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Should you be worried about aluminum in deodorants? Episode 134

Should we be worried about aluminum in deodorants?

Erin asks…Should we be worried about aluminum in deodorants?anonymous-438427_960_720

First of all don’t get confused between anti-perspirant and deodorants. Anti-perspirants contain aluminum salts that help plug your pores so you don’t sweat as much. Deodorants do not contain aluminum and they don’t stop you from sweating. They only reduce body odor. (By using fragrance or anti-bacterial compounds.) This started around 1985. Researchers found that Alzheimers patients had high levels of aluminum in their brains. There have been a number of studies since then – at least one, done in 1990, did suggest a link. Researchers tracked aluminum exposure of 130 Alzheimers patients BUT the study has been discredited because it relied on other people to provide data for the patients. It just wasn’t reliable.

More reliable studies have indicated that this is NOT a problem. For example, a 2002 studied evaluated over 4000 people over the course of several years and found no increased risk of disease (whether the patients used APs or even ate antacids which also contain Al salts.)

The current hypothesis is that the high aluminum content in the brains of patients with Alzheimers is a RESULT of the disease, not the cause. It has to do with how the brains cells eliminate toxins. Ref: NY Times. So, the bottom line despite all the fear mongering you hear about aluminum in cosmetic products the best evidence to date shows that there are no significant health concerns. (Other than the fact that some people experience skin irritation from anti-perspirants.)

The flip side to this is the popularity of so called natural deodorants. We’ve continue to get questions about these. In one discussion thread in our Forum, Kiri said that “crystal deodorants are soo good!”  Just remember that crystal deodorants may contain Alum crystals which contain aluminum. Also, Allure recently asked about using coconut oil as a natural deodorant. I looked into and found that coconut oil does have some mild antibacterial properties so it’s not inconceivable that it could act as an underarm deodorant. However, I couldn’t find any evidence in the scientific literature that it’s been tested against Staphylococcus hominis which is the bacteria species primarily responsible for producing underarm odor. That means that even though it MAY work theoretically it may not work very well. In reality, it seems like a very impractical solution due to its greasiness. It also has a low viscosity at body temperature which means it will drip down your arms and chest. An ordinary deodorant or antiperspirant will do a much better job.

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Should I wash with shower gel or soap?

Little Tabby says…I saw these 2 articles about Shower Gel versus bar soap – 1 article states that shower gel is a waste of money and the other one mentions that Bar soap is less drying to the skin compared to shower gel. I’ve had severe issues with washing my hands frequently when using these gels but not with soap. Please give your opinion on what is the better option. 

It depends on what you mean by “soap” and on what kind of detergents are used in your shower gels. TRUE soap (saponified fatty acids) has a higher pH which can (temporarily) impair skin’s natural acid mantle. Shower gels don’t have this problem but they are made with detergents (like sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) that can degrease the skin.
Perhaps the best compromise are syndet bars which are milder detergents (like sodium cocoyl isethionate) which are extremely mild and don’t have the issue with low pH.

You mentioned “severe issue” after frequent hand washing with shower gels. The problem MAY have nothing to do with the cleansing system and more about the preservative system. If those products use Methylisothiazolinone (MI) as a preservative, you might have developed a sensitivity.

Is “lauryl” a bad ingredient in my shampoo?

Alessandra asks…Can you please check the ingredients of this Lenor Greyl Bain shampoo? I bought it in Italy and it makes my (oily) hair stay clean longer, but I see “lauryl” as opposed to my usual sodium laureth, is it too harsh?

Lauryl is just the name for the carbon chain. It can appear in a number of different detergents. It seems to have gotten a bad name because it’s used in SLS but it’s not the lauryl part that causes the problem. I’m more because it’s a sulfate salt.

This Lenore Greyl product doesn’t contain ANY SLS but it does contain there other detergents that use Lauryl as a backbone: Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Sodium Lauryl Glucoside, and Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids. These are, in fact, very mild surfactants and won’t be as harsh as SLS can be.

Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate (and) Sodium Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids, Glycereth-2 Cocoate, Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride, Cocamide Mea, Wheat (Triitcum Sativum) Extract, Polyquaternium-70 (and) Dipropylene Glycol, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Sacchoromyces Cerevisiae Extract, Propylene Glycol, PEG-15 Cocopolyamine, Nelumbium Speciousum Flower Extract, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Iris Florentina Root Extract, Daucus Carota Extract, Fragrance, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 20, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Metylchloroisothiazolinone (and) Methylisothiazolinone.

Can you suck your way to plumper lips?

Krunce asks…What’s the deal with products like Liptiful and Fullips?

In case you’re not familiar with these products they’re another variation on the “sucking lip plumper” trend. They’re like little plastic cup that you press against your lips – you suck on them to create a vacuum which pulls fluid into your lips. This hydraulic pressure provides a temporary plumping effect. After a while the fluid gets reabsorbed into the tissues and the lips go back to normal. That’s why you have to repeat it every day.

If you just did this occasionally it’s probably not a big deal but I found an article quoting Dr. Dendy Engelman who’s the director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College. He says that the suction from this process causes “vessel engorgement” (BTW if your vessel engorgement lasts more than 8 hours please call your physician.) but anyway… all this extra blood in your vessels sets off an inflammatory response (histamine release.)

If you suck hard enough you can even break these blood vessels which will result in bruising. This is especially a problem for fair skinned people. So, these products are not a great way to plump your lips on a regular basis. 

Ref: Fusion.net

New hair repair technology

Over the years we’ve written a number articles about split end mending. For the most part conditioners and other hair care treatments can do very little to actually repair a split end – which by the way is one of the biggest of hair problems. We have talked about the Poly Electrolyte Complex that’s used in Tresemme, Nexus, and a few other brands because it actually can mend a split.

Well, this webinar introduced another technology that really works. This one is called “Kerabeads” or “Vegabeads” (that’s the trade name so don’t look for that on the label.) The come from a company called “Earth Supplied Products.”  These are capsules made from natural materials alginate polymers which come from seaweed. The presenter used an interesting analogy – he likened the structure of the capsules to a paper bag. The inside wall of the bag is positively charged and the outside wall is negatively charged. This dual charge allows the capsules to attracted to damaged hair (which has a negative charge) as well as other capsules. The capsules are small enough to get inside the split end of hair and when the capsules dry they actually pull the split shut. There’s a great video on the company’s website. Apparently, the capsules also work to help smooth the raised edges of cuticles so they can benefit from hair that hasn’t even split yet. And, as a bonus, they can deliver oils and other materials which is something the PEC technology isn’t designed to do.

I’m always skeptical about these vendor presentations but knowing how well the PEC technology works it seems very feasible that there’s really something to this. If we identify any brands using this technology we’ll be sure to let you know.

  • One ‘N Only Argan Oil Split End Mender
  • Perfectly Posh has several products that contain it.
  • Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Fresh cut split end mender

The Nivea app “nose” when you have body odor


Nivea Men collaborated with Happiness FCB to to come up with a smartphone app called Nose which will tell men when they smell bad and need to use a deodorant. It’s actually more than just an app. It’s a phone case that has the electronic nose sensors in it plus the app. You hold the phone up to your arm pit and it will tell you if you stink. The ad is certainly tongue and cheek but it looks like this is a real thing that Nivea is testing world wide. They say it will launch onto the consumer market next year.

The personal care industry hires a lot of women!

