Remember when you were a teen and picking up your first stick of Secret deodorant was a rite of passage. Back then, natural deodorant was the domain of your friend’s hippie mom. But the tides have turned and the old-school antiperspirant is being viewed as just that – archaic. And rightfully so! We’ve learned that letting your body sweat is natural and a really good thing.
Making the switch to natural deodorant can be a risky choice though, since smelling isn’t great for anyone’s social life. It took me years to take the plunge and quit antiperspirant. I was scared. I thought that I would always smell and my friends would disown me. Failing wasn’t an option, so I came up with an “anti-perspirant detox method” that helped me get over the initial transition period and I literally didn’t “sweat” it. I knew I was making the right choice, and it’s served me well ever since.
New to natural deodorant? Not sure where to start? Let’s talk through the basics.
Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant
Simply put, antiperspirant blocks sweat glands in your armpits so you don’t sweat.
Here’s the main problem with antiperspirant: it’s made with potentially harmful chemicals, including aluminum, which blocks the skin’s pores. There’s some controversy whether or not aluminum is tied to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but regardless, sweating is a necessary function of the body and shouldn’t be blocked; sweat helps to regulate your body temperature and balance your electrolytes.
Deodorant on the other hand, doesn’t block sweat glands but helps to neutralize odour. Sweat on its own doesn’t actually smell. Sweat glands located in your armpits, groin, and feet (called apocrine glands) secrete an oily substance that contains proteins and fat. This fatty-protein mixture is then “eaten” by bacteria living on the skin, which in turn produces a smelly by-product (also known as B.O.).
Deodorants work to counteract the smell of body odour and usually contain moisturizing, plant-based oils and butters like coconut oil and shea butter, wetness protection ingredients like corn starch or arrowroot powder, and odour eating and antibacterial ingredients like baking soda, clay, charcoal, and essential oils. It’s worth noting though, that not all deodorants are made with natural ingredients.
Should you use a natural deodorant stick or cream?
Until recently, most natural deodorants were made in stick form. In my opinion, this is one of the most common reasons why natural deodorants have had a bad reputation and often failed their users. It really comes down to the type of ingredients included in the formula and the amount of product that actually gets applied to the skin.
Deodorant sticks are often made up with a mix of water and odour-fighting ingredients that are melded together with a binding agent. Think of your standard natural food store brands like Toms of Maine, or Jason’s. When applied to the underarm, it often goes on in a very thin layer, feels wet, and doesn’t stay on the skin for long.
Deodorant creams on the other hand come in a jar which offers more flexibility with the type of ingredients that can be added (since it doesn’t need to keep its shape). As a result, more product actually makes contact with the skin, creating an emollient layer, and stays there.
That said, companies are becoming savvier when it comes to formulas and there are deodorant sticks on the market now that are an effective mix of deodorant cream and stick.
Top ingredients to avoid in antiperspirant/ deodorant:
- propylene glycol
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
- talcum Powder
- fragrance (phthalates)
Ingredients to avoid if you have sensitive skin:
- baking soda (look for “baking soda free” deodorant which usually contains magnesium hydroxide)
- tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil (try lavender or citrus scents)
Ingredients to look for if you are a heavy sweater:
- antibacterial oils like tea tree and neem
- extra baking soda (you can find some “extra strength” formulas)
What to know if you are a first-time natural deodorant uder:
- Be prepared for a 1-2 week transition period, known as a detox. This period is often characterized by a stronger odour than usual.
- Try a few brands and formulas to see what works for you
- Be patient, but know it’s worth it!
Some of my favourite natural deodorant brands to try:
Making the switch to natural deodorant doesn’t have to be scary. Do some research, be okay with sweating, and follow an antiperspirant detox protocol if you need a little hand-holding.
One lucky winner will get a free copy of Seanna’s Antiperspirant Detox Guide – check our Instagram for more details!