Every time we question whether a personal-care product is truly safe or not, the "answer" we're given is so ambiguous, we might as well be shaking a Magic-8 Ball: "More research is needed." (So much for living in the information age.) Deodorants and antiperspirants that contain aluminum salts are the perfect example. The ingredient, which is used to plug up sweat glands, is brimming with controversy — and vastly differing opinions.
On one hand, nascent studies have detected high levels of aluminum in breast tissue, and researchers continue to look into how absorption of these compounds may cause estrogenic effects, something that can trigger the growth of breast-cancer cells. On the other, the National Cancer Institute says that there’s no connection between breast cancer and antiperspirants, while the Alzheimer's Association points to 40 years of research that shows aluminum not to be a significant health risk.
Raja Sivamani, M.D., a dermatologist and adjunct associate professor of clinical dermatology at UC Davis, has a more nuanced view. ”The current evidence is not conclusive and does not prove that aluminum-based antiperspirants increase the risk for breast cancer," he says. "This leaves us in an area where a connection between aluminum salts and breast cancer is neither proven or disproven at this point."
So how does Dr. Sivamani advise his patients best stay fresh without the salts? First, he acknowledges that antiperspirants are generally more effective at reducing sweating and body odor than straight-up deodorants. But if you're concerned about potential side effects, there are plenty of aluminum-free options to be had. See some of the newest formulations that help us keep our cool through long work days and even exercise, ahead.