There was a time when deodorant containing aluminum was considered harmful: in 2014, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) prepared a health risk assessment for antiperspirants containing aluminum for the first time. Neurotoxic developmental disorders and damage to the kidneys, liver and bones cannot be ruled out if the body absorbs too much aluminum through the use of antiperspirant, it was said at the time. The ingredient has also been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2020, however, the BfR issued a statement and corrected the statement from back then. It states, among other things: “According to current scientific knowledge, health impairments caused by the regular use of ACH-containing antiperspirants are therefore unlikely. When assessing the risk of aluminum, however, it is fundamentally important to consider the total intake via the various entry routes such as food or aluminum-containing products food contact.”

And further: “The contribution of aluminum-containing antiperspirants to the overall exposure to aluminum is significantly lower than previously assumed.” This was shown by two studies from 2016 and 2019. It is still true that consuming aluminum can be dangerous, especially through food. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has communicated a maximum value of one milligram of aluminum per kilogram of body weight per week. However, it is now considered unlikely that a large amount of it will enter the body through a deodorant or antiperspirant.

In common usage, deodorant refers to both an antiperspirant with aluminum and a deodorant for spraying, deodorant cream, a deodorant stick or a deodorant roller without this substance. An antiperspirant is actually a product containing aluminum that is primarily used to specifically reduce sweating. A deodorant, on the other hand, usually combats the smell that has already developed and does not necessarily contain aluminum salts. Important to know: It takes these aluminum salts to reduce sweating. Because when aluminum salts, such as aluminum chloride, hit the proteins in sweat, deposits form. These are intended to close the sweat pores. Plus: This causes the skin to contract, so that the sweat ducts narrow. Antiperspirants therefore always contain aluminum and often also fragrances and antibacterial ingredients that are intended to further inhibit underarm odor.

Deodorant, on the other hand, can also work without aluminum, but then it does not stop sweating itself, but only combats the smell. In addition to fragrances, this is often done with the help of antibacterial ingredients, which can worsen the growth conditions of bacteria from sweat. These are responsible for the unpleasant smell when sweating. Sweat itself is odorless. Only the bacteria in the armpits, which break down the components of sweat (especially fatty acids), cause the typical smell of sweat.

If you are worried about absorbing aluminum, it is advisable to avoid products containing aluminum or at least use creams or rollers instead of sprays so as not to inhale the aluminum. If you have just shaved your armpits, you should not use a product containing ACH, as this would make it easier to penetrate the skin. Even if you have sensitive skin, natural products are the better choice. If you don’t tend to sweat heavily, it is also not necessary to use antiperspirants. Even on cooler days, a deodorant with (natural) fragrances is usually enough to combat odors. Organic products are also more sustainable and generally better for the environment.

Since a deodorant without aluminum is usually not as effective as an antiperspirant or a deodorant with aluminum, the deodorant of choice should contain antibacterial ingredients and fragrances. If you value sustainability and harmless ingredients, it’s best to choose an organic deodorant. The following three deodorants do not contain aluminum and are also recommended:

Organic aloe vera and natural minerals in this deodorant cream from Lavera reduce the growth of odor-causing bacteria and thus naturally prevent the development of sweat odor. According to the manufacturer, the effect should last for 48 hours. There are no microplastics, the recipe is biodegradable and the lid of the packaging is made from 96 percent recycled material.

This deodorant works with 100 percent natural essential oils and purely natural baking soda. This reduces germs and bacteria and thus also the formation of odors. Ben’s deodorant

Weleda’s 24-hour deodorant roll-on naturally protects against body odor. Orange and Davana as well as notes of vanilla ensure a pleasant scent. Without aluminum salts, it does not close the pores and the regulating skin functions are retained. The effects are said to last for 24 hours.

Tip: You can also save on your purchase with a Flaconi voucher.

When buying deodorant without aluminum, you should make sure that there is no word “aluminum” on the list of ingredients. Terms like antiperspirant or often “48-hour protection” usually indicate that there are aluminum salts in the deodorant. If you value a particularly sustainable and well-tolerated deodorant, you should make sure that it does not contain any synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes or synthetic preservatives. Petroleum products or silicones should be avoided and natural cosmetics made from natural, especially plant-based raw materials should be used.

The natural cosmetics seal can help when purchasing. You can also make sure that the main ingredient of the deodorant comes from controlled organic farming (kbA). A look at the current eco-test can also be helpful. In 2021, out of 52 deodorants without added aluminum, over half of the products performed well. Most of these contain alcohol to combat the odor-causing bacteria. In 2023, the majority of the 34 deodorants tested scored “very good” in the Ökotest. However, if you have sensitive skin, you should avoid this and use alternatives without alcohol. Interesting: Cheap products also performed well in the test. Such tests can provide helpful guidance when purchasing.

To be on the safe side, you can also make your own deodorant to combat unpleasant odors. To do this you need a spray bottle and the following ingredients, for example:

Mix all the ingredients together in the blender, add them to the spray bottle and the aluminum-free deodorant is ready. There are also other recipes online (for example without alcohol for sensitive skin) and with baking soda. This also works against the odor-causing bacteria in sweat and does not dry out the skin.

Sources used: BfR / EFSA / AOK / Ökotest

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