Say goodbye to aluminum and BO.
When claims that antiperspirants and deodorants containing aluminum cause cancer or Alzheimer’s started spreading years ago, of course we freaked out; putting something on our bodies every single day that could cause health problems isn’t exactly the goal of our morning routine.
Natural deodorants seem to be a safer, perhaps better alternative than regular ol’ deodorants you’d buy at the grocery store, especially if they don’t contain aluminum or pore-clogging ingredients. However, scientists have found that antiperspirants and aluminum-containing formulas actually won’t cause life-altering diseases. In fact, they’re rather safe.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad to switch to a natural deodorant. Those with sensitive skin or those who want a more sustainable beauty routine may find they prefer something natural over a formula that’s not, and that’s OK! Turns out both natural and regular deodorants work well, but neither will stop you from sweating. That’s where antiperspirant is needed.
If your head is spinning from thinking about what you apply to your pits, you’re not alone. With people doing armpit cleanses, switching formulas, making their own deodorants, or just sticking with whatever they’ve been using for years, it can be confusing to know what would work best for you or what’s best overall.
What is a natural deodorant?
Because there’s no regulated definition of what the “natural” part of natural deodorant is, it honestly varies. Some formulas without aluminum consider themselves natural, while others say that a formula is only natural if it contains ingredients you can pronounce or find in your kitchen.
In the most general sense, natural deodorant is a deodorant formulated without aluminum. This doesn’t mean they’re chemical-free, though. We often think of chemicals as a negative thing, but they’re really just “any substance that has a defined composition.” Water is a chemical, and it isn’t so bad, is it?
Natural deodorants use odor neutralizing ingredients and chemicals, like baking soda, arrowroot powder, and magnesium hydroxide, to absorb moisture and decrease body odor. Antiperspirants, however, use aluminum to physically block pores and decrease sweat production.
That said, if you want to sweat less, a natural deodorant won’t work for you, because its purpose isn’t to decrease sweat, its purpose is to deodorize your sweat.
Does it work better than regular deodorant?
The short answer? No. But that’s because it isn’t any less effective than regular deodorant, so they honestly work the same. Just as you’d find with any product, different brands and types of deodorant will produce different results. It all depends on what you like and what works best with your body.
Maybe you prefer a gel formula to a solid formula, or maybe you want something unscented instead of scented. Just like regular deodorant, you’ll have to do some testing to see what works best for you.
Do you have to do an armpit detox before switching to natural deodorant?
If you’ve seen people using masks or toners on their pits claiming that it will help remove aluminum or prevent your body from smelling as you transition to natural deo, you’ve probably wondered if that’s what you should be doing. And if you have applied a clay mask to your armpits and had to hold your arms in the air for 15 minutes while it does its thing, you know how annoying the process is.
Some people wipe their underarms with apple cider vinegar to help “detox” the area, while others use baking soda pastes or even specialty products. The reality is that you don’t need to detox before you switch to a new deodorant. You just need to be ready to stink for a little while.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, like any change you’d make to your personal care routine, it takes a bit for your body to adjust. When it’s been used to having antiperspirant block sweat from coming out of your pores, of course your pits will stink for a bit after you stop using it. You’re literally going from sweating less to sweating more, which means you’ll have more odor-causing bacteria under your arms than you usually would. It can take a bit for your natural deodorant to work, so the key is being patient.
If a natural deodorant isn’t “better,” why should you use it?
Just like pretty much everything in life, it all boils down to preference. Some people prefer using a natural deodorant because they feel better about the ingredients, like that it’s packaged more sustainably, or because it agrees better with the sensitive skin under their arms.
Others may like certain scents of natural deodorants more, or they may like that there are more unscented options to choose from. If you feel better about slapping on some homemade deodorant rather than applying it from a tube, do you! If you want to stick with your trusty old store brand stick, that’s fine, too.
If you’re interested in making the switch to natural deodorant, it can be confusing to know where to start. Here are some of our favorite brands that keep us feeling dry and smelling fresh all day long — even through workouts or especially sweaty days.
The Best Natural Deodorants for Women
One of the most popular natural deodorant brands out there is Native. Not only do they have a ton of amazing scents (like coconut vanilla and cucumber mint), but they offer a variety of formulas and packaging options, too. This paper tube is entirely recyclable and compostable when you’re done with it. If you need a sturdy container that will hold up in a makeup bag or suitcase, they have plastic applicators, too. Most of their scents are available in both types of packaging and also in sensitive formulations.
Salt & Stone
Salt & Stone
Ever considered a probiotic for your pits? Yeah, we haven’t either. Salt & Stone uses probiotics to help neutralize body odor, which we didn’t even know was possible. Aside from making you smell fresh, this deodorant also contains hyaluronic acid and seaweed extract to moisturize the delicate skin under your arms (which means they’ll itch less, too). You can choose from nature-inspired scents like lavender and sage, santal, eucalyptus and cedarwood, and more, and the plastic packaging is made from recovered ocean plastic that can be recycled again after you finish the tube.
Oars + Alps
Oars + Alps
Most natural deodorants use baking soda or arrowroot powder to help absorb excess moisture, which can lead to a chalky formula that leaves marks on your clothes. Fortunately, Oars + Alps created a deodorant that goes on clear and stays clear throughout the day, so you don’t have to worry about getting streaks on your favorite shirt. It’ll never feel sticky going on either, and it contains Alpine Caribou Moss extract to reduce skin irritation from shaving or the friction of skin rubbing together.
While smelling like a field of daisies is great, smelling like nothing could be even better. This unscented deodorant neutralizes your natural stink instead of covering it up with strong perfumes, which makes it perfect for those with sensitive skin. Probiotics work to de-stink your armpits, while coconut oil moisturizes, and baking soda absorbs sweat to keep you dry.
If you prefer a gel formula, this one goes on clear and dries almost instantly. Unlike most deodorants, this one doesn’t contain any water, so a little goes a long way. That not only saves you money because your tube goes further, but it means that the scent is über concentrated, so you’ll smell like grapefruit and ginger or whatever tantalizing scent you choose all day long. If you have sensitive skin, do be careful: this formula contains baking soda and essential oils that could be irritating for you.
Technically this deodorant does include aluminum, but only in the metal case it comes in. Instead of opting for a plastic tube, Bite opted for an infinitely recyclable, reusable aluminum case. This way, you can easily swap scents, refill your deo, and travel without worrying about a paper tube disintegrating. Scents like santal, rose vert, and neroli smell more like a cologne or perfume than a deodorant, but you can opt for an unscented deo, too.
Fulton & Roark
Fulton & Roark
Want to feel like you’re in a swanky jazz club each time you apply deodorant? Opt for the Sterling scent of this natural formula by Fulton & Roark. Commerce editor Katie P. uses this one, and she’s actually been asked what kind of perfume it is when she has it on. Leather, vanilla, and tobacco mix to create a scent that feels sophisticated and classic, all without being too strong.