Friday, October 11, 2019

Ingredient highlight: Aluminum

Well hello again. I've been a busy bee these past few months and have been lax on posting. But I have been thinking about topics I wanted to research and write about so here I am for a long overdue ingredient highlight on Aluminum. I have been wanting to know more about aluminum in body care ingredients for awhile. They are one of those "scary" ingredients and I wasn't completely sure why so I went on a quest. 

Let's start with the basics. What is aluminum? Aluminum (Al) is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic metal. Aluminum is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. It makes up about 8% by mass of the crust. Aluminum metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and it is usually found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminum is bauxite. 

In what products is aluminum primarily found? Aluminum-containing raw materials are used safely and extensively in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. In cosmetics, they function as pigments and thickening agents. Aluminum compounds also function as active ingredients in OTC drugs such as antacids and antiperspirants. Because aluminum is present in soil, most exposure comes from foods we eat and the water we drink.  Studies demonstrate a negligible potential for Aluminum salts to penetrate the skin. Any small amount absorbed from the use of cosmetic products, would be tiny in comparison to the amounts we consume in the foods we eat daily.
https://cosmeticsinfo.org/aluminum

Next I asked the Google "How does aluminum work in anti-perspirants?" This answer popped up: Aluminium-based antiperspirants work by blocking the sweat ducts, thereby reducing the amount of sweat that reaches the skin's surface. ... When they are applied to the skin and come in contact with sweat, the pH rises causing the aluminium salts to precipitate out and form a plug over the sweat glands.  https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/antiperspirant/

Then I navigated over to cancer.org and typed in "aluminum". Have you ever been to this site? It seems good, they present information in a very neutral way which I like. On their site they first outline the claims that are going around and then they proceed to address them with facts that are backed up by scientific studies. If the studies that they reference are weak (or later disproven as it sometimes happens) they are up front about that as well, all in all I like this site. Anyway I digress back to my findings on the site about aluminum. In a nutshell through all the solid studies that have been done there is no link between aluminum and breast cancer. The information they had there was extremely insightful and there was quite a bit of it too, instead of repeating what they have written I am adding the link and encouraging you to take a look at the information there, it's a great read > https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk.html

Another concern I read about was aluminum exposure and a possible link to alzheimer's or dementia. This is of particular concern and interest to me because I have older relatives that have suffered with this affliction and we really don't know what caused it. So I dug in on the site alzdiscovery.org. Their information was neat because it spoke of aluminum use in multiple capacities from being in the drinking water to being in anti-perspirants. At this time all research is pointing towards the fact that neither of these diseases are caused by aluminum. I am dropping the link to their site below for your reading pleasure as well.  
https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/blog/is-there-a-link-between-aluminum-and-alzheimers

Now I think it would be abundantly easier on society as a whole to just find that "bad" or "dangerous" ingredient that causes all the ailments what make people sick and just eliminate it but things will never be that easy. Certainly there have been recalls of products and ingredients which were believed to be safe then found later to either be unsafe or ineffective or highly allergenic or otherwise unusable to the public at large but it's not that common. Why you may ask? Well simply because before an ingredient is even available to be used in a formulation it's been tested extensively and exhaustively to know the safety data. Staple ingredients like aluminum are then placed on a list by the FDA of acceptable to use for _____ in this case I am referring to its use in antiperspirants. Aluminum is, in fact, the ONLY ingredient that the FDA has listed as approved in creating a product that acts as antiperspirants do.
You can search through product recalls here>>> https://www.fda.gov/safety/archive-recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/2018-recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts

It seems that there were more issues with food or drug items being recalled due to contamination or concerns over sterility (in the case of drug manufacturing) than over an ingredient that was going to cause cancer or some other disease.

As always I encourage those in my tribe to be informed consumers and know the relevant data backed resources in which to pull information from when trying to make a decision about the health and safety of yourself and your family. There are great resources available to us in this day and age thanks to the internet. There are also terrible resources available because every "Karen" and "Chad" with an internet connection can just write whatever pleases them and some are convincing enough to sway public opinion which I think is a real shame. When I am looking for answers I turn to science and I always will. I hope that whatever resources you trust are ones that are keeping you and yours on a safe and happy path in life.

'Til next time
~Your (science nerd) Soapsmith