What’s in Your Antiperspirant? The Risks of Aluminum Compounds during Pregnancy

What are aluminum compounds? 

Aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth and the primary component of the earth’s crust. In other words, it’s everywhere, including in various cosmetics, medicines, foods and packaging materials. Aluminum is pretty much always found as a compound in personal care products – in particular in antiperspirants. The most commonly used antiperspirant compounds are aluminum chlorohydrates and aluminum zirconium variations.

What are they doing in antiperspirants?

Aluminum compounds are the active components in antiperspirant that prevent sweating and all the FDA approved antiperspirants contain aluminum in one form or another. Note that deodorants and antiperspirants are not the same. While deodorant deals with body odor, antiperspirants specifically target sweating. This means you can prevent body odor without being exposed to aluminum by choosing a pure deodorant with no added antiperspirant – like the new Nine Naturals Natural Unscented Deodorant.

What’s the risk associated with aluminum?

It’s especially important to be cautious of high aluminum exposures during pregnancy. A number of studies have been published showing potential developmental defects in animals. These include overall development as well as behavioral and neurological issues.

There have also been a number of studies potentially tying aluminum exposure to neurodegenerative diseases and breast cancer. In particular, antiperspirant has been implicated on the basis that aluminum can be absorbed from through the skin with daily use leading to significantly higher levels of exposure.

At high levels aluminum is certainly a toxin[i]. Fortunately though, when we eat it very little is absorbed through the digestive system so our exposure from consumed aluminum is quite low even though the average adult ingests 7-9 mg of aluminum per day[ii].  In the case of absorption through the skin, any aluminum taken up would have a more direct route to the bloodstream hence the greater concern about this method of exposure. Generally speaking, the main risk from aluminum is for pregnant women and for adults with pre-existing renal conditions and in those cases limiting exposure is advised.

What can you do to limit aluminum exposure?

Choosing aluminum-free products is the best place to start! Note that natural does not mean aluminum-free, but at Nine Naturals it does: our natural deodorant is aluminum-free. We use non-nano zinc oxide, which is pregnancy-safe and effective.

[i] For reviews of scientific literature see Lima et al. 2011 or Becaria et al. 2002

[ii] According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a subgroup of the Center for Disease Control