One of our loyal fans asked me to share this study for the Personal Care Products Council. Do you want to explain to our audience who that is? (Founded in 1894!) So the PCPC has found that not only is the personal care products industry is a major contributor to U.S. Economy. In 2013, the industry added nearly $237 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and supported 3.6 million domestic jobs. But the really interesting finding of this research is that women, including women with diverse backgrounds, are at the heart of the industry. The share of management positions held by women in the personal care products industry is higher than the U.S. average. Women and those with diverse backgrounds account for nearly 74 percent of all industry employment and 61 percent of management positions. Yay! We’ve lamented that aren’t more female cosmetic scientists but they are represented well across the industry as a whole.

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Leec23 says…Such great information. For example, I love how you explain the difference in alcohols, for many years you hear things like “stay away from any products with alcohol, they just dry everything out” Now I understand what alcohols to avoid and what alcohols are good. (I’ll drink to that….)

Madame Broccoli Cupcake says…I love these guys! They’re smart, honest, and the best kind of nerdy. I personally love Randy’s snark, and really enjoy learning about Perry’s various OCD idiosyncrasies.
Personalities aside, I’ve learned so much from this podcast like what types of beauty “hacks” to not waste my time on.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MKP May 24, 2016, 5:57 am

    Hey Ryan & Ryan! ;o)

    Here’s the deal with rats (since you were wondering): They are absolutely adorable, actually, but I believe people get grossed out by their scaly, semi-hairy tails. As Ryan pointed out, rats look a lot like squirrels (whom everyone and their mothers adore), but there is this one big difference. So there you have it. (Bonus fact: Rats do not – I repeat: DO NOT – actually “cause” the plague. It’s fleas that carry the virus. Granted, those fleas may perhaps live on rats. ;o)

    • Randy Schueller May 24, 2016, 6:39 am

      I, Ryan, am offended that you would take Ryan’s side in the Great Rat Debate. (And apparently Mrs. Ryan agrees with me!)

      • MKP May 25, 2016, 2:33 am

        There, dear Ryan, I am afraid you are mistaken. It is Ryan who apparantly took *my* side in the everlasting Great Rat Debate. So thanks to you, Mr. Ryan! (Also, Mrs Ryan does not seem to be a very clear indicator of being on the right side of a given argument. I mean, “the sound of clipping nails”? Come on…! ;-p)

    • Mel May 17, 2017, 2:48 am

      It’s not a virus but a bacterium- Yersinia Pestis.

  • MKP May 25, 2016, 2:37 am

    Here is a use for the Nivea Nose app, you two seem to find so amusing: My poor boyfriend has gotten punched in the nose when he was a kid. As a result of this his sense of smell is seriously impaired. I think for people like him, this app could come in really handy during the day!

    • Randy Schueller May 25, 2016, 8:01 am

      Shopping list for boyfriend: Nivea Nose App, Antiperspirant, Axe Body Spray.

      • MKP May 25, 2016, 2:31 pm

        Bit of a problem there: He does use some Axe, but he can’t use fragranced products too much. (Allergies) So I was wondering if this Odex stuff could possibly be his weapon of choice for when odour has already happened. Do you have any experience with it?

  • Lizzy May 25, 2016, 8:26 am

    I love your urban rodent stories 🙂

    And it’s definitely the tail that scares some people. I think they’re cute!

  • Eileen May 25, 2016, 10:22 am

    I’m definitely on Team Rat. Rats make wonderful pets. They’re easily trained and very affectionate. My sons had them as pets and so did I when I was growing up. They’re smart enough to get the concept of play and they love perching on your shoulder while you go about you work. And, did I mention how much they love to nuzzle? Yes, definitely. Team Rat 🙂 True, they do have some qualities that are not the best: They can carry disease, they can be quite ferocious when starving, etc.—but so can people! 😉

    • Randy Schueller May 25, 2016, 11:33 am

      Let me get this straight: I spend hours researching the latest beauty science news and all you people want to talk about is Ratty Romanowski? Sheesh!

  • MKP May 25, 2016, 2:26 pm

    Teeheehee, they’re just so cuuute! :o)

  • Fernanda May 28, 2016, 5:34 am

    Hello guys!

