I’m a sucker for great marketing (mental manipulation) and after being relentlessly targeted by AI algorithms to purchase yet another ‘natural’ wellness remedy, I came across the concept of Nuud – a natural deodorant paste that claims to be able to leave you odour-free for days not hours, without the use of Aluminium or sprays. Too good to be ‘true’, or a silver lining worthy of praise?
Sovereign silver skincare?
If slathering yourself in silver still sounds silly – read on.
When used in topical cosmetics, there is evidence that colloidal silver helps to reduce inflammation and acts as an anti-bacterial agent. Silver is already used in the clinical world – for example data supported by the NIH suggests that silver-lined wound dressings are a more effective barrier against infection than other products that make similar claims.
Modern medicine utilises medical grade forms of silver, such as silver nitrate, silver sulfadiazine, and colloidal silver. Before the introduction of antibiotics, silver had been used for centuries due to its antiseptic properties. The earliest recorded use of silver for therapeutic purposes may date back to the Han Dynasty in China circa. 1500 B.C.E. Silver vessels and plates were also frequently used during the Phoenician, Macedonian, and Persian empires.
When it comes to silver plating – families of the higher socioeconomic classes during the middle-ages were so acquainted with the usage of silver that they developed bluish skin discolourations known as argyria, an affliction which may have led to the term ‘blue blood’ to describe members of the aristocracy…
Many skin conditions linked to inflammation and microbiota imbalances are believed to be able to benefit from silver’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, including: acne, rosacea, and dermatitis.
However these conditions also need to take into consideration the other factors at play including lifestyle and genetics. The word ‘human’ comes from the Latin ‘humus’ meaning ground or soil; Of the earth. Our genetic code is like the soil from which our microbial culture grows, and the field of Epigenetics refers to the ways in which lifestyle modifications can switch certain genes on and off.
Only topical application is being referenced in this piece, as despite some advocates of silver supplements, soluble silver can have toxic effects including irritation and argyrosis, especially when ingested.
Avoiding aluminium and alternatives?
As a topical acne remedy, colloidal silver can be a great alternative to some of the harsher remedies on the market or available via prescription including retinoids, antibiotics and benzyl peroxide. It has a lower risk of bacterial resistance, less irritation and is generally less disruptive to the skin barrier long-term by comparison.
Although it is also a ‘natural’ element of the earth, aluminium is the latest wellbeing villain – and is now listed as part of the ingredients to avoid in the Breast Cancer Awareness Ditch The Junk Campaign. The concern is that use of aluminium in cosmetics leads to long-term deposits in the skin, and while there is no clear direct correlation with breast cancer prevalence, its presence has been notably detected in the tissues of those with the diagnosis.
These compounds form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminium-containing underarm antiperspirants, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and have oestrogen-like (hormonal) effects.
Because oestrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminium-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer. In addition, it has been suggested that aluminium may have direct activity in breast tissue. However, no studies to date have confirmed any substantial adverse effects of aluminium that could contribute to increased breast cancer risks… Clear as metal.
Platinum products and silver science
There are many different types of silver suspension and preparation. Though it’s discouraged for oral use, colloidal silver can still be found in liquid and spray form. Most products contain very low doses of colloidal silver, usually ranging from 10–30 parts per million (ppm).
Research suggests that the effects of colloidal silver vary depending on the size and shape of the particles, as well as their concentration in a solution. The size of the silver particles in colloidal silver varies, but some are so tiny that they’re referred to as nanoparticles. This means that they’re less than 100 nanometers in size and invisible to the naked eye.
On their website Nuud state that: “products such as Nuud do not use nano silver, which is generally cheaper to produce and is absorbed by the skin. Nuud uses micro silver – much larger silver particles (which cannot penetrate the skin) and is nota solution: the silver in Nuud is 99.9% pure.”
Different processes and applications will produce different results. Silver is known to be biologically active when it is dispersed into its monoatomic ionic state (Ag+), when it is soluble in aqueous environments. This is the same form which appears in ionic silver compounds such as silver nitrate and silver sulfadiazine, which have been frequently used to treat wounds.
