Natural Deodorant Products–Pros, Cons, and Everything in Between

The first modern(ish) deodorant was called “Mum” and it was trademarked in 1888. Mum was a paste applied to the underarms and was not an antiperspirant. In 1903, “Everdry,” the first antiperspirant deodorant, was invented. Everdry was a messy product too, while also being harsh on skin and clothes. In the 1950s and 1960s, roll-on and aerosol deodorants were invented. Through the years, companies have innovated to make every type of deodorant imaginable, from deodorants with unusual scents to crystal deodorant stones.

I started using deodorant when I was 11 or 12. Like most girls my age, I got Teen Spirit. I loved that stuff! It made me feel so grown up. Looking back, I cringe thinking about what kind of ingredients might’ve been in it. 

Sweat is something I’ve always struggled with and it can be very embarrassing. I sweat excessively most days, whether it’s from exercise, heat, or stress (stress-sweat is real!). In college, I used clinical strength deodorant because I was under so much stress I needed a strong antiperspirant to make me feel more confident.

I started hearing about people using natural deodorants instead of antiperspirants and wondered how they could make it work. I thought natural deodorant was something that could never work for me. Well, a couple of years ago I decided to try one for the first time. It was a total dud for me even though that product works well for a lot of people. I thought that was it for me, that I’d always have to use antiperspirants…but then I kept hearing about other formulas and finally decided to try it again once I started working from home in March. I thought “what do I have to lose since we’re all quarantined anyway?”

I’ve learned a lot since then and I’d like to share some of that information with you. First of all, however, I want to explain why I want to discuss deodorant on my cruelty-free beauty blog. There are very few antiperspirants out there that are cruelty-free. I had been using Tom’s of Maine antiperspirant deodorant. That company is cruelty-free, but I recently learned that it is owned by Colgate-Palmolive which is not cruelty-free and therefore I will no longer purchase or promote Tom’s of Maine products. The good news is that there are plenty of cruelty-free options out there for natural deodorants!

What’s the difference between a traditional antiperspirant and a natural deodorant?

Traditional antiperspirants prevent odor by physically stopping the sweat. They are aluminum-based and work by blocking sweat ducts to reduce the amount of sweat that can be secreted. Antiperspirants with a higher concentration of aluminum are usually more effective at preventing sweat than ones with a lower concentration.

Natural deodorants prevent odor by killing odor-causing bacteria or might just mask the odor. Some can also absorb sweat to reduce wetness, depending on which ingredients are used. Natural deodorants do not block or clog sweat ducts like traditional antiperspirants.

Which ingredients are most effective in natural deodorants?

Each individual’s body chemistry is different, so no single formula of natural deodorant will work for every person. However, most natural deodorants will include ingredients that work to neutralize stinky bacteria and absorb excess moisture. I’ll list some common ingredients below that make natural deodorant more effective.

  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is one of the most popular ingredients used in natural deodorants. It absorbs sweat and kills odor-causing bacteria. Unfortunately, it causes irritation for people with sensitive skin so many deodorant brands that use baking soda will offer an alternative formula that doesn’t include any baking soda.
    • Often used in combination with arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Arrowroot powder and cornstarch are alternatives to baking soda. They absorb sweat and arrowroot powder has the added benefit of drawing out toxins and impurities. Both ingredients are safe for sensitive skin.
  • Mandelic acid, coconut oil, tea tree oil, and rosemary oil disinfect and prevent growth of bacteria which cause underarm odor.
    • Coconut oil has the added benefit of forming a solid foundation for the formula
  • Other essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and eucalyptus provide fragrance to mask odor if there is any.

Pros of natural deodorants

As you probably already know, there are several pros and cons associated with natural deodorant. We’ll start with the good stuff!

  • Most of the ingredients used in natural deodorants are simple, well-known, and good for your skin. There is a lot of uncertainty about the safety of aluminum used in antiperspirants.
    • Aloe leaf juice is a good ingredient to look for in natural deodorant; it soothes and is also an antibacterial
  • Your underarms can “breathe” when you wear natural deodorant because it doesn’t clog sweat ducts. This is a good thing because when those ducts are blocked, the sweat will build up under your skin along with bad bacteria.
  • No yellow stains on clothes! If you sweat while wearing an antiperspirant, the aluminum mixes with it to stain clothes yellow. No aluminum means no ugly stains.
  • Natural deodorant can be made at home if you prefer freshly made body care products.
  • Many cruelty-free options 🙂

Cons of natural deodorants

Just like with many things in life, we have to take the bad with the good when it comes to natural deodorant. There are a lot of great things about natural deodorant but it’s good to be aware of the cons too before you decide to make the switch.

  • You will sweat when using natural deodorant. There’s no way around it. On the bright side, there are ingredients used in many natural deodorants that absorb excess moisture so you might not feel sweaty depending on how much sweat you produce.
  • Many people that previously used antiperspirants go through a “detox” period the first couple of weeks of using a natural deodorant. During this time, the body purges the buildup from sweat ducts and you may experience excessive sweating and stinkier sweat than what you’re used to. Don’t worry though, this is temporary.
  • Some ingredients commonly used in natural deodorants can be irritating to the skin, especially after shaving. Baking soda is the most common culprit, but essential oils can also be irritating to sensitive skin. 
    • There are options available for those with sensitive skin, it’s just a matter of finding what works best.
  • May need to be reapplied throughout the day if you sweat a lot.

