Switching to a green lifestyle is as simple as making changes to your everyday routine. Choosing a more natural cleaning product for the kitchen? No worries. Swapping plastic lunch baggies for reusable ones? Done. Swap your deodorant for a natural one? You can almost see the shudder.
Natural deodorants have an image problem.
‘They don’t work.’
‘What if I smell?’
‘They make you sweat.’
Well, read on, because if me and my formerly stinky pits can convert, so can you.
Why switch to a natural deodorant?
Most of us start using deodorant around the age of 12 or 13. If you live to the average age of 77, that’s 65 years of deodorant use. Deodorants contain chemicals like parabens, propylene glycol, triclosan, and aluminium.
Aluminium is of particular concern. It’s been linked to breast cancer in various studies, although there’s no definitive link. Yet the number of cancers diagnosed closer to the armpit almost doubled between the 1930’s and the 1990’s.
So it makes sense to at least try to make the switch to a natural deodorant.
What to look for in a natural deodorant?
It’s not the sweating that makes you smell. It’s the bacteria that break down the proteins in your sweat that makes the smell. So if you can kill the bacteria, you can kill the smell. There are a few main odour busting ingredients that you’ll find in natural deodorants:
- sodium bicarbonate
- zinc oxide
- essential oils with antibacterial properties
Alcohol is often used in natural deodorants because alcohol kills bacteria, and it has a drying effect on sweat. The problem with alcohol is that it can be an irritant, especially on broken and recently shaven skin. However, it can be very effective, especially when combined with some nice smelling essential oils. EO Organics have a range of alcohol based deodorants, as do Weleda.
Essential oils are often combined with alcohol, zinc oxide or bicarb soda. They don’t just smell good, many of them have antibacterial properties that will help reduce body odour, too.
What to be careful of with natural deodorants
You may read that your armpits need to go through a ‘detox’ period before they adjust to natural deodorant. You may read that getting a rash or irritation under your arms is a normal part of the ‘detox’. If you’re using a natural deodorant with bicarb soda and it’s making your underarms itchy, red or sore, stop using it. It’s not a ‘detox’ period. The MSDS (material safety data sheet) for bicarb soda classifies it as a mild skin irritant, and lists those exact symptoms.
A word of warning on crystal deodorants. Crystal deodorants use potassium alum. Potassium alum is a naturally occurring mineral salt, potassium aluminium sulfate. The problem with these natural aluminium salts is that when they’re wet, they break down into aluminium ions. These tiny particles can then be absorbed by your skin.
How to make natural deodorants work for you
- Wear natural fabrics. Natural fabrics breathe, and allow sweat to evaporate. Synthetic fabrics don’t breathe, and they trap sweat and smells, exacerbating the problem.
- You can try a clay armpit detox mix like this one on Wellness Mama. It may not help, but then it’s unlikely to do any harm, so it’s worth a shot.
- Keep an eye on your diet. Some people believe that eating spicy foods, garlic and curry, as well as red meat, can make your BO smellier.
- Make sure that you’re well hydrated.
- It’s claimed that increasing your magnesium intake can help reduce body odour, and that you can use magnesium oil as a deodorant.
- Give it some time. You may need to carry a natural deodorant with you and reapply throughout the day, but you’ll gradually find that you need it less and less.
I used to use a 24hour protection sports deodorant, and still smelled. I found that increasing my magnesium by using a magnesium oil helped. (It also helps me sleep better, but that’s a story for a completely different post!). I’ve found that deodorants with bicarb soda work well for me.
To start with, I used a combination of a bicarb soda based deodorant, and used an alcohol based one to spritz through the day if I was feeling a bit whiffy. Now I find that I’m using the Fresca deodorants only on hot days or if I know I’ll be exercising. Sometimes I’ll throw it into my bag for a top up after exercise, but I find that rarely happens.
Like any personal care product, you may need to try a couple of natural deodorants before you find one that you like.
Hello Charlie’s Safer Natural Deodorants Cheat Sheet is a great place to start looking.
Tell us about your experience with natural deodorants in the comments below.
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