Antiperspirant and Deodorant
Antiperspirant and deodorant are two of the most common cosmetic ingredients used in the United States, and are often used together in one product. They are considered very safe (mild allergic reasons can occur), especially given that 90% of Americans are estimated to use these products every day.
Antiperspirant: used to reduce the amount of sweat/wetness; most common active ingredients are aluminum salts which block sweat glands.
Deodorant: used to reduce odor and the number of bacteria in the underarm; usually ethanol-based
The long-term effects of widespread use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants are unknown and is commonly questioned, although there is no consistent evidence indicating any long-term adverse health effect. However, a potential increased risk of breast cancer appears to be the leading possible negative outcome, but this is also refuted by numerous health organizations.
Aluminum (Al) pervades the environment and its safety in humans has been studied for more than a hundred years. Humans are constantly exposed to AI, especially through food (tea leaves, cocoa, breads, cakes, spinach, radishes, mushrooms, and canned goods); aluminum is found in the blood and urine of all humans.
AI compounds have been used in antiperspirants since 1903 and are currently located in other products such as toothpaste, cooking utensils, sunscreen, baking foil, drugs, and cosmetics. In cosmetics, they are used as pigmentation and thickening agents.
There is no safety information regarding the use of deodorants and antiperspirants during human pregnancy. They usually studied in the context of other cosmetic/beauty products while assessing the safety of phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break).
Excess oral intake of AI in pregnant animal studies have shown adverse effects, and AI has been identified in placental tissues and umbilical cords. However, malformations and other adverse effects are not consistent. Further, the sources of AI exposure were not antiperspirant/deodorant use, oral doses were much higher than human consumption through food, and some studies included AI with other toxic metals.
The difficulty in determining toxicity regarding antiperspirant use is that the systemic absorption rate is not known and has only recently been studied; these studies have, however, indicated that AI absorption rate appears to be “negligible” to “very low”, and therefore may only be an additional minor exposure rate compared to background rates (i.e. environment, food).
There is limited to no data regarding antiperspirant and deodorant use during pregnancy or how the ingredients in these products could affect the fetus. However, it is currently assessed absorption rate is likely very low, and the nine-month time frame of exposure is likely too short for any negative outcomes.
Women should direct all questions regarding antiperspirant and deodorant use during pregnancy to their HCP.