If you’ve been following The Healthy Maven for a little while now then you know I’ve been on a natural deodorant journey for the last year. As a self-described clean beauty addict, one of the most common questions I get is “what’s the best natural deodorant for women?” and for the longest time I couldn’t answer it.
There were some deodorants that stood out to me and others I would never use again but no matter how hard I researched, I could not find a natural deodorant review that wasn’t somehow tied to a brand or sponsored in some way. I wanted a non-biased review of natural deodorants by someone who actually uses them. So in true Maven fashion I went out to create the solution myself.
It’s been 10 months since I started out on this journey and I’m not gonna lie, I’m ready for it to be done. I’ve tried over 20 natural deodorants, using each for at least 1 week (usually more) and testing them in different scenarios from sweaty workouts to doing absolutely nothing. I’ve also learned an EXCEPTIONAL amount of information about my armpits – something I never thought I would deep dive into. And of course, my spreadsheet loving brain has tracked all of this info along the way. But the time has come for me to share some of my favorites and some that I would never reach for ever again.
I tried my best to be as comprehensive as possible but I’m certain some of you will not find your favorites on this list. I excluded certain products because while they were advertised as “non-toxic”, they weren’t exactly using the cleanest ingredients OR the product was somewhat obscure and difficult to find and/or ship worldwide. Nevertheless, this list still includes over 20 options so cut yo’ girl some slack – and please take a moment to thank my armpits who have been put through this ringer this past year…you’re welcome.
WHY USE NATURAL DEODORANT?
Because all the cool kids are doing it…duh. Okay clearly not a good enough reason but I’ll do my best to make a solid argument for why you should use natural deodorant.
1. The ingredients
Have you seen what is in conventional deodorant? Likely you’ve glanced at the bottom at least once in your life and seen a list of ingredients that appear to be written in a different language. But did you know that many of these ingredients can be incredibly harmful and toxic for your body? Let’s go through a couple of them:
–aluminum: this is the ingredient that clogs your pores and prevents sweating (more on this below). Aluminum exposure has been linked to Alzheimers as well as to build-up of estrogen in the body which can also be correlated with increased chances of breast and prostate cancer.
–parabens: these ingredients are used as a preservative in deodorants but can also mimic estrogen in your body. This leads to hormonal disruptions and is also linked to breast and prostate cancers.
–phthalates: these chemicals are used to make other ingredients more flexible and are also used as fragrance ingredients. They primarily affect the endocrine system and exposure can lead to early onset puberty as well as breast cancer later in life.
-Triclosan: An antibacterial chemical that can also disrupt the hormone system and is associated with increased chance of breast cancer. It was actually banned by the FDA in hand soaps but for some reason they still allow it in deodorants?!
…this list could go on but this is just a taste of what you find in conventional deodorants.
2. The location
Your armpits are in a very vulnerable location. They are the access points to the lymphatic system, which protects you from invaders like bacteria, toxins, viruses, fungi, and from cancerous cells. The lymph nodes are the checkpoints, which inspect and fight everything that does not belong in a healthy body, removing it to keep you protected.
If there are toxins accumulating in the lymph nodes, the lymph system will get clogged and will have a hard time cleaning out harmful invaders. You can imagine that your lymphatic system will not be doing its job when it’s constantly having the above ingredients applied directly to this area.
DOES NATURAL DEODORANT ACTUALLY WORK?
Yes and no. Can it help prevent you from smelling from your underarms? Yes. Will it prevent sweating and keep you smelling fresh as a rose for 24 hours? No.
The biggest issue with natural deodorants is our expectation that they perform like conventional ones. Natural deodorants are NOT antiperspirants. However, nothing should be an antiperspirant. We are supposed to sweat and despite what we may believe, it’s not actually sweat that smells. Sweat is the number one way our body detoxes toxins from our body. Whether they are toxins we’ve consumed (looking at you alcohol…) or toxic build-up from our environment, the most effective way to remove it is by sweating it out. Sweat also helps us to regulate our temperature – there is a reason we sweat more on hot days and after a workout. Switching to natural deodorant first requires you to accept the fact that sweating is good and is something to embrace.
