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Alum in cosmetics. Beneficial or harmful?

Hi,

Let me invite you to my first (and perhaps not the last one) entry on ‘ingredients in cosmetics.’ This time, on the tapis we have alum which is an extremely popular mineral added to no-aluminium deodorants, these high-sounding eco products. Is it really that safe as it’s said to be?

It all began some time ago with researches on the damaging effect of aluminium salts and the connection of antiperspirant application to breast cancer. I know that I want to discuss the issue which some of you might consider thorny but I’d like to shatter a few myths about alum. Many of these untrue pieces of information are just taken from unreliable sources and thoughtlessly used as arguments on numerous blogs. The truth though might be really surprising.

Eco-ingredient. What’s alum?

I’d describe alum as a designer’s crystal that can be used as an alternative to a regular antiperspirant. And when I wrote ‘crystal’, I didn’t describe its shape. Alum is a crystallized mineral appearing in nature, not produced in laboratories.

Natural and ecological

It’s said that alum is ecological. It’s obtained from natural sources and is used in the field of cosmetics without any further processing or combining with other substances.

However, it doesn’t always look that simple because there are two types of alum that appear naturally (potassium aluminum and aluminum hydride). There is also a third type of alum (aluminum ammonium) which is really rare and frequently it’s produced from alunite. The ingredients are crumbled, boiled in acid, combined with a few substances and then processed appropriately. Would you agree that this doesn’t sound that cool, eco and natural…?

Alum. No-aluminium antiperspirant?

Supporters of alum recognize this substance as a better alternative to antiperspirant, which in most cases contains aluminium. If you happen to become a committed and enthusiastic supporter of alum, then please don’t use this argument because it simply doesn’t make any sense.

Antiperspirant alternatives

To me, this issue is simple – if we avoid drugstore antiperspirants due to their damaging aluminium content, then alum won’t serve us well either. Its naturalness is the consequence of its natural origins, not because its action is safe. Therefore, for daily use I’d recommend to apply some safe antiperspirant (e.g. with clay or sodium) which absorbs moisture and is good at cleansing skin from bacteria, toxins and impurities.

What are the properties of alum?

Let’s get back to the benefits of alum. The fact that it looks really effective is simple to notice just at the first glimpse. From my own experience I can also add that:

  • alum is fragrance-free;
  • doesn’t have any colour so it doesn’t stain clothes;
  • it’s really efficient because the crystal uses up really slowly;
  • it dissolves in water really easily;
  • doesn’t contain parabens, preservatives, etc.

Effects of using alum

First and foremost, it’s a substance that is antiseptic which means that it knows how to deal with various types of bacteria which appear on skin and are responsible for this unpleasant smell that we want to camouflage. Alum eliminates this odor which makes it similar to deodorant, not antiperspirant. It won’t make us sweat less or prevent this blemishing sweat marks under our armpits. People who expect alum to block perspiration will be bitterly disappointed –  let me just warn you.

Is alum safe?

Actually, there is no precise answer to this question. Surely, it’s safer than many antiperspirants available in a drugstore because it lacks parabens, preservatives, synthetic fragrances and other similar.

However, it must be realized that alum is a substance containing aluminium salts, so it isn’t totally safe. I wrote ‘totally’ because there were too few researches ran to proof the product’s ability to penetrate the organizm. In theory, alum is supposed to remain on skin without penetrating our natural protective lips barrier.

To sum up, despite the originality of alum, I remain faithful to regular antiperspirants. Of course, I always do my best to choose the most natural product which at the same time prevents sweating. Alumn, however, only covers up the problem.

What’s your opinion on this topic?

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