Antiperspirants have been a hot-button issue for the past few years, because they contain aluminum. Specifically, articles in the press warn that underarm antiperspirants (a preparation that reduces underarm sweat) or deodorants (a preparation that destroys or masks unpleasant odors) cause breast cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2000). Some scientists have also proposed that the aluminum in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants may be related to breast cancer because they are applied frequently to an area next to the breast (Journal of Applied Toxicology, 2003).
However, according to reviews of researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, there is “not conclusive evidence” stating underarm antiperspirants or deodorants lead to the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that aluminum deodorants and antiperspirants cause cancer.
Still, some people choose to avoid aluminum antiperspirant anyway.
Topical Antiperspirants that Work Without Aluminum
The thing about antiperspirants is that they’re actually considered over-the-counter (OTC) drugs by the FDA, which means that their ingredients must be rigorously tested and approved. Technically, the only “antiperspirant” ingredients approved by the FDA are aluminum salts (FDA OTC Active). So, by definition, there are no aluminum-free antiperspirants.
But, in my search for something aluminum-free, I did find one kind of self-proclaimed antiperspirant that didn’t contain aluminum: those with peptides. These include Klima Hyper-Dri Antiperspirant Serum ($24.99) and Perspi-Guard Maximum Strength Antiperspirant ($29.99). Neither contain any “active” ingredients, but it contains CH3 Pentapeptide-3 and Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 (also called Argireline), which are both Botox™-like peptides that may help to control sweating (Clinical Dermatology).
Botox™ injections have been approved by the FDA to treat primary axillary hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, when topical salts are inadequate. The injections work by inhibiting the sweat glands, thereby lessening sweat (FDA Botox Guide).
In theory, these Botox™-like peptides would absorb into the skin and work similarly to Botox™ injections, but on a much less invasive scale. According to Klima, the antiperspirant works better over time. But whether or not they actually work is questionable.
There’s hope for those who sweat, but want to avoid aluminum yet. Though they aren’t well tested enough for a definitive answer, some peptides could be promising ways to stop the moisture and keep your fresh. Peptide-based antiperspirants like Klima Hyper-Dri Antiperspirant Serum and Perspi-Guard Maximum Strength Antiperspirant could work to keep sweat at bay — but we won’t know for sure until researchers do more independent studies.
***written in part by Natalie K. Bell