I Tried A Natural Deodorant With Only One Ingredient — And It Worked
I've been on the natural deodorant train for about two years, but still, nothing has quite matched the odor-crushing powers of my old chemical-laden antiperspirant. And while my friends have had great results with everything from charcoal deodorants to probiotic deodorants, I've struggled. As someone with anxious tendencies (meaning: I sweat if you look at me wrong), my body has largely rejected these trendy natural options. So I decided to go the minimalist route and try a deodorant with just one ingredient.
Natural "crystal" deodorant—made from a mineral salt called potassium alum—isn't new by any means. It emerged back in the 1980s, with the first iteration from the company Crystal resembling a quartz-like rock that you would wet with a bit of water and rub directly onto your pits with your bare hands. Since then, more user-friendly options have been released by a few different brands: cylindrical crystal stones that come in their own plastic base (you still have to wet them, but they make for much easier application) and newer roll-on and spray-on varieties.
At first I was skeptical, but as someone who desperately wants to not smell (is that really too much to ask?), I decided to give this classic a try. Plus, even body-positive supermodel Ashley Graham, who's a fan of some pretty intense sweat sessions, says she loves it.
So, I opted to try Crystal's one-ingredient Mineral Deodorant Stick (i.e., the stone with that comes in a plastic base). After reading some tips online, I decided that the easiest way to apply would be to rub the mineral stick on my armpits immediately post-shower, when they were still damp. Otherwise, you have to add a couple of drops of water to the stick so it's able to glide on to your skin. My initial impression: It went on easily and dried completely within about 30 seconds, leaving no tacky residue. As I went about my day, periodically checking in on my pits with a quick sniff, I was surprised to find that I was not only odor-free but pretty dry as well, with none of the sweating I typically experience. After test-driving the crystal deodorant with a short jog and some yoga, I found that I did sweat a bit (but less than with other natural products), and I still smelled pretty damn good. This was a breakthrough.
How do these mineral salt deodorants work, though? I found myself perplexed at how something with just one ingredient could keep me fresh, so I asked the experts. "Mineral salts such as potassium alum have natural antimicrobial properties, and applying these can decrease the number of bacteria on the skin, and therefore reduce odor produced by these bacteria," says Lisa Airan, M.D., an NYC-based dermatologist specializing in high-tech natural skin care.
I also learned, because they contain just one ingredient, they can be a pretty great option for people with sensitive skin. "While any ingredient can irritate the skin, the fewer ingredients someone is exposed to, the less risk there is of an allergic reaction. Traditional deodorants contain more ingredients which puts the patient at increased risk for skin irritation," says Airan, adding that potential irritants in conventional deodorants and antiperspirants include things like aluminum, parabens, propylene glycol, artificial colors or scents, and steareths. And even though these deodorants are made of mineral "salts," Airan says she doesn't believe them to be drying over time since they don't actually block you from producing sweat.
These crystal deodorants (and natural deodorants in general) won't mess with your pits' microbiome either. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, have been shown to rearrange the microbial ecosystem of your skin, says integrative physician Amy Shah, M.D., and researchers aren't sure just how detrimental (or not) that might be for skin health.
Bottom line: Crystal deodorants made from mineral salts can be a safe, effective natural deodorant option. If nothing else has worked for you, I encourage you to give one a try. And if you're looking for a great natural deodorant that isn't a crystal, check out one of these great picks.
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