In theory, a large number of small particles has a greater surface area than a lower number of large particles. As a result, a solution that contains more silver nanoparticles may release more silver ions. Silver ions are released from the silver particles when they come into contact with moisture, such as body fluids. They are considered to be the biologically active part of colloidal silver that gives it its antimicrobial properties.
Most colloidal silver products have much lower ratios of positively charged particles and are therefore considered less effective than a preparation like Silver Hydrosol which is considered more bio-active in this manner. Most manufacturers is the cosmetic world favour the incorporation of silver colloids into their products as they do not precipitate and separate, with the added benefit of acting as a preservative.
To date, there are three known mechanisms by which silver acts on microbes. Firstly, silver cations can form pores and puncture the bacterial cell wall by reacting with the peptidoglycan component. Secondly, silver ions can enter into the bacterial cell, both inhibiting cellular respiration and disrupting metabolic pathways resulting in generation of reactive oxygen species. Lastly, once inside the cell, silver can also disrupt DNA and its replication cycle.
Are there any side-effects or long-term disruption to microflora?
Clinical studies are limited, and experts have yet to determine the potential risks. Especially in an industry that is not standardised, it is even harder to come to clear conclusions when there are so many available preparations, contexts and purposes. Silver allergies, though rare, remain a possibility. If your skin tends to react negatively to metal, you’ll likely want to steer clear of topical colloidal silver.
Many advocates suggest that topically, there do not seem to be many significant side-effects, if using an appropriate formulation. However when it comes to long-term impacts on changes to flora, it still remains unclear. We do know silver isn’t considered an essential mineral and in other words, isn’t considered to have a vital function in the human body.
Many of the products available on the market make misleading health claims, and maintaining a healthy microbial balance is an inside-out job, with topical applications being an adjunct to a healthy diet and lifestyle rich in pre-biotics and pro-biotics.
Nevertheless, silver is enjoying its comeback in an array of innovative new forms. For example, one new approach in current development is a method for producing a ready packed medical apparatus which sterilises itself upon opening, by creating a vapour that activates a silver-containing hydrophilic surface coating.
In just over 10 years, nearly 5000 new patent applications have been registered in the domain. Going back to its roots, the majority of these patents are from Asian countries, with Chinese language applications representing more than 50% of the global total, followed by Korean and Japanese language filings.
While the potential benefits of silver are attracting increased attention, a number of publications have pointed out potential adverse effects from the overuse of silver, such as ecosystem disturbance, and bacterial resistance. Since our armoury of antibiotics has been depleted by the rise in antimicrobial resistance, silver represents a new hope, but mindful use must be considered at an early stage to prevent a repetition of past mistakes.
There is ample evidence that there can be adverse long-term effects from consumption or exposure to silver, so highly bio-active silver products should only be used in circumstances where there is an absolute need for it, such as a medical intervention, and in modes where silver is immobilised and containable (not released into the atmosphere like a magic vapour).
A big issue is that, like many star ingredients in the cosmetic market, colloidal silver products aren’t standardised. That means the production, which includes the amount and size of silver particles, can vary from one product to the next. Investigating a brand before making a purchase is always your best bet.
Anything potent will always come with both benefits and risks, and all medicine (including food) is also a poison depending on dose, scope, scale and focus. Weighing up the opportunities and trade-offs will be different for everyone depending on the purpose, and requires having the right frameworks and paradigms in place to be able to make a truly informed decision.
Nuud or nude?
As far as my experience with Nuud goes, I’d rather go nude.
All in all, the product didn’t seem to be particularly effective when I tried it. It comes in a minuscule bottle and 99% of the ingredients are the same as other natural deoderant products on the market (wax, clay and oils). It doesn’t list the concentration of silver and the brand did not respond to my questions about long-term use.
They did recommend trying the product for longer (buying more) in order to see results, but I think so far the claims they make are bold and unsubstantiated by experience – the formulation of silver that they use is unlikely to be highly bioactive and mostly serves a marketing purpose.
These results may be person-dependent as they have plenty of great reviews on their site (although they do filter the negative ones as all reviews are reviewed before posting – which speaks volumes). Personally, for the same effect, there are many better alternatives that are more easily available and raise fewer questions.
Unfortunately, aside from the flashy branding and packaging, this product still stinks.