How to Find a Natural Deodorant That Works
Unless you have a medical condition or are a magical Disney princess, chances are, you sweat.
And while sweating is a good and natural thing, most of us don’t want to stink.
There are a lot of deodorants and antiperspirants out there but many of them have ingredients that may harm us. And that stinks.
If you feel like natural deodorants don’t work or are reserved for uber “wellness people” who don’t care about body odor, know that the natural deodorant market has grown and actually has some good options that fight odor without the unpleasant ingredients. Granted, everyone’s body is different so what works well for you may not work well for someone else.
Here are some tips to choose a better deodorant and recommendations for natural ones that work.
Choose Deodorant Over Antiperspirant
The difference between antiperspirant and deodorant is pretty self-explanatory in the names.
Antiperspirant helps to stop you from perspiring by plugging up sweat ducts, and deodorant helps control bad odor by keeping certain odor-causing bacteria at bay.
Many big name brands are antiperspirants and deodorants. Both can affect the bacteria found in your arm pits in different ways.
The Problem with Antiperspirant
While sweating less (and hence, smelling less bad) may sound great, especially at work or other social situations, sweating is natural and good for us.
Sweating is good because:
- It’s one of the ways our bodies release toxins
- It helps regulate our body temperature
- It can help fight colds or other infections
Note: This is for people who sweat an average amount. If excessive sweating is an issue for you, you may want to consult a health professional who understands and respects the decision to use natural deodorants.
Avoid Harmful Ingredients
If you choose to go for a deodorant over an antiperspirant, deodorants can still have dubious ingredients.
Here are some ingredients you may want to avoid:
- Parabens: “Research suggests some parabens may interfere with the way your body produces and regulates estrogen and other hormones,” Time reports. Though more research is needed, “existing evidence suggests that long-term, low-dose mixtures of environmental chemicals—including parabens—‘could cause cancer.’”
- Aluminum: Typically found only in antiperspirants, this metal can cause “gene instability” in breast tissue, research shows. This can cause changes than may promote the growth of tumors or cancer cells.
- Triclosan: Cosmetic manufacturers add this chemical to many products in order to prevent and kill bacteria. Some animal studies have linked triclosan to unusual hormone activity. More research suggests triclosan could mess with your microbiome or the day-to-day operations of your genes.
- Phthalates: These compounds help deodorant and other cosmetics—such as fragrance—stick to your skin. They appear to disrupt “androgen function,” or the way your body produces and uses the hormone testosterone; could impair reproductive ability in men and impact fetal development in pregnant women; and have been linked to lower IQs and higher rates of asthma.
- Fragrance: Almost every scented product has “fragrance” or “perfume” but it’s tough to know what chemicals are in those vague listed ingredients. “It could be phthalates, or it could be substances that cause allergies or skin irritation,” an associate professor of biology tells Time.
Find a Natural Deodorant That Works
Keep in mind that when you make the switch from a non-natural deodorant or antiperspirant, you may experience more odor at first since your body is adjusting and going through a detox phase. Clean Plates has a few tips for making the transition smoother, from Mary Futher, founder and product developer of Kaia Naturals.
If you want to go the natural deodorant route, there are a number of options. What works for one person may not work for someone else, but here are five recommended tried and tested natural deodorants.
No longer just a paste, this aluminum-, paraben- and GMO-free deodorant also comes in stick form. Some prominent health experts use it and love it. They also have detox deodorant and kits with activated charcoal and bentonite clay to help your detox your pits if you’re switching from a less natural deodorant or antiperspirant. You can try it out first with their mini pastes too.
A Cosmo writer who tried it says, “It stands up to excessive amounts of sweat. If you can stand the vodka scent during application, it'll fend off whatever stench you're working with.”
This “aluminum-, propylene glycol-, paraben-, phthalate- and artificial fragrance-free stick” is “an easy and effective swap for drugstore deodorants,” Clean Plates says. In addition to being cheap and effective, “Bergamot peel and lime oils lend a bright, citrus scent, without the irritation of synthetic fragrance.”
Rodale’s Organic loved this deodorant that’s top-rated by the Environmental Working Group and free of biologically harmful chemicals: “I test drove the aloe & tea flower version on a few 3-mile runs, and found that though I had a mild sweat at the end, they did a great job of keeping my skin smelling good and free of strong body odor.” They come in a variety of other scents plus unscented.
Cosmo’s verdict: “It delivers on beating body odor and reducing wetness — if vanilla is your thing.”
Want to see more options or how your deodorant stacks up as far as possible health risks? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database of deodorant products. The EWG’s ratings (lower numbers are better) are related to ingredient concerns, not how well a deodorant may work at preventing body odor, so you’ll have to test that part.
Hopefully with this info you can go forth and sweat more confidently! May we suggest our workout playlist as motivation?
(Thumbnail Photo Credit: CentralITAlliance/iStock)
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.