The majority of my life — 24 years — was spent struggling with acne, eczema, psoriasis, migraines and auto-immune issues. Even though I worked in the beauty industry, I never thought my issues could be traced to the creams, sprays and powders I was dousing myself with everyday. They made me look and smell good, how could they possibly be bad for me?
But when I started to notice my co-workers dealing with similar issues, something clicked. It would have been too much of a coincidence for all of us to be suffering from the same skin and internal issues just because. No. There had to be something that connected us and our ailments.
So I started doing research. I looked into chemicals, hormone disruptors, parabens, phthalates, fragrance, preservatives. You name it, I knew about it. And I was horrified.
That’s when I started throwing everything out. All the products I’d spent so much money on over the years, the things I swore were making me feel good about myself because they temporarily changed my appearance were actually the root cause of the issues that made me sick.
I stopped using products with artificial fragrance, and my migraines stopped. I started using DIY face cleansers and serums, and my skin cleared up. The one conventional product I couldn’t quite give up? Deodorant.
A few years ago, if someone had told me to stop wearing deodorant, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. After all, nobody wants to be the “smelly one” in any setting. But the deeper I dug into the dirty world of conventional cosmetics, the more willing I was to give up the stick in favor of something safer l that actually let my body carry out its natural functions.
That’s right: sweating is totally, completely 100% natural. It’s our bodies’ way of expelling toxins and regulating temperature. Without sweat, just imagine what hot a cesspool of toxins our bodies would be!
Additionally, sweat itself doesn’t actually smell: it’s just a combination of water and salt. What does produces that tangy body odor is when sweat comes into contact with the bacteria that lives on our skin (also natural and normal!).
You are supposed to sweat, and attempting to stop or interfere with this process is, to put it bluntly, not good for you. Conventional deodorant contains antibacterial ingredients that are meant to kill the natural bacteria on your skin before it gets the chance to mingle with your sweat and cause a stink. Antiperspirants deal with sweat directly by including aluminum compounds that stop up sweat glands.
But you know what's worse than smelling a bit musky sometimes? Alzheimer's and breast cancer, both of which have been linked to the same aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants.
That fact alone was enough to get me to quit conventional deodorants and antiperspirants. But the problem still remained that while I had no desire to put these cancer-causing chemicals under my arms (dangerously close to my lymph nodes, I might add), I also had no desire to small funky.
You can stop shaking your head now, because I'm here to tell you that natural deodorants really do work, you just have to find the best option for your body. Just like no two people are alike, no two people have the same body chemistry, which is why some people can get away with just a dab of tea tree oil under each arm, while others would stink up an arena if they tried that route. I am one of the latter.
So how do you start the transition to natural deodorant?
Start by not wearing anything under your arms for the first three days. This will give your body a chance to expel any lingering remnants of the conventional stuff while also allowing it to reset.
I suggest not using anything for a few days because most natural deodorants contain baking soda, which is great at naturally killing bacteria and preventing odor, but can sometimes cause irritation if your skin isn't ready for it. When you stop using deodorant/antiperspirant with aluminum, your body will push out those toxins from your clogged pores, which can be irritating. Letting your skin breathe for a bit will quell any aluminum-based irritation so you can be sure the natural alternatives aren't messing with your skin.
If you're not comfortable going completely au naturale, I've included a simply DIY "Detox and Defunk" spray below. Simply spray this under your arms as needed to keep the smell at bay and sooth any irritation.
When you feel sufficiently detoxed, it's time to start the search for your perfect natural deodorant.
There are many, many options out there, but not all are created equal. You've probably seen the millions of DIY deodorant recipes floating around the Internet, but if you've tried any of them, you probably haven't loved 'em, right? Most that I've come across have either too much baking soda (so they sting), too much coconut oil (so they drip) or are just totally useless.
When you look for natural deodorant, you want one that has a nice balance of baking soda and essential oils. I've found this combination most effective for odor control. Also make sure to steer clear of anything that contains parabens or propylene glycol, which is a known skin irritant.
Above all, though, test out plenty of options before throwing in the towel. Remember that natural deodorant isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, so it might take a few tries to find your armpit soulmate. But once you do, you'll never go back.