As the world becomes more socially aware of the environmental impact of products, people are left questioning whether a natural is better. From the food you eat, to the products applied on your face and the deodorant used every morning.
But do they really work? More importantly, does aluminium free deodorant work? Or are you going to be left in a smelly state? We investigate natural deodorant…
What is aluminium and what is deodorant?
First of all, let’s start with what deodorant actually is. People tend to use the word “deodorant” as an umbrella term for anything we wipe on our underarms – which isn’t exactly accurate.
The confusion starts when you start talking about the differences between deodorant and antiperspirant. In short, deodorant is made to curb body odour, and antiperspirant is meant to curb sweat and odour.
So, when we start talking about aluminium – we’re on about an antiperspirant, as aluminium salts help plug the sweat ducts through a gel-like substance in your armpits, minimising the amount you sweat your body produces.
Deodorants do not contain aluminium, as they don’t stop you from sweating. Instead, they just reduce body odour through antibacterial compounds and fragrance.
This little ingredient has caused quite a stir within the natural and organic industry after claims that it has been linked to contributing to cancers. So, what really is aluminium?
Aluminium’s definition is simple – a chemical element notoriously known as a silvery-white, lightweight metal that is soft and malleable. However, many companies have been known to disguise the aluminium ingredient within deodorant by using one of its other names on the INCI list (a scientific term for the ingredients list on the back of the bottle).
Consumers should be aware that aluminium salts used within deodorant can be named aluminium chloralhydrate, aluminium zirconium and tetachlorohydrex gly. All you have to do is have a nose at the back of your deodorant bottle to see what they are calling it.
Why is aluminium in deodorant?
Aluminium is used commonly within antiperspirant because not only does it reduce wetness by blocking your underarm sweat ducts, but they also minimise body odour by inhabiting the bacteria that feed on your sweat and cause the smell.
Over time our bodies can become accustomed to whichever antiperspirant we are using, so people are told to switch them up frequently to avoid becoming immune to their sweat blocking properties.
Why you shouldn’t be using aluminium in your deodorant
Although the idea of not producing excess sweat under your arms sounds great in theory. The practical side of the argument suggests that spray aluminium onto your skin every day can cause long-term health problems.
The first is an increase in the ability to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, as during the 1960s and 70s, aluminium was identified as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease. Originally, scientists associated the disease with an exposure too high amounts of aluminium through pots and pans, cans and food containers.
When investigated further, researchers found that Alzheimer patients had increased levels of aluminium in their brains. However, there is no solid proof that this is solely down to wearing antiperspirant every day, as scientists cannot prove how many days a year the patient wore antiperspirant.
On the other hand, there has been much discussion around “when you sweat, you’re sweating out toxins” some argue you might sweat out all of the aluminium anyway and others argue this is another good reason why you should be letting the sweat come out of your sweat ducts.
Your body filters toxins via your liver and kidneys, they leave your body when you go to the toilet but also via sweat. Please don’t believe however, that you are expelling a full bottle of Prosecco or 8 pints through your pits, that is predominantly the job of your liver and kidneys.
The real purpose of sweat is to regulate your body temperature and cool it down as needed. The 37.2 trillion cells which make up your body are an incredibly complex. It leads to the question, should we be working against our body and it’s need to perspire and why would you want to throw off your body temperature, for the sake of antiperspirant and never having a damp armpit?
There are some people who sweat drastically and are incredibly embarrassed by wet patches on clothes. If this is having an impact on your confidence, then you may have to make a different decision – but, for the majority who don’t suffer from this – you don’t need to have your sweat ducts blocked.
How does natural deodorant work?
Natural and Organic deodorants should not contain aluminium. Brands are now developing odour reducing formulas from only the ingredient’s nature has to offer. So, how do they create these formulas?
Firstly, it is very unlikely that a natural deodorant will come in the form of a conventional spray aerosol - most brands will be unwilling to use butane and isopropyl gases – these are placed in the canister, to cause it to spray. If you were to place a match in front of an aerosol deodorant (please don’t) it will become a flame thrower - this should tell you something about what really is inside.
A natural deodorant is either going to come in the form of a roll-on stick deodorant or cream in a pot that you apply with your fingers. Packaging can differ from your typical deodorant roller ball, to sticks and cardboard tubes, or even glass jars – they can even go as far to use refillable packaging like the Proverb Refillable Deodorant.
