What You Need to Know About Natural Versus Conventional Deodorant
Plus, our guide to making the switch.
Whether you're looking to clarify your skincare routine or make the switch for environmental reasons, opting for all-natural deodorant is not as off-putting as it used to be. From understanding what works best for your body to demystifying what an armpit detox is, we've got answers to your questions about going antiperspirant-free.
Are antiperspirants and deodorants the same thing?
For starters, it's important to note that there is a difference between antiperspirant and deodorant. "Deodorants mask the odor, while antiperspirants stop your sweat glands from producing sweat," explains Dr. Nava Greenfield, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York. And while all antiperspirants may be deodorants, not all deodorants are antiperspirants, according to Susan Biehle-Hulette, a senior scientist at Secret.
Which one is better?
Antiperspirants prevent us from sweating, but it's important to remember that sweating is an essential bodily function. "We're meant to sweat," says Dr. Mariza Snyder, DC, a functional practitioner specializing in women's hormones. "Our skin is the biggest organ in our body, and it's part of a detox pathway. If you're not sweating, it's a sign you're not burning off toxins, or that you have a sluggish metabolism." Snyder says that aluminum is the most concerning ingredient in an antiperspirant. The metal's ions are drawn into the cells and line the armpits, causing sweat ducts to swell and squeeze closed so that sweat cannot be released. "We shouldn't bake with aluminum foil, or use aluminum pots and pans, and the same goes for deodorant. Long-term or consistent use can cause degenerative tissue. Aluminum ions are neurotoxins. There's research showing that they can change the estrogen receptors of breast cell tissue, and can also cause liver toxicity and contribute to Alzheimer's disease," she says.
Others, like Greenfield, aren't entirely against antiperspirant. She says, "It really depends on the person and their needs." And despite claims that these products may be linked to breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute states that there is no conclusive evidence to prove this. "It's such a small amount of aluminum that stays in the sweat glands," says Greenfield. "And it's not being absorbed by the body in a large enough amount that could cause harmful effects." To find your best fit-especially if you have sensitive skin-she recommends always checking the ingredient list. Look for common irritant culprits in your deodorant (often from the fragrance) like propylene glycol, formaldehyde, geraniol, linalool, carboxaldehyde, benzyl salicylate. As for choosing between sticks, creams, roll-ons, and sprays, here's Greenfield's word to the wise: "Deodorant doesn't belong in your lungs. If you can, stay away from sprays."
What exactly does "all-natural" really mean?
In most cases, it means "aluminum-free." They generally contain three types of ingredients: an ingredient to absorb sweat, like baking soda or arrowroot; a natural microbial, like coconut oil; and essential oils to add fragrance and mask odors. You also can make your own by mixing together coconut oil and essential oils, Snyder says, or you can buy one. Luckily, more and more brands are coming out with great natural varieties.
How should I switch over?
If you've decided you want to trade in your old stick, keep in mind that you may need to tweak your body care routine to make the transition a smooth one. While it's not medically-backed, some natural deodorant users swear by an armpit detox when first ditching a conventional brand. This detox can help unclog any residual chemicals the area has accumulated before you introduce a new kind of deodorant (think of it as a clean start). Katie Wells of natural living blog, Wellness Mama, recommends this simple mixture of bentonite clay, apple cider vinegar, and a bit of water to make the mask.
If the idea of an armpit detox isn't for you, don't sweat it. Tara Pelletier, of Meow Meow Tweet says, "The body is detoxing all of the time. Sweating is natural and part of your body's detoxification." If you find that your natural deodorant isn't working as well at first, she suggests exfoliating your armpits once a week. "You can use a washcloth or a gentle body scrub with oat flour (mix flour 1-to-1 with oil or water)." Then, moisturize daily with unscented oil, like coconut, to help with absorption.
Try these alternatives.
Ready to swap? Here are some of our favorite all-natural deodorants. Ursa Major Hoppin' Fresh Deodorant has a refreshing, spa-like scent thanks to ingredients like peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary. The brand also makes a baking soda-free alternative, too, for those who find their skin is sensitive to it. If you're looking for something that's more of a detoxifier, try Schmidt's Charcoal + Magnesium Deodorant, which contains charcoal. "Charcoal is a toxic binder, so if you're in the process of a heavy metal or aluminum detox, charcoal can help extract it out of your body or armpits," Snyder says. That makes this product a good one to try if you're just switching from antiperspirant to natural deodorant.
We also like Megababe Rosy Pits, which has a rose fragrance- and is baking soda-free. Plus, it's natural in all of the good ways, yet still smells pretty and works like a charm. If you want more scent options, check out Type A Deodorant. Not only do these deodorants smell amazing (and come in three scents: White Floral Linen, Ocean Mint, and Clean Crisp Citron), but they actually have a time-release formula that helps prevent underarm wetness for a while. These are creams that come in a tube, so you just have to squeeze the formula under your arms and rub it in.
For an effective natural deodorant that's also chic (yes, deodorant can be pretty, too!), check out Agent Nateur Holi(Stick) N3. The elegant packaging is indicative of the formula, which contains coconut oil, avocado butter, and eucalyptus to keep you smelling fresh all day long. Last but not least, put Ethique Lavender & Vanilla Glow Solid Deodorant on your radar. This one looks like a bar of soap, and can be applied like one as well. Just use after showering, exercising-you know the deal. We especially love it because it's great for the environment since it's plastic-free.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Lim-Chua Wee.