The Science Behind Natural Crystal Deodorants

Crystal deodorants are becoming an area of focus lately at Natural Cosmetic News, mainly due to their increasingly popularity, and the confusion and conflicting information available online.  This post is dedicated to understanding how natural crystal deodorants work, and how they differ from traditional deodorants and antiperspirants.

To begin understanding natural crystal deodorants, first it is necessary to explain why I say ‘natural crystal deodorants,’ versus just ‘crystal deodorants.’  Due to the rising demand of crystal deodorants, companies have been searching for ways to produce more with as little cost as possible.  This has led to the creation of synthetic crystal deodorant, because it is cheaper to chemically manufacture synthetic crystal deodorant than it is to extract the natural potassium alum crystal from the Earth.

For all tense and purposes this post will only focus on natural crystal deodorants.  If you would like more information regarding the difference of natural crystal deodorants and synthetic crystal deodorants, you can read the post:  What Everyone Ought to Know About Crystal Deodorant Stones.

What is it?

Lets begin by explaining the raw material of natural crystal deodorants.  Natural crystal deodorants are made from potassium alum, which is a naturally occurring sulfate mineral which typically occurs as encrustations on rocks.  It is derived from the oxidation of sulfide minerals and potassium-bearing minerals; and appears as a white to colorless translucent crystalline stone.  When it is extracted from the Earth large blocks of potassium alum crystal are shipped to crystal deodorant manufacturers, where the blocks are then cut, shaped, polished and packaged to form what we know as crystal deodorant.

As the name implies, the potassium alum stone, otherwise known as crystal deodorant, looks like a crystal, such that it is translucent, colorless and contains small fracture lines, or veins.  Below you can see a picture of a natural crystal deodorant stone made from potassium alum:

crystal deodorant (potassium alum stone)

Crystal Deodorant Stone (potassium alum crystal)

What does it do?

Potassium alum has a variety of commercial applications, such as for the use of oral care products used in dental hygiene, water purification, food preservation, and as the sole ingredient of natural crystal deodorants.  Potassium alum is originally extracted from the Earth as large blocks, but it is also sold in a small crystal forms and powder to be used in a variety of commercial applications and cosmetics.  Since all forms of potassium alum are soluble in water, when the stone is wet or applied to wet skin, an invisible, fine layer of the mineral is rubbed off the stone and applied to the skins surface.  The mineral layer quickly dries, and rests on the skin as a completely topical layer.

How does it work?

When the human body sweats it is basically just releasing salt and water through sweat glands in the skin. Contrary to popular belief, sweat does not have a distinctive smell of its own. The smell associated with sweat is actually caused by bacteria on the skin that eats sweat and excretes waste; and it is the bacteria waste that produces a foul odor.  And, yes, everyone has bacteria on their skin, and it is perfectly normal.  The bacteria on our skin ordinarily does not produce a noticeable smell, but when sweat is present the bacteria begins to rapidly grow and produce an increasing amount of odor.

Potassium alum is a natural anti-microbial that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria.  As an anti-microbial potassium alum adjusts the pH of the skins surface and creates an environment where bacteria cannot grow.  Therefore, odor is prevented, and the body is able to maintain its proper course of eliminating toxins through sweat, as well as controlling body temperature, all without odor.

How it differs from traditional deodorants and antiperspirants?

Firstly, natural crystal deodorants are just that, natural.  And that is the main difference.  There are no added chemicals or fragrances.  And, as previously mentioned, natural crystal deodorants allow the body to sweat, but without odor.  Traditional deodorants use chemical rich fragrances to mask odor and cover up the bad bacteria smell.  Antiperspirants block the skin from releasing sweat, thereby inhibiting the bacteria growth process. All antiperspirants have an aluminum-based compound as their main ingredient, such as:

  • Aluminum chloride
  • Aluminum zirconium tricholorohydrex glycine
  • Aluminum chlorohydrate
  • Aluminum hydroxybromide
  • Aluminum hydroxide (ATH)

The aluminum ions are drawn into the cells that line the sweat gland at the top layer of skin. When the aluminum ions enter into the cells, water passes in with them. As more water flows in, the cells begin to swell, squeezing the sweat ducts closed and preventing sweat from escaping.

What Everyone Ought to Know About Crystal Deodorant Stones

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Posted by on Feb 2nd, 2010 and filed under FEATURED ARTICLES. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Responses for “The Science Behind Natural Crystal Deodorants”

  1. John says:

    FYI ALUM means aluminum I noticed that this tidbit of info was left out of the article.

  2. Craig Payne says:

    Actually, alum is not short for aluminum. Alum is a specific chemical compound, and it is a class of chemical compounds. The empirical formula of aluminum is Al, whereas the general formula for alum is AB(SO4)2•12H2O (the AB are variables for either a monovalent cation or a trivalent metal ion). Various types of alum exist, and one of them is potassium alum that has the following chemical formula: AlK(SO4)2•12H2O.

  3. Quite a fascinating article and reader comments here. I should point out that other people have made a varying case, especially in terms of natural health. Have you seen supplemental viewpoints on the Internet, and will you give me some direction?

  4. GOODCHEMIST says:

    Alum, while is a good performer wrt sweat control and antiperspirant, it leaves an uneasy feel under the arms. If the arms are dry, you will feel its presence very easily…this is the only disadvantage.

  5. That is a great article. I enjoyed it very much. Please keep doing the good things that you are doing now. Romelia Slanker

  6. ibby says:

    Dear Friend,
    I am having a problem when doing my experiment with potassium alum sulfate which is KAl(SO4)2·12(H2O)
    This is my experience :
    - I don’t dissolve the alum into water but directly steam it until all melted.
    - I let the melted alum cooled it self and become re-solid again.
    - After sometimes when hot alum reach the room temperature:
    – at the top surface of solidified alum, some white residue like “snow” begin to form.
    – after several hours the alum will be surrounded with that ‘snow’
    – after 2-3 days the solid alum destroyed and completely become powders
    - Why is this happen?

    some friends says: maybe the alum not pure, so have to add h2so4.

    If really have to add h2so4:
    - is it “98% h2so4 (concentrated)” or “h2so4 into water solution (what is the best percentage)” ?
    - how many % of h2so4 do i have to add into the melted alum?
    - is it before or after melting the alum should i add the h2so4?
    - is the crystal formed can cause irritation to the skin? (because of we add h2so4 into the solution before)

    this still confusing me, so please someone answer my questions.

    Thank you a lot.

  7. laura says:

    thanks very much

  8. Vasja says:

    Some of the most popular natural deodorants are the “crystal” deodorant stones and sprays. But most people don’t know that these crystal deodorant products contain aluminum.

    The crystal deodorant stones are made from alum. The most widely used form of alum used in the personal care industry is potassium alum. The full chemical name of potassium alum is potassium aluminum sulfate.

    The reason that most people try to avoid aluminum in deodorant is because of its possible link to Alzheimer’s disease.Alzheimer’s disease is not the only reason to ditch your aluminum-containing antiperspirant and deodorant, as this metal has also been linked to cancer.

    A 2006 study found that aluminum salts can mimic the hormone estrogen, and chemicals that imitate that hormone are known to increase breast cancer risk. Animal studies have also found that aluminum can cause cancer.

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