Alum, Aluminium, Aluminium Chlorohydrate - What is in my Natural Deodorant?

March 10, 2014

I have been asked a number of times, 'are you happy using your crystal deodorant when it contains aluminium?' and I wanted to address this.

I have done a video on this as well, click here to watch it.

I appreciate questions like this - it makes you have to justify your choices to yourself. Just because the bumpf on a website says a product is 'safe' and 'natural' doesn't mean that it is.

As I'm sure you are aware a lot of us avoid aluminium because of it's links to breast cancer and Alzheimers. I wanted to look into that first and then address the difference between Alum and Aluminium/Aluminium Chlorohydrate.

I also wanted to research more about aluminium causing alzheimers and cancer. Now, I know that it is widely accepted in our community and I am all for avoiding something that we don't NEED to use and something that may cause us harm - even if it's not proven but please read the below from the alzheimers website:


Aluminium – Very low levels of many metals are present in the brain. Aluminium is a toxic metal that is common in our everyday environment. Small amounts of it are found in water and food. Although initial studies linked aluminium toxicity with Alzheimer's disease, the link has not been proven despite continuing investigation. Importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminium exposure increases your risk of dementia

I've also read a lot into the study that found aluminium in cancerous breast tissue. You may be surprised to read some of what I've discovered (from reliable sources including the NHS website):

  • The original study that suggested the link between breast cancer and aluminium was conducted on only 17 samples. 
  • The people conducting the study did not meet the women, did not consider their stage of cancer or the details of their recovery/death. 
  • It was not a quantitative study, it was only descriptive. 
  • They did not study any 'healthy' breast tissue either so there was no way for them to conclusively prove that having aluminium in the breast will cause cancer. 
We are all exposed to aluminium on a daily basis in our natural environment, it may well build up in us harmlessly or it may cause damage when it builds up - without the 'control' element to the experiment then we don't know - this is a major over sight and really undermines the whole study. We all learn in our early science classes that no experiment is credible or complete without a control test.

Other things that undermine the authenticity of the study and the integrity of the results are: Those conducting the study did not speak to the women or know anything about their lifestyle i.e. we have no idea if the women in question used aluminium containing deodorants. And, the study was very small so it is easy for squewed results in a small study.

Larger studies have been conducted and no further evidence has been found to support the link between deodorant, aluminium and cancer.

In my opinion - this is still up for debate. The fact that aluminium was found in breast cancer tissues is alarming and I will certainly avoid main stream deodorant because of the concoction of other nasty things in there.

Now let's look at crystal deodorants, specifically the brand that I use: Crystal Springs.


P.s. Obviously, I realise that you could argue that Crystal Springs will be motivated to tell you that their products are safe because they want you to buy them. But, the things I read on this site made the most sense to me out of all the things I read! 

Alum - a traditional natural deodorant

...Alum has been used for many years, in the Far and Middle East, as a deodorant, astringent and basic antiperspirant. It is also used on cuts after shaving because of its styptic properties (stops bleeding and closes pores).

Alum is used in our deodorants for its antibacterial properties, which helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria on the skin. It is the bacteria which causes the bad smell. Some people find it also performs a basic antiperspirant function, but others don’t and so we class it purely as a deodorant.

The truth about alum and aluminium

Many people get confused about Alum because the press talk about Aluminium being bad for us. Aluminium is the third most abundant element on the planet and we ingest it in large proportions every day in water and food. In fact, in some parts, its presence in water is the only thing that allows it to be drunk without harm. It is not particularly good for living organisms in the body so over eons we have evolved a particularly efficient and effective system for allowing naturally occurring Aluminium and its salt derivatives to pass through the body without effect.

However it is specific types of manmade Aluminium that have the health scares associated with them. Aluminium Chlorohydrate is a synthetic ingredient of antiperspirants/deodorants, designed to be absorbed into and to block the pores under the arms, to prevent perspiration. There have been some claims that there may be a connection between breast cancer and Aluminium Chlorohydrate but no real concrete evidence. For reference to some studies on deodorants and breast cancer see end of article.

The safe and effective natural deodorant

Alum has a long history of safe use as a deodorant ingredient and is a traditional alternative to many modern deodorants. Our natural crystal deodorant stones are made from just a solid moulded lump of crystallised alum, which is a naturally mined mineral salt.

The key differences between alum and aluminium chlorohydrate

Naturally better
The Alum we use in our deodorants occurs naturally, Aluminium Chlorohydrate is a synthetically made product.


I think that as a community we are up against it - we KNOW that the government lets us use unsafe and unsavoury cosmetics, eat unhealthy and unsavoury foods therefore we are naturally suspicious conspiracy theorists. 

