Aluminum in Antiperspirants: A Potential Hazard for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Deodorants and antiperspirants are a necessary part of daily life for most people. Most of the antiperspirants on the market use chemicals that contain aluminum because of their ability to block the release of sweat.1, 2 We already know that too much aluminum is harmful and can result in anemia (decreased red blood cells or hemoglobin), bone disease, and memory changes. Most antiperspirants containing aluminum are thought to be safe in non-pregnant women.3 As for pregnant women, one case report suggests that daily exposure to large dosages of antiperspirants that contain aluminum causes bone damage and extreme tiredness.3

Although manufacturers suggest that such products are safe for pregnant women, the pregnancy risk classification for the most common active ingredients in antiperspirants is set at category C. Studies have shown that a small amount of aluminum is absorbed through the skin when using antiperspirants.4 Other studies have shown that this uptake is less than the amount of aluminum absorbed from the diet.5 Even if the amount absorbed is low, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid frequent and long-term use of antiperspirants that contain of aluminum. However, short-term use of these products is likely to be safe.1

For breastfeeding mothers, these products are less of an issue. In one rabbit study, a very small dose of aluminum entered the milk and even less was orally absorbed by the offspring.6 Since the absorption of aluminum salts from milk was so low, the use of antiperspirants with high aluminum levels is probably not a risk for the infant of a breastfeeding mother. However, the same study did report decreased milk production in the rabbits exposed to high doses of aluminum. Thus, women who wish to preserve their milk supply may want to avoid products with high concentrations of aluminum.

These are some antiperspirants with their aluminum content.

Antiperspirants with Large Amounts of Aluminum:

  • 5 Day® Antiperspirant Pads (25%)
  • Mitchum® Power Gel (25%)
  • Certain Dri® Solid (25%)
  • ODABAN® Spray(20%)
  • Drysol® and Xerac AC® Solid (20%)
  • Mitchum® Solid (20%)
  • Secret® Clinical Strength Solid (20%)
  • Gillete® Clinical Strength Solid (20%)
  • Anhydrol Forte® Roll-on (20%)

Antiperspirants with Moderate Amounts of Aluminum:

  • • Secret® Regular Strength Invisible Solid (19%)
  • • Ban Invisible solid (19%)
  • • Suave 24 Hour Protection Solid (18.2%)
  • • Degree® invisible Solid (17.8%)
  • • Sure® Original Solid (16%)
  • • Lady Speed Stick® Solid 24/7 (15.4%)
  • • Dove® Invisible Solid (14.8%)
  • • Soft and Dri Clear Glide Invisible Solid (13%)
  • • Certain Dri® Roll-on (12%)

Aluminum-Free Antiperspirant Brands: Look for products labeled "deodorant" instead of "anti-perspirant." These products cut down odor but don't block sweating. Read the labels carefully.

Adapted by Saneea Almas, MD from an original written by Laura Muscianese, MS1

References:

1. Food, Drug Administration H. Antiperspirant drug products for over-the-counter human use; final monograph. Final rule. 2003;68(110):34273

2. Eisenach JH, Atkinson JL, Fealey RD. Hyperhidrosis: evolving therapies for a well-established phenomenon. Mayo Clinic proceedings. May 2005;80(5):657-666

3. Guillard O, Fauconneau B, Olichon D, Dedieu G, Deloncle R. Hyperaluminemia in a woman using an aluminum-containing antiperspirant for 4 years. The American journal of medicine. Dec 15 2004;117(12):956-959

4. Flarend R, Bin T, Elmore D, Hem SL. A preliminary study of the dermal absorption of aluminium from antiperspirants using aluminium-26. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association. Feb 2001;39(2):163-168

5. Anane R, Bonini M, Grafeille JM, Creppy EE. Bioaccumulation of water soluble aluminium chloride in the hippocampus after transdermal uptake in mice. Archives of toxicology. 1995;69(8):568-571

6. Yokel RA. Toxicity of aluminum exposure during lactation to the maternal and suckling rabbit. Toxicology and applied pharmacology. Aug 1984;75(1):35-43