I was prompted to research and write this article following a ‘Info-Conso’ popped up before the news on France 3 one night. They’re a sort of public service announcement put out by the INC – the Institut National de la Consommation. After a quick run-through of the different types of anti-perspirants and deodorants available, their advice was to avoid any containing aluminium. The list of various ingredients to look out for included aluminium chloryde, chlorohydrate, chlorydrex, sesquichlorohydrate and zirconium. Given the huge number of different brands available in France now, I was quite surprised by this announcement and checked their website to see the reasoning behind the recommendations.
Does aluminium in deodorant cause cancer?
First, I must be clear, the INC advice made no reference to aluminium causing cancer. However, I’ve seen this suggestion floating around on the internet for some time now, along with the suggestion that it also causes Alzheimer’s disease. So, I decided to check it out for myself. The overall conclusion, based on current evidence , is that this is a myth. In fact, it was dismissed at such by Snopes some time ago. It’s a controversial topic. It seems the rumour started back around 2005 when research found aluminium could interfere with oestrogen receptors of breast cancer. However, this was research in the lab in vitro, and the study concluded that further research was necessary to establish whether aluminium was absorbed by the skin and if it played a role in breast cancer.
Subsequent research has found no evidence of a link between aluminium in deodorants and breast cancer or Alzheimer’s. The latest I found was a study published in 2014 in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology. All of the major cancer charities in the UK, the US and Australia agree there is no link. Indeed, it seems there is no evidence that aluminium is able to cross either the skin barrier or the blood–brain barrier, mechanisms that would be required to implicate the chemical in these diseases. So, what is the objection to aluminium in deodorants? Well, the issue is with the mechanism by which the anti-perspirant action works. Aluminium blocks the pores or the sweat ducts. That is how it stops the user sweating. However, this can cause irritation and allergy and this was the reason for the INC recommendation.
Difference between anti-transpirants and deodorants
The French term anti-transpirant simply means anti-perspirant, and deodorant has exactly the same meaning as the English word. The essential difference between the two is that an anti-transpirant will stop you from sweating – some even claim to do this for 48 hours. Whereas, a deodorant will just prevent underarm bacteria from getting to work and causing a smell. The objection to aluminium is that it’s used in anti-perspirants to prevent sweating, by blocking pores. The INC’s advice was to avoid these types of products, but given the quantity on the supermarket shelves, it doesn’t look like the French consumer will be following this advice any time soon.
Tracking down vegan deodorants
Whatever your thoughts about aluminium, as a vegan one of thing high on your list of priorities when buying personal care products is likely to be ensuring that they neither contain animal products nor have been tested on animals. There’s a plethora of options available these days, from online retailers, biocoops and even the big supermarkets. In fact, I’ve found locally made, cruelty-free deodorant, Solibio, in a small SuperU here in 87. I recently checked out the shelves of a large Leclerc and found a number of vegan friendly options. Most were labelled with one of the recognised vegan certifications and One Voice or Leaping Bunny. Another option is to support a small business like Earth Sense Organics. They’re based in the south west of France, making cruelty-free, palm oil free, zero waste vegan-friendly products.