Aluminium is a nonmagnetic and silvery-white metal. It is a very reactive element and commonly found to be combined with other elements like oxygen, silicon and fluorine. Aluminium metal is used in making beverage cans, pots and pans, siding and roofing and foil and aluminium compounds are diversely used in most industries, for example, cosmetics and personal care, pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries.
The insoluble forms of aluminium commonly used in coloured lipsticks and in toothpaste to remove the tooth staining caused by tea or coffee.
Recently, there has been a raised concern on the effect of aluminium on the human body, and a 2013 documentary ‘The Age of Aluminium’ further explains the possible link between deodorants containing aluminium salts and breast cancer.
In Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products studies conducted by Liu et al, most lip products tested contained a high level of titanium and aluminium. However, that is not it, other metals were tested to be in the lip product as well, which are lead, manganese, cadmium, chromium. As we all know these trace element may low in quantities but maybe a time-bomb in our body in the long run.
According to Paula’s Choice Skincare, here are some commonly used aluminium compound as an ingredient in cosmetics;-
- Aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium chloride contains a minute quantity of pure aluminium and can be found in antiperspirant and deodorants and some medications with an extensive safety record.
- Aluminium chlorohydrates is effective in controlling perspiration and odours. The small crystals are formed at the mouth of the channels through sweat flows to reduce the sweating.
- Another ingredient is alumina or aluminium oxide or aluminium hydroxide. Which is a combination of minerals that contain various mixtures of aluminium, silica, chloride or zirconium and oxygen. These can also easily be found in cosmetics, medicines and medical devices.
- Magnesium aluminium silicate is refined from clay and act like a sponge or absorber ingredient in cosmetics and does not penetrate the skin. Unless it is specifically altered and engineered to do so.
- Aluminium starch is made from a reaction of a plant-derived ingredient (starch) and used as a thickening or absorbent agent in cosmetics.
- Aluminium powder the most used in cosmetics as a colourant, a thickening agent to avoid ‘bleeding’ in lipstick and substrate upon which another colour is precipitated.
So how are we exposed to aluminium? There are a few ways how aluminium can enter our body; through inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact. Aluminium occurs naturally in the environment and it is cannot be destroyed but changes its form or attached or separated from particles. It would then settle in the water or soils. This explained why most unprocessed foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and meat may contain very little amount of aluminium. It is also present in the air we breathe in too. It appears in fact, that we are more exposed to aluminium through food and drink more than in the personal care products. But does this mean that we should be using products that contain aluminium?
Over inhalation of aluminium dust especially for those who work closely in aluminium industries may come across of having higher chances of incurring lung problems such as coughing and changes that can be seen through chest X-rays and some even show a decrease in performance in the test that measures functions of the nervous system.
Those with kidney disease are even at greater risk! This is because less aluminium is secreted out from the body in the urine which may lead to bone or brain disease.
Food and Drug Association (FDA) ruled that all the above aluminium compound is safe to be used and apply to body. The Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) has suggested that a human exposure study under real-life conditions need to be conducted.
There is no clear evidence that the level of aluminium used in cosmetic is carcinogenic, increase the risk of breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or chronic neurodegenerative diseases.
Nevertheless, health is something we should never take for granted. Using an ingredient that is confidently safe with supporting research is something we should priorities. Otherwise, it is better to go for something safer and not potentially harmful.
Now that you know the potential harm of using aluminium, you can make an informed decision when you purchase your next beauty products!