It is natural for our bodies to sweat and the sweat glands in our armpits play an essential role in temperature regulation. Our sweat is odorless. It is the bacteria on the skin that cause the smell. An antiperspirant works by plugging up your sweat glands so you don’t sweat. Deodorants do not stop you from sweating but target the bacteria that cause the smell.
I have only recently made the decision that I no longer want to use antiperspirants. I don’t like the idea of toxins accumulating instead of being perspired out of my body and it does not make sense to apply products containing questionable ingredients every day of your life. Perhaps I have taken longer than most to arrive at this conclusion because I didn’t believe that natural deodorants really worked. Who wants to throw out your antiperspirant if you have to avoid going near anyone else because of your ripe body odour! However, natural deodorants appear to have come a long way over the past few years and so I decided to find out more.
What ingredients to avoid
Aluminium compounds, used in many antiperspirants, are cause for concern. According to The Risk Assessment Information System, they “may be involved” in Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons. Parabens, including any ingredient that begins with propyl, ethyl, methyl, butyl or benzyl, mimic estrogen and are suspected of being linked to breast cancer. Phthalates have been linked to several health problems and are considered to be endocrine disrupting. Triclosan, an ingredient used in some deodorants as an antibacterial, is referred to as a ‘carcinogen pesticide’. Propylene Glycol, a petroleum based substance used to create a soft consistency, is believed to be toxic. Sulfates are said to have a degenerative effect on cell membranes. Talc that contains asbestos has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Silica may be added to deodorant to absorb moisture, but it can be contaminated with crystalline quartz, a carcinogenic compound.
While the jury is still out as to how true some of the claims may be, my philosophy is that If there’s any doubt that what I am using may be bad for my body, it’s worth looking for a viable alternative.
What ingredients to look for
A natural deodorant that does not really deal with the bad smell is not acceptable. One with a heavy fragrance may just cover up the odour for a while. Can chemical free deodorants really keep you smelling fresh as a daisy on a hot summer’s day, even when you exercise?
An essential ingredient in a natural deodorant is an antibacterial. Many plant-based ingredients and essential oils are known for their antibacterial qualities. Grape seed oil, tea tree oil and coconut oil are excellent antibacterials. Lavender, rosemary, bergamot and lemon essential oils are also well known for their antibacterial properties. Baking soda is a simple ingredient used in some natural deodorants for its ability to eliminate bacteria and prevent smell.
Moisture control and absorption
A type of starch such as arrowroot or cornstarch is often used as it helps with moisture control and absorption. Clays may be added for extra moisture control and their ability to pull toxins from the skin.
Soothing and moisturising
A moisturizing agent helps a natural deodorant to go on easily and nourishes the skin. Shea butter is one that’s commonly used. Many other natural ingredients, like aloe vera, have soothing and nourishing qualities.
My wish list:
- Free of any harmful chemicals like aluminium, propylene glycol, parabens and phthalates
- A clean, light fragrance
- Non-greasy and non-sticky
- Absorption of enough moisture to avoid constant dampness
- Quick drying
- Long lasting
- No residue
How did the following six products measure up?
The following six products are all recommended as being the most effective natural deodorants. I decided to compare them to see how they measured up when it came to price, fragrance, look and feel, application, key ingredients and packaging.
The first three products are all applied by hand. This takes some getting used to after relying on an application stick for years. However, I took them seriously into consideration as they all had very enthusiastic supporters.
Dr Schmidt’s Lavendar and Sage (2oz)
Fragrance: Light, fresh scent
Look and feel: Off-white. A bit drier than a cream – more like a paste.
Application: Remove product from jar with spatula. Warm up a pea-sized amount with fingers and apply by hand. If you try to use the spatula to apply it to your armpits, it doesn’t spread properly as the warmth of your fingers helps. A little goes a long way. It has no apparent residue.
Key Ingredients: Clary sage and lavender essential oils (antibacterial), baking soda, arrowroot (moisture absorption) Shea butter, cocoa seed butter, Vitamin E, hop extract (soothing and moisturizing).
Packaging: Glass jar. Simple but attractive.
Overall: Works well all day, even when exercising. Its price was the most reasonable of the hand-applied products.
Fat and the Moon Deodorant Cream (2oz)
Fragrance: The essential oils and grapefruit give a light, fresh smell.
Look and feel: Yellowish, thick cream
Ingredients: Coconut oil, baking soda (antibacterial) arrowroot (absorbs moisture), Black Pepper essential oil, Clary Sage, Bergamot and a touch of grapefruit (absorb moisture and give fragrance)
Application: Put a small amount onto fingertips and apply to underarm.
