Acquittal for Aluminum Deodorants
Four years ago, the media was full of warnings about harmful ingredients in cosmetics. Parabens in creams that are supposed to trigger allergies, silicones in shampoo that damage hair and, above all, aluminum chloride in deodorants, which is said to cause cancer and promote Alzheimer’s disease. But to this day, the supposedly critical ingredients are controversially discussed by science and have even been partially rehabilitated.
As a result of these negative reports, the “clean beauty” beauty trend has clearly gained momentum. Of the 500 brands in the range of the German cosmetics giant Douglas, around 40 are now clean beauty. According to the American market research company NPD, 46 percent of facial skincare users report purchasing products free of sulfates, phthalates and/or gluten, representing a 6 point up-tick over the past two years. “Clean” manufacturers do without questionable ingredients, including cyclic silicones, butyl and propyl parabens, sulfates and mineral oil, but do not exclude synthetic ingredients. This is exactly the difference to natural cosmetics, which are made exclusively from natural raw materials. If you want to believe the current report published by the British Soil Association Certification in February 2019, the niche trend has long since become mainstream. Above all, Millennials and Gen Z have given the organic cosmetics and wellness market a sustained high.
Is everything else now “dirty beauty”?
Much is based on so-called “fear marketing”, which suggests to the consumer that all products that have not made it into the clean beauty ranks are automatically questionable. Above all, this happened with aluminum deodorants. Aluminum salts are used in many deodorants. They block the flow of sweat and inhibit odor formation. But they have long been suspected of being able to promote the development of cancer, since the breast tissue is particularly exposed due to the proximity to the armpit. Researchers led by Stefano Mandriota from the University of Geneva showed it in experiments with mammary gland cells from mice. “We now know enough to say that aluminum salts are toxic,” said the cancer researcher in 2015. But nothing was definitely proven. The few studies on the topic even provided contradicting results in some cases. In 2017 the Medical University of Innsbruck published an epidemiological study in the specialist journal „EBioMedicine”. This showed the correlation between the very frequent use of deodorants containing aluminum several times a day, especially at a young age, and the possibly increased risk of developing breast cancer later. However, the researchers themselves did not consider this to be definitive proof that aluminum salts are carcinogenic. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) issued a precautionary warning about possible health risks in 2019. But now, in March of this year, a representative study by the independent scientific advisory body SCSS of the EU Commission showed that aluminum in deodorants is not harmful to health.
Accumulation in the body
Nevertheless, based on current knowledge, too high an aluminum content in the body can have negative effects on the nervous system, the kidneys and the bones. But an aluminum deodorant is not to blame for this alone, of which one does not even know exactly how much of the contained aluminum salts actually cross the skin. It is also unknown what proportion of the aluminum that can be detected in the human body comes from deodorants and similar products. Whitening toothpastes also contain aluminum, for example. The BfR even assumes that part of the population has already fully exhausted the tolerable weekly intake with nutrition. “Anyone who wants to protect themselves against too high a consumption of aluminum should make sure that acidic and salty foods and beverages do not come into contact with aluminum, for example through drinking bottles, baking trays and grill pans,” says the institute. These include sliced apples, tomatoes, rhubarb, salted herrings, marinated meat or cheese.
Dermatologists give the all-clear
If you talk to dermatologists, they tend to give the all-clear when it comes to the deodorant discussion. „Every effective antiperspirant contains aluminum hydroxychloride, otherwise it is a deodorant with questionable effects. The aluminum crystals mechanically clog the ducts of the sweat glands so that the armpits (or palms and feet) stay dry, ”explains Dr. Christian Merkel from Haut- und Laserzentrum in Munich. “In the past 20 years, scientists have not been able to establish a causal relationship between breast cancer and the use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants. Aluminum is ingested in far higher doses through foods and other cosmetics. In 2020 one can therefore assume that there is no connection between the use of these antiperspirants and the development of breast cancer. „If someone is allergic to a deodorant, then less to the aluminum chloride and more to other substances it contains, such as fragrances. What you should be careful about, however, is not to use deodorants with aluminum on irritated or injured skin, as more of the aluminum salts can then penetrate. It is therefore advisable to shave the armpits in the evening and not before the morning deodorization.