Formulation wise you can split them into the following 3 groups:
Sodium Bicarbonate formulas
The most obvious go-to in natural deodorant formulation is sodium bicarbonate, you will know it as the baking soda you add to cookies and scones when baking. It is a salt and alkaline – and when your sweat is acidic, any school science lesson will teach you that these two, react to each other.
When you first sweat it is an odourless mix of water, proteins, potassium and sodium. However, when it mixes with bacteria on your skin, this is when body odour occurs. A natural deodorant works to kill the bacteria so this reaction can’t occur.
Mainstream deodorants and antiperspirants often use alcohol to do this, which definitely works - but is known to be drying to the underarm and not ideal for your skin every day, for the rest of your life. Sodium Bicarbonate is a major player as is a very successful antibacterial ingredient and great for creating homemade deodorants.
The brand will then mix this - sometimes alongside other powders that are good at neutralising odour or reducing wetness. These can include tapioca starch, arrowroot, and corn flower – converting the ingredients into a wax balm base. For example, Native and Wild use tapioca starch and sodium bicarbonate.
You may find that, deodorant brands will differ in the percentage and quantity of powders used, not to mention the different methods to make the wax base. The Proverb Vegan Refillable Deodorant has Carnuba wax, Bayberry wax and Candellia wax with some Broccoli and Chia Seed oils for its base.
Saccharomyces Ferment formulas
Saccharomyces is a family of fungi. Different strains of saccharomyces are used to ferment beer and wine, and even to raise bread (yeast is a strain of saccharomyces). You can make a stick or roll on deodorant using saccharomyces ferment - it is a very similar concept to the bacteria and enzymes found in kefir and kimchi.
It is used to breakdown the compounds in your armpits that cause bacteria and odour. It won’t have the drying impact that an Arrowroot powder or Cornstarch would, so you often find it mixed with these too.
Potassium Alum Rock Deodorants
You may have seen these as rock deodorants in health food stores - such as the Biork Potassium Crystal Deodorant Stick . They are either a full rock stick or may be a roll on or spray formula with smaller crystals floating in them. They are un-fragranced and often suggested as a solution for a sensitive skin.
Potassium Alum (Aluminium potassium sulfate dodecahydrate) does however share the word aluminium which is always avoided in natural deodorants. It is different to Aluminium Chloride that reacts with peptides and amino acids in the skin to form a gel, that will block sweat ducts – plus, the potassium alum molecule size is much larger.
Apparently too large to be absorbed - the efficacy reports from rock deodorants are mixed, some people love them, while many say they didn’t work on them.
Does deodorant give you cancer?
There has been chatter over the years if deodorant really does increase your chances of cancer. However, the problem does not lie with deodorant. It is the aluminium in an antiperspirant that is linked to the likes of breast cancer.
Whilst there are plenty of scientists that say that there is no physical proof that using an antiperspirant is linked to cancer – it makes you question, why, we, as a brand are contacted regularly about our deodorant by people who have suffered from breast cancer and are being told by their specialists to stop using the products they have been using for years.
The NHS spoke of the link between cancer and antiperspirant referencing a 2007 article by the Daily Express that speaks of the Keele University study into the relationship between of cancer and aluminium in antiperspirant.
The NHS concluded that there were flaws within the study and that it did not give any further evidence of a link between deodorant and breast cancer. They have assured that on the basis of the study, “women should not be alarmed or believe that the situation has changed.”
On the other hand, Breast Cancer UK have included aluminium salts (found in antiperspirant) in the A-Z Chemicals of Concern. Although they state that there is limited scientific evidence, aluminium is capable of interfering with oestrogen.
Breast cancer charities and organisations suggest that you should be purchasing cosmetics and beauty products that are fragrance free, organic and free from parabens and phthalates.
Whilst the topic of does aluminium free deodorant work and if it can contribute to increased risk of cancer seems like a mind-field, we can totally understand why so many people want to move to a natural lifestyle. There are too many positives to not even if you entirely discount the Cancer theory.
The environmental impact of using a natural deodorant
Now we have stopped using plastic straws in all of our drinks, isn’t it the perfect time to adjust our deodorants as well?
