It’s Hot in Africa… But I Still Won’t Use This

It’s been almost 90 degrees every day since I got to Africa. I’ll be telling you all about my safari and travels in the coming weeks…

But the heat reminds me of something important I wanted to talk to you about. Because as hot as it is, I still won’t use commercial antiperspirants.

I won’t use them for one reason: aluminum.

You may know that your body is exposed to aluminum every day.

Dr. Sears at the International Hospitl KampalaLast week, I visited the International Hospital Kampala. It was the first to bring modern, affordable healthcare to Uganda. It also has a university that trains nurses and other health care workers.

Aluminum enters your body when you breathe, eat, or drink. But only a fraction is absorbed by your body this way, because your lungs, stomach, and kidneys work together and eliminate over 95% of ingested aluminum.

But what you may not know is that aluminum applied to your skin can build up to toxic levels. One of the most common ways this happens is through applying antiperspirant.

That’s because aluminum salts are a major ingredient in most name-brand antiperspirants. And, while you may apply only a small amount of them to your skin, using it day after day can result in chronic exposure to aluminum.

In a minute, I’ll show you some safe and natural products you can use instead. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stop odor without using a commercial antiperspirant/deodorant.

But first, let me explain one of the reasons aluminum is so dangerous: It’s a metalloestrogen.

Why should you care? Well, scientists have been studying the effects on human health from the accumulation of poisonous metals like aluminum for over a decade now.

And what they’ve found is that aluminum can bind to estrogen receptors. That makes aluminum, like the chemicals bisphenol A and phthalates, another kind of “estrogen mimic.”

That means it takes the place of real estrogen and tricks your body into thinking it’s estrogen while it produces its toxic effect. In this case, it alters your DNA and interferes with normal cell signals.

In men, the estrogen interference can potentially cause prostate cancer.1 In women, it could result in breast cancer.2

No one knows how much or how little could cause cancer, because aluminum entering your body this way is completely new to human evolution. But it’s another reason I will always choose not to absorb any more aluminum than I already get from living in the modern world.

Absorbing any amount of aluminum is harmful. But the way it gets in your body seems to make a difference, too. I came across an interesting study showing that you will retain 40% of aluminum that bypasses your body’s natural elimination pathways like the kidneys.3

And evidence shows that aluminum stays in the body for 15 days after using an antiperspirant.4

In 2003 the FDA published a study concluding that antiperspirants were safe. But don’t let the FDA give you a false sense of security. There’s an established link between aluminum intake and increased breast cancer – contrary to what the FDA implies.5

Most commercial antiperspirants contain aluminum, and that’s why I don’t use them. What I think most of us want is to make sure we smell fresh and natural.

Here are four alternatives I use:

  • Baking soda and water: Mix one half teaspoon of baking soda with water and apply to your underarm area. Baking soda can neutralize the bacteria that causes odor. One application can last up to 24 hours.
  • Stone crystal salts: These salts are effective at stopping odor for as much as two full days. You want to make sure you get the ones that are completely natural and made from mineral salts. These kind are not absorbed by the skin which prevents toxins from accumulating. They also allow your body to sweat out the normal toxins that are already in your body. One stone can last up to a year.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Some people will occasionally have a mild sensitive reaction to the crystal stones, and in that case, you might want to try simple rubbing alcohol. You can swab your underarms morning and night and you’ll be odor-free. This is what I’ve been using in Africa. I like it because it feels cool going on.
  • Natural alternatives made with essential oils: Many of my patients use these. Try and find ones that use natural oils from plants. You can also make these yourself at home if you prefer. Just mix some of your favorite oils with a small amount of alcohol. You can then put the mixture in an old perfume bottle and use it as a spray.

There are many oils you can choose from including cypress, lavender, or orange blossom. Some of the most popular natural antiperspirants on the market also use melted beeswax and cocoa butter in their stick products. These are gentle on the skin and can mask body odor for a full day.

1. McGrath K. “…antiperspirants allowing transdermal absorption of cutaneous generated hormones and pheromones as a link to … breast and prostate cancer…” Med Hypotheses. 2009 Jun;72(6):665-74.
2. Darbre P. “Metalloestrogens: an emerging class of inorganic xenoestrogens with potential to add to the oestrogenic burden of the human breast.” J Appl Toxicol. 2006 May-Jun;26(3):191-7.
3. Brown RO, Morgan LM, Bhattacharya SK, Johnson PL, Minard G, Dickerson RN. “Potential aluminum exposure from parenteral nutrition in patients with acute kidney injury.” Ann Pharmacother. 42(10):1410-5. Oct, 2008.
4. Rodella L, et. al. “Aluminium exposure induces Alzheimer’s disease-like histopathological alterations in mouse brain.” Histol Histopathol. 433-9. 23 Apr. 2008.
5. Darbre P. “Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer.” J Inorg Biochem. 2005 Sep;99(9):1912-9.