The majority of my life was spent struggling with acne, eczema, psoriasis, migraines and auto-immune issues. Even though I worked in the beauty industry, I never thought my issues could be traced to the creams, sprays and powders I was dousing myself with every day. They made me look and smell good, how could they possibly be bad for me?
But when I started to notice my co-workers dealing with similar issues, sometimes clicked. It would have been too much of a coincidence for all of us to be suffering from the same skin and internal issues. No. There had to be something that connected us and our ailments.
So I started doing research. I looked into chemicals, hormone disruptors, parabens, phthalates, fragrance, preservatives. You name it, I knew about it. And I was horrified.
That's when I started throwing everything out. All the products I'd spent so much money on over the years, the things I swore were making me feel good about myself because they temporarily changed my appearance were actually the root cause of the issues that made me sick.
I stopped using products with artificial fragrance, and my migraines stopped. I started using DIY face cleansers and serums, and my skin cleared up. The one conventional product I couldn't quite give up? Deodorant.
A few years ago, if someone had told me to stop wearing deodorant, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. After all, nobody wants to be the "smelly one" in any setting. But the deeper I dug into the dirty world of conventional cosmetics, the more willing I was to give up the stick in favor of something safer that actually let my body carry out its natural functions.
That's right: sweating is totally, completely 100% natural. It's our bodies' way of expelling toxins and regulating temperature. Without sweat, just imagine what a hot cesspool of toxins our bodies would be!
Additionally, sweat itself doesn't actually smell: it's just a combination of water and salt. What does produces that tangy body odor is when sweat comes into contact with the bacteria that lives on our skin (also natural and normal!).
You are supposed to sweat, and attempting to stop or interfere with this process is, to put it bluntly, not good for you. Conventional deodorant contains antibacterial ingredients that are meant to kill the natural bacteria on your skin before it gets the chance to mingle with your sweat and cause a stink. Antiperspirants deal with sweat directly by including aluminum compounds that stop up sweat glands.
But you know what's worse than smelling a bit musky sometimes? Alzheimer's and breast cancer, both of which have been linked to the same aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants.
That fact alone was enough was enough to get me to quit conventional deodorants and antiperspirants. But the problem still remained that while I had no desire to put these cancer-causing chemicals under my arms (dangerously close to my lymph nodes, I might add), I also had no desire to smell funky.
Enter natural deodorants.
You can stop shaking your head now, because I'm here to tell you that natural deodorants really do work, you just have to find the best option for your body. Just like no two people are alike, no two people have the same body chemistry, which is why some people can get away with just a dab of tea tree oil under each arm, while others would stink up an arena if they tried that route. I am one of the latter.
So how do you start the transition to natural deodorant?
Start by not wearing anything under you arms for the first three days. This will give your body body a chance to expel any lingering remnants of the conventional stuff while also allowing it to reset.
I suggest not using anything for a few days because most natural deodorants contain baking soda, which is great at naturally killing bacteria and preventing odor, but can sometimes cause irritation if your skin isn't ready for it. When you stop using deodorant/antiperspirant with aluminum, your body will push out those toxins from your clogged pores, which can be irritating. Letting you skin breathe for a bit will quell any aluminum irritation so you can be sure the natural alternatives aren't messing with your skin.
When you feel sufficiently detoxed, it's time to start the search for your perfect natural deodorant.
There are many, many options out there, but not all are created equal. You've probably seen the millions of DIY deodorant recipes floating around the Internet, but if you've tried any of them, you probably haven't loved 'em, right? Most that I've come across have either too much baking soda (so they sting), too much coconut oil (so they drip), or are just totally useless.
When you look for natural deodorant, you want one that has a nice balance of baking soda and essential oils. I've found this combination most effective for odor control. Also make sure to steer clear of anything that contains parabens or propylene glycol, which is a known skin irritant.
Above all, though, test out plenty of options before throwing in the towel. Remember that natural deodorant isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, so it might take a few tries to find you armpit soulmate. But once you do, you'll never go back.
Conventional antiperspirant contains a variety of chemicals. Below are the most critical ones and the reasons why you should cut them out.
Aluminum is the active ingredient in antiperspirant. The aluminum ions from the aluminum salts are absorbed into the cells that line the sweat ducts. This leads them to swell and squeeze the ducts closed. Research suggests that aluminum may have genotoxic and estrogenic effects and may contribute to breast cancer. Unfortunately, aluminum has also been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
Parabens act as a preservative in many personal care products including deodorants. They contain estrogen-like properties and can affect your body's hormonal balance. This may cause a variety of health issues such as increasing your risk of hormonal cancers, early onset of puberty, and even birth defects.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals commonly present in many personal care products. Although they have been banned since 2005 in the EU for use in cosmetics, there's no such ban for the North American market. Phthalates are a known male reproductive toxicant that can lead to birth defects and compromised fertility. Women should be especially careful during pregnancy.
Triclosan is another common ingredient found in conventional deodorants. It's an antimicrobial that kills bacteria and fungus. It is classified as a pesticide by the FDA and a probable carcinogen by the EPA and has been linked to a number of different health problems and increased rise of cancer.
The term "fragrance" is a generic word that can involve thousands of chemicals that a company doesn't want to list on an ingredient label. Synthetic scents accumulate in your tissue over time and have been linked to hormone disruption and other serious health effects.
Did you know that sweat is actually odorless? You can blame bacteria for your body odor. When moisture remains on the skin, bacteria starts to grow and produces body odor. Sweating is a natural process of your body and has many functions like ridding your body of built-up toxins and cooling your skin.
Deodorant sprays, just like hair sprays, contribute to air pollution. They contain a very high amount of volatile organic compounds, which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a key component of smog.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the companies behind conventional deodorants are almost all doing animal-testing. While many countries around the world have banned animal testing, it's still not an issue in North America.
One final issue to consider is the effect antiperspirants have on your clothing. The aluminum in your antiperspirant reacts with the proteins in your sweat and produces an ugly yellow stain on your shirts.
Many natural deodorants like LACE Natural Deodorants rely on a combination of coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils. The coconut oil and essential oils are antimicrobial, the essential oil also provides a nice natural scent and the baking soda change the pH levels of your armpits to make it harder for bacteria to grow.
When switching to a natural deodorant, your body will go through a detox period that can last up to a month. In your first week, you probably won't feel a change. That's because there are still a lot of toxins and chemicals in your body. In the second and third week, you may notice more sweating and a stronger odor than normal. This is completely normal. It is actually a sign that the detox is working! Your body is simply ridding itself of all the built-up toxins. After three to four weeks, your body will have adjusted and you'll be back to your old non-sweaty, non-smelly self (minus the toxins!).