I do worry, though, that we are too quick to jump on something. And, I also worry that if something is repeated enough in our community it becomes an unquestioned truth. I have to be honest I had never looked at the source of the 'aluminium causes breast cancer' statement before I started writing this piece. Now I know that it is a very small, very poorly conducted study I am now weary to believe it and I will certainly never quote it again.

I am no scientist but I believe that there are far too many factors (environmental, lifestyle, genetic, etc) that affect our risk of cancer for us to single anything out. 

So, overall, I'm happy that the link of aluminium to cancer and Alzheimer's is very, very minimal if at all. That being said I do not want to risk it, I think it is better to avoid it just in case. If we're not sure it's safe then why use it? 

I am convinced that my crystal deodorant is safe, especially the brand that I use. They do not manufacture the crystal, it is naturally occurring and it sits on the skin instead of being absorbed. It is also a different chemical compound to the aluminium that has been possibly linked to cancer.

I am happy to continue using my crystal stick as it comes from a pure source and  completely different in chemical structure to the aluminium found in breast cancer tissue.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know,
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  1. I have to say you have really impressed me with the balanced nature of this post, I am sometimes horrified by the oversimplification and mis-quoting of science that seems to go in the green beauty community like I have said before things are often more complex than they first seem and well done you for looking at the evidence and recognising the original study was not up to scratch, for me unless it is published in a peer reviewed journal and widely accepted then I don't pay much attention. I do live my life in a way that means that I cut things out wherever possible if it is relatively easy to do so, call it the precautionary principle and I will be giving the salt deo a try after your recommendation. Xx

    1. Wow, thank you! That's quite the compliment Ana! Not only did you enjoy my post but you will try something on my recommendation!? I can retire now ;-) I completely agree with you and we all know about the learning process of 'going green' and remembering what ingredients we want to avoid but surprisingly this is another learning curve for me - assessing information, finding the source and deciding for myself. I am an analytical person thanks to my literature degree (and my nature), I can argue something either way and I don't generally take things at face value but if you hear something often enough you kind of accept it as true (passively if not actively). This has been a big wake up call for me and I'm so glad!
      Thanks for reading.
      Rach xx

  2. Super super post Rach, as Ana said, well balanced and thoroughly researched. I use Crystal Spring too as I take the 'prefer to avoid just in case' stance like you do towards mainstream deodorants. x

    1. Thank you very much, that is so great to hear! I agree, I avoid it because I want to not because I feel I have to or because one small, exploratory study tells me to. Rach xx

  3. Fantastic post Rach! Really informative and made me think. I'd much rather use something that was pure than something that has been tinkered with in a lab! I'm a Crystal Spring girl too xx

    1. Thank you :-) so great to hear such lovely feedback. The Crystal Springs deodorant really is great isn't it :-) and it lasts forever... if you don't drop it ;-) xx (sorry, couldn't resist)

    2. Hahaha, yes yes I had a case of butter fingers (or was just too tired to have any kind of grip) !! xx

  4. I use crystal and I am very happy although that I am not using this for a long time - but I see the difference. also this crystal is using not only for armpits, but and legs after shaving. My granddad also got used it after shaving his beard. so it is very useful and needful thing.

    1. How interesting! thanks for sharing that tip :-) I agree it is very good. thanks for reading :-)

  5. Great post Rach and a balanced review which allows people to make up their own minds. I've yet to switch out my deodorant, for me, it's finding a balance between skin irritation & ingredients I wish to avoid. Even natural products can be problematic for my skin type.

    1. Thank you very much :-) But, that's the trouble isn't it you can have the most natural deodorant in the world but if it contains lavender and you react to it then it's not any better for you. Have you tried a crystal deodorant? A lot of people get on well with them but I guess they're not right for everyone. One size doesn't fit all!

  6. I really enjoyed having a read of this, and I totally agree it's very worrying how incorrect information get's spread super quickly and what's even more worrying is how quick people believe it! I'm enjoying using this crystal spring deodorant so far. I guess I'm the sort of person who wants to see hard proof especially with links to things like cancer etc

    1. Thank you :-) Glad you're getting on well with it! Keep me updated xx

  7. I have to agree with everyone else. Such an interesting and well-balanced post! I've been trying to find a more natural deodorant that works for a while. Whether aluminium chlorohydrate turns out to be linked to breast cancer or not, I would much rather avoid using something that clogs up my pores and prevents my body from expelling toxins. Of course I don't want to be smelly either! I will definitely give the Crystal Springs deodorant a try after your recommendation! Thank you xx

    1. Thank you very much :-) and, totally agree with not wanting to use it because it does seem very unnatural and I personally want to sweat!! I think it's unhealthy not to... I just don't want to smell! Hope you get on well with Crystal Springs, even my husband uses it so it must be good! xx


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