Packaging: Cute jar.
Overall: The price is on the high side. This is a handmade product with a strong following and a little goes a long way. It works well, even when exercising. The Black Pepper scent is too strong for some people.
Hippy Pits natural deodorant (2 oz)
Price: $12 each: Tree Hugger (Eucalyptus, Tea tree), Live Love Lavender and The Naked Hippy
$31 for a combined bundle.
Fragrance: Tree Hugger has a sharp, fresh scent. Lavender avoids the ‘old lady’ smell and is light and pleasant. The Naked Hippy is fragrance free.
Look and feel: Each product is a different color, depending on the ingredients used. More of a paste than cream and can be a bit crumbly.
Ingredients: Coconut oil, grapefuit seed oil, aluminium free baking powder (antibacterial), arrowroot powder and tapioca starch (absorb moisture), diatomaceous earth and vitamin E (healthy skin), Canadian Marine Glacial Clay (draws out toxins and absorbs moisture).
Application: Tongue-in-cheek directions on how to apply the product are given on the website – Step 1: Find your arm pit. Step 2: Scoop some deodorant out with your finger. Step 3: Rub it in well all over your pit. Step 4: Live life and don’t be afraid to touch yourself. If used daily a 2oz jar should last up to 2 months. It is preferable to use it within six months of purchase and best kept at room temperature.
Packaging: Simple and organic-looking.
Overall: This company slogan “Live like a hippy, don’t smell like one” made me smile, as did their application directions but don’t underestimate the product because of the approach. It contains grapefruit seed oil, a highly concentrated antimicrobial and antioxidant. The clay is mineral and micronutrient rich and helps to draw toxins out of the skin. The diotomaceous earth, the fossilized remains of diatoms (hard-shelled algae) is well-known for its health benefits). This product works well to eliminate odour. You will still sweat but it keeps the moisture under control and it nourishes the skin and helps with detoxification at the same time.
Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant-Vanilla Grapefruit (2oz)
Fragrance: It doesn’t smell quite like vanilla or grapefruit but the combination is refreshing and not overpowering.
Look and feel: white, smooth and goes on clear.
Application: Easy to apply with its swivel stick and no sticky wetness. Apply carefully to avoid leaving some residue on clothing.
Packaging: Looks pretty sitting on the bathroom cabinet. Screw-top lid.
Key Ingredients: Lemon and tea tree oils (antibacterial), corn starch and silica (absorb moisture), beta glucan, goji berry and aloe vera (soothing and skin nourishing).
Overall: Every single plant-derived ingredient is carefully selected in this award-winning deodorant to perform some vital function. It works well all day. Some people needed to re-apply it, especially after vigorous exercise but still felt it was a great product.
Dr. Hauschka – Deodorant Sage Mint (1.7 fl oz)
Fragrance: Fresh, herbal scent.
Look and feel: Non-oily, clear liquid.
Application: Easy to apply. No fear of residue.
Packaging: Fairly clinical looking bottle with roll-on applicator.
Key ingredients: Sage and Witch Hazel Essential oils (antimicrobial and astringent) and Alpha Hydroxy Acids to help avoid odour, tapioca starch (moisture absorbant), jojoba oil (softens and moisturizes skin).
Overall: This one is the most expensive of all the products. It does not keep you completely dry, but it’s super gentle on the skin and it really stops odour effectively.
Le Couvent des Minimes Everyday Deodorant with Alum Stone (1.6 Fl oz)
Fragrance: Lovely citrus scent- not too fragrant or overpowering
Look and feel: Clear liquid
Application: Easy to apply. No fear of residue.
Packaging: Attractive bottle with roll-on applicator.
Key ingredients: Alum stone (astringent and anti-septic), essential oils of blood orange, lemon and mandarin (refresh and curb odours), essential oil of rosemary (purifies and cleanses)
Overall: Easy to apply, does take a bit of time to dry but eliminates odour effectively even when exercising. The use of alum stone will raise alarm signs for some who question its use in deodorants, despite the fact that manufacturers insist on its safety.
All of the above natural deodorants fulfilled most of the requirements on my wish list, so it was difficult to decide between them. I decided to go with Lavinila. It wasn’t necessarily better than any of the others but I thought it would help me to make the transition from anti-perspirants more easily because it was easily applied with a swivel stick smelled good, looked pretty and contained some great ingredients. Perhaps when I get more adventurous I will go for Hippy Pits. I’m am no hippy (although I tried hard to be one when I was younger!) but I was fascinated by its ingredients and it seemed to work very well.
And so I take another step in my journey towards a more natural, organic lifestyle!