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Topic: Alum in products?  (Read 71554 times)

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Alum in products?
« on: May 04, 2005, 05:34:08 PM »
I am trying to market a Potassium Alum deodorant product and need to know how safe the ingredient is (alum).  How safe is alum for skin contact?  Is alum the same as aluminum, or close enough to be just as much of a health concern?  Alternatives to aluminum-based deodorants are made of Potassium Alum, as a solid potassium alum "rock" or dissolved in water as a spray.  

Companies that market similar alum deodorant products to the one I am considering marketing say that...
"Potassium alum molecules have a negative ionic charge, making it unable to pass through the cell wall. THEY ARE NOT ABSORBED.  This is why (alum) deodorants are safe to use and will not cause high levels of ALUMINUM in your system.  ALUM and ALUMINUM are two different substances, with distinct chemical signatures.  They possess different chemical properties which create different chemical attributes."

Are these claims accurate or marketing jibberish?  Is alum really safe?  Before putting my life savings on the line I need to be sure I believe in the product.


Offline constant thinker

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Re:Alum in products?
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2005, 08:24:36 PM »

Appearantly Alum is Aluminum. It contains aluminum but is very different. Those 2 links kwill show you the chemical compositions. It is a naturally mined ore but can be synthesised. It is refered to as "Deoderant Stone". 1 website called it a salt, but I question that. From what I found online I say you stick with buying the stick. It'll be easier unless you can find someone with more knowledge. If you have sensitive underarms like me buy a gel deoderant. Hope I helped a little.
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Re:Alum in products?
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2005, 01:05:07 AM »
Thanks ct

It is hard to know who to believe.  Alum is obviously different than aluminum just by looking at them, like comparing metal to rock salt.  Of course I need to know if alum is harmful and if it is absorbed by the body, as aluminum does.

I do use the alum deodorant stuff, and am thinking of starting a business around it, so it's important to know for sure.  One "alum scare" investigative report on 20/20 could destroy my business, if alum turns out to be harmful.  Of course I also don't want to use or sell unhealthy product.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2005, 01:05:55 AM by Rich »

Offline eugenedakin

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Re:Alum in products?
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2005, 11:38:53 PM »
Hello Rich,

Alum is not the same as aluminium.  Alum is a common name for 'Aluminium Sulphate'.  I use Alum in treating potable and waste water.  Alum (in its acidic liquid form) is used to form 'flocs' when clarifying water.  Aluminum is the term used for metal which is used in making light weight/strong frames in motorcycles, etc...

Safety of Alum is a 'relative'  term.  It depends on its application, background contaminants, available catalysts, and many other variables. Any chemical in a high enough dosage will eventually cause mortality (use the example of inhalation of H2O  ;) ).

Since Alum does contain Aluminium, it is possible that some will be absorbed through the skin.  I have not read literature that concretely supports or deny's this aspect.

Aluminium can be accumulated by the body (Example: Alzheimers Patients), but current literature is still defining mechanisms of this pathway and the reagent(s) that contribute to its accumulation.

Best of luck with your business decision.

I hope this helps,


« Last Edit: April 09, 2007, 04:31:46 PM by eugenedakin »
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Re:Alum in products?
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2005, 12:15:28 AM »
Thanks Eugene for the information.  I didn't know alum was used to treat water.  The poison is in the dose is also good to know.  I guess anything that kills bacteria cells can kill human cells too if the dose is high enough.  Thanks for the help.


Offline billnotgatez

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Re:Alum in products?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2005, 06:06:51 AM »
Several entries found for Alum in various dictionaries
 1   Any of various double sulfates of a trivalent metal such as aluminum, chromium, or iron and a univalent metal such as potassium or sodium, especially aluminum potassium sulfate, AlK(SO4)2·12H2O, widely used in industry as clarifiers, hardeners, and purifiers and medicinally as topical astringents and styptics.
 2   An alumna or alumnus.
    Any of various double sulfates of a trivalent metal such as aluminum or iron and a univalent metal such as potassium or sodium that are used as topical astringents and styptics.
1 : either of two colorless or white crystalline double sulfates of aluminum used in medicine internally as emetics and locally as astringents and styptics: a : one KAl(SO4)2·12H2O that is a sulfate of aluminum and potassium called also potassium alum b : one consisting of an ammonium aluminum sulfate NH4Al(SO4)2·12H2O called also ammonia alum, ammonium alum
2 : any of various double salts isomorphous with potassium aluminum sulfate
 1: a white crystalline double sulfate of aluminum: the ammonium double sulfate of aluminum [syn: ammonia alum, ammonium alum] 2: a white crystalline double sulfate of aluminum: the potassium double sulfate of aluminum [syn: potassium alum, potash alum] 3: a person who has received a degree from a school (high school or college or university) [syn: alumnus, alumna, graduate, grad] 4: a double sulphate of aluminum and potassium that is used as an astringent (among other things)


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Re:Alum in products?
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2005, 03:06:32 PM »
I am researching this same issue.  I had high school and college chemistry but am not really knowledgable.  From various sources around the Net, here is what I have been able to find out about antiperspirant and deodorant active ingredients.  This is all to the best of my understanding and interpretation, my apologies for any inaccuracies, corrections appreciated:

Body odor results from bacteria growing in nice warm water (i.e. sweat).  You can control it by stopping the sweat and/or by restricting the bacteria.  You might also not want the wetness itself.

