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poofandmook's avatar

Is antiperspirant bad for you?

Asked by poofandmook (17222 points ) June 28th, 2010

This was inspired by another question about using bleach as a deodorant, and a lot of people suggested different antiperspirants.

I’ve read in various places that there’s a theory about antiperspirant being bad for you, from causing problems with sweat glands to breast cancer. Of course no two sources ever seem to have the same information, and where one source will tell you it’s bad, another will tell you it’s harmless.

Though it does seem that stopping your body from excreting sweat isn’t necessarily a great thing. Sweating is how the body cools itself down, correct? So what effect does antiperspirant actually have on the body other than keeping you dry?

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14 Answers

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I’ve heard rumors about antiperspirant causing cancer. I doubt this is true. And if it is, oh well. I’d still wear it. Nobody likes someone with smelly pits.

BhacSsylan's avatar

The way that many, many antiperspirants work is through blocking sweat glands, which obviously stops you from sweating. That in and of itself isn’t too harmful. It’s not like your cells will get filled with sweat and burst or something, homeostasis is too good about that. However, the compound usually used is an Aluminium complex, and this aluminum gets sucked into the proteins that exude sweat, effectively blocking them. However, this also means that aluminum enters your cells, and aluminum is not exactly all that healthy. This is where most of the claims of cancer come from, from the introduction of aluminum.

That said, I can’t say for certain how much factual basis aluminum toxicity has, if I have time I’ll do a pubmed search and see if I can turn anything up.

Also, as far as sweat’s purpose, sweat on most of the skin is for cooling, but on joints (especially armpits and groin), it’s purpose is usually much more of a lubricant. So, if the antiperspirant has something in it to lubricate (and most do), you’re not losing too much there.

poofandmook's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217: Not deodorant, but antiperspirant.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Let me revise that a little after more digging. It doesn’t block the proteins, but rather makes the cells of the sweat duct intake water with the aluminum. This causes them to swell and block the gland. Still, water will not build up in the sweat glands to a harmful level. If water does build up, it will be re-absorbed by the cells before it reaches harmful levels.

Also, found a very nice review here which is specifically a review of most common types of aluminium found in antiperspirants and it’s effects on physiology. It’s a very, very long review, and quite thorough. Summarized quite well by this, i think: “However, it should be noted that only at excessive concentrations of aluminium are toxic manifestations seen and, hence aluminium is considered to possess a “low” potential for producing adverse effects.”

{EDIT} also, another very nice (and considerably more concise) link from the national cancer institute, has this to say: “Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.” Link

Facade's avatar

Yes it is.

tranquilsea's avatar

I haven’t worn antiperspirant for 2 years and no one around me has noticed. I heard the rumours about the chemicals involved but I ultimately made my decision because they didn’t seem to be doing the job I wanted them to do. I still sweated (or glowed as my mom would say) even though I had doused myself with them. I was actually surprised at how long it took for me to be able to smell anything (days while camping).

ipso's avatar

I’ve never heard of related cancer, although I’m sure at this point you could find articles with cancer related to anything – as people so desperately struggle to comprehend the unknown.

I have heard there are huge amounts of aluminum in antiperspirant, and aluminum is tenuously linked to Alzheimer’s, as is aluminum cookery and other things. Apparently antiperspirant is #1 on the list for introducing aluminum into the body. I believe that is established fact. The long term affects of that, however, are unproven.

Not knowing, I always pick out the “deodorant” vs. the “antiperspirant”. It is the only example I can think of, of not buying something specifically for health reasons. And it is total hypocrisy, because I drink like 4 cans of Coke a day from aluminum cans, and have all aluminum cookery and use them all occasionally with total glee.

Buttonstc's avatar

I just think that anything which interferes with the body’s normal way of functioning is sub optimal and possibly dangerous in the long run in ways not readily apparent.

Look how long it took for them to realize that treating EVERY menopausal woman with hormones as if menopause were a disease process had numerous hidden dangers.

Nowadays it’s considered only for those whose hot flashes and other symptoms are absolutely unbearable.

The current trend to manipulate and schedule a woman’s periods so that they only occur a few times a year rather than once monthly merely for the sake of convenience is also suspect.

Our bodies’ normal functioning exists for a reason and I think we end up manipulating it to our detriment more often than not.

I just tend to look at anything actually preventing the body’s ability to perspire at all with a suspicious eye. Do i have any hard evidence for that? No i dont, just a natural preference for caution when contemplating interfering with the way nature designed our bodies to function

That’s just the way I see it for now.

Buttonstc's avatar

@ipso

Is the aluminum cookware you use uncoated or hard anodized ? That makes all the difference.

Ever since the advent of hard anodizing, there is very little uncoated aluminum prevalent nowadays (with the notable exception of those horrid aluminum coffee percolators). I shudder every time I see one of them in use. Acidic coffee is the most surefire way of leeching out the maximum amount of aluminum into ones beverage.

philosopher's avatar

I use Tom’s natural deodorant.

ipso's avatar

@Buttonstc – Somewhere along the line I picked up a set of Calphalon I assume it’s hardened or something. I do however have some old aluminum campware that is very soft. Since you pointed out the coffee percolator, I should probably toss those. Thanks.

Buttonstc's avatar

Yes. Calphalon is non-reactive. And since that’s what you use on a daily basis, I wouldn’t worry overly much about the camping stuff.

But definitely get rid of that coffee maker (shudder)

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, when you are looking for a compatible mate. Natural odor does matter. A little deodorant is no problem. Excessive use might be.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@Buttonstc I can certainty understand the urge to not mess with the way the body functions. One has many, many examples of horrible things gone wrong in pharmaceuticals and the like simply from lack of information. However, in this case, there is a large amount of information on how antiperspirants function and how the body reacts to aluminium, so I think the risk is rather minor. However, antiperspirants are by no means necessary to society, a decent deodorant will do you just fine, so abstaining on that minor risk isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Keep in mind, though, that nature is not always the best way to go, and many things are improved from going against it. Like taking vitamin D pills in areas with low sunlight. Our bodies aren’t suited to life in an area without decent sun, and vitamins can help allay that issue. But, again, it’s not like antiperspirants are on anywhere near the same level.

An interesting note, if you use antiperspirant constantly, the sweat glands in that area will actually decrease in effectiveness, which is an interesting sign the your body understands what you’re doing and changes to support it. if you choose to see it that way.

@ipso I would have to agree with Buttonstc on the coffepot, though. Especially if it’s for sure not coated. That will introduce far more aluminium into your body then an antiperspirant, and could actually put you at risk for aluminum poisoning if you use it regularly. Same thing with antacids, apparently.

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