Parabens fell into disrepute
This preservative has been used to keep cosmetics free of fungi and bacteria since the 1940s. However, it is also used in toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and even in food – just anywhere where there is a risk of contamination. From a chemical point of view, parabens are a bond of para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHB ester). They occur naturally in carrots or blueberries, for example. The cosmetics industry produces them synthetically. They fell into disrepute in 2004 when a British study linked methyl parabens to breast cancer.Scientists had detected parabens in the tumor tissue. In Germany, the Federal Office for Risk Assessment found that insufficient scientific evidence had been provided and refuted the study. But the damage was done. In the minds of many consumers, the opinion was already established that parabens are harmful. Many cosmetic manufacturers have reformulated their products and replaced parabens with another, often less researched, preservative. A statement by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): “The BfR does not advocate a general replacement of parabens because these substances are skin-friendly and, in contrast to other preservatives, pose a low risk of allergies.“ Because one thing you have to know: Parabens have been particularly well researched as preservatives. They cover the entire spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds and at the same time remain skin-friendly. In order to achieve this without parabens, several substances usually have to be combined. And more substances mean a higher risk of contact allergies.
Silicones for a nice texture
They can be found in skin creams, makeup, and hair care products. From a cosmetic point of view, silicones are completely useless, because as substances that are foreign to the skin, they have no positive influence on the functioning of the skin. But as an oily component, they improve the feel of the product and are an inexpensive substitute for high-quality, vegetable oils. But while natural oils nourish the horny layer, silicones seal the surface and disappear again with cleaning. However, products containing silicone glide so nicely on the skin and hair, and they do not cause allergies. That is why they are so popular. More precisely, silicones are plastics, a group of synthetic polymers that are manufactured in the laboratory, often with the addition of petroleum because this seals particularly well. What they can do is give the hair shine and repair damaged structures with a temporary coating. However, if you want to dye your hair, that is precisely counterproductive because it worsens the absorption of color pigments. But despite some positive aspects, you should avoid using silicones because they are not biodegradable. Through cosmetics, shampoos and other products, tons of them get into the wastewater and thus into the environment.
Mineral oils seal the skin
When it comes to mineral oils, one thinks more of a gas station. But like paraffins, they’re not new to cosmetics. Both are made from petroleum. As a cosmetic raw material, they offer several advantages: They are very durable, unlike vegetable oils they do not go rancid, and they are inexpensive and non-allergenic. Their disadvantage: They seal the skin and promote transepidermal water loss, i.e. the skin’s own moisture is lost bit by bit. Even if the skin feels good with it at first, you only get a short-term effect. Under the protective layer of mineral oils, the skin remains just as tense and stressed as before. In the long term, a so-called “mineral oil or paraffin dependency” can arise – you have the feeling of constantly having to use cream. Especially those who tend to have extremely dry or blemished skin should therefore avoid mineral oils and paraffins. The occlusive film on the skin can increase inflammation. Pay attention to the ingredients of your product. If you discover one of the following terms, mineral oils are involved: Mineral Oil, Vaseline, Petrolatum, Paraffinum Liquidum, Paraffinum Subliquidum, Cera Microcristallina, Microcrystalline Wax, Ozokerite, Ceresin. The bad reputation that still clings to mineral oils is due to some skin care products in which critical substances have been found. Namely so-called aromatic hydrocarbons, MOAH for short (“Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons”), which are considered to be potentially carcinogenic and actually have to be filtered out of the raw material. The responsible organizations point out that all raw materials used must be extensively tested and meet the highest standards in terms of purity and quality.
Therefore, consumers could safely use cosmetic products that contain mineral oils. Several studies also show that mineral oils as ingredients in cosmetic products are safe and harmless to health. If you don’t want to rely on it, you have to resort to “clean beauty”. Which brings us back to the opening topic …
CultureAndCream Author from Munich
To travel during my profession as a beauty journalist was never enough for my. Also my six month on a world trip didn’t do it. It always attracts me to other cities, foreign countries, on roadtrips and places I don’t know yet. But I am not only interested in “culture” and “cream”, I am also fascinated by people who have stories to tell . Such unique experiences I want to share with you.