Should You Switch to Natural Deodorant?July 13, 2020 - Katie McCallum
Everyone sweats. And where sweat collects, body odor follows — with armpits being one of the largest body odor offenders.
Smelly armpits and sweat stains can be embarrassing, but, fortunately, deodorant can help curb armpit odor. And, we depend on deodorant so much these days that forgetting to put it on in the morning can feel as icky as forgetting to brush your teeth.
Speaking of putting deodorant on your skin every single day — with that long list of unpronounceable chemicals in the ingredients list, should you consider swapping your old deodorant stick for a new, natural one?
How deodorant works
Let's start with the basics. One thing all deodorants have in common, whether they're natural or not, is why we use them and how they work.
While we often directly equate sweat with body odor, you may be surprised to learn that sweat itself is actually odorless. It turns out there's a stinky middle man among your armpits, the sweat produced there and the resulting body odor: bacteria.
Your armpits are a pretty warm and inviting home for some of the bacteria that naturally live on your skin. When sweat from your armpits is added into the mix, these bacteria get to work — metabolizing the sweat and, in the process, creating some less-than-pleasant smelling byproducts. But that's where deodorant comes in.
Deodorants use alcohol-based ingredients and antimicrobial agents to prevent bacteria from growing and accumulating, resulting in less of your odorless sweat being converted into waft after waft of body odor.
But, most deodorants in the grocery store aren't just deodorants — they're also antiperspirants.
Antiperspirants use aluminum-based ingredients to temporarily block your pores from releasing sweat, preventing bacteria from being able to feed on the source of those stinky byproducts altogether.
When antiperspirant ingredients are combined with deodorant ingredients, the result is an effective solution to reducing both armpit sweat and odor. In fact, the majority of us apply antiperspirant deodorant every morning.
In addition to these aluminum-based and alcohol-based ingredients, antiperspirant deodorants contain other additives, too, such as:
- Fragrances, which are often synthetic
- Other chemicals needed to give application sticks their shape and help the product stick your skin
What's the deal with natural deodorant?
There are many reasons a person may consider switching, but, ultimately, the underlying reason most people opt for a natural deodorant over a conventional one is because of the chemicals in the ingredient list.
So, when it comes to antiperspirant deodorants, are there ingredients you should avoid?
The reality is that many beauty and hygiene products are made using long lists of chemicals, and deodorant is no exception. The ingredients in your conventional antiperspirant deodorant are safe, but, understandably, you may need some reassurance.
One of the most controversial claims against antiperspirant deodorants is that the aluminum-based ingredients and parabens in them can be absorbed by the skin and lead to breast cancer. However, there's no scientific evidence that the aluminum, or any other ingredients, found in deodorants cause breast cancer.
Even still, just as some people prefer organic produce, others may want to opt for a deodorant using only natural ingredients. In addition, people with sensitive skin may find that the chemicals in conventional antiperspirant deodorants can cause itchy, irritated skin.
Natural deodorants ditch the aluminum-based and alcohol-based ingredients and instead leverage natural ingredients, such as:
- Baking soda: Odor neutralizer that can also help absorb moisture
- Arrowroot: Moisture absorber
- Coconut oil and/or shea butter: Base ingredients that aid application and act as antimicrobials
- Essential oils: Provide a pleasant scent, with some having added antimicrobial benefits
While natural deodorants can help reduce armpit odor, don't expect them to actually reduce sweat like an antiperspirant. Natural deodorants typically contain ingredients that can help absorb moisture, but these ingredients aren't as effective as the products in antiperspirant that actually plug the pores creating the sweat. But this isn't a bad thing! Sweat is natural. Plus, you may not sweat as much as you think.
So should you switch?
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, conventional antiperspirant deodorants are safe — so there's no need to worry or switch to a natural deodorant on account of your overall health. However, personal preference or ingredient sensitivity may lead you to consider switching to a natural deodorant.
If you do switch, keep the following in mind:
- A natural deodorant will help with armpit odor, but not sweat.
- You may need to reapply natural deodorant after exercising, or throughout the day if you're a heavy sweater.
- Monitor your skin for rashes or other irritations as you begin using a new deodorant. Some people may be sensitive to ingredients in natural deodorants, particularly baking soda.
- When purchasing a natural deodorant, don't just rely on the label's claims. Check the ingredient list to be sure it contains only the products you're expecting — and not the ones you're trying to avoid.