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Alum as a substitute for deodorant and antiperspirant

Deodorant is a commonly used product to combat unpleasant sweat odors. Using deodorant, and especially antiperspirant, can have a number of disadvantages, causing some people to look for an alternative. Alum can be a good remedy for these people. The product is cheap, natural and very effective against unpleasant sweat odors. Alum has been used as a deodorant for centuries. The only downside is that alum, like antiperspirant, also contains aluminum compounds, which some people prefer to avoid due to its bad image.


Deodorant is used by many under the armpits to prevent sweating and to cover up unpleasant odors. A deodorant often also means an antiperspirant. The difference is that a deodorant covers up odors, while an antiperspirant prevents sweating. Deodorant often contains perfumes that cover up the odor and acids that prevent bacterial growth. It is often the bacteria under the armpit that cause the typical sweat odor.


The active ingredient in most antiperspirants is aluminum chlorohydrate. This substance reacts with the fatty acids on the skin, creating substances that clog the pores. This causes the sweat ducts to close and you can sweat less or not at all where the antiperspirant has been applied. Most deodorants on the market contain both an odor-blocking agent and an antiperspirant agent.

Disadvantages of deodorant

Using deodorant and antiperspirant can have some disadvantages for some.


Using deodorant can lead to skin irritation. Irritation often causes symptoms such as itching, dry skin and red rash, but pain under the armpits can also be a symptom. People with sensitive skin are more likely to experience irritation from deodorant.

Blocking sweat ducts

Frequent daily use of an antiperspirant can clog the pores under the armpit. If this happens, you should temporarily stop using antiperspirant.

Yellow spots

The salts found in antiperspirant and many deodorants can leave unpleasant stains on clothing. Especially when these salts are mixed with sweat and bacteria, the salts can react on the clothing.


In the past, studies have been conducted into the link between breast cancer and the use of deodorant. Although some studies claim to have found a link, this is not recognized by doctors and cancer institutes. The reason for this is that the studies were incomplete or incorrectly conducted. Despite this advice, some people still want to be on the safe side and prefer not to use deodorant.

Alzheimer’s disease

In Alzheimer’s patients, the aluminum level in the neurons is higher than in healthy people. This could possibly mean that aluminum in the body could lead to Alzheimer’s. Although several studies have been done, until 2016 there has never been scientifically proven a link between the use of deodorant and Alzheimer’s disease.


Alum is a colorless or white crystal composed of various salts and metals. Alum can be found in nature, but nowadays it is more often made chemically from bauxite through electrolysis. In ancient Egypt, the natural form of alum was already used against sweating. Alum is also sometimes used as a styptic after shaving. When using alum as a deodorant, the alum stone is first wet and the salts dissolve. After this, it can be applied under the armpit. Only a small amount remains on the skin, which means that an alum stone lasts a very long time.

Different types of alum

Most types of alum consist of potassium aluminum sulphate with the chemical formula KAl(SO4)2.12 H2O. This common variety of alum is often extracted from bauxite, which is a natural material found on Earth. But there are several types of alum. The most natural type is soda alum, which consists of sodium aluminum sulfate. This is extracted in dry climates such as deserts. This species is not used for deodorant, but as baking powder in foods. There is also ammonium alum, or aluminum ammonium sulphate. The latter type is also used in some cases in alum as a deodorant.


Alum works in a similar way to a deodorant, as it blocks the sweat ducts and prevents bacterial growth. Alum contracts the skin by binding to the proteins on the skin. The protein particles end up in the opening of a sweat duct, which hinders sweating. In addition, alum lowers the pH of the skin, making bacteria growth less likely. This will prevent any unpleasant sweat odors from arising.

Benefits of alum as a deodorant

Alum has a number of advantages over deodorant.

  • The chance of irritation is much smaller with alum. It contains no perfume or alcohol.
  • Alum is a cheaper alternative to deodorant because it lasts a very long time.
  • It does not stain clothes.
  • Alum is a natural product, although many types are now made synthetically.
  • Alum does not have a bad effect on the environment.


Aluminum in alum

Like deodorant, alum contains aluminum compounds, which some people associate with the diseases breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. The difference is that the type of connection is slightly different. Where an antiperspirant often consists of aluminum hydrochloride, alum usually contains potassium aluminum sulphate and sometimes aluminum ammonium sulphate. Proponents claim that the molecules from these mineral salts are larger and therefore not absorbed by the skin. Opponents argue that aluminum compounds on the skin should be avoided altogether. Finally, it is the scientists who report that it has never been proven that aluminum is absorbed through the skin.