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Are deodorants harmful to women? 

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Claim: Deodorants contain aluminium, which is harmful to women.

Are deodorants harmful to women? 

Verdict: MISLEADING. Our findings show that it is antiperspirants that contain aluminium, not deodorants. Also, current studies on aluminium and tumours/cancer are insufficient, hence the need for larger and better-designed studies.

Full Text 

Suppose you are a netizen in Nigeria, especially on Twitter; you must be familiar with the recent open war against body odour and the need for people to use deodorants/antiperspirants. 

Amid this debate, an Instagram post by herneshealth containing a video asserted that deodorants are linked with tumours because they contain high levels of metals. 

The post also listed Alzheimer’s disease, skin irritation, clogged sweat glands, hormonal disruption and nervous system problems as some of the dangers of artificial deodorants.  

In the video, the woman explaining how this works said: 

“A woman’s breast is full of lymph nodes, so if you apply aluminium all day, then you are absorbing that into your breast tissues and they have found that tumours contain higher levels of metals and toxins that are not expelled properly.”

The post on Monday, August 29, 2023, generated 121,000 likes, over 1,000 comments and over 4,000 shares. 

The video’s virality and concern that the alternatives (Aure, Dove, Nivea, etc.) could be causing more harm than good to users prompted us to investigate this assertion. 

Verification

Deodorants are formulated to eliminate armpit odour. They’re typically alcohol-based and contain perfume to mask the odour. When applied, they make your skin acidic, making it less attractive to bacteria.

Although antiperspirants and deodorants are often mistaken to be the same thing, they are not because while antiperspirants reduce sweat, deodorants increase the skin’s acidity. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers deodorants a cosmetic (a product intended to cleanse or beautify) and antiperspirants a drug (a product intended to treat or prevent disease or affect the structure or function of the body).

Do deodorants contain Aluminium? 

An article by Healthline revealed that deodorants do not contain aluminium, unlike antiperspirants. 

Two-in-one products, however, (products that are both a deodorant and an antiperspirant) include aluminium.

The aluminium-based compounds in antiperspirants keep sweat from touching the skin’s surface by blocking the sweat glands. 

Is the aluminium in antiperspirants linked with tumours/cancer?

While there’s the concern that if the skin absorbs these aluminium compounds, they can affect the estrogen receptors of breast cells, the American Cancer Society says there’s no clear link between cancer and the aluminium in antiperspirants because breast cancer tissue doesn’t appear to have more aluminium than normal tissue. Research shows that only a tiny amount of aluminium is absorbed (0.0012 per cent).

A 2017 study on Underarm Cosmetics Products (UCPs) about the risk of breast cancer suggests an association between the frequent use of UCPs and aluminium concentration in breast tissue and breast cancer.

However, they were unable to rule out a reverse causation effect, which means it is possible that aluminium simply accumulates in breast tumours, not necessarily causing or increasing the risk for breast tumours.

A 2018 study on “Potential interference of aluminium chlorohydrate with oestrogen receptor signalling in breast cancer cells” suggests that too much aluminium may change how the body makes or responds to the female hormone oestrogen. It is important to note that endocrine (hormone) system changes can harm the body over time.

The American Cancer Society noted that although a couple of studies have suggested a possible relationship, the results of these studies need to be interpreted with caution because of their small size and the way they were designed. The society recommends larger, better-designed epidemiologic studies. 

Is there a link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease?

A 2016 literature review on Chronic exposure to aluminium and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease reveals that chronic exposure to aluminium may increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Another literature review in 2018 on “Circulatory Levels of Toxic Metals (Aluminum, Cadmium, Mercury, Lead) in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease” found that adults with Alzheimer’s disease had higher levels of metals like aluminium, mercury, and cadmium in their blood. The source of these metals was thought to be from their environment.

Expert Opinion

We spoke to a dermatologist, Ayo Aranmolate, who said he was unaware of the claim and unsure about its validity. 

In his response, he wrote, “I am not aware of this claim. Not sure it is true.”

We also contacted another Dermatologist, Shakirat Gold-Olufadi, on the issue but got no response at the time of publishing. 

Conclusion 

Antiperspirants, not deodorants, contain aluminium, which is harmful to women. While some studies suggest a link between the frequent use of underarm cosmetics and tumours, conclusive research into aluminium’s effect on cancer is needed. The relationship between the aluminium in antiperspirant and Alzheimer’s disease is inconclusive. 

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