30 years ago it would be very difficult for even the most scrupulous natural product consumer to find crystal deodorant. The market was in its infancy, but the potential was clear. Crystal deodorant packs a mean combo of benefits. When applied to the skin it is entirely invisible and leaves no sticky or oily residue on the skin. Furthermore, it provides 24 hour protection and is fragrance free.
The impressive list of benefits matched with its 100% natural origin led to the transformation of the crystal deodorant market and created what most consumers today know as crystal deodorant. Companies were simply unwilling to endure the costly mineral extraction process, and through scientific advancements and thorough R&D, manufacturers discovered that potassium alum can be synthetically manufactured. However, the synthetic mineral that is more commonly used in mainstream crystal deodorant is actually more closely associated to ammonium alum.
This is not to say all crystal deodorants are made with synthetic minerals, but there remain some clear visual differences in the product choices available.
Potassium alum is found in deposits in the Earth’s crust typically in the South American Andes and near the Mediterranean Sea. When potassium alum is extracted from the earth it is a colorless, translucent crystalline stone, also known as a mineral crystal. Another more common mineral crystal that shares a similar appearance is quartz. Therefore, a truly natural crystal deodorant stone or stick that is made from unaltered potassium alum appears the same as the day it was extracted – colorless and translucent.
Below is a picture Natural Cosmetic News took comparing two crystal deodorants we found that were both labeled natural and listed the same ingredients. The one on the right is clearly colorless and translucent, and the one of the left is obviously opaque and white.
So, how is it that supposedly both products are natural and made of the exact same ingredient but appear different? Well, it is probably because the actual source of the ingredient is different, or at least the quality. It is quite simple to identify unaltered natural potassium alum due to its translucency. And the white opaqueness of the crystal deodorant pictured above is most likely a result of a key ingredient used during the manufacturing process of synthetic ammonium alum. Aluminum hydroxide, a white cosmetic opacifying agent, is used to make ammonium alum.
If the quality or the original source of the deodorizing ingredient is compromised the efficacy is too. Only 100% pure crystal deodorants, which have been clinically tested, provide the aforementioned benefits, but what about the impure ones? Until the term “natural” becomes more regulated with stricter standards that eliminate synthetic replicas, the best judge for the true origin of the crystal deodorant is your own eye.