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Les anti-transpirants sont-ils dangereux ?

Antiperspirant & Breast Cancer: Is There a Link?

Antiperspirants help to overcome excessive sweating. In fact, this type of skin care helps to tighten pores and reduce the flow of perspiration. It also eliminates bacteria. However, antiperspirants have been in the spotlight for some years now because of some of their ingredients, such as aluminum salts. What's really going on, and is there a link between antiperspirant and breast cancer? Is it preferable to use non-aluminum antiperspirant?

What Is an Antiperspirant?

Antiperspirants reduce sweat production. They contain aluminum salts. When applied to the skin, these compounds precipitate and combine with dead skin, forming plugs that obstruct the sweat glands and block perspiration. Furthermore, they are bactericides, eliminating the many bacteria present in the underarm area, the source of unpleasant odors.

Note: In everyday language, the term “deodorant” is more commonly used than “antiperspirant”. We sometimes speak of deodorants with aluminum salts when in fact they are antiperspirants. Deodorants do not contain aluminum salts and do not block the flow of sweat, unlike antiperspirants.

Which Ingredients to Avoid in Antiperspirants?

Recently, classic antiperspirants have been the subject of controversy due to certain ingredients.

  • Aluminum salts

     Aluminum salts can be found on INCI lists under the following names: aluminum chloryde, aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum chlorydrex, aluminum sesquichlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium. Several studies have correlated the presence of aluminum salts of antiperspirant in breast cells with the development of malignant tumors, and hence breast cancer. Even though the SCCS (European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) issued a report in 2019 attesting to the very low cutaneous absorption (of the order of 0.00052%) of aluminum salts, even on shaved or depilated skin, as a precautionary principle, it remains preferable to exclude them from your daily hygiene products and use non-aluminum antiperspirant. However, as aluminum salts are the only active ingredients capable of stopping the perspiration process, there are no other alternatives. However, it is perfectly possible to do without aluminum salts in beauty care products. For example, deodorants, which do not contain aluminum salts, are designed to combat unpleasant odors, not perspiration. They do not prevent the natural phenomenon of sweating.

    Note: Aluminum chlorohydrate is also suspected of promoting the development of Alzheimer's disease, but to date, no scientific study has linked this to the repeated use of antiperspirants. Today, it cannot be asserted that the aluminum salts contained in antiperspirants can cause breast cancer or present any other health risk. As with all skincare products, deodorants, and antiperspirants are subject to stringent safety criteria. They also undergo rigorous testing before being marketed.  

  • Parabens

    Some antiperspirants contain parabens for their antimicrobial properties. However, these compounds are recognized endocrine disruptors (= they upset the hormonal balance). So avoid choosing an antiperspirant containing, for example, Butylparaben or Propylparaben on its INCI list. 

    Note that manufacturers have replaced these preservatives with other ingredients such as CMIT (methylchloroisothiazolinone) or MIT (methylisothiazolinone). However, repeated exposure to the same substances can lead to skin sensitivities to these compounds.

  • Triclosan

    This ingredient acts as an antimicrobial agent, preservative, and deodorant. Nevertheless, it is an endocrine disruptor as well as a potential skin and eye irritant. It is also suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer. Its concentration is now regulated in antiperspirants (besides in spray form): it must not exceed 0.3%.

  • Talcum powder

    This mineral powder is renowned for its ability to absorb moisture and excess perspiration. Nonetheless, talc is now widely controversial. In 2012, ANSES (French Food Safety Agency) concluded that it was not possible to exclude the presence of asbestos fibers in certain talc deposits. In addition, studies have demonstrated adverse effects on the respiratory system following talc inhalation.

  • Alcohol

    Ethanol is often added to classic antiperspirants for its antiseptic properties and to reduce drying time. Nevertheless, this compound has a strong drying power and can cause irritation, redness and tingling in the armpits.

Sources :

  • Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety : SCCS/1613/19 (2019)

  • Mandriota SJ, Tenan M, Ferrari P, Sappino A-P. Aluminium chloride promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis in normal murine mammary gland epithelial cells. Int J Cancer. (2016)

  • Willhite CC, Karyakina NA, Yokel RA, et al. Systematic review of potential health risks posed by pharmaceutical, occupational and consumer exposures to metallic and nanoscale aluminum, aluminum oxides, aluminum hydroxide and its soluble salts. Crit Rev Toxicol. (2014)

  • Evaluation du risque lié à l’utilisation de l’aluminium dans les produits cosmétiques - Point d’information - ANSM : Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé.

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