We came across a post on X that claims that the presence of aluminium in deodorants can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, an illness of the brain that affects memory, thinking, and the ability to perform daily activities. Globally, 10 million individuals suffer from dementia yearly, and in Singapore, about 1 in 10 of the elderly above the age of 60 suffer from dementia.
In addition, the World Health Organisation has identified dementia as the 7th leading cause of death globally, and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among the senior population in 2023.
Although treatment and medication can slow down the progression of the illness, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Hence, given the scale and impact of the illness, claims of commonly used cosmetic products being the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is a cause for concern, and worth investigating.
Is there aluminium in deodorants?
While the term deodorant is sometimes used to refer to both deodorants and antiperspirants, they serve different functions. Deodorants are meant to control odour while antiperspirants primarily act as sweat prevention, and can also help to control odour.
Antiperspirants usually contain aluminium derivatives such as aluminium chloride, aluminium zirconium, and aluminium chlorohydrate. These serve to plug the sweat ducts on the underarms to reduce and/or stop the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. On the other hand, not all deodorants contain aluminium.
How is aluminium linked to Alzheimers disease?
Some studies have found that aluminium could be considered a neurotoxin—a substance that can alter the structure or function of the nervous system. Moreover, there have been other studies that have observed that those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease may have a higher accumulation of aluminium in their brain tissue.
However, most studies highlight that the link between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminium exposure is inconclusive. Rather, the high levels of aluminium could be a result of the illness, rather than a cause. While the cause of the illness is not fully understood, most health institutions rate genetic and lifestyle factors such as smoking, as more prominent risk factors for dementia.
Is aluminium in antiperspirants a cause for concern?
There is no scientific evidence that aluminium in antiperspirants is a direct cause of Alzheimer’s disease or is generally harmful to health.
In fact, a 2023 study by the EU Commission Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety found that aluminium compounds that are found in some sprayable products like deodorants and antiperspirants, including aluminium zirconium and aluminium chlorohydrate, are safe for use. Additionally, an earlier study by the EU Commission Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety in 2019 substantially reviewed the amounts of aluminium contained in a variety of cosmetics including antiperspirants and concluded that they were safe for use.
However, those with impaired kidney function are advised against using products containing aluminium. Any excess aluminium in the body is rid from the body by the kidneys. Since poor kidney function hinders the body’s ability to clear excess aluminium from the body, those with kidney impairments should avoid products with aluminium. Further, people who are sensitive to aluminium, such as those developing rashes after using products with aluminium are also advised against using products containing aluminium.
Therefore, the claim that aluminium in deodorants has a direct link to Alzheimer’s disease is false.
There have been similar concerns that the presence of aluminium in antiperspirants can cause breast cancer. The rationale for these claims is similar to the assertion shared above, due to aluminium’s neurotoxicity. However, this claim has been debunked by both the American and Canadian cancer societies.
In our research, we have also seen misinformation around potential health risks of cosmetic products associated with the promotion of “clean” or “natural” beauty products – products that are allegedly made without harmful chemicals or ingredients. For instance, some blog posts circulating the abovementioned claims direct readers to purchase “aluminium-free” products, which are also sold by the owners of the blog.
Hence, it is important that we err on the side of caution when we discover these claims and do our own research to understand the motivations why individuals may spread these claims, as these could be marketing tactics used to gain the attention and business of health-conscious consumers.