So why do we smell? Body odor is actually due to the bacteria that builds up in moist environments in your body. Certain types of “bad” bacteria eat up the proteins in sweat and as a by-product cause odor. The reason you don’t smell with conventional antiperspirants is two-fold: they prevent your body from sweating and they use aluminium salts to kill the bacteria – good and bad. Like any good biome you need to balance your good bacteria so that all your sweat isn’t being eaten up by “bad” bacteria. I’m simplifying this but hopefully this makes sense to you.
Now if you’re going SUPER natural you would dedicate yourself fully to balancing this bacteria and deodorant wouldn’t be necessary. There are certain products on the market like Mother Dirt’s AO+ Biome mist that work to do this but it also requires you to stop using soaps or any hygiene products all-together and I’m simply not up for that. If you are – more power to you! If not, the natural deodorants that are available can help to prevent build-up of bad bacteria through more natural ingredients like baking soda, magnesium and even cow tallow. Most importantly, they aren’t preventing you from sweating out toxins and in turn wiping your body daily with toxic chemicals.
This is my long way of saying that yes they do work to *somewhat* balance the mechanism that causes body odor AND in the meantime they use natural scents from essential oils to cover up B.O. Will this cover-up last for 24 hours? No way. Get used to the possibility that after a sweaty workout or a hot summer day you will likely need to re-apply. I’ll take that over aluminum any day.
THE BEST NATURAL DEODORANT FOR WOMEN
For your convenience, I narrowed down the 20+ deodorants I tried to what I believe to be the 6 best options on the market. This is based on efficacy, ingredients, convenience and preference of application. The rest I’ve captured in this video also shared below.
Primally Pure (various scents) $14-16
In terms of efficacy this deodorant was by far my favorite discovery from my deodorant experiment. Something that stood out about Primally Pure is that it uses beef tallow as its primary ingredient. It turns out Beef Tallow is actually a natural cleansing and moisturizing ingredient for your body . This deodorant was long-lasting and definitely helps to prevent odor. I will caution you and say that it does easily stain clothes so be cautious putting on those black t-shirts and know that you may need to do some bleaching with those white ones. Also this option clearly isn’t vegan if that is your preference. My favorite scents: Blue Tansy + Charcoal. Note: use code MAVEN at checkout to save 10%! <– I asked them for this after trying it out myself!
I’d heard great things about this deodorant and I’m glad I finally tried it out. The activated charcoal both absorbs sweat and eliminates body odor. There’s also magnesium which is moisturizing and anti-inflammatory for your underarms. This is an especially good option for anyone who is vegan or doesn’t want to use cow tallow in their underarms (which Primally Pure does contain). Next time I would order the stick (sorry I know it’s not the most sustainable) though. You will need to reapply this one on extra sweaty or hot days, however for those days you don’t have a whole lot going on this will do the trick.
AER Vapour Deodorant (Lavender Myrrh scent) $24
My go-to deodorant for a very long time. This one feels the most like a conventional deodorant to me and while it goes on wet it does dry matte. I love the scent and its the only deodorant with baking soda that does not require me to do a whole series of care to prevent a rash (see below). However, it’s expensive as hell ($24 dollars) and now that I’ve found others I like I’m not sure I’d repurchase.
Native Deodorant (various scents) $12
If you do not have sensitive armpits and want an easy transition from conventional to natural deodorant, Native is your jam. I personally did not love the scents (even though there are tons of options) and found I reacted to the baking soda versions. However I know many people (C included) who have found great results with Native and if you sign-up for their subscription service you can definitely save money. Note: some of their scents are cleaner than others so check the ingredients on the one you order!
Saje Wellness Deodorant (Exotic Scent) $13
I’m including this one not because I use it frequently but because I think there’s probably a rare few of you out there who prefer spray deodorant. To be honest, this is the deodorant I keep in my bag for emergencies because application is so easy. They do recommend you use their crystal stick in conjunction with this spray but one step is already too much for me so I’m definitely not doing both.
Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Deodorant (Lavender Scent) $14
I thought I would include one baking soda-free option. If you watch my video you will see I included many BS-Free options however almost none of them work and many actually made me smell worse (perhaps feeding the bacteria in some way?). Meow Meow Tweet was the only BS-Free Deodorant that was *somewhat* effective. So if you’re super sensitive to baking soda, even after implementing some of my tips below, this could be a good option for you.
To see a full recap of all the natural deodorants I tried watch the video I filmed.
HOW TO TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOUR UNDERARMS
Up until beginning this experiment I thought underarm care involved wiping them with some soap and applying deodorant. I definitely did not realize that there are ways that you can take better care of your underarms. Turns out there’s plenty you can do to help your body to detox (which happens through sweat) through your armpits. Now I’m not going to tell you that you have to start masking your underarms but there are certainly some things you can do to help prevent getting super smelly and/or take care of irritations and rashes.
If you’re anything like me, you have SUPER sensitive underarms. There are some people who can use just about any deodorant and be totally fine but I’m not one of those people. Pretty much anything with baking soda will give me a rash IF I don’t follow certain practices to take care of them. So here are my best tips to take better care of your underarms:
1. DO NOT apply deodorant after shaving – this is pretty much a guaranteed rash for anyone with sensitive underarms. If you shave your pits (if not more power to you!) be sure to do it at night and then let your underarms rest overnight before applying deodorant the next morning. Sometimes you can get away with applying a few hours later but I usually react.
2. Exfoliate – I find using a gentle exfoliant or loofa on my underarms to help remove dead skin cells really helps to prevent a rash or irritation. I’ve tested physical vs. chemical exfoliants and found a gentle loofa to be the best for my sensitive skin. I do this in the shower before I shave.
3.Warm up your deodorant – sometimes your deodorant may harden due to temperature. If so, the friction can cause irritation to your underarms. One quick way to heat it up is to place it inside your underarms (if using a stick) for 10 seconds and hold it there or mix a small amount between your fingers (if using a jar) and then apply.
4. Reset the environment – My girl Jasmina from Mother Dirt is the queen of all things deodorant and while it would be goals to not use deodorant like she does, I’m not quite there yet. What she has taught me is that sometimes the microbiome of your armpit needs a little resetting. She suggested thyme oil however I’ve found I really like this spray from Primally Pure. Just don’t use right after shaving as it may burn a little bit. I highly recommend this spray for anyone transitioning to natural deodorant from conventional.
5. Give yourself time – every body is different but one thing I’ve learned is that if you’ve been using conventional deodorant for years and suddenly switch to natural your body very well may freak out. Start small by switching every other day, every 3 days etc…and let your body acclimate.
6. Take care of your gut – I can’t say I’ve noticed this to be the case anecdotally, however there is evidence to suggest that taking care of your gut through probiotics and probiotic foods can help balance your microbiome internally leading to less smells coming from your underarm. I take a daily probiotic and while I generally don’t smell bad I’m not sure I could isolate how much of this is attributed to my gut health.
If you’re feeling very extra, feel free to mix some apple cider vinegar with bentonite clay and apply that to your underarms for 5 minutes. This is easiest done in the shower. However I’ll be honest I rarely make time to do this.
…and just like that I’ve written the longest post ever all about my armpits. In case you’re wondering which one/ones I’ll continue to use, I’m generally sticking with Piperwai, Primally Pure and AER Vapour (until it runs out). I’ve found these three to be the most effective, best smelling and generally my favorites of the 20+ deodorants I tried. Of course, this is my experience and everyone has a different microbiome, lifestyle and scent preference so your choices may look different. However I do think if you’re looking to make the switch any of the ones listed above are a great start.
Definitely keep me posted if you’re switching to natural deodorant or if you have a favorite that isn’t listed or included in the video. Would love to hear why you love it/use it.
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