Do you ever think about how many deodorant packs or cans you throw away each year? Here at Proverb, we spend a huge amount of time debating and researching packaging options for our natural deodorant. We came to the conclusion that no packing is the best packaging.
So many of the eco alternatives that claim to be recycled, have no answer for how they are actually disposed. Can they actually be recycled in both the UK and US? As both have very different laws and regulations regarding the disposing of packaging.
Do they have linings which take them to a grade 7, meaning that despite looking like a paper tube – you still can’t recycle it with ease. In our opinion, refillable has got to be the way ahead in beauty and cosmetics.
In the UK 79% of people have bought deodorant as part of their weekly shopping. That’s around fifty million people, and, when you think about how many deodorants are packaged in plastic aerosols, it isn’t hard to imagine the damage it could cause.
Then there is the problem with differing forms on deodorant from roll-ons to aerosols. Roll-on deodorant is often packaged in plastic because they are usually made up of a thicker outer layer and thinner inner layer, subsequently, harder to recycle.
Plastic can take up to 450 years to biodegrade, and with millions of people using roll-ons every day, the amount of plastic ending up in landfill is staggering. Each year eight million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean alone.
Similarly, the UK uses around 600 million aerosols each year, which is equivalent to about 10 cans per-person-per-year. In order for an aerosol to be recycled, it must be completely empty, dry and clean – when in reality, this is hard to achieve.
Not to mention, the compressed gasses that are used in aerosols create a harmful impact on CO2 emissions. What if instead of switching to a smaller compressed aerosol, you canned the can altogether? Surely that is worth going natural for?
What is the Proverb natural deodorant?
Proverb’s natural deodorant has finally launched, and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with everyone! We started crowdfunding back in 2018 to produce a deodorant that is natural and eco-friendly and today you can purchase yours from our site.
The deodorant comes in two fragrances; Wild Mint and Eucalyptus and Coconut and Tonka. Both use only natural ingredients, eliminating the risk of harmful chemicals as well as being plant powered for a vegan formula to keep you feeling fresh.
The easy to glide on deodorant eradicates body odour and is free from aluminums, petroleum, parabens, SLS artificial fragrance and propylene glycol. All of which feature in your supermarket and drugstore-bought antiperspirant.
So, what happens when you switch over from your trusty antiperspirant to a natural deodorant? Your body can go through an ‘armpit detox’. This is where your body gets rid of the toxins built up in the skin plus your sweat glands have to adapt to not being blocked by ingredients like aluminium. You can feel like you sweat more and not smell so great.
It’s important to remember that this is not the rule for everyone. But if it does happen to you, it can take anywhere between 14-30 days for your body to regulate itself.
Make sure to drink lots of water and wash your armpits every day and apply your deodorant more frequently. Be patient, don’t give up on the process. Your body is insanely clever and will find a natural balance.
The Proverb Natural Refillable Deodorant is unlike any other, for starters its refillable. As a brand we are trying to eradicate plastic waste from deodorants, as well as reduce CO2 levels. Which is why if you sign up to our subscription service, we will send you a refill with the scent of your choice every 2 months. Saving you time and money, it’s a win win.
Applied once every morning, the product should last for 8 weeks. Granted, it is more expensive, but a little goes a long way and our usage nets down at £7 per month/ 30p a day for a natural deodorant that really works.
With elite sports at the core of Proverb’s ethos, battling sweat in all activities was our number one request when creating the deodorant. With only 5-star reviews from sportsmen and women, it is perfect for keeping you fresh all day long.
Let’s still be 100% transparent here, and say that natural deodorants still may not work for you. If you suffer from allergic reactions or have sensitive under arms, you can still be irritated by natural deodorants.
Most are roll-on’s or sticks so they are pressed against the skin and some of the powders that soak up sweat like sodium bicarbonate can irritate some skins. Fragrance in any product can cause irritation, no matter if it's natural or not.
That is why we have made our Teen-Friendly deodorants that are free from sodium bicarbonate, but still use natural essential oils. Proverb also offers a Sensitive & Un-fragranced option which has neither fragrance nor sodium bicarbonate for the most sensitive of skins.
But while the you can do your part for the eco system and look after your own health in the process, why would you not at least, try switching over to a natural and organic deodorant?