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Un déodorant est-il cancérigène ?

Is a Deodorant With Aluminum (Antiperspirant) Carcinogenic?

Antiperspirant, or more specifically deodorant with aluminum salts like aluminum sesquichlorohydrate, has been suspected for the past ten years of causing breast cancer. But is this really true? Should we be wary of these antiperspirant deodorants? Here's how.

How Do Aluminum Salts Work?

When applied to the skin, aluminum salts precipitate out and combine with dead skin, forming plugs that obstruct sweat glands and block perspiration. What's more, aluminum salts are bactericides. They eliminate the many bacteria present in the armpits, the source of unpleasant odors.

According to European cosmetics regulations, the concentration of aluminum salts in deodorants must not exceed 20%, which corresponds to a content of around 5% aluminum.

Antiperspirant Deodorant With Aluminum and Breast Cancer: A Proven Link?

In the early 2000s, a steady rise in breast cancers in younger and younger women caught the attention of researchers and the authorities. The majority of tumors are located near the armpit, a region close to lymph nodes and mammary glands, which are mainly exposed to deodorants.

Some scientists suspect that the aluminum salts present in certain deodorants can be absorbed through the skin, leading to changes in estrogen receptors in breast cells.

Over the last ten years, several studies have been carried out in Switzerland by professor and oncologist André-Pascal Sappino and Dr. Stefano Mandriota. They exposed mouse mammary cells to aluminum salts (more precisely, AlCl3). The conclusions are clear: aluminum salts promote the rapid development of sometimes aggressive tumors, forming metastases. Nevertheless, the question remains: can results obtained on animal subjects be transposed to humans?

Furthermore, shortly afterward, in June 2017, an Austrian study demonstrated that women using a deodorant with aluminum salts numerous times a day on shaved armpits before the age of 30 had a doubled risk of breast cancer.

Despite this, an ANSM (French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products) report published in 2019 came to the following conclusion: “the existing data do not allow us to establish a body of arguments in favor of a causal link between aluminum and breast cancer”, but they “do not allow us to definitively exclude it”. 

Furthermore, 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. According to this document, the aluminum present in antiperspirants remains outside the body, preventing any toxic effect. The SCCS therefore considers that exposure to aluminum via daily applications of cosmetics containing it does not increase the body's aluminum load from other sources. The concentration of aluminum “absorbed” through the skin would be far too low to play a role in the development of breast cancer.

In conclusion, it is difficult to form an opinion on the harmful nature of aluminum salts in antiperspirants. As a precautionary measure, we at Typology exclude these compounds from our formulas.

What Are the Current Recommendations?

In March 2020, the SCCS introduced several dosage recommendations:

  • 6.25% in non-spray antiperspirants;

  • 10.60% in sprays;

  • 2.65% in toothpastes;

  • 0.77% in lipsticks.

It should be noted that ANSM recommends a much lower concentration: it advises not to exceed 0.6% aluminum salts in cosmetic products.

It is important to note, however, that these remain guidelines: they do not lead to any change in regulations.

How Can I Tell if an Antiperspirant Deodorant Contains Aluminum?

To detect a deodorant with aluminum, you need to pay particular attention to the list of ingredients on the packaging or container (INCI list). In fact, beauty care regulations demand this transparency from brands. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of quantity. Aluminum salts and their derivatives can be found on INCI lists under the following names: 

However, not all deodorants contain aluminum. Many consumers are now turning to non-aluminum deodorants and formulas, enriched with bicarbonate of soda, for example, or clays such as diatomaceous earth powder.

Is Alum Stone a Viable Alternative?

Faced with the bad publicity associated with aluminum salts, alum stone has made its way into the bathroom. But it's not as natural as its name suggests. It can even be a 100% synthetic stone, made from Ammonium Alum or synthetic Ammonium Sulfate, a by-product of the nylon chemical industry. In all cases, whether natural or synthetic, alum stone contains aluminum salts.

The solution therefore lies in using non-ammonium alum, non-aluminum deodorants with clean formulas, made from natural ingredients that respect the environment and our health. Today, deodorants with healthy compositions are available in spray, roll-on or stick form, or can be applied directly with the finger.

Sources :

  • SAPPINO A-P. & al. Aluminium chloride promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis in normal murine mammary gland epithelial cells. International Journal of Cancer (2016).

  • KREWSKI D. & 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. Critical Reviews in Toxicology (2014)

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

  • 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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