To start, let’s have a quick chat about the human microbiome. Every part of the human body lives in harmony with trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. We’ve all learned it’s important to have healthy gut bacteria (shoutout to probiotics!), but did you know there’s a whole ecosystem topically on your skin keeping everything humming along? Everything is in a delicate balance.
What does this have to do with deodorant? So, your sweat is basically odorless. What makes it stinky is a specific type of bacteria it comes in contact with that thrives in pits that have been thrown out of whack by harsh soaps and cleansers, or other factors like stress, hormones, and diet. This bacteria interacts with sweat and produces thioalcohols that have a pungent, oniony aroma.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Conventional deodorants rely on a variety of ingredients—they basically wipe out all underarm bacteria (the good and the bad) with ingredients like triclosan, cover up unpleasant smells with synthetic fragrance and phthalates, provide softness with propylene glycol, and are preserved with estrogen mimicking parabens.
Antiperspirants take it a step further by using aluminum compounds (specifically aluminum chlorohydrate) that work by forming a chemical reaction with the water in sweat to form a physical plug. This is deposited in the sweat duct producing a blockage wherever you apply it.
Because the underarm area is packed with sweat glands and hormone receptors, there have been various studies researching whether conventional deodorants and antiperspirants are linked to serious health issues like Alzheimer’s disease or breast cancer. While the results are still being debated, experts do agree that using these products disturb our microbiome, which leaves us susceptible to more pathogens. There is ongoing research about the effects of conventional deodorants and antiperspirants.
Natural deodorants rely on a variety of clays, minerals, plants, and essential oils to absorb excess moisture and neutralize odor-causing bacteria. There is no such thing as an all-natural antiperspirant because it’s important to let your body sweat naturally. But remember, no funky bacteria, no funky smell! Once your body adjusts, natural deodorants can you keep you fresh and keep wetness to a minimum.
HOW TO MAKE THE SWITCH
Switching to natural deodorant can feel daunting. It’s common for people to try a natural deodorant for a few days, feel super smelly and extra sweaty, and give up. When you’ve been using conventional products for years, your glands and pores are clogged, and the microbiome is out of balance. It can take a few weeks to detox your pits and normalize.
During the transition we recommend keeping your underarms extra clean with something purifying like a charcoal soap bar, or a detox kit, wearing natural fiber clothing for breathability, and eating clean. It can take 2-5 weeks, but we promise it’s worth it.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Because body chemistry is so personal, unfortunately your best friend’s favorite natural deodorant might not work for you. Once you get through the initial detox period, sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error before you find your holy grail formula.
Many of the original natural deodorants are creams in jars. You can have a softer, more spreadable formula in a jar, and just a small amount is needed. Just apply a pea-sized dot to clean pits post-shower.
In recent years, more formulas have become available in a stick form. These are great for on-the-go application. The textures vary greatly brand to brand.
Some formulas come in a spray or roll-on. These deodorants are more lightweight, and might be a good choice if you want something totally clear.
WHAT ABOUT SENSITIVITIES?
A key ingredient in a lot of natural deodorants is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), because it is extremely effective. While many people are fine with this, a small number of people may be sensitive to it. If you aren’t sure, we advise doing a patch test before using all over. A wash of apple cider vinegar before application may help. If not, we advise using a baking soda-free formula. Some sensitivities take a week or more to surface, and may manifest as dryness or itchiness. Luckily, there are plenty of baking soda free options to choose from (see the deodorant shopping guide below).
You can also decrease sensitivity by shaving your armpits the night before applying deodorant. Freshly shaved armpits are more sensitive in general.
DEODORANTS WE LOVE Soapwalla Original Deodorant Cream
This cult-favorite cream is popular for a reason—it works. A little goes a long way to ensure lasting moisture absorption.Kaia Naturals The Takesumi Detox Lime Mint (charcoal)
Bamboo charcoal, or “takesumi” in Japanese, powers this silky gel stick that works to absorb odors and impurities.Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Rose Geranium Deodorant (baking soda free)
Are you a little extra sensitive? Skip the baking soda and swipe on this gentle formula. Bonus: the paper tube is totally biodegradable.Vapour AER Next-Level Deodorant Lavender Myrrh (gel)
This concentrated gel-to-powder deo is delivered in a convenient click-up tube, and goes on lightweight and breathable.Erbaviva Jasmine Grapefruit Organic Deodorant (spray)
Organic grain alcohol is infused with bacteria-fighting essential oils in this refreshing deodorant that doubles as a yoga mat spray.
DEODORANT SHOPPING GUIDE