Regular antiperspirant works by having an ingredient off a short FDA list, all of which are aluminum salts.  When water from sweat mixes with one of these salts, their component chemicals break apart into “ions”, which are positively or negatively charged.  The aluminum ions are positively charged and small, which apparently means that they can pass through skin cell membranes, where somehow they either cause the cell to puff up, or help form a physical plug, thereby squeezing off nearby sweat glands.  No sweat also means no water for the bacteria, so no odor.

This effect is temporary, as capillaries serving the cell clean up the ions, making daily reapplication necessary for a continued effect.  Theoretically the ions are eventually removed from the body in the urine, but research suggests that certain tissues (liver, kidney, brain, cartilage and bone marrow) selectively absorb it.

The FDA has recently required a new label on antiperspirants saying that people with impaired renal function (i.e. those who have trouble shedding environmental toxins) and children should not use these products.  The industry is complaining due to lack of scientific evidence, but someone at the FDA seems to believe in “prudent avoidance”!

The crystal deodorants, on the other hand, typically contain potassium alum.  This is the same alum that used to be used in pickles, and it is a powerful astringent.  I believe it occurs naturally or can be manufactured.  It has the chemical formula KAl(SO4)2·12(H2O), which includes potassium, aluminum, sulfur (as sulfate), and water.

Aluminum is apparently unusual in that it can be part of either a positively or a negatively charged clump of elements, and when alum reacts with water (“hydrolyzes”), it breaks up into its components, rearranges itself into different clumps, and the aluminum goes with a negatively charged (and large) clump. (Sorry about the hand-waving here, I haven't been able to find the actual chemical reaction.) Supposedly this means that the aluminum cannot pass through the skin cell wall, the apparent basis of the claim of safety.  

Disturbingly, however, according to Material Data Safety sheets (MSDS's), when potassium alum hydrolyzes, another resulting chunk is a dilute solution of sulfuric acid (H2SO4).  Sulfuric acid is, of course, corrosive, and is probably the reason for the “discontinue if rash forms” warning on the label.  I wonder if it is this acid that provides an antibacterial action for these products.

I am still mystified as to why, if 30g of alum has been known to fatally poison adults, it is not more carefully labeled in its grocery store package (especially as it is reputed to be somewhat sweet to the taste.)  You’d think people would also get ill from sulfuric acid if they ate too many pickles, although the residue after rinsing during the canning process is supposedly minute.

I am also suspicious of the unspecified “mineral salts” ingredients listed on the crystal deodorants.  I speculate that there may be other salts similar in action to the approved aluminum ones, and that ions from these may similarly be absorbed through the skin cells.  My own experience with the crystal deodorants has been that they do indeed control wetness, but perhaps they cannot call themselves "antiperspirants" because the active ingredient isn't on the FDA's list.

So what’s a person to do?  My current guess is that if you must use something in addition to general hygiene and instead of odor-masking perfume, if you can use the crystal deodorant without noticeable skin reaction, it is probably safer than regular deodorant.  Any trouble due to the sulfuric acid is likely to be external, immediate, and noticeable, rather than internal, cumulative, and undetectable.  Now you just have to worry about those anonymous "mineral salts".  

I did contact one of the crystal deodorant manufacturers, and the person who replied was friendly but not up on the chemistry.

Would I put my life savings on crystal deodorants?  Not until I consulted with a quaified personal-care products chemist and had a full understanding of what I was selling.  That said, given the new FDA labelling and interest in aluminum avoidance, the market for effective, safe alternative products could be good!


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Re: Alum in products?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2009, 07:29:54 PM »
There is evidence that aluminium is a potent toxin and particularly detrimental to neural health.  I refer you to Michael A Weiner's book Reducing the Risk of Alzheimers; Gateway Books,1989: ISBN 0-946551-53-7.

The use of aluminium sulphate in the water purification process is sometimes cited as evidence for it's safety - I advise you to google the Camelford (UK) aluminium poisoning accident of 1988 - the full truth and extent of which the UK government of the day (in the midst of it's programme to privatise the UK water industry) did all in it's power to hide.

Indeed aluminium sulphate, in smaller quantities, continues to be added to our water supply routinely, for cosmetic reasons - because it makes our drinking water look clear and sparkley - isn't that nice?

I think when you look a little closer you will want to avoid or minimise your exposure to aluminium in any form from any source.



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Re: Alum in deodorant products?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2010, 11:16:04 AM »
Hi Rich.
I read your post yesterday, Jan 23d, as I was myself wondering about properties of alum in deodorants. I was sure one could trust the health food stores and their products to be harmless for you. So I decided to switch to the aluminum free deodorant and was reading the label of the crystal stick. When I saw alum as one of the ingredients I was terrified. So I started searching on line.
 Also I was wondering where could I find a list of ingredients that I should avoid when buying my toiletries. Funny enough I happen to find a book at home that has all that info that can be very useful and beneficial to every one. It says clearly in the book that alum is harmless and not the same as aluminum.
The book is called LIVING GREEN A practical guide to simple sustainability by Greg Horn. Enjoy it all!!!!!

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