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In an effort to curb underarm sweat, many antiperspirants are made with aluminum compounds. Like many heavy metals, aluminum appears to have an antagonistic relationship with a handful of other essential trace minerals (i.e., copper, silicon, magnesium, and iron). While no recent studies have shown a direct causative relationship between aluminum and hair loss equivalent to those seen with other heavy metals like mercury, its relationship with other systems may hold the key to understanding how disruptive this metal can really be — especially when it comes to your hair health.
Aluminum’s attack on trace minerals
Aluminum seems to have a very high affinity for the trace mineral silicon. This is problematic for hair health because higher silicon content in the hair has been linked to decreased rates of hair loss and can lead to improvements in the hair’s brightness and shine. Elevated levels of aluminum in the body will bind to and deactivate silicon, rendering it useless. Using an aluminum-based antiperspirant can also cause issues for your skin and nails, as silicon seems to have a vital impact on collagen, keratin, and glycosaminoglycan function. (Glycosaminoglycans are long chains of sugar that are used to create the hair-building and nail-growing protein, keratin.)
According to a 2014 study, silicon isn’t the only metal that has a problem with the presence of aluminum: When present in humans, aluminum replaces both magnesium and iron, which disrupts cellular communication, metabolism, and function — all crucial for proper hair growth.
A rise in free radicals
High levels of continued exposure to aluminum may also result in the depletion of the body’s natural defenses against free radicals and ultimately lead to cellular damage in sensitive tissues. The antioxidant systems in our bodies are meant to handle free radicals; however, chronic, daily exposure to toxins eventually overwhelms the system and can lead to cell damage. Due to its high affinity to silicon, aluminum is drawn into hair tissues (which has naturally high levels of silicon). The cellular damage at the follicle may result in hair thinning or loss, and it can make it more difficult for your follicle to create high-quality hair fibers as it grows in.
Fun fact: The skin is the largest organ of elimination in the entire body. One study showed that the skin plays a role in excretion of toxins. But when you use aluminum-based antiperspirants, you’re actually blocking up — and thus, effectively deactivating — one of your body’s largest organs of detoxification. When toxins can’t escape through the skin, it may lead to strain on other organs of elimination (i.e., kidneys and liver), potentially allowing toxicants to stay in the system longer. Prolonged presence of these agents may result in free radical damage and cellular death.
Toss your aluminum-based products
It is much easier to avoid toxin exposure than it is to remove it once in the body. Many heavy metals can take several years to be eliminated from the body, and aluminum is no different. Some sources have listed that it could take up to seven years for aluminum to be removed from some organ tissues. Steering clear from aluminum-based antiperspirants may be the first step in improving the quality of your hair and general health.
In addition to avoiding aluminum-based antiperspirants, utilizing a product like Nutrafol’s Liver Support may be helpful because it contains liver-loving botanicals that help neutralize toxins, nourish liver cells, combat free radicals, and increase antioxidant defenses in the body. With liver health properly supported, you are more likely to experience positive energy, glowing skin, and a more comfortable digestion.
If you discover your go-to antiperspirant is aluminum-based, it’s worth it to find a suitable replacement. You may find that after an initial period of switching to an aluminum-free deodorant that your body odor may be stronger than normal. This is often the result of poor local detoxification due to the use of the antiperspirant (but after a 2-3 week period, the odor will most likely decrease). Your hair will thank you for making the switch.