What is Aluminum Oxide?
All of you natural health enthusiasts like me, let me tell you – whenever I see something alarming in my cosmetics I tend to rather stay away from it until I make sure it’s safe to use. That was my experience with aluminum oxide. It just sounded too similar to aluminum itself – a substance that in my opinion should surely be used for super light bike frames and other fabulous things but I definitely don’t want to see it in my food or cosmetics. As you know high levels of aluminum in human body have been shown to have a strong neurotoxic effect, cause many brain problems and negatively affect reproductive system as well as damage many other organs. There is a lot of harmful aluminum compounds found in popular cosmetics (aluminum chloralhydrate, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly etc.) but luckily aluminum oxide isn’t one of them. One of the most commonly used forms of aluminum oxide in cosmetics is called corundum. It is a beautiful product of nature.
Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminum oxide (also called alumina) – the strongest after diamond mineral on the planet – some of it’s forms are well known gems like sapphire and ruby. Despite of the name strongly suggesting it’s correlation with the properties of aluminum – a soft metal well known for it’s harmful chemical effects on human’s body, aluminum oxide is actually a totally different piece of cake.
It’s like when you try to imagine carbon you immediately think of a black shiny rock but as you know diamond is also a form of carbon but it looks and feels completely different. CO2 also contains carbon and it’s physical and chemical properties are obviously much different than diamond or graphite carbon. Let’s look at even better example – good old sea salt we use for everyday cooking – sodium chloride. Even though this commonly used chemical compound contains 50% chloride (ionic form of chlorine – a highly reactive chemical toxic for a human body) it is perfectly safe to consume and it actually has a lot of benefits to your body.
Similarly, corundum (aluminum oxide) is not the same as aluminum and it also has totally different properties. What’s most important here – dermal use of aluminum oxide is not toxic for a human body.*
*as shown in research studies presented in the article “Human Health Risk Assessment for Aluminium, Aluminium Oxide, and Aluminium Hydroxide”(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782734/)
With that being said, lets take a closer look at the corundum crystals used in the cosmetic industry. It comes in a form of a super fine white and shiny powder and it’s commonly used with professional microdermabrasion machines at many cosmetic salons. When you touch it it feels like a cross between a flour and a glittery, super fine sand – at least that was my first impression.
Corundum is used in a cosmetic industry because of its hardness and a unique molecular structure – the crystals are hollow and easily absorb dead skin cells. It’s very important however to use pure, fused corundum that comes from a natural source. Unfortunately the vast majority of corundum crystal available on a market today is synthetic and it’s not hard enough to have the same effect on your skin as the natural one.