What’s wrong with natural deodorants? You may be surprised to find aluminium.

Well, the real answer may be that many people find that natural deodorants just don’t work as well. But that isn’t what I was going to talk about in this post. Instead, I wanted to talk about what is in what many consider to be the most natural of all the natural deodorants – the crystal rock deodorant.

Now, some people switch to natural deodorants because they want to avoid aluminium. Aluminium is present in many conventional anti-perspirants, although it isn’t typically found in conventional deodorants. An increased amount of aluminium is found in the brains of many Alzheimer’s patients. Aluminium is a neurotoxin at high doses. However, aluminium in anti-perspirants has not been shown to cause Alzheimer’s, and the absorption of aluminium from anti-perspirants may be low although it does occur. While some animal studies have shown that high doses of the same aluminium salts used in anti-perspirants have detrimental impacts, The Alzheimer’s Society concludes that the evidence does not demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer’s.

So, even though the science does not confirm a link to Alzheimer’s, some people prefer products without aluminium. So they switch to natural deodorants. Other people want to avoid other ingredients commonly found in conventional anti-perspirants and deodorants, such as parabens, phthalates, and more. So they switch to natural deodorants. And some people just want to avoid the disposable plastic that comes with most conventional anti-perspirants and deodorants. So they switch to natural deodorants with less packaging.

All of those are valid reasons. But, if you are switching to a “natural” deodorant to avoid aluminium, then the natural deodorant better not have aluminium, right?

The thing is – those crystal deodorants contain aluminium.  Just check out the ingredients here, including the original Rock with ammonium alum. Ammonium alum is ammonium aluminium sulfate. Potassium alum, or hydrated aluminium potassium sulfate, may also be used. Now, it is true that the aluminium compounds are different in the rock crystal deodorants than in most conventional deodorants, and may be absorbed differently, but they still contain aluminium. And it is aluminium which is considered a neurotoxin that penetrates the blood-brain barrier. It is a bit misleading for The Original Crystal Rock to suggest that it is only aluminium chlorohydrate that is a neurotoxin.

In any event, it just seems to me that if you want to avoid aluminium, then you shouldn’t use the crystal deodorants. And keep in mind that those cystal rocks aren’t just mined naturally. They are as close to the aluminium compounds mined as sodium laureth sulfate is to coconuts. In other words, not much.

In any event, I find baking powder is the easiest and cheapest. Just put some in a small dish – I use a dish that used to have some fancy dusting powder and a pouf to put on the baking soda. It works wonders. Some people like a lit bit more to their deodorant, so you can make  your own. The best recipe is 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup corn startch and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Heat over low heat, until the coconut oil melts and the ingredients are combined. Pour liquid into container of your choice (re-use an old stick deodorant container). Let it cool. You can add some essential oil to the mixture if you want some more scent. Enviromom posts about her efforts with a slightly different recipe that doesn’t involve cooking.

If you don’t believe me and want a product, try Weleda. I like Weleda Citrus Deodorant. Now, the ingredients include the dreaded “fragrance” but the fragrance is from natural essential oils. And all those potentially yucky sounding chemicals – limonene, linalool, geraniol, citral, and farnesol – are the componds that make essential oils smell. Linalool is the top note in lavender essential oil. The information is included because the European Union’s rule requiring identification of certain potential allergens. And essential oils contain compounds which can cause allergic reactions in some people.

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  1. There is a proofreading error at the end of the second paragraph that is confusing the meaning of the whole sentence. And there’s another proofreading error in the beginning of the third paragraph, although that one doesn’t distract from the meaning.

    Thanks for this information! I haven’t figured out how to get by without the anti-perspirant aspect, so I guess I’m stuck with commercial brands.

  2. Great post. Love the recipe, too. Haven’t seen one with coconut oil before. I may have to try this!

  3. when i made some home made deodorant I made the mistake of using baking powder- containing aluminum sulfate. I can’t believe we bake with aluminum. I am kind of afraid to use it now to bake.

  4. I’m getting closer and closer to trying my own..thanks for the push =)

  5. Once I began using Miessence Aroma-free deodorant it took me awhile to detox. I thought I was stinky all the time. But now it works better than the old antiperspirants I used for years. I also keep some in my purse to freshen up during the warmer months. I feel much better now that I can allow my body to do what it needs to without harmful chemicals getting in the way.

  6. What a great resource!

  7. Excellent post! Thanks for posting the recipe, too. I’ll try it soon.

  8. I like the baking soda pouf idea—I might try that sometime.

    I didn’t switch to the Crystal deodorant to avoid aluminum—I haven’t seen convincing evidence that it’s a problem—but I think you mischaracterize it. Saying that aluminum chlorohydrate (or aluminum zirconium) is the same as aluminum potassium sulfate (potassium alum) is like saying sodium chloride (table salt) is the same as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). From what I’ve read, aluminum potassium sulfate is a much larger molecule that can’t be absorbed through our pores.

  9. Pam Awad says:

    I definitely love the idea of natural non-lethal products for skin care. One thing I have noticed since beginning to ingest diatomaceous earth (food grade) on a fairly regular basis, is the face that it takes much MUCH longer to actually produce body odor of all kinds…so those gentle essential oil blends I have put together work much more efficiently, and can serve as my main line of defense in the war again “odor”. Also, it can be applied with the pouf just as baking soda or any other powder, and does an excellent job this way as well, although it does have an extremely drying effect so extended or regular use in this fashion should be modified accordingly…i.e.use plenty of moistening agents of your choice. These days my flavor of choice for deodorizing body parts is rosewood essential oil. It is very gentle, sweet and woodsy, and affordable. Wish I could spring for rose, but not today! 🙂 Happy Journey!

