Of all the products in your bathroom cabinet, deodorant is among those linked to the most health concerns. And yet it remains difficult for us as consumers to determine what's actually in it, and why it's in there. For years, I was a one-deodorant woman (Mitchum Powder Fresh to be exact) and boy did I go through a lot with it. Climbed Kilimanjaro (no shower for one week rendered it the most pivotal beauty essential in my backpack), started long-distance running (for a few months, mind), and even went rock-climbing regularly!
However, my au naturel friends and my mother either skipped it altogether, or used something that just looked ineffective. I wasn't concerned about sweat, but I was very, very concerned about smelling. Anytime I'd ever tried a natural deodorant I became stiff in my interactions, unyielding in my embraces, and generally rather self-conscious. This couldn't be me, I thought. I'm all about toxin-free beauty, so why couldn't I let loose when it came to my deodorant? As much as I love concocting homemade formulas with herbs and spices, they've never quite cut the mustard under my armpits. You see, body odor is the result of bacteria breaking down sweat, and if you perspire a lot and don't wear decent deodorant (plus wash, or change your clothes much), you'll know about it. So will those around you.
But the more investigation I did, the more I felt compelled to finally make the switch for good. "Research shows that some compounds used in deodorant are absorbed and stored in fat cells, which are prevalent in the underarm area," said Philip Harvey, Ph.D., editor in chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology. "Your underarm tissue also contains hormone receptors, which could react to some of those same deodorant ingredients." Experts are worried certain compounds in antiperspirant and deodorant could cause or contribute to developmental or reproductive issues, as well as cancer. A researcher named Philippa Darbre published a study showing that more breast cancer occurred in the upper outer quarter of the breast—the area closest to the armpit. She has since published dozens of papers based on laboratory studies (i.e. cells in petri dishes) that claim to support her hypothesis.
The detox period...
Once you decide antiperspirants are no longer for you, be prepared to endure the subsequent detox period that follows. I'll spell it out for you: YOU WILL DEFINITELY SMELL! Because when you take the leap from antiperspirant to deodorant, your sweat glands overcompensate from being plugged up for so long and start over-producing sweat...but, only for a while, so don't despair!
I decided to get a sense of the current market and brands on offer—I'm talking effective solutions with time-honored herbal and fruity ingredients synergistically blended in a way my fair hands can't DIY. Since aluminum is the first thing to get nixed in a natural formula, some deodorants will leave your armpits a bit damp. But keep in mind that sweat is good for you! It's your body's way of keeping cool and ridding your skin of impurities.
Here's some of the current crop of formulas that work for me. And yes, I have all ten in my bathroom cabinet.
- Dr. Hauschka Rose Deodorant ($14.09): No aluminum salts, beautifully rosy (but not like your granny rosy), kind, and nurturing to your armpits.
- PiperWai Natural Deodorant ($15.99): This charcoal crème deodorant is an invisible, absorbent, pH-balanced shield on your underarms that neutralizes odor and protects clothes from perspiration—perfect for the most sensitive of skin.
- Motherdirt AO + Mist ($49): A clever spray formulated with a patented, live "peacekeeper" bacteria that reduces dependance on deodorant—it helps restore essential bacteria that's been removed by our modern hygiene and lifestyles, and stops stink in its tracks!
- Aesop Herbal Deodorant ($35): Formulated with rosemary, sage, and eucalyptus oils, plus key active ingredient, zinc ricinoleate—a zinc salt that inhibits bacterial proliferation without blocking sweat glands like controversial aluminum.
- Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream ($18): The grapefruit scent smells like lemon cream pie, and the baking soda-free formula is less likely to irritate skin and cause rashes.
- Soapwalla Deodorant Cream ($19): The OG cream that launched a natural deodorant craze is made from odor-busting tea-tree oil, lavender, sweet orange, and bergamot.
- Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant Vanilla Lavender ($13.50): This stick deodorant preferred by French Beauty Ed's and celebs goes on like a dream, and comes in a range of beautiful scents.
- Primal Pit Natural Deodorant Stick in Jacked Up Jasmine ($11): Primal Pit's baking soda products range from light to heavy formulas depending on your sweat type.
- Weleda Wild Rose Deodorant ($27.24): This aluminum-free deodorant stops odor-causing bacteria in its tracks. The best part? There's no risk of leaving a chalky white residue behind on your clothes.
- Lush Aromaco Deodorant Bar ($6.95): Witch hazel helps eliminate microbes and odor-causing bacteria so you feel fresh, while chamomile vinegar tightens pores and soothes the skin. And there's also a little patchouli oil in it, too.
- Lafe's Natural Deodorant Twist-Stcik Active ($6.99): Lafe's twist-stick features a smooth glide (unlike a lot of other natural deo's) and 24-hour odor fighting performance.
- Burt's Bees 100% Natural Skin Care for Men Deodorant ($7.17): Made out of cornstarch, citrus, cypress and fir oils, for a woodsy and grounded blend that works a charm on both sexes.