Sweating is an essential physiological need so that our body can eliminate toxins and maintain good levels of hydration, body temperature and PH.
However, finding a good deodorant nowadays that does not contain aluminium or other toxins has become a true epic for most of us.
Both, deodorants and antiperspirants, are designed to camouflage and prevent sweat and odour. The bad smell of sweat is produced when bacteria ferment it, and to avoid this process, deodorants, as well as antiperspirants, contain two types of common substances: bactericidal substances and synthetic perfumes. And antiperspirant deodorants, in addition, aluminium salts.
–Bactericidal substances: They prevent the proliferation of bacteria so that the fermentation of sweat does not occur. This, in principle, seems like a good idea. The problem, as always, when altering the natural mechanisms of life, is that it ends up taking its toll. As we will see later, synthetic substances used for bactericidal purposes also have their effects on health.
–Synthetic perfumes: The perfumes serve, obviously, to camouflage the smell. Again, there is nothing wrong with smelling good, if that fragrance were natural and harmless. The problem is that the synthetic perfumes that are usually used in industrial products (much cheaper to produce than natural essential oils) are suspected of producing allergies of all kinds, dermatitis, eczema and other major ailments.
–Aluminium salts: Aluminium is known to be neurotoxic. Large amounts of aluminium are found in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s. Likewise, numerous studies, such as that of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, indicate the highest incidence of cancer in the area near the armpit and a much higher concentration (25%) of aluminium in that area.
The aluminium in antiperspirant deodorant is used to clog the pore and prevent sweating. A real aberration! To begin with and as we said before, sweating is a physiological necessity. Clogging the pore causes toxins to be trapped inside the body.
Another common component of commercial deodorants, due to its bactericidal capacity, is triclosan. Triclosan is one of the most commonly used chemicals in deodorants and antiperspirants. A study published by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and conducted by the University of California Davis, confirms the negative effects of Triclosan on brain development. Another study published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ensures that its use can cause serious long-term problems and associates it with liver damage and a higher incidence of cancer.
Also, parabens, due to their bactericidal capacity and as preservatives, are another of the common elements used to extend the life of hundreds of cosmetic, hygiene or even food products. The alarm sounded when a study carried out in England and published by the Journal of Applied Toxicology with women affected by breast cancer, revealed traces of parabens from deodorants and antiperspirants in 90% of biopsies. This substance has been linked to all kinds of hormonal dysfunctions.
Phthalates are also used in deodorants and antiperspirants for their role as solvents. They are called “environmental poisons” and their use has been linked to hormonal dysfunctions, damage to male reproductive DNA, and malformations in the foetus.
PEGs are used as emulsifiers, and the American College of Toxicology claims that these ingredients accumulate in the tissues of the heart, liver, kidneys, and brain.
In response to all this, more or less natural alternatives have emerged, as well as countless natural cosmetics blogs (like ours, for example: www.naturamatters.com) that try to respond to this need to smell good that we all have without intoxicating ourselves and harming our health.
One of these alternatives, cheap and easy to apply, is the controversial alum stone. And the controversy with this natural deodorant stem from its composition.
“Potassium alum or potassium alum (also called Neapolitan Alum or Alum) is a double salt of aluminium and hydrated potassium (with 12 water molecules) whose formula is KAl (SO4) 2. … This salt is presented in the form crystal naturally in nature and corresponds to the category of alums, being the most common of them. It is obtained from a magmatic rock, of volcanic origin, called Trachyte Alunifera. This crystal is the result of alterations in rocks rich in potassium feldspar such as Trachyte, which are usually produced by circulating waters rich in sulphates. Alum crystals, naturally, can have variations in appearance, colour or texture, although they all maintain their properties”. Wikipedia source.
This composition based in aluminium salt has given “alum stone” today a bad reputation. According to some sources and distributors of alum stone as a natural deodorant, Potassium alum is not the same thing as potassium aluminium.
When an antiperspirant claim to be “aluminium-free,” they are saying it does not contain aluminium chloralhydrate, aluminium chloride, aluminium hydroxy bromide or aluminium zirconium — all forms of aluminium commonly used in antiperspirants and deodorants.
To stop the flow of sweat to your skin’s surface, the aluminium plugs sweat ducts in the top layer of your skin stopping the natural flow of sweat to your skin’s surface.
This aluminium can also be absorbed into your body where it can then build up as part of your body burden. Alzheimer’s disease and cancer are two illnesses known to be associated with aluminium exposure.
The aluminium in crystal deodorant stones is a different type of aluminium, called alum. The most common form is potassium alum, also known as potassium aluminium sulphate.