  10. The only truly natural and organic brand I have found that actually works is the MiEssence brand. I still stink with any other kind I have tried.


  11. I recently started using only baking soda and it works great! Even better than the crystal. I’m curious about your recipe. I’ll have to try it!

  12. Mmahboubian says:

    Hats off you you Smart Mama! I wrote to Weleda for clarification and received a response that supports what you stated in your above article. Thanks for your informed blog.

  13. Marly Harris says:

    More than a year ago, I read Dr. Roy Mankovitz’s book The Wellness Project and learned about using milk of magnesia as a deodorant. So, I bought the huge blue bottle of Phillips and I apply the liquid daily with a cotton pad. I work out every day and I never have a bad odor. Plus, and this surprised me, my underarm skin looks so silky now. I wrote to Dr. Mankovitz to thank him and we began a brief correspondence (he’s actually a rocket scientist and amazingly brilliant). Now I see that the pharmacist, Tom Graedon, has developed a magnesium roll-on deodorant. It’s a bit more convenient than doing it as I do. The surprising thing is that the white liquid dries immediately and does not leave any residue on my black clothes.

  14. Some baking powder has aluminum in it so I would assume you would want to check to see before you use it for deodorant. Would you find that to be true?

  15. Geoffrey2300 says:

    Excellent article but on using baking soda, if it doesn’t say, “aluminum free” then you are getting aluminum from your baking soda. Sodium aluminum sulfate is one of the components of regular baking soda.

  16. Have you seen this database of ingredients and any possible harmful effects? http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ I used it to search the ingredients of the deodorant rocks and it states that the ammonium allum contained in the rocks are very minimally harmful, rating a 1 on their scale. Baking soda actually gets a 2 (a worse score). So I’m not sure that baking soda is any better than the rocks. Either choice is a lot better than standard deodorants, I think. All aluminum is not the same, so be careful about generalizing.

  17. Valerie – Yes, I’m familiar with the Skin Deep database. And while I think it is fabulous, I always caution people because often compounds with little to no testing data get low scores, so one needs to carefully read the data gaps information provided.nnAnd I appreciate your comment. I did try to point out in the original post that not all aluminum compounds are the same, and that the aluminum compound present in the crystal rock deodorant is a different aluminum compound and one that is not exepcted to be absorbed the same. The point wasn’t to say crystal rock deodorants are bad, just to caution consumers that they need to be careful that they are buying what they think they are bottom.

  18. Magnesium Oil (magnesium chloride) works as a wonderful deodorant, I mean NO odor! Considering most are deficient and magnesium is absorbed better topically than ingested, you can help kill two birds with one stone.

  19. I tried to post this on facebook, but FB thinks that thesmartmama.com is either ‘a spam site, or is unsafe’.

    I’d like to foreward this article. Do you host it elsewhere? Do you authorize people to copy-paste it in its entirety, crediting you with authorship?

  20. @Brenda Pike…That is a misconception that the crystal deodorant manufacturers want you to believe. The molecule of the potassium aluminum sulfate is actually SMALLER than aluminum chlorohydrate. Here’s an article in detail: http://chemicaloftheday.squarespace.com/most-controversial/2010/3/8/exposing-more-truths-about-alum.html

  21. Incorrect. Alum IS NOT aluminum. Alum is alum potasium sufate…no aluminum in it. This is what you want to use to make your deo…its all natural and found with the spices. If you buy something in a store that is listing something diff….don’t buy it until you study up on your ingredients.

  22. The term “alum” by itself is both a specific chemical compound and also used to refer to a class of chemicals. The specific chemical compound “alum” is hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate (aka potassium alum) with the formula KAl(SO4)2·12H2O (which does have the chemical element aluminum in it). More widely, alums are double sulfate salts, with the formula AM(SO4)2·12H2O, where A is a monovalent cation such as potassium or ammonium and M is a trivalent metal ion such as aluminium or chromium(III). The original rock mentioned in the article has “ammonium alum” which is ammonium aluminum sulfate, a white crystalline double sulfate.

  23. It seems that that there there is some confusion between baking soda and baking powder. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, nothing else–no aluminum. Baking POWDER is a blend of baking soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch. They may switch out the cream of tartar and cornstarch for other ingredients, some of which include aluminum. Baking soda never contains aluminum.

  24. Lavilin contains no aluminum at all and is a fantastic alternative to commercial brands out there. It is also paraben-free and works very well for people with sensitive skin. I’ve been a happy customer for nearly a decade now and have only very positive things to say about Lavilin.

  25. I actually just use fine cooking salt, add water and use that as a deodorant. Very effective and cheap.

  26. I like Lavilin. No aluminum, no parabens. Smells really good! Most people use the cream, but I prefer the roll-on, since I don’t like getting the cream on my fingers. Highly recommended!


  1. […] I wanted to talk about what is in what many consider to be the most natural of all the natural deodorants – the crystal rock deodorant. But, if you are switching to a “natural” deodorant to avoid aluminium, then the natural deodorant better not have aluminium, right? The thing is – those crystal deodorants contain aluminium. […]

  2. […] What’s wrong with natural deodorants? You may be surprised to find aluminium. […]

  3. […] linked to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.  These finding haven’t been confirmed and The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health and the FDA stand their ground claiming that no evidence or research […]

  4. […] To get controversial, some green folks even avoid the crystal because it has aluminum from the earth (not the kind linked to Alzheimer’s). Jennifer wrote a post about how crystal deodorant does contain a type of aluminum. […]

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