On April 2nd the final opinion of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS / 1613/19) regarding the safety of aluminium compounds in cosmetics appeared. These substances have recently raised a lot of controversy and they are not well received by consumers quite often. The main reason may be that aluminium in high doses is a systemic toxic substance. There are also known some studies on the neurotoxic effect of aluminium, or the correlation with its use and breast cancer. Therefore, the SCCS Committee was asked to review data and issue an opinion on the safety of aluminium-based substances.
Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, where it occurs, among others, in the form of silicates and aluminosilicates. Small amounts of this element can be also found in water. Aluminium-containing ingredients are widely used in the cosmetics industry in a variety of product categories. These include antiperspirants, deodorants, lipsticks and toothpastes – and they have been recognized by SCCS as the main sources of exposure to aluminium through cosmetic products. There are over 50 compounds containing aluminium on the cosmetics market. The most common aluminium compound in cosmetics is Aluminum Chlorohydrate, which is used in antiperspirants as an antiperspirant agent. Other popular aluminium salts used in this type of products include: Aluminum Chloride, Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly or Aluminum Citrate. On the other hand, in lipsticks there are commonly used colloidal dyes obtained by reacting alumina with organic pigments. Afterwards, toothpastes may contain insoluble aluminium minerals as mild abrasives and rheology modifiers. In addition, aluminium is a part of many other raw materials widely used in cosmetics, e.g. cosmetic clays (Kaolin) contain hydrated Aluminium Silicate and Mica consists of Potassium Aluminium Silicate.
Many of aluminium compounds are regulated by the cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009. For example, in the Annex III (the list of substances which cosmetic products must not contain except subject to the restrictions laid down) we can find, among others: Aluminum Fluoride (position 34), Aluminium Zirconium Chloride Hydroxide Complexes and Aluminium Zirconium Chloride Hydroxide Glycine Complexes (position 50), as well as many colloidal aluminium dyes (so-called Aluminum Lakes, positions: 189, 190, 192). These substances can be used in cosmetics with certain restrictions on their maximum concentrations, type of products or other conditions of use. The list of permitted colourants, so the Annex IV, also contains a lot of aluminium compounds. There is both aluminium itself as a white colourant (CI 77000, position 117) and its compounds, e.g. white Aluminium Hydroxide Sulphate (CI 77002, position 118), Natural Hydrated Aluminium Silicate (CI 77004, position 119) and Aluminum Stearate (position 150), red Aluminum Silicate Coloured with Ferric Oxide (CI 77015, position 121), or green Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (CI 77346, position 131). It is worth adding that some aluminium dyes (Aluminum Lakes) were included in the list of banned substances – Annex II (Pigment Red 90: 1 Aluminum lake – position 1334, Pigment Red 172 Aluminum – position 1337) as substances in hair dye products.
Let’s return to the SCCS opinion 😉 The Committee believes that systemic exposure to aluminium via daily use of cosmetic products does not significantly increase the body burden to this element compared to other sources of exposure. In fact, the exposure of the population to aluminium is significantly higher via the digestive tract (drinking water, food). In addition, available research results show that aluminium compounds have a favourable toxicological profile. The acute oral toxicity of aluminium salts (bromide, nitrate, chloride and sulphate) is defined as moderate to low. Evidence from epidemiological studies does not confirm the carcinogenic effect of aluminium. Causal relationship of aluminium with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease has also not been proven. What is more, aluminium compounds have been widely used in cosmetics for many years without damaging the skin. These substances generally have no irritating or allergenic effect. Of course, there are people who are extremely sensitive to the topical use of these substances, but considering how widespread their use is, SCCS considers it to be a rare phenomenon. In addition, aluminium compounds are poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract in animals and humans, and they are also characterized by very low bioavailability and dermal absorption (only 0.00052% – according to the SCCS assumption). Therefore, all described studies results support aluminium as a safe cosmetic raw material.
To sum up, SCCS confirmed the safety of using aluminium compounds in antiperspirants, as well as other types of cosmetics, such as lipsticks and toothpastes. According to SCCS, aluminium compounds are safe ingredients in cosmetics up to the following maximum concentrations (calculated as aluminium): 10.60% – in spray deodorants or spray antiperspirants, 6.25% – in non-spray deodorants and non-spray antiperspirants, 2.65% – in toothpastes, 0.77% – in lipsticks. You can read the full SCCS opinion at the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_235.pdf
So how will it be? Have you become convinced of aluminium compounds as cosmetic ingredients or will you still avoid them? 😉