Should you make the switch to natural deodorant?

Switching from traditional antiperspirant to natural deodorant is a very personal choice. Natural deodorant might not work for every person. If you’ve considered it before, I would encourage you to try it because you might be surprised to find that you really like it!

Natural deodorant has come a long way in recent years. There are seemingly endless options available to us today so chances are good that there is one out there that will work well for you. You can now find natural deodorants for people that sweat heavily, and there are also very good-smelling deodorants for those that value a good fragrance (masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral). People with sensitive skin can easily find natural deodorants that are formulated without baking soda or essential oils. There are even “sweat-activated” deodorants that you can’t smell until you start to sweat. 

Natural deodorant might seem unattainable to some because it can be quite expensive, but there are so many companies making natural deodorants these days there are options for nearly any budget.

Personally, I decided to switch to natural deodorant for a couple of reasons. When I used antiperspirant there were a lot of days that I could still feel it on my skin at the end of the day and had a hard time scrubbing it off. I didn’t like my armpits being clogged with chemicals. I also didn’t like the idea of my body absorbing aluminum every day. Even though studies have not proven any links between antiperspirants and health problems, I recognize that there is still a risk that they could be harmful. I would rather not take that unnecessary risk.

If you’ve decided to switch to natural deodorant and are feeling overwhelmed by all the options out there, you’re not alone. I still feel that way sometimes! I’ve tried a few natural deodorants now and have learned from my experiences, but have yet to find my perfect natural deodorant. A lot of people try several before finding the perfect fit. 

My best advice is to think about what you need from your deodorant (i.e. sweat absorption, soothing formula, etc.) and use that information to determine which ingredients likely will or will not work for you. Then when you’re shopping for natural deodorant make sure you pay close attention to the ingredient list to make sure you get one that is likely to fit your needs. If you’re unsure about the safety of a particular ingredient or product, you can look it up in the EWG Skin Deep database which will show the level of risk for cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies/immunotoxicity.

My other piece of advice is to be smart about when you make the switch to natural deodorant. If you live in a region that has cool winters and warm summers, it’s easiest to switch to natural deodorant when you’re moving into a cooler time of year. That makes the transition easier since most people don’t sweat as much during cooler months. For those in the northern hemisphere, fall is upon us, which means that now is a great time to transition to using natural deodorant.

Do you plan to trade your antiperspirant for a natural deodorant, or have you already made the switch? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Lauren

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4 thoughts on “Natural Deodorant Products–Pros, Cons, and Everything in Between

  1. Thanks for this vital information, Lauren! I have learned so much from you and I wish I had known before switching to what I thought was a cruelty-free natural deodorant, that often what they tout is not necessarily true. Just as you learned that your Tom’s product was advertised as “cruelty-free”, they are indeed owned by a company that is not, I found the same for the product that I bought. I really thought I was doing the cruelty-free thing, so since then, I’ve learned to research products all the way through to the parent company. I will say that switching to a natural deodorant was fairly easy for me as I don’t have much of an odor/wetness problem. But, that being said, I’m sure the transition was made even easier when I purchased a product you told me about. Pacifica’s Coconut & Charcoal Underarm Detox Scrub is amazing and I know it made my transition period a lot easier. I love that Detox Scrub and have used it to scrub my legs and arms in the shower, in addition to scrubbing my underarm area. It’s a great product so thanks again for telling me about it! (I feel a review coming on! lol) I do like the natural deodorant that I’ve been using even though it’s not cruelty-free, so I will continue to use what I have and then hear from you where I should go next. I’m sure the switch to something that is actually cruelty-free will be easy since I’ve already gone through the detox period. Your insight, research and blog posts on all the products you have reviewed is so helpful and much appreciated. Thanks again for all you do!

    • Hi Nancy! I’m so glad your transition to natural deodorant has gone smoothly. I hoped that you would like that detox scrub and I’m very pleased that you have! There is definitely a possibility that a review on that product could be coming in the future… 😉 I’m so happy that you’re enjoying my reviews! I try to share as much information as possible because there are so many products out there it’s not always easy to choose. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! <3

      Lauren

  2. Thank you for all the information on natural deodorants. I live in Florida and its very hot for many months of the year. So hot that for a couple of months in the summer you don’t even want to venture outside. This is due to our high humidity levels. Have had any feedback from persons that live in our southern climates that have made the switch to natural deodorants?

    • Hi Monika, thanks for commenting! I haven’t spoken to anyone that lives in the South about natural deodorants, but I know that I would be sweating even more than I already do if I lived in Florida! I think it’s worth a try no matter where you live. If you sweat a lot, definitely look for deodorants that are formulated with absorbency in mind. That would mean looking for ingredients like baking soda, arrowroot powder, and/or corn starch. Those ingredients absorb the sweat to help you feel dry longer. I hope that helps! 🙂

      Lauren

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