Potassium alum (and other alums) is a natural mineral salt made up of molecules that are too large to be absorbed by your skin. They form a protective layer on your skin that inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria.
WHY CANNOT WE INCLUDE THE ALUM STONE WITHIN THE SAME GROUP? WHY IS POTASSIUM ALUM DIFFERENT?
Potassium Alum is a natural mineral salt used as an alternative to Aluminium Chloride and Chloralhydrate. Its antimicrobial properties have been celebrated in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, used as a topical astringent, an antiseptic for wounds, acne and tonsillitis and a toner to tighten the pores. Potassium Alum (also known more commonly as ‘alum’ or ‘ming fan’ in Chinese medicine) was also taken as a decoction dissolved in water to alleviate stomach problems or in its powder form to remedy bleeding gums and mouth ulcers.
Potassium Alum is comprised of large molecules that sit on the surface of the skin, creating a barrier that prevents the odour-causing underarm bacteria from multiplying. Its alternative, Aluminium Chloride, is comprised of much smaller molecules than Potassium Alum, meaning that it is absorbed by the skin and plugs the sweat glands, preventing the release of unwanted chemicals in the body.
The only precaution that must be taken is that the stone that we buy says in its composition Potassium alum and not Ammonium alum, since it is a synthetic copy and with components that are harmful to health.
DE FACTO; NATURAL ALUMBER (potassium alum) not only has deodorizing properties, it is also an effective bactericide that controls the growth and proliferation of bacteria, both in our body and in our environment, in spaces such as water and on surfaces of all kinds such as floors, fabrics, etc. And that is why the Egyptians used these stones to purify water.
–It is also a good healing agent, which helps to rapidly regenerate skin tissue that has been affected by some type of wound or by skin irritation. In the case of wounds, it produces a thin crust that comes off in less time and without the risk of leaving marks on the skin. This is the reason why in the past this stone was known as a barbers’ stone or a shaving stone because it was used to heal minor irritations in the beard of their clients.
–Haemostatic: Its composition makes it effective to stop bleeding from external wounds, since it acts directly on the skin pore to close it. This haemostatic action is what helps to avoid the appearance of red rash on the skin after depilatory processes.
–Reaffirming: It has the ability to firm the skin and tone it with continuous use.
–Antifungal: As with bacteria, Alum also helps fight fungi that appear on the skin or on other types of surfaces. Of course, it is only effective in the initial phase of appearance of these microorganisms.
For all this, the great ancient civilizations such as Chinese, Egyptian, Roman, Indian, Greek and Arab, recognized the benefits of the alum stone and its use for different purposes was common and popular.
The Romans, for example, used it for its healing, antibacterial and deodorant properties. The popular use that confirmed the efficacy of these benefits, even led them to introduce their use in practices with medical effects. Between 77 and 79 BC, the author, naturalist and Roman philosopher Gaius Plinii Secundi (Cayo Plinio Segundo) recorded the characteristics and properties of Alum in a rigorous study on various areas of nature, written as an encyclopaedia, called Naturalis History.
In ancient Greece, around 50 or 70 BC, documentation on this mineral was also produced, in the encyclopaedic work De Materia Medica, written by the physicist, pharmacologist and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides.
In India and China, they have used it since ancient times to respond to organic needs externally and internally. In these two cultures they have commonly used Alum stone in solution for gargling and vaginal baths for antiseptic purposes.
In the Middle East, Alum has been well known and used, since numerous deposits of this mineral have been found in Syria. The Alum stone has been an active part of the ancient beauty rituals in Arab culture for its firming and astringent properties.
In ancient Egypt, women also used Alum as a skin firmer and as a soothing and healing agent after waxing.
At present, this astringent salt is used to clarify cloudy waters by placing it in the filters where the currents pass; also serving as mordant in dry cleaners and caustic in medicine, leather tanning, plaster hardener …
And due to its bactericidal action, it is still used today in some cultures as a preservative, for example, in Morocco they put some crystals of Potassium Alum inside the container where they keep the seeds of Pergamum harmala, and in this way they avoid contamination by bacteria.
Our own argumentation or defence of the use of natural alum stone begins by trying to distinguish between bioavailability and toxicity.
“Bioavailability” is the ability of a food, drug, or other substance to be absorbed and used by the body.
“Toxicity”: A toxic substance is one that produces serious effects, alterations or disorders in the functioning of a living organism, and that can even cause death.
