I was a loyal conventional deodorant/antiperspirant user for years but when I learned more about the harmful effects typical drugstore deodorants and antiperspirants can have on a woman’s body, I immediately started searching for a healthier alternative.
Just how potentially harmful products we use daily from conventional cosmetics to hair and body care can also be overwhelming. A good resource for assessing the potential danger of products is the Environmental Working Group’s website and Skin Deep database of products. For on the go, I like using the Think Dirty app.
If you’re on the hunt for an effective (yes, I said it: actually effective!) aluminum-free, non-toxic deodorant, you might be overwhelmed by the options and reviews out there.
I started my search for a safer deodorant at my natural food store and the wide variety of price points, scents, brands, and types threw me off. I left empty handed. So, next, I hunted online. Oops, now I was even more overwhelmed.
Back to my armpits. Yikes, why is that word so awful? Do I only think it’s awful because of what it is and I’ve spent years being ashamed of this body part, or is it just a fundamentally awful word, like moist? Armpits. =Shudder.=
Eventually, I pulled the trigger and bought something on the fly. I needed it because my last Secret stick was completely used up, unable to be my back up anymore. After my first experiment turned out relatively well, I was hooked and excited to try different brands with different main ingredients and formulas.
I asked my fellow Burlington Mom bloggers who are loyal to their natural deodorants for recommendations and let’s just say – no pun intended – things got heated. The consensus, not surprisingly, was that it is a journey to find a natural deodorant that works. These days, we know more than ever about why it’s important (especially for women and kids) to use aluminum-free, triclosan-free, deodorants under our arms. In addition, new products seem to be popping up left and right. But also some of those “OG” natural deodorants have primo shelf space simply because they were there first (even if they’re not as effective IMO). It can be frustrating to try brand after brand and come up empty handed. I say keep them all on hand in case you want to loop back to them later or use them during the cooler months. Just keep trying!
The reason why you might have to hunt for a favorite brand or go back-and-forth between a few brands is likely because your body is unique and your hormones and other factors can fluctuate. What works well for your friend may not work for you.
One day, as I was talking to a friend about our searches for our “holy grail” natural deodorant, it hit me: harsh aluminum antiperspirant “works for everyone” in the same way because the truth is it isn’t designed for a human body, it is designed to prevent a natural process. It’s designed to disrupt an effective system all bodies use. So, of course, it works for everyone. And on the flip side, of course every natural deodorant doesn’t work for everyone in the same way.
A few notes before we dive into my top picks.
First, some people report that you’ll go through a “detox” phase where your body gets used to the switch from harmful toxins to the more natural alternatives you’re now slathering on. For me, this simply meant that sometimes I had to reapply my new natural deodorant mid-day but it was barely an issue. My point is, try not to get freaked out by the stories and instructions that make the detox phase seem horrifying and complicated. I barely noticed it and, in fact, didn’t even know the name of it until I was years away from my experience. If you do feel you’re experiencing this detox, there is lots of advice out there on how to speed up the process. The most effective way is probably to go deodorant-free as often as you can. Any cooler days or days when you know your activity will be minimal. Some companies like Primal Pit Paste even offer some detox solutions now.
Second, natural deodorants might not even look and feel like the drugstore version you’ve used before. Some come in a stick but you might have to hold them under your arm for a few seconds to warm up the formula and make it more spreadable. Some come in a jar where you have to use your fingers or a little spoon to fish out the product and spread it under your arms with your hands. It might take some getting used to, but I don’t even think about it anymore.
Third, these products tend to be more expensive than the conventional brands. It’s not true across the board but the majority cost a bit (to a lot) more. I am willing to pay more because of the high quality of the ingredients used, and the fact that I find myself using less deodorant overall now. Weird, but delightfully true.
Lastly, some natural deodorants use baking soda as the main ingredient which some people are sensitive to. I am one of those people. I can use these products for one day but might have some itchiness on day two or three. I definitely can’t use baking soda products right after shaving. The good news is that 1) many people don’t have any issues with it 2) there are lots of great products out on the market that don’t use baking soda just in case you do have a sensitivity like me.
These examples of natural deodorants are in no particular order because I like them all relatively equally. However, I tend to have different favorites depending on the day, week, season or, frankly, my hormonal state. At different stages of pregnancy, for example, I felt very strongly for/against certain scents and formulas. On a normal day, though, I’d happily reach for any of these, which seem to be widely available and work well for a larger group of people:
- Primal Pit Paste (Where to buy: Online, City Market, Healthy Living.)
- Schmidt’s (Where to buy: Online, City Market, Healthy Living, Commodities Winooski, etc.)
- Meow Meow Tweet (Where to buy: Online.)
I also love and highly recommend these from Vermont companies:
- Sempiira Cream Deodorant (Where to buy: Online, at the Shelburne Farmer’s Market this summer.)
- Vermont Soap Company Organic Deodorant (Where to buy: Online, City Market.)
- Caroline’s Dream Deodorant (Where to buy: Online, Middlebury Natural Foods Coop.)
There are also lots and lots of other ones that are available, and many I’ve tried but won’t mention because while they’re not terrible and ineffective, they were just MEH. And we deserve more than MEH, mamas!
Yes, there are a lot of good, effective natural deodorant brands out there!
Also, note that I typically have 2 or 3 natural deoderants in rotation at any given time. Perhaps that seems excessive, especially given that I call myself a minimalist, but it works for me and lots of people I know. A rotation seems to be the best way for me to effectively feel dry and fresh every day. Right now, I have two jars that I switch between – Sempiira and Meow Meow Tweet Grapefruit. Both are gentle on my skin and I don’t smell even after a hot day running around after my kids. A friend I recently helped to find a good natural deodorant routine settled on rotating between a Schmidt’s Sensitive stick and a jar of Primal Pit Paste. She brought both on vacation to a hot destination and said she felt great.
Also, shout-out to Tom’s of Maine for still being my husband’s favorite and being a good backup for me on occasion (I like the Apricot one.) Oh yes, you know I dragged my SO into my explorations to find a safer deodorant. I want his ‘pits to be healthy, too. The couple that naturally deodorizes together, um, stays together?
Want to try making your own?
One of the easiest recipes I’ve tried is actually a spray, from blogger Kathryn of Going Zero Waste. There are a lot of do-it-yourself recipes out there and I’m definitely interested in trying out more recipes. If you are a DIY-er by nature, you’ll find a plethora of great recipes out there. It will likely be less expensive and you can customize the ingredient ratios and scents to your preference. For example, I find that arrowroot powder is an ingredient that works particularly well for me so I tend to like DIYs that call for it.
I wanted to keep this post positive but I will say that a couple of brands and products completely failed me. I feel compelled to share them here: Thai Crystal or any of the rock crystals, Weleda spray, and Desert Essence. If these happen to work for you, great! For me, they were about as effective as water. Which is to say, not effective at all but I guess slightly more effective than going without deodorant altogether.