“I decided one day to make the switch to natural deodorant and it was no problem whatsoever,” said no one ever.
I've had several friends in the past few weeks remind me of the challenges around making the switch to natural deodorant, convinced there's no way to do it, that the people who do successfully use natural deodorant must be blessed with perfect pits. Well, that hasn’t been my experience.
I wasn’t always a natural deodorant convert. I tried and failed over the course of several years, vacillating between being scared that the nasty stuff they put in the products that worked was going to eventually kill me and not caring so long as I smelled fresh and didn’t have sweat stains. Like many, my first attempts didn't work and I gave up after a few days.
When I did find the product that worked for me, I was grateful, but I want everyone to remember that no two people are the same and what works for one person isn't necessarily going to work for you. Here are a few things to remember when you're on the search for an all-natural deodorant.
1. Arm yourself with knowledge.
The product you’re using every day likely has some not-so-great ingredients. Parabens, phthalates, aluminum and more, all which, over time and with consistent use, may increase the likelihood of allergies, sensitivities and disease. The science isn’t perfect, but there is enough to be concerned that there's some real risk. So, why take the chance if there’s an alternative?
2. Be OK with sweating.
We all do it. It’s a wonderful and natural thing. Sweat itself doesn’t cause body odor — it's the bacteria that builds up in the armpits that does. That said, I get it. You don’t really want to have a big meeting or event and feel like you can’t raise your arms. So balance it out. If you're really worried about sweating, use antiperspirant very sparingly and only in critical situations.
Once you’ve committed to being OK with sweating a bit, try to make the transition before the weather gets too hot (spring is a great time to start. I find spring and fall to be best seasons to take the plunge, so you're right on schedule!
3. Know what's out there.
Hopefully this is the fun and less stressful part: shopping. Note that there are pros and cons to several types of deodorants: I prefer a spray, but others swear by a paste. Sticks are the most familiar, so when people do make the transition, this is their go-to but it may not be the best solution.
The one thing you may want to keep in mind when using a spray is that you’ll have to hold your arms out for several seconds to let them air dry. Also, if you’ve just shaved, it may sting for a few seconds right after because they’re usually alcohol-based. I'm totally and completely fine with both of these because for me, they work and they never make a surprise appearance on my clothes.
Sticks are the most familiar. Many contain baking powder which is a great odor fighter, but can be irritating. There are sticks on the market that are baking soda-free, just make sure to thoroughly read the label.
Pastes/creams take a little time to get used to and they’re not for everyone, though they're certainly increasingly popular. The deal with pastes/creams is that you dip your finger in the jar, take a tiny amount and spread it along your pits. It’s a messier process but some swear by the results. For the sake of full disclosure, it’s too messy a process for me but many have zero problem with it, so feel free to give it a try and judge for yourself!
4. Give it a chance.
This isn’t going to be an overnight thing, unfortunately. It'll take a bit of time for your body to adjust to not being blocked up by the aluminum holding your sweat in. Be sure to wash your armpits daily and try to keep it clean as your body adjusts. It can take up to a few weeks before your body calibrates to this new world order.
5. Tell your story and be honest.
Whether this works or not, you should tell your story. If you tried a natural deodorant for a few days and then immediately went back to your extra-strength antiperspirant, there’s not much I can do to help. But I’d still suggest being honest with your friends. And look, if you can’t let the process happen, there’s no shame in it. Ultimately it’s your body and, as I’ve said to so many others, it’s all about your level of tolerance.
I hope this rundown will take some of the mystery out of the process if you’re thinking of making the switch!