No, you shouldn’t worry about aluminum in your antiperspirant

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Over the past few years, you may have heard growing concern over the existence of aluminum in antiperspirants and its possible links to cancer. Amid the fears and rumors, antiperspirant brands from boutique to big-name have begun to tout their aluminum-free offerings.

But should you worry?

As a dermatologist who frequently recommends aluminum-containing antiperspirants to my patients, I say, emphatically, no.

The claim that aluminum-containing antiperspirants cause cancer is a myth that has been debunked in the minds of doctors and scientists, and so it’s time to put lingering doubts for consumers to rest.

Let’s walk through how antiperspirants work, how this rumor got started and why this is one issue you shouldn’t sweat.

How antiperspirants work

There’s a major difference between deodorants and antiperspirants, and it all comes down to sweat vs. smell. Deodorants mask body odors and target the bacteria that make your armpits smell bad.

Antiperspirants, on the other hand, decrease your sweat production. Antiperspirants containing aluminum work by forming a plug at the surface of the sweat duct and blocking the duct, preventing sweat production and release.

Why people became concerned about aluminum

In the early 2000s, researchers began looking into whether aluminum in antiperspirants was linked to breast cancer. Early studies—despite offering no clear scientific evidence or proof of any correlation—raised some concern, which took off in popular media and were further spread by alarmist websites and emails.

These studies were ultimately debunked by thorough, responsible research. An exhaustive 2014 review published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology showed no correlation between aluminum-containing antiperspirants and increased cancer risk, specifically breast cancer. While one in eight women will develop breast cancer, the use of an antiperspirant is not the instigating risk factor.

Why you should feel safe using antiperspirants containing aluminum

For a compound to cause cancer, it would have to be absorbed into the bloodstream at a concentration high enough to cause toxicity. That’s not going to happen with a daily dab of antiperspirant.

You’re using only a small amount of antiperspirant at any given time, and your body isn’t absorbing the aluminum chemical—it stays outside of the body at the opening of the sweat duct. Your skin is a mighty barrier to the outside world.

So you can relax and stay dry knowing that aluminum-containing antiperspirants are a safe, convenient and effective option to stop sweating. I recommend them to my patients without hesitation.

Susan Massick is a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an assistant professor in the Ohio State College of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @OhioSkinDoc.