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Happy Thursday Everyone!
I’ve got a confession… I stink… I have been a avid antiperspirant user for 18+ years now and I am not even sure if my body knows how to sweat properly anymore, so the days that I forget to use it, I realize my mistake mid way through the day with a horrified whiff.
So what is the deal with antiperspirant? Is it really bad for you? You will read many articles which demonize the ingredient aluminum, the active ingredient which physically prevents perspiration. However, although there are correlations to health issues like breast cancer and neurological diseases, the science behind those studies are weak and generally unsubstantiated by the larger medical community.
So, why am I ditching the antiperspirant if it isn’t a health issue you ask? Well, for one, I kind of think the body is meant to sweat. Call me a hippy, but I think if the body didn’t need to do it, it wouldn’t sweat. So that is one aspect, and the other is the environmental impact of aluminum sulfate on the environment. We often overlook the origins of ingredients in the products we use. But the basic building blocks of our hygiene routines start in the earth. For example borax, sodium sulfate, boric acid and sodium carbonate (all used in cleaning products) are mined directly from the earth, in the case of Searles Valley Minerals, they are pumped out of an underground lake in the Mojave desert. It’s tailings pond is an enormous salt lake which is extremely dangerous to waterfowl, trapping and killing birds regularly.
But I digress, we were talking about aluminum. Aluminum isn’t like many metallic minerals, you don’t just find a vein of aluminum in the earth, it is found in the mineral bauxite. Bauxite must be processed through heat and electrolysis to render the aluminum. Almost 5% of the electricity used in the US is used simply in the manufacturing of aluminum, or 23.78(45.21tf) kWh/kg of aluminum.
I know you’re like “Woah! Don’t throw numbers like that around at me for a discussion about deodorant!”. But that’s the point I like to make to my readers and clients. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, comes from something and therefore we shouldn’t disassociate ourselves from the simple things in life and take them for granted. Everything in our lives comes with an environmental cost. So where does that leave us? Well, with deodorant which has some major plus’s and minuses including efficacy, scent, and application beyond environmental friendliness.
I highlight environmental friendliness because the active ingredient in most natural deodorants is baking soda aka sodium carbonate, the very same mineral mined from Searles Lake, so it isn’t exactly environmentally neutral though it does require much less processing than aluminum sulfate. However, what I will say is that (all but one) the natural deodorants that I list here have essential oils which have been both farmed sustainably and are organic. In addition, they tend to have ingredients which are non-irritating like benzoates and fragrance.
Nonetheless, the upside of switching to a natural deodorant brand is that many of the do not contain petrochemicals like mineral oil, don’t test on animals and are vegan, so it means you are doing a lot more for yourself and the environment than using contemporary antiperspirants.
I have tried upwards of 5 deodorant brands over the past two years and only just recently found one that works really well for me. But I will give you a run down of the pros and cons of each one, however, I have noticed it has a lot to do with your specific chemistry. What works for some individuals may not work for others, so it is still trial and error.
Let’s start with the deodorant I recommend the most: Lafe’s. This US based company started out small potatoes in the 1990’s and has grown significantly without losing sight of its goals in quality and sustainability. They pledge that all of their products are:
・Proplyene Glycol Free
・SLS/SLES/Sodium Laurel Sulfate Free
・PEG Compounds Free
・FD&C Colors/Dye Free
・Mineral Oil Free
What I really like about this product is the liquid roll on. It doesn’t leave a chalky residue or muck up your dark shirts. Most importantly, it works! The active ingredient is alum mineral (different than aluminum sulfate.) This naturally occurring (and manufactured) mineral is like a salt or crystal in a sense and absorbs moisture and neutralizes odor. It’s smell is fresh and clean and the formula doesn’t cause any irritation (something that will come up here later.)
Pro: Great initial scent, non-irritating and best longevity.
Con: Can only be purchased at Natural Foods retailers and those alike. Pricey.
Our runner up is a Canadian product called Green Beaver. I had really high hopes for this brand since it is produces my favorite mineral sunscreen. The smell (Geranium) was amazing, floral and delicate. I also liked the idea that it was a pump spray, not a rub on product and I thought it might leave less residue, which it didn’t. The Green Beaver had a longevity of 6 hours before I could start smelling myself under scrutiny but after 8 hours I could smell myself without a lift of an arm. That wasn’t good.
Reapplication worked in a pinch, but once stress sweat kicked in, it really couldn’t stand up to any scent I produced. Too bad, because it’s formula contained organic and responsibly sourced ingredients and was made on Canadian soil.
Pro: Great initial scent, non-irritating.
