A lot of people use deodorant or antiperspirant every day. These two products are both effective ways to manage sweating, but they work differently:

  • Deodorants deodorize, or make sweat smell “better.”
  • Antiperspirants make you sweat, or perspire, less.

Aluminum isn’t found in deodorants.

Most antiperspirants, on the other hand, do contain aluminum. Two-in-one products — meaning they’re both a deodorant and an antiperspirant — will also include aluminum.

Antiperspirants help you sweat less by blocking your pores, the tiny openings in your skin that sweat comes out of. Antiperspirants contain many ingredients, including aluminum salts. Aluminum salts dissolve on your skin and “melt” into your pores. This helps plug up your pores and stop some of your sweat.

Doctors and dermatologists use prescription antiperspirants to help treat health conditions that cause too much sweating, like hyperhidrosis. These antiperspirants can contain 10 to 30 percent aluminum chlorohydrate, a common type of aluminum salt. This is much higher than the amount of aluminum in over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants.

Some proponents of aluminum-free products claim that aluminum prevents you from sweating out toxins that could potentially cause cancer.

But cancerous toxins aren’t removed from the body through the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes. The kidneys and liver help remove these toxins from the body, and they’re eventually expelled through the urine and feces.

The most common concern about aluminum in antiperspirants and other topical products is that it’s linked to breast cancers. There’s little evidence that typical exposure to aluminum causes cancer or any other health condition, though.

Breast cancer

The American Cancer Society notes that there’s no scientific evidence that using antiperspirants causes or worsens breast cancers.

But some research has suggested that aluminum, at least in large amounts, may be harmful.

A study from 2017 asked hundreds of women how often they used antiperspirants and for how long. The group with breast cancer self-reported that they used antiperspirants several times a day, beginning before the age of 30 years old.

The group of women without breast cancer self-reported that they used antiperspirants less often. Both groups had aluminum salts in their breast tissue. But the women who had breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant and used aluminum products more frequently had higher levels of aluminum in their breast tissue than women without cancer.

The researchers were unable to rule out a reverse causation effect. This means it’s possible that aluminum simply accumulates in breast tumors and doesn’t necessarily cause or increase your risk for breast tumors.

A 2018 study suggests that too much aluminum may change how the body makes or responds to the female hormone estrogen. Changes in the endocrine (hormone) system can be harmful to your body over time.

On the other hand, other research also shows that the skin absorbs very little (0.01–0.06 percent, according to one literature review) of the aluminum applied to it via products like antiperspirant.

More conclusive research into aluminum’s effect on cancer is needed.

Kidney disease

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers of antiperspirant products to add a warning to their label that states: “Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease.”

This has led some people to believe that the aluminum in these products may also increase the risk of kidney disease.

But aluminum in antiperspirant poses no kidney-related risk to the average person. Your kidneys help get rid of aluminum and other waste products in your body. In addition, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) confirms that it’s not possible to absorb enough aluminum through your skin to damage your kidneys.

If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD)

The NKF advises people to avoid skin care products with aluminum if they already have stage 4 kidney disease.

At this stage, the kidneys are working at a level of only 30 percent and can’t clear out aluminum (also present in kidney medications and dialysis fluid) fast enough. This may allow it to build up in your body and trigger health problems.

Bone disease

Elevated aluminum levels from chronic dialysis can lead to weakened bones in people with kidney disease, according to a 2018 study. This bone disease is known as osteomalacia.

Memory disorders

According to a 2016 literature review, chronic exposure to aluminum may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2018 literature review found that adults with Alzheimer’s disease had higher levels of metals like aluminum, mercury, and cadmium in their blood. But these metals were thought to be from their environment.

More research is needed to find out whether aluminum or other metals in the body are linked to memory disorders.

Aluminum-free antiperspirants don’t exist, but if you’re looking to reduce body odor, you can do so without using an antiperspirant.

Deodorants are aluminum-free. Avoid aluminum by trying one of these options:

Other products and ingredients to consider include:

How to read labels for aluminum

The FDA requires manufacturers of antiperspirant products to list aluminum on their product labels.

Check deodorant and skin care product labels for aluminum. You may see it under any of these names:

  • aluminum salts
  • aluminum compounds
  • aluminum chlorohydrate
  • aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly

Antiperspirants contain aluminum to help you sweat less. Deodorants don’t use aluminum as an ingredient.

The research is mixed on whether the aluminum from antiperspirants can build up in your body. You’re probably more likely to get aluminum from other sources, like medications. That said, there’s no scientific evidence that directly links aluminum to cancers or other health conditions.

Still, some of this research has led experts to advise that antiperspirant use isn’t a good idea for everyone, like people who have severe kidney disease.

If you have a kidney condition, always check the ingredients on your topical products before buying or using them.