Beautiful young woman using antiperspirant or deodorant, armpits

Q. I’ve relied on natural crystal deodorants for years with the understanding that they were safer than the usual antiperspirants. I was under the impression that they were free of aluminum. When I checked the label it said potassium alum. Does that mean aluminum?

A. Yes; potassium alum is hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate. It is used in the purification of drinking water to get particles to precipitate out. Styptic pencils contain alum to stop bleeding from minor cuts. Alum is also used in most crystal deodorants.

The question of aluminum toxicity has been controversial for decades. A review of the evidence in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (March, 2011) concluded: “The hypothesis that Al [aluminum] significantly contributes to AD [Alzheimer’s disease] is built upon very solid experimental evidence and should not be dismissed. Immediate steps should be taken to lessen human exposure to Al, which may be the single most aggravating and avoidable factor related to AD.”

It is possible to use milk of magnesia as a deodorant. Because it does not contain aluminum, there is no concern about an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. Neither of these dreaded conditions are definitively linked to aluminum-containing antiperspirants, but the links have not been ruled out by rigorous studies either.

Here are some testimonials from visitors to this website:

“I love People’s Pharmacy Milk of Magnesia deodorant! And it doesn’t take much to be effective. I just roll on a small amount and rub it around my armpits with my finger (it rinses off easily), so I never have any “damp feeling” to contend with. Works like a charm, and protects me for at least two days.” M.R.

“Traditional deodorants irritated my underarms, so I switched to crystal deodorant over 10 years ago. Last winter, I developed an irritation in my armpits and tried not using deodorant at all. The irritation went away but now there were other obvious issues.

“I read about milk of magnesia on your website and tried it. It’s wonderful! I bought a bottle at the store and dabbed it on each morning. When I finished the bottle, I ordered the roll-on from People’s Pharmacy and love that. So much easier to get ready in the morning! Thank you for that great product – and for all your helpful information!!” N.R.

  “A friend of mine in high school, said her grandmother has NEVER used deodorant. She sprinkles a little baking soda in her hand and applies it to her armpits after her shower. After reading this article, I think I might start doing that. I already use baking soda instead of toothpaste, and in the laundry, also to clean my sinks. Why not?” E.H.C.

“For the person who had recommended milk of magnesia, thank you sooooo much. You’ve saved me from embarrassment.

I never had a problem with sweat and body odor before, but lately I noticed that I sweat a lot and that my underarm smells sour. Deodorant that I usually used, don’t work anymore.

I tried milk of magnesia, and the sour scent was GONE. I’ve been using it for a week now. Thank you. :-)” E.D.L.

“I dealt with underarm odor more and more as I aged. I tried many of the suggestions online and tried different products but what finally worked for me was to wipe my underarms with hydrogen peroxide after showering. That’s it…no more problem. After it dries, I use a bit of body spray by Secret.” Renae

“About a year ago, someone on Facebook said lime juice was a great underarm deodorant. I thought that was crazy, but I tried it because I was alarmed by the breast cancer link with deodorants. and the dementia link.

“So now I know for sure, lime juice works. you just cut open a lime and squeeze and rub the juice under your arms. It has a nice citrusy smell. It’s not at all sticky. It not only prevents any sweaty smell, it seems to actually reduce sweating and works for 24 hours.

“Lemon doesn’t work, neither does orange. lime does it.” Frenagd


Quite a few people have said that lemon juice controls their body odor. The problem with limes is that some people are highly sensitive to it. There is also a known phototoxic dermatitis to lime juice when ultraviolet rays from the sun come in contact with the skin.  The last thing we would want is for someone to slather on the lime juice and end up with red, swollen and painful underarms. This might be one remedy to skip!

“My underarms itch whenever I apply deodorant. I tried every brand known to man with no luck. Then one day I tried rubbing alcohol 99% potency. Viola! No odor. I have been using it ever since. No odor, no itch, no dryness, nothing negative. Often I will apply it twice a day if I am especially active. I just pour some on a piece of paper towel and rub for about 20 seconds or so under each armpit. Sometimes, I have to apply twice but mostly once will do the trick.

