Metal salts, especially aluminum compounds are used in antiperspirants to prevent sweating. I found out aluminum chloride hexahydrate, which is found in most antiperspirants, undergoes an acid-base reaction with water which causes the proteins to denaturate, thus these proteins are precipitated out as a gel blocking the sweat glands. Additionally, aluminum is able to bind water molecules.

However, I would like to understand the biological and chemical processes in more detail as I am not quite sure why there is no effective alternative to metal salts to prevent sweating. There are many compounds that could undergo an acid-base reaction with water. There are also different metal salts which are able to bind several layers of water.

My specific questions are:

  • Which biological and chemical processes underlie the effect of antiperspirants that make metal salts so effective?
  • Why are aluminum salts used most commonly?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Zirconium is also used. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_zirconium_tetrachlorohydrex_gly $\endgroup$ – DrMoishe Pippik May 23 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any reason to believe that aluminum is the 'most effective' at preventing sweating, as opposed to 'effective enough' given cost, toxicity, manufacturability, and a dozen other dimensions? $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer May 23 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ Aluminum ions are also used for medical purposes (hyperhidrosis). If there was a better option, wouldn't it be used for those applications? $\endgroup$ – jona173 May 23 at 15:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Great question! I've often thought this myself! $\endgroup$ – Melanie Shebel May 25 at 7:27

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