo a standout.
12. Old Spice Aluminum Free Deodorant for Men in Aqua Reef
Get a classic Old Spice deodorant sans aluminum. It still has one of their signature scents, this time in Aqua Reef, with notes of lime and cypress. You’ll stay fresh and feel good about the 24-hour odor protection.
Old Spice Aluminum Free Deodorant for Men in Aqua Reef
13. American Provenance
It’s hard not to fall for a natural deodorant when its fragrance is dubbed Firepits & Flannels. In case you’re wondering what that smells like, it’s a blend of wintergreen, fir and cedar essential oils. The formula feels gentle but acts strong, despite that it has a lot of nos. That’s no metals, no petrochemicals and no sulfates, parabens, phthalates, artificial ingredients, artificial colors, artificial fragrances or preservatives.
Daggers & Diamonds Deodorant
14. Dove 0% Aluminum Sensitive Skin Deodorant Stick
“What I love about Dove 0% Aluminum is that it is the only aluminum and alcohol-free deodorant enriched with 1/4 moisturizers that care for the delicate underarm skin, so not only are you getting odor protection but also skincare benefits,” says Barba. This one is formulated especially for sensitive skin.
Dove 0% Aluminum Sensitive Skin Deodorant Stick
15. AXE Wild Bamboo Aluminum-Free Deodorant for Men
To keep you feeling fresh for up to 48 hours, AXE Light Scents Deodorants are powered with essential oils. The scent of green bamboo and pink grapefruit gives off tropical vibes. The AXE Light Scents Deodorants are free of aluminum, dyes and parabens, making it safe for sensitive skin.