Con: Can only be purchased at Natural Foods retailers and those alike.
Our third runner up was Tom’s of Maine brand deodorant. Tom’s has been a household name for decades and was one of the original natural personal care brands. I used the scent “beautiful earth” although I wasn’t able to pin point what the actual scent was supposed to be. Nonetheless it didn’t offend my nasal cavity, so I went with it. This traditional swipe on type of deodorant is a bit more chalky than I would have liked. It does not contain baking soda to odor neutralizing power but states that they have “odor protection by using hops and zinc ricinoleate, sourced from castor beans and the mineral zinc, to help absorb bad smells and neutralize odor. ”
During the time of this testing period, it was summer, so the Tom’s had a little more work to do than the other brands. However, it didn’t stand-up long term, similarly to the Green Beaver. Within 4 hours I was getting unpleasant hints and I would be forced to wash and reapply halfway through the day. Not exactly ideal in a public restroom on campus or the office. Additionally, the scents mixed together to create a sort of clean laundry gym clothes melange. Not good.
Pro: You can buy it at most large grocery store chains and pharmacies.
Con: Lack luster longevity. Weird smell after a while.
Our fourth contestant was Adidas Cotton Tech Aluminum Free Women Deodorant. When I first purchased this product I was pleased to find it at Save On Foods, where it is next to impossible to find women’s deodorant. The cotton scent is also very pleasant, however, I wasn’t sure what cotton was supposed to smell like so the moniker isn’t great. I suppose the closest description would be that it smells like clean laundry, not bad, but not great and I worried about the amount of fragrance which was used.
This product had one of the worst rates of longevity. Within several hours I was stinking up a storm on public transportation and I felt terrible for everyone around me. I spent the day at school constantly worried about my odor, eventually succumbing to shame and washed my underarms three times throughout the day. Terrible. Just. Awful.
In addition, it caused a great deal of underarm irritation, which was probably worsened by my constant washing. But I wasn’t sure which came first: the itching or the washing. Nonetheless I give this product a D-, and it would be the worst on the list if it wasn’t for the next ridiculous product.
Pros: Can be bought at the grocery store.
Cons: Literally everything about it. Longevity, irritation and smell.
Lastly is a little pot of disappointment called Schmidt’s. Look past the trendy label and alluring promise of Bergamot and Lime scent and you will see what a joke this is.
Now, most of you know by now that I am fairly diplomatic when it comes to my product reviews (more or less) but this product was stupid. This little pot was $12.99. It comes with a tiny little plastic spatula (better suited to a Barbie kitchen) which I was not sure what the intention was. Was I supposed to ladle it on to my skin? Nope, it is just to transfer it to my palms according to the instructions on the back. You are meant to warm the hard, chalky paste in your hands for a minute prior to trying to smear it into your underarms.
The first attempt on scooping the paste from the jar resulted in the spatula snapping in half and leaving its embedded end in the center of the white blob.
I then subsequently had to scoop it out with my fingers which meant it all ended up under my nails. I warmed it as directed and tired to smear it on my underarms where 50% of it promptly crumbled off on to the floor, 30% of it stayed on my fingers and 20% ended up where it should be.
After washing my hands, I noticed my underarms beginning to itch. And itch. AND ITCH. It was horrible. Even after removing it with a facecloth and soap, I was left with irritated underarms for a week. After a little research I read that baking soda based deodorants can be very irritating to some individuals and can cause over-drying as well. So perhaps that was the issue with this product.
Pros: Cute Label.
Another point I want to address is the notion that one needs to “detox” their armpits to increase the efficacy of natural deodorants. The idea is that antiperspirants have been clogging up the glands in your armpits and therefore you must remove the toxins which have accumulated there with a mask. To provide you all the a great baseline, I humored this idea and went for it despite the fact I couldn’t find one lick of evidence to support it. Many of these detox recipes call for activated charcoal and bentonite clay. I fortunately have a face mask of both those ingredients by Sukin, and applied it for twice a week for two weeks like directed by various natural gurus. Did it make my natural deodorants more effective? Nope, not at all but my pits were silky smooth and blemish free haha.
What have I learned? Well for one that everyone’s chemistry is different and the bacterial on our skin varies from person to person. When speaking with a sales woman from Pomme Natural Foods about it, she insisted that what works for one person may not work at all for another.
I hope I have shed some light on the mysterious and at times aggravating world of natural deodorants. Whether you’re looking to change due to potentially harmful health issues of antiperspirants or because you want to avoid petrochemicals or looking for a vegan option, than perhaps one of these would work for you! Personally, I would start with the Lafe’s.