The hygiene aisle of any pharmacy or grocery store is packed to the brim with clinical-strength products, antiperspirants that promise to make you smell like a Hawaiian breeze (what does that even mean?) and, in these health-conscious days, deodorants that don’t contain aluminum.
When the scientifically unsubstantiated news about the breast cancer-causing dangers of aluminum started to spread, many made the switch to natural products. I wanted to try them too — not just for my health, but to support smaller businesses doing positive things for the environment.
Aluminum doesn’t actually contribute to causing breast cancer as was once believed
What’s the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?
Many people assume anything that goes under the arm is an antiperspirant, but the difference between an antiperspirant and deodorant is important to understand before committing to the natural product life.
A deodorant does exactly what the name implies. They don’t stop wetness under the arms, but rather use scent and natural ingredients — like coconut oil or shea butter, arrowroot powder, Diatomaceous Earth and, in some products, baking soda — to fight bacteria that causes body odour.
The anti-aluminum trend sprung up when it was widely claimed that aluminum stopped toxins from leaving the body
Antiperspirants’ main claim to fame, on the other hand, is stopping sweat production completely. Most drug-store antiperspirants contain aluminum — currently the only FDA-approved anti-sweat agent — that blocks sweat glands from releasing perspiration.
The anti-aluminum trend sprung up when it was widely claimed that aluminum stopped toxins from leaving the body by blocking the glands near the lymph nodes. In fact, the main purpose of sweating is to keep the body cool, not release toxins, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
So, if aluminum doesn’t actually contribute to causing breast cancer as was once believed, what is the point of using a natural deodorant?
What are the benefits of using a natural deodorant?
Anyone looking for a natural antiperspirant, without aluminum, will be hard-pressed to find one. This leads many down a trail of endlessly testing natural options that work for them and their bodies, and they do so for a variety of reasons.
Natural deodorants allow your body to continue doing what it naturally does to cool your body: sweat. They do so while also eliminating unwanted odour. A natural deodorant is a safer option for those with sensitive skin or underarms, as they use all-natural ingredients instead of synthetic scents, which can more commonly cause irritation. Those who shave or wax their underarms may recall a familiar burning sensation of applying antiperspirant onto freshly dehaired armpits.
Finally, you’ll get to say goodbye to pit stains on every single white top you own!
Aside from all of the wonderful physical benefits, there are also values at stake. If you don’t want to contribute to plastic pollution, opting for natural deodorant is your best bet, as the majority come in recyclable or biodegradable packaging that won’t get stuck in a landfill for years to come. There are also tons of local artisans producing incredible products that will last you longer than the traditional drugstore buy.
Finally, you’ll get to say goodbye to pit stains on every single white top you own! In many cases, those stains are actually caused by your body’s bacteria mixing with aluminum. After making the switch, you won’t have to toss nearly as many plain white tees.
Related: 10 stigmas women still face everyday.
Choosing the right natural deodorant for you
Some things to consider when deciding on which product to try first are: ingredients, scent, brand and packaging. The majority of natural deodorants contain the same or similar ingredients, like different kinds of natural oils and botanical scents.
Many brands, however, offer the option of purchasing their product with or without sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and alcohols, two anti-odour ingredients that can change the texture of the product and can be irritating for some people. Similarly, not everyone enjoys the same underarm scent — luckily, there’s a plethora of natural scents to choose from, ranging from lemon and cucumber to lavender, rosemary and spicy chai.
How do you like to apply your deodorant? Natural options come in tins, small containers, tubes or spray bottles, either made of plastic, cardboard, aluminum or biodegradable materials. This is completely personal preference, but important to consider when investing in your next beauty product.
Lastly, take a look at what kind of brands you want to support. If accessibility is the most important, you might opt for something you can find on Amazon or at Sephora. If this is less of a priority for you, perhaps shopping at a local shop is for you.
For discrete deodorant touch-ups throughout the day, Way of Will’s Natural Deodorant Spray is a must-try. Their grapefruit and lavender scent is energizing and kicks odour to the curb, and it looks like you’re just spritizing yourself with body spray. For a creamy deodorant that doesn’t require digging into with your fingers, Boscia’s brand-new Prebiotic + Probiotic Freshening All-Over Body Deodorant smells like lemons, applies like a dream, and can even be used between the legs and under breasts for its anti-chafe qualities.
If stick application is your preferred method, take a look at Canadian indie brands like Ruoravaan or Attitude. Both companies have perfected natural deodorant sticks that don’t use plastic, come in a variety of scents (like Ruoravaan’s warm and sexy Rose & Cacao or Attitude’s ultra-fresh Avocado Oil) and are easy to use by quickly swiping under the arm.
In the deodorant-tub world, two brands reign supreme: No Pong and Crawford Street Natural Skincare. The former sells underarm anti-odorants in a variety of scents, with or without baking soda and in easy-to-recycle aluminum tubs. The Toronto-based natural skin care line Crawford Street creates glass tubs of cream deodorant with the most mature of scents, like cedar and juniper, to classic ones like lemon.
There’s something out there for everyone that won’t break the bank.
See also: Are mushrooms the future of skincare?
Be patient through the detox period
What many don’t know is that transitioning to a natural deodorant requires patience through a detox period. Expect to sweat and smell more for a couple weeks as your body adjusts to its sweat glands being open and uninhibited by blocking agents like aluminum. If you stick with it, you’ll notice over time that you will actually sweat less and smell better, or less than before.
Just like over-washing and under-moisturizing your face causes an overproduction of oil as your skin overcompensates, a similar thing happens with your underarms. You will overproduce sweat before levelling out to “normal.”
What will likely change for the long haul is a need to reapply throughout the day. If you’re committed to the natural deodorant journey, this will soon just become a part of your day, like touching up your makeup, changing a tampon or refilling your water bottle at work.
Remember: Sweating is normal and healthy
Sadly, sweating has become something to be embarrassed about, especially for women-identifying folks. But understandably, no one wants to ruin an outfit with sweat marks on their shirt, or deal with the discomfort of overwhelming wetness under their arms.
Just remember that sweating is completely normal and nothing to be embarrassed about — that will make the transition all the easier.
See also: Bush confidence: Why I keep my body hair.