Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth, King Arthur sought the Holy Grail, and we have voyaged to the deepest, darkest threads on Reddit on a similarly important quest...one to find a natural deodorant that actually works. We’ve been swindled, heartbroken, allergic, and stanky. I thought finding a guy with decent credit and zero aspirations to be famous in Los Angeles was hard, but the search for a non-toxic deodorant is the true struggle. Jenn and I discuss new products in the destanking field with a fervor usually reserved for potential Democratic Party nominees. We’re baring our soul and pits to share what has worked for us. Summer is coming (cue GoT theme song)!
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
What’s the diff between these two? Good question; deodorants are a cosmetic product meant to mask odor and keep you smelling so fresh and so clean clean, while antiperspirants contain aluminum to physically plug up your sweat glands and keep wetness at bay. Animals all have natural reactions to cool down their bodies; humans sweat, dogs pant, and elephants flap their big ears like fans (fact!) There is a biological reason we sweat, we've just been conditioned by advertising to think it's a problem requiring a new product to solve. Strangely enough, before the natural deodorant movement took off, the majority of deodorants marketed to men didn't even have antiperspirant properties! As with many products targeted to make women feel like there's something "wrong" with their bodies, antiperspirant was added into all female deodorant products, because God forbid a woman sweats. The patriarchy has perpetuated the myth that our pits must be dry!
Why to Eliminate Aluminum
While the American Cancer Society has not made a definitive connection between breast cancer and aluminum antiperspirant, there are strong theories that the aluminum compound, when absorbed by the skin, can cause endocrine disruption in the receptors of the breast cells. “Because estrogen can promote the growth of both cancer and non-cancer breast cells, some scientists have suggested that using the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer,” the ACS states. While it’s not scientifically supported by hard data yet, the idea of inhibiting your body from an important normal function doesn’t seem worth bone-dry pits.
Disclaimer: Although we've switched to natural deodorant, we do keep a travel size old school toxic one just for those very rare occasions where the possibility of swamp-pits isn't an option (an important meeting, a wedding, you get the idea).
All Natural Pitfalls
Baking soda is a common replacement for aluminum in natural deos; you'll see it listed as "Sodium Bicarbonate." While it can do a good job of keeping you stink-free, it can be very irritating to the skin. Alternatives like activated charcoal and arrowroot powder can be gentler on your delicate ‘pits.
There’s a lot of noise about “armpit detoxing” before switching to natural brands; the theory is that the bacteria under your arms needs to adjust to a new product. When people complain of a new natural deo not working, it could be that their body is still detoxing from the aluminum in their previous antiperspirant. This “detox” period can last up to a month! We discovered a hack from a fellow natural deo crusader that really made our natural deodorants seriously effective...applying a swipe of AHA or BHA to lower the skin’s pH to discourage bacterial growth (aka: stink factory). The simplest and cheapest way to do this? Remember that tub of Stridex pads from middle school? They’re BHA bombs for your underarms now (salicylic acid = BHA)! That’s right, we are Stridexing our pits...2019 is really crazy, ya’ll. This article on BeautyTap gets deep into the BHA/AHA theories. It had the added benefit of getting rid of any razor burn!
Disclaimer: Please Stridex your pits with caution, salicylic acid can be very drying and may cause irritation.
Carley’s Pit Picks:
I check Good Guide and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to see if there are any no bueno chemicals hidden in my products. The natural deos listed below have low to no hazard ingredient ratings, and Crystal and Real Purity are also cruelty-free.
Crystal Body Roll On (unscented): This odor-less, invisible watery roll on is great if you’re worried about marks on your clothes, or smelling like anything artificial. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan. With a Stridex wipe down, this one is pretty good, especially if you’re not into baking soda in your deo. This guy is also always hanging out at Marshalls for $3.99. I have done a lot of my natural deo experimentation in the aisles of my local Marshalls, because I am an intrepid researcher and will go to great lengths in the name of science.
Real Purity: This cruelty-free roll on was a ride-or-die for me for a while...then a bad batch came out and the Reddit boards were ablaze with furious former fans, angered about the suddenly too watery formula. The good news is that they have amazing customer service; after one email they immediately sent me a replacement bottle, no questions asked. The base of this deo is vegetable glycerin, so it’s a good pick for the baking soda averse. The stinky thing here is the price…$17 is a lot to pay for something that’s going on my pits. It’s cheaper on their direct website and they often have coupons. The smell is strong, but I kind of dig it. This is my “special occasion” deo...also, this is the most depressing sentence I’ve ever typed. Moving on…
Lavilin: When a friend first told me about this brand, I though she was f'ing with me. This brand claims to only require application ONCE A WEEK. That’s right. Once a GD week. How is it possible? Black magic? Probably. I started with their Foot deodorant, and I have to say...it works. The directions for application are very specific. You have to clean your skin, put it on the ball and toe pads, and leave overnight (I toss on socks). It comes in a tub and has a paste consistency, and no real scent. It has a low hazard rating, and a rabid following according to the Amazon reviews. I just got the underarm version and there was a weird detox situation at first, but I stuck with it and there’s something truly magical about only dealing with deo drama once a week.
Jenn’s Pit Picks:
This was one of the first natural deodorants I tried that actually worked. I put it to the test by wearing it to sweaty dance classes and even a mid-August outdoor music festival. While I wasn't dry as a bone, I wasn't stinky! The downside is that if you're at all sensitive to baking soda this might cause a really uncomfortable rash after prolonged use. I learned that the hard way. Now, I only use this for my extra sweaty days and make sure to not over apply, no more rash! My favorite scents are the Eucalyptus Mint (in the men's section...insert eye roll) and the Coconut Vanilla.
This has become my go-to, everyday, regular use, deodorant. It has pretty similar ingredients as Carley's pick, Crystal Roll-On, but comes in scents I prefer. If you've been using traditional anti-perspirant/deodorant, this might be a deep dive into the natural realm for your first go. The rose scent smells delightful and lasts all day. However, it's not going to absorb any wetness like Native and you'll probably have to reapply and maybe...ahem...shower. That being said, if you've got sensitive pits like me, this is a great product to keep you smelling like roses and rash-free.