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Antiperspirants have been a hot-button issue lately due to their containing aluminum. Because of aluminum salt’s possible connection to certain diseases and the lack of studies analyzing long-term use, some have chosen to opt out of using aluminum-containing antiperspirants.
But recently, a friend of mine asked whether there were over-the-counter products that could help stop her sweating but didn’t contain aluminum. Rock and crystal deodorants might stop someone from developing an odor, but they don’t control sweat. So, I started researching to see if there were options for someone who wants to curb sweat but avoid aluminum.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any options that are as well-proven as aluminum salts (and the FDA’s list of antiperspirant ingredients doesn’t contain anything else). However, a few companies have made deodorants that try to curb sweat in novel way, namely via peptides. But do they really work?
The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant
Though they’re used interchangeably when talking about products that keep you from smelling funky, deodorant and antiperspirants function differently. That’s a key difference, because it means different active ingredients in each. Both of these are intended to inhibit the less-than-floral scent that comes from your underarms when you sweat and when bacteria feed on and excrete certain things in that sweat, thus causing an odor.
Deodorant does what the name suggests: it gets rid of the odor. By using alcohol, antibacterial agents like triclosan, or chelating agents that curb bacteria, deodorants reduce odor-causing bacteria. This means you’ll smell less, but you’ll still sweat.
Antiperspirant is also self-explanatory: it stops sweating. Typically, it contains aluminum salts that cause pores to contract and reduces the amount of sweat that bacteria can feed on. Many also contain deodorizing ingredients to minimize the stink that any sweat that does get through might cause.
That’s all very important because there’s been some controversy over aluminum salts causing a variety of physical and mental ailments. Although researchers haven’t concluded that Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer are caused by aluminum-containing deodorant in studies, some people are still eschewing the ingredient.[Read More: Deodorant: Parabens Good, Aluminum Bad?]
So, Are There Topical Antiperspirants that DON’T Contain 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 ($24.95, Amazon.com) and Perspi-Guard Maximum Strength Antiperspirant ($26.28, Amazon.com). It doesn’t claim any “active” ingredients, but it contains CH3 Pentapeptide-3 and Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 (also called Argireline), which are both Botox™-like peptides (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 in the skin and work similarly to Botox™ injections, but on a much less serious scale. According to Klima, the antiperspirant works better over time. But whether or not they actually work is questionable.[Read More: Maybe You Should Sweat It: The Shocking Truths about Deodorant]
Scientific Research on Peptides
A patent for an antiperspirant containing Argireline found that topical application of this peptide as well as one with a peptide that functions similarly to Pentapeptide-3 reduced the amount of sweat over several days of participants. However, I wasn’t able to find independent studies demonstrating that peptides were effective antiperspirants.
It’s unlikely, however, that these peptide-based antiperspirants will work as well as Botox™ injections for those who have hyperhidrosis, since topical application won’t have the same effect as injections. However, it’s not implausible that it could decrease sweating. Studies on argireline for anti-aging have found that a 10% concentration reduced wrinkles by 30% over 30 days (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). This means that these peptides can work when applied topically.[Read More: Spotlight: Acetyl Hexapeptide-3]
However, argireline doesn’t work for everyone, and, as I said before, it’s not as effective as injections. Furthermore, it shouldn’t be used by some individuals, including women who are pregnant or nursing. So without large independent studies, it’s difficult to say whether or not these peptide antiperspirants work, although it’s good to know that they’re out there.
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 conduct more independent studies.