Deodorant. We all use it, but for many people it's the last thing to go when switching to a natural skincare routine. People give a lot of reasons for why they're hesitant to make the jump to a natural deodorant, but there's one that crops up more often than most: "it just doesn't work for me." I hear you on that one. Or, at least I thought I did. It took a while to for me to make the switch too. Every time I've tried it on in the past I'd end up smelling a little… funky. I just assumed I needed something "stronger" than a natural deodorant, so I'd go back to my aluminum-based antiperspirant. But here's the thing: the issue wasn't "strength." The issue was giving myself time to transition from the antiperspirant my body was dependent on to a more natural alternative.
Now that I'm out the other side, it's clear that the switch was worth it. My pits are happier, smell great, and aren't being doused with toxic chemicals on a daily basis. You too can make the jump. Here's everything you need to know about switching to a natural deodorant.
Deodorant, Antiperspirant, and the Sweat Situation
So let's talk about sweat.
It stinks, right? Not exactly. Sweat on its own isn't smelly. Body odor is caused by bacteria on the skin breaking sweat down. That's right - there's a community of bacteria living in your armpits right now. But don't worry! This little microbiome plays an important role in how your body functions. The trick is to make sure it stays in balance. And that's the kicker. Some types of bacteria you'll find under your arms don't produce much odor when they break down sweat. But others? Phew! If you end up in a situation where the smelly bacteria are more common than the non-smelly variety, you'll end up with some pretty earthy pits. Enter deodorant. A friendly little stick to help mask armpit odor. If you stick with a deodorant, that's all it's going to do. You'll smell better, but you won't sweat any less. For a lot of people that's not enough, which is why antiperspirants are so popular. An antiperspirant actually stops your body from sweating by clogging your pores with ingredients like propylene glycol and aluminum salts. You don't sweat, which means you don't smell. Problem solved, right?
Why Conventional Antiperspirants Are Bad News for Your Pits
First of all, let's get the big one out of the way: do antiperspirants increase your risk of breast cancer? Despite what email chain letters from 15 years ago would have you believe, there's no legitimate research that conclusively proves that antiperspirant causes breast cancer. However, there is absolutely evidence that chemicals from antiperspirants can make their way into breast tissue. What do they do there? We don't know. But we do know they hang around, which personally is reason enough for me to want to avoid them. Even if you ignore the breast cancer question, conventional deodorants and antiperspirants are filled with sketchy ingredients. Don't believe me? Check your bathroom. Does your antiperspirant have any of the following?
- Parabens: Synthetic preservatives that can disrupt the reproductive system.
- Aluminum Compounds: This is the ingredient in an antiperspirant that blocks your pores. It's also connected to neurotoxicity, developmental and reproductive issues, and some types of cancer. But hey, at least they'll stop you from sweating, right?
- Triclosan: Used to kill bacteria during manufacturing, triclosan is classified as a pesticide by the FDA. Not something I want on my skin.
- Propylene Glycol: An ingredient found in antifreeze. Propylene Glycol can cause damage to your central nervous system and is a common skin irritant.
- Fragrance: An umbrella term that can stand in for several thousand synthetic chemicals. If you see this on a label, it means you can never know for sure what you're getting.
As if these ingredients weren't bad enough, conventional antiperspirants can also be responsible for worse body odor. Remember that underarm microbiome we talked about earlier? Some antiperspirants can throw off your bacterial balance, allowing foul-smelling bacteria to grow out of control. If you don't know what's going on, you may feel you have no choice but to continue using antiperspirant. If you forget it for even a day, you end up smelling pretty funky. The same thing can happen if you try switching from an antiperspirant to a natural deodorant.
But here's the good news: the stink doesn't last forever. Your body will go through a detox period as you transition, but once it's over it's done for good.
What Should I Expect When Switching to a Natural Deodorant?
If you're used to an antiperspirant, switching to a natural deodorant can be a rude awakening. Not only are you sweating for the first time in years (or decades), you're sweating much more than you ever did. It also smells worse, even though you're layering on your new stick. What gives?
It's all part of the process, my friend. Here's what to expect:
- You're gonna sweat. In fact, you may even sweat more than you did before you used an antiperspirant. Remember: antiperspirants block your sweat glands. When you stop using one, your body will go back to its natural patterns. This is a good thing! Your new deodorant will contain drying ingredients to help you feel a little less wet. Between that and any fragrances they contain you'll still feel fresh and dry.
- You may go through a detox phase. Your body will need some time to get itself back to its natural state. Expect things to be a little funky for a few days to a few weeks. If you notice any of these issues while making the switch, take heart: they're part of the process and will most likely be gone within a week or two.
- You're Smellier: Toxins and bacteria can build up in your pits thanks to antiperspirants' clogging nature. Your body needs a little time to get rid of all that junk, which may lead to a little more odor than usual.
- You're Sweating More: Your body may produce more sweat than usual as you transition away from an antiperspirant. This is part of its effort to get rid of toxins and other junk. Don't fear the sweat! Your new deodorant will help keep you dry, and production will normalize after a week or two.
- You're Feeling a Little Tender: Antiperspirants can trap chemicals, toxins, and bacteria inside your body. When you stop using one, your lymph nodes have a chance to filter them out. Unfortunately, if it's been years since you've had a good clean-out they can get a little swollen as they work through the excess. Again, this is something that will only last a short time.
- You're wanting a change: If you want to take your switching process to the next level, do a simple DIY underarm detox, like this one.
- Your lifestyle will have an impact. Not feeling too excited about the detox phase? I don't blame you. But there are things you can do to lesson the impact.
- Watch Your Diet: Garbage in, garbage out. It's true for a lot of things, including your pits. Clean up your diet to reduce the amount of junk your body has to work out.
- Drink Water: There's nothing better for helping your body work out toxins quickly and effectively. Here's some more helpful tips on that.
- Sweat More: It may seem counterintuitive at first, but the more you sweat the faster your body will clean itself out. Regular exercise helps you look good and feel great, so it's a win-win.
Choosing an Aluminum-Free Deodorant
So you're ready. You know what to expect. You're willing to work through a stinky phase. The time has come. How do you know which natural deodorant to choose? Here's what I recommend:
- Look for great ingredients: There are as many good ingredients out there as bad ones. Look for natural deodorants that contain natural oils and butters and gentle drying components. Ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil nourish your skin, while cornstarch wicks moisture away.
- Choose a brand you trust: Take a little time to research any company you choose to do business with. Chances are if they're willing to cut corners in one area, they'll be willing to do it in another. Look for companies that prioritize healthy ingredients and environmental responsibility.
- Choose a scent you enjoy: Who says deodorant can't be fun? If you're going to be smelling something all day, you might as well pick a scent you enjoy. Personally I'm fond of Beauty by Earth's Wild Mint scent, but you do you. Just do yourself a favor and pick something you like.
Switching to a Natural Deodorant Can Make a Big Difference
Ditching conventional antiperspirants takes commitment, but the benefits are worth it.