“Oh, yes there is one small negative; the smell of the rubbing alcohol is rather strong when applying so I just turn my head and look in the opposite direction when applying it. Don’t worry about any lingering alcohol smells.  The alcohol smell is gone within 10-20 seconds as the alcohol evaporates very quickly leaving your underarms the cleanest in town!” Steve


We have heard from others that vodka serves much the same purpose. Bottom line, there are lots of strategies for dealing with underarm odor.

In about three weeks we will be introducing two brand new aluminum-free MoM (milk of magnesia) roll on products. One is unscented and the other has a lovely essential oil woman’s fragrance. Men tell us they like it too. Stay tuned for future announcements!

Share your own solutions to body odor below in the comment section.

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  1. BD

    The People’s Pharmacy advice is wrong in this question.
    Aluminum in any form has been disproven as a cause of Alzheimer’s disease for over 20 years.
    Antiperspirants and Alzheimer’s Disease
    Back in the 1960s, a few studies found high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The research suddenly called into question the safety of everyday household items such as aluminum cans, antacids, and antiperspirants.
    But the findings of these early studies weren’t replicated in later research, and experts have essentially ruled out aluminum as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s.
    “There was a lot of research that looked at the link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum, and there hasn’t been any definitive evidence to suggest there is a link,” says Heather M. Snyder, PhD, senior associate director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association.
    According to the experts interviewed for this story, the aluminum in antiperspirants doesn’t even typically make its way into the body.
    “The aluminum salts do not work as antiperspirants by being absorbed in the body. They work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in the sweat to form a physical plug… which is deposited in the sweat duct, producing a blockage in the areas that it’s applied,” says David Pariser, MD, professor of dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and past president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “Even [with] nicks from shaving, the amount is so negligible that it doesn’t make a whole lot of scientific sense.”
    Myth 4: Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
    Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful response. The most recent research on aluminum is, however, more alarming. Several recent studies offer evidence that aluminum is a neurotoxin. Since it is not an essential mineral, we see no reason to increase exposure to aluminum.
    In addition to the links below, you may find our interview with several aluminum experts of interest. For this weekend only, the MP3 for this show will be free. That’s because we want people to get as much up to date information as possible on the potential risks of this element. Dr. Pariser may be correct about aluminum absorption, but we are concerned about aluminum exposure overall.
    Here is our radio show:
    Here are a few recent studies about possible links between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease:

  2. CAR

    I had breast cancer 22 yrs. ago & had radiation treatments as well & I no longer perspire under that arm & stopped using deodorants. I wipe underarms with skin freshner in the AM & during the days as needed: this has worked for me. Sometimes I use a spray of perfume, but not always. I used to ruin a lot of my clothes because of perspiration issues & used to use the shields in all my dress clothes, but ‘life’ has changed all of that. My parents had always questioned the aluminum thing & when I got married insisted that I only use stainless steel pots for cooking. Thanks for all you help with countless medical issues, Joe & Terry!!!

  3. ebm

    MoM unfortunately does not work for me for more than a few hours. I now use a hand sanitizer from Target,
    their plum scented one. It smells great and works all day for me. Not as harsh as 99% alcohol. I tried just
    about every non-deo product there is, even Listerine, none of them worked for me.

  4. tct

    I’ve been using MoM for a couple of years now, ever since you posted that aluminum couldn’t be ruled out as a cause of dementia. Works great! I use a cotton ball and swab a little on my face too. My face is noticeably less red now and I have fewer breakouts.
    Plus, since MoM has a slight antiperspirant effect, my makeup stays in place better when I’m outside in the summer heat. After using MoM for a period of time, some underarm odor returns. I guess the underarm bacteria get used to MoM. When that happens, I switch to white vinegar for a week or so and that takes care of the odor.

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