    My boyfriend just told me a weird fact about Coca Cola, and how it’s often used as a tanning accelerator. This made me wonder what it could be in the coke formula that triggers this reaction, and why? If we are able to find the ingredient maybe this could be used in the beauty industry to create tan accelerating products.

    We were just laughing about doing a patch test on ourselves with different carbonated drinks to see if we can isolate the tanning chemical, but I figured I could try asking you first.

    Thanks for an awesome showgram!

    • Randy Schueller May 28, 2016, 8:33 am

      Hi Fernanda. Coke as a tanning accelerator? I’ve never heard of that and I can’t think of any reason why it would work. My guess is that it’s another urban myth but I’ll see if I can find out anything more. If you do a patch test please let us know!

      • Randy Schueller May 28, 2016, 5:38 pm

        I looked into this and I think it’ll make an interesting discussion for our podcast. Fernanda, would you be interested in recording an audio version of your question we could use on the show? Just record yourself on your smart phone and email it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

  • Sonja May 30, 2016, 8:46 pm

    I’ve heard some awfully hilarious theories on deodorant/antiperspirant on beauty blogs. My favorite was someone who was going to use a Bentonite clay mask to “detox” her armpits as a way to help undo the effects of years of using conventional antiperspirant. I wonder how that worked out for her…

    Also, I’m pro-rat. There were some licensed therapy rats that visited my college every so often and they were really friendly.

  • Coco June 4, 2016, 1:48 am

    In the Great Aluminum Anti-Perspirant Debate, I was surprised that you just addressed Alzheimers and not cancer, specifically breast cancer.


    Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, 2005: “Given the wide exposure of the human population to antiperspirants, it will be important to establish dermal absorption in the local area of the breast and whether long term low level absorption could play a role in the increasing incidence of breast cancer.”


    • Randy Schueller June 4, 2016, 8:17 am

      Thanks for pointing this out. I agree it would have made a nice addition to the discussion.

      According to this 2008 meta-analysis on the link between aluminum salts and breast cancer there doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18829420

      The conclusion of the report “coincides with those of the French, European and American health authorities. After analysis of the available literature on the subject, no scientific evidence to support the hypothesis was identified and no validated hypothesis appears likely to open the way to interesting avenues of research.”

  • Astha June 16, 2016, 4:20 pm

    I have never come across a case of tumor associated with aluminium.

  • Heather Isobel September 12, 2016, 9:03 pm

    Thanks for your informative podcast. I was looking into each of the products you mention that contain kerabeads/ vegebeads but when I look at the ingredients list of each one (one n’ only, perfectly posh, etc.) I cant find a consistent ingredient on the different labels. I would love to try the beads for myself. When I go to the website itself, it looks as though I can only order samples. I was thinking of making a mixture of the samples and my own oils, have you got any advice or suggestions? Thank you. -Heather

    • Randy Schueller September 12, 2016, 9:18 pm

      Hi Heather. These kera/vegabeads are new so we’ve never worked with them but in our experience, formulating with such active ingredients can be tricky for even the most experienced formulator. I’d be concerned that you may not get the efficacy you’re looking for if you’re just trying to DIY it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any more details on specific products that use them as an ingredient.

      • Elena November 29, 2016, 4:18 am

        I contacted the company you mentioned- Earth Supplied Products- and asked what products contain it and they mentioned they recently had a client, Vitruvian Beauty so I ordered their Split End Treatment which just came out. I didn’t find it to be particularly conditioning but if it mends the ends I’ll finish the bottle and try Living Proof next. The One N Only has horrible reviews wonder what’s causing people to hate it.

        It is irritating there’s not an ingredient to look for on the labels- wouldn’t companies be proud of using new technology and prominently feature Kerabeads as their star ingredient?!

  • medtravels December 5, 2018, 4:20 am

    This is very nice blog. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • Vicky Bhandari December 15, 2018, 10:22 am

    really useful article and thanks for sharing.