Women Everywhere Are Using Face Masks On Their Armpits. Here's Why
Natural deodorant has been around for decades, but in the last five years interest has been steadily trending up. Searches for "natural deodorant" on Google are the highest they've ever been, indie companies like Schmidt's and Native are being acquired by corporate giants like Unilever and Procter & Gamble respectively, and others still, like Meow Meow Tweet, are being sold at Target and other big-box retailers. Last September we predicted that natural deodorant would go mainstream, and indeed it has.
Making the switch to naturals is not always smooth sailing.
While there is little science about the connection between aluminum-based antiperspirants and breast cancer, the daily application of a heavy metal to one of our most sensitive detox regions makes some worry about a long-lasting effect. "Aluminum clogs the opening of the sweat gland, but it gets dislodged (i.e. does not hang around) which is why you have to re-apply eventually," said holistic dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D. Most mainstream antiperspirants are more than 20 percent aluminum—that's what makes them so effective at keeping the armpit area dry. Aluminum salts, one of the main ingredients in antiperspirants, combine with sweat to create a gel that plugs your sweat glands, which reduces wetness and odor. But it also blocks the detox process and may potentially interrupt important lymphatic processes while you're wearing it.
It's common for people to experience worse-than-normal odor when transitioning to naturals. There's no scientific research that confirms exactly why, but there are many hypotheses. One is that the armpit's natural microbiome is disrupted by conventional underarm products, so it needs time to readjust. Another is that the first weeks after wearing deodorant are a major detox period, especially for regular antiperspirant users.
With all the buzz around naturals, there's been some warranted backlash. A handful of beauty bloggers and editors have tried to unsuccessfully transition because they weren't able to find a brand or formula that works for them. The reality is that finding a natural deodorant is like finding a signature scent—there many different formulas, formats, and scents, and you have to find one that works for you.
The armpit mask has started to surge in popularity to help the transition.
Even when you find a formula that works for you, there's a strong likelihood that you can boost its efficacy. Think about the face. After a mask, it receives product better, and with upkeep, the aesthetic effects are long-lasting. The same is true of our underarms. With some treatment, its natural detox processes are supported and the environment becomes a better one—less stinky and less prone to smell from the start—for natural deodorant.
Up for the challenge? Here are some armpit masks to try.
When choosing a mask, charcoal is one of the best ingredients to look for because it detoxifies the skin without irritating it. Look for one that also contains oils and moisturizers.
- The Lavanila Healthy Underarm Detox Mask is a popular option that utilizes oils, charcoal, and citric acid to draw impurities from the pits.
- Zabana Essentials makes a charcoal soap bar for half the price with charcoal and clay.
- Kaia Naturals has created a deodorant booster bar, also with charcoal and apple cider vinegar to help rebalance the skin's microbiome.
Many people have sensitive underarms and react to products containing baking soda. If this is you, avoid using products with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) if you're armpit masking, and if you shave, mask first. Freshly shaved underarms are more sensitive.
Apply the mask when you get into the shower, go about your business, and then rinse it off as the last step. It's OK if it doesn't completely dry out—the mask is still working. If you're feeling dry or sensitive afterward, go bare, or apply moisturizer or deodorant primer and skip anything with a fragrance until your skin settles down.
Think you're ready to make the switch? Here are mbg's fitness editors' favorite, sweat-tested natural deodorants.
Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.