Aluminium is the third most present element in the earth’s crust, along with oxygen and silica. It is a very abundant metal in the earth, which often combines with other elements and forms frequent chemical compounds in soils, rocks or in the composition of minerals. However, this metal can also reach the human body through diet, since, being an element so present in the environment, it is found in vegetables, grasses or running water. Its effects are toxic to health and, therefore, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has studied its intake limit on several occasions to ensure its safety.
According to this study by the (EFSA), this metal is absorbed through the stomach and intestines and is excreted by the kidneys. According to the study, it is estimated that less than 1% of ingested aluminium is absorbed and represents 0.01% in relation to the other constituents present in the global daily food intake. Experts estimate that its consumption through food does not pose any health risk.
Diet is the main aluminium gateway into the human body. Most foods contain it, as it is a ubiquitous metal in the environment. Vegetables, tea or spices have the highest level of aluminium, while meat contains hardly any residues.
What does this mean? Well, surely, as the EFSA affirms, the aluminium that we consume through the ingestion of natural foods is degraded and eliminated from our body through the natural elimination routes of the kidneys and liver (intestines).
The World Health Organization (WHO) adds, for its part, that a high consumption of analgesics and antacids can increase the intake of aluminium up to five grams a day, since they are also a source of this metal.
And here comes the problem. When an element is not found naturally in the food chain its degree of bioavailability, no matter how much they assure us that the medicines are perfect chemical elements, it is not the same and, in many cases, it becomes a toxic that we end up accumulating in our tissues with the consequent injuries and diseases that may derive from it.
For example, large amounts of aluminium have been found in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s. Likewise, numerous studies such as that of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom (among many others), point out the higher incidence of aluminium (25%) in the area near the armpits of patients with breast cancer.
And is that the accumulation of heavy metals in the body can be the cause of several diseases. Among the most dangerous are mercury, arsenic, lead, chromium or cadmium. They are considered toxic because of the concentrations in which they can be found and not because of their essential characteristics, since all living beings need many of these elements to function properly. Of course, in bioavailable concentrations.
The relationship of these heavy metals to some serious health conditions has been extensively studied. Various types of cancer, kidney damage, delays in brain development, alterations in the immune system, or even death can be the result of prolonged exposure to these elements.
According to experts, the metal-disease relationship is not 100% proven, but there is a great probability: Arsenic can trigger bronchitis, cancer of the oesophagus, lung, or vascular diseases. Cadmium is associated with prostate cancer, nephrotoxicity, neurological disorders, or hypertension. Chromium, for its part, is related to lung cancer and liver disorders, and mercury affects mainly the respiratory system. Aluminium is not only suspected, therefore, of producing Alzheimer’s or autism, but also endocrine alterations that can lead to breast or other cancers depending on the area where the toxin accumulates.
On this subject, we want to add that something similar happens with the levels of toxicity / bioavailability of other types of substances such as, for example, fluorine.
It is known to all that in the United States fluoride is added to drinking water, probably as a prevention mechanism for dental cavities. Increased levels of fluoride in drinking water have not only failed to prevent the American population from suffering from cavities, but have also triggered hypothyroidism problems across the country. Anyone who asks you which country has the fattest people in the world will answer you without much hesitation: The United States.
Our suspicion is that fluoride added to drinking water is a synthetic laboratory substance with a low level of bioavailability and that, therefore, it becomes a toxic that affects the functioning of the thyroid gland.
However, it is known to all that green tea is a drink that contains a large amount of bioavailable fluoride and that it prevents the attack of cavities in populations that consume it daily.
We could continue talking about a lot of other examples such as commercial toothpastes whose levels of synthetic fluoride prevent, with their regular use, the synthesis of melatonin and the normal functioning of the pineal gland that regulates sleep / wake cycles.
This altered gland and the toxicity derived from fluoride, is one more reason for the generalized insomnia that we suffer in developed societies. “I was one of those people with a history of insomnia that changed after a few months of using pastes without added synthetic fluoride.”
However, the paste that I use today, and that does not cause me any problem, is a paste with natural fluoride.
Thus, synthetic fluoride in commercial water and toothpaste becomes a disruptive toxic that, when accumulated, alters the functioning of the body’s glands and systems.
However, natural fluoride, given its bioavailability, is a healthy resource that promotes dental hygiene and strengthens enamel. The true cavities preventative we were looking for.
Is not this analogy then the same that could be happening with the alum stone?
If all these arguments do not seem sufficient to support the “non-toxicity” of alum stone (potassium alum, which is not the same as potassium aluminium) as a natural deodorant, I encourage you to visit our natural cosmetics blog and take a look at the wide variety of recipes for natural deodorants that are very easy to prepare, without aluminium, without parabens and without microplastics, and that will avoid you this dilemma.