For the past few years I have tried to avoid using conventional deodorants, the ones with aluminum chlorohydrate and other such compounds in them. There are concerns in some quarters about those compounds being absorbed into the skin and not being properly flushed out, with possible links to breast cancer (hey, it makes sense when you consider the proximity of breasts to newly-shaved armpits!) and/or Alzheimers.
I tend to also be very leery of marketing, especially of natural products. (Like the whole “multigrain bread” thing–all they have to do is put a couple of grains of oat flour into their bleached white stuff and suddenly it’s multi-grain. Harumph.) So when I can find actual chemistry to support something, it makes me feel a little more confident.
On the other hand, my own knowledge of chemistry pretty much comes from tenth grade and two parents who are chemistry teachers. (My mom sometimes reads this blog…maybe she’ll comment?) So if they are blowing chem-talk up my smelly armpits, I won’t necessarily know. However, the below does sound fairly sensible:
(copied from www.planetnatural.com/site/xdpy/kb/natural-deodorant.html )
“Alum or Aluminum – What’s in your Deodorant?
Deodorant stones are made of potassium alum. It is a pure product made without the addition of chemicals, fragrances, oils or alcohol. The chemical formula for potassium alum is K2SO4Al2(SO4)324H20. Potassium alum is a colorless substance that forms octahedral or cubic crystals.
Bauxite is the ore from which alum is drawn. It is formed by the rapid weathering of granitic rocks in warm, humid climates and can be purified and converted directly into alum.
Potassium alum is soluble in seven times its weight of water at room temperature and is very soluble in hot water. When crystalline potassium alum is heated, some of the water of hydration becomes chemically separated, and the partly dehydrated salt dissolves in this water, so that the alum appears to melt at about 90 degrees C. (approximately 392 degrees F.), potassium alum swells up, loses all water, and becomes a basic salt called burn alum. Potassium alum has a density of 1.725.
Alum’s are used for a variety of uses including as a powerful astringent.
If an aluminum compound, such as aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, which is very soluble, is used as an antiperspirant, that compound is readily absorbed. Once in the body, the aluminum portion of the molecule ionizes, forming free or radical aluminum (Al+++). This passes freely across cell membranes, and forms a physical plug, that when dissolved is selectively absorbed by the liver, kidney, brain, cartilage and bone marrow. It is this concentration of aluminum that has been the source of concern in the medical community and has prompted the research being done on alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer victims. Potassium alum molecules have a negative ionic charge, making it unable to pass through the cell wall. They are not absorbed. This is why our deodorants are safe to use and will not cause high levels of aluminum in your system. Alum and aluminum are two different substances, with distinct chemical signatures. They possess different chemical properties which create different chemical attributes.”
(notice how they slip the words “free” and “radical” in there in the same sentence? Not sure if that’s hype or mere accuracy…)
I just bought two new deodorants, since my crystal one seems to have sort of bit the dust after about 4 years. (That, I tell you, was $7.99 well-spent.) One is made by “Kiss my face” and has potassium alum as its main ingredient. It’s a roll-on, which means it will run out and need replacing (unlike the stones), but it seems to do the job very well. (ETA: after a couple of weeks of use, this is my new favorite deodorant; it does the job to the extent where at the end of a steamy June day my pits still are basically odorless. This is a good thing.)
The second one I couldn’t resist–it’s by Avalon Botanicals, and its main ingredients are exactly what I put in my own deodorant blend when I made it myself, and coincidentally are also exactly the ingredients in my anti-postpartum-depression blend: clary sage, lemon, and lavender. This also has a little standard sage (a really good odor-controller) and orange. It’s a spray rather than a roll-on, and so far it’s doing me very well!
Another note about the deodorant thing: when I first stopped using commercial deodorants, I went througha week or two of really appalling (to me) odor–serious skunkpits. It was sort of gross. Nothing seemed to quite cover it up or make it go away. But oddly enough after that, it was like my system settled down into a new routine, and the natural deodorants have done really well for me since then. Some better than others. And the alum ones definitely better than the plain essential oil ones, though I’m still just a little leery of them.
For what it’s worth.