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Aluminum Under the Arms Can Be Irritating–Does It Also Raise the Risk of Breast Cancer?

Q. I have been allergic to some metals since I had my ears pierced years ago. One of the metals is aluminum. When I used antiperspirants, they caused terrible itching in my armpits. Even if I used deodorants without aluminum, the itching would continue for months until the aluminum worked out of my body.

I tried a natural crystal deodorant and was very pleased, since it seemed to act as an antiperspirant as well as a deodorant. I thought the continued itching was just part of working the old aluminum out of my body. But I used the crystal deodorant for over a year, with the itching continuing and not letting up.

Then on this website, I read that I was still applying aluminum on my body with the crystal deodorant. I stopped the crystal deodorant and bought another over the counter deodorant without alum.

The itching finally stopped, and I am now itch free. So I know that I am no longer applying aluminum to my body.

A. Some people do find that aluminum compounds irritate the delicate skin of the armpits. Others are concerned about research suggesting that aluminum in antiperspirants is absorbed through the skin and may increase the risk of breast cancer (Breast Cancer Research, 2009). Since aluminum is a neurotoxin, there is also concern that cumulative exposure may compromise the brain and increase the chance of developing dementia. This question is still quite controversial, although there is increasing scientific support for it (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Jan. 1, 2014).

As the weather turns hot, the use of some odor control becomes more pressing. What are the alternatives to antiperspirants that contain aluminum? (They all do.)

People’s Pharmacy visitors have offered a number of solutions, from spraying on witch hazel or white vinegar to dusting the armpits with baking soda. Others have wiped their underarms with vodka or rubbing alcohol.

Several years ago, we received an unusual suggestion for underarm odor:

“I want to share a remedy I learned about when traveling in Brazil. Just apply milk of magnesia to your armpits. It is the best underarm deodorant!”

 We did try this remedy and found that it works very well. As a consequence, we developed a non-aluminum deodorant (NOT an antiperspirant–it controls odor but not sweat) with a milk of magnesia base. Why not check it out now and stock up for the summer? Just look for the MoM deodorant in our People’s Pharmacy storealuminum-free  and fragrance-free and aluminum free women’s fragrance. Don’t irritate your armpits or endanger your brain!

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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