Making the Switch to Natural Deodorant
Seems pretty daunting, right? Even a little scary? Maybe you’ve been contemplating ditching your drug-store deo for some time now, but never pulled the trigger. Or you might be brand-new to the concept and had no idea that this was even a topic of conversation. Listen, I get it, it’s definitely an uncomfortable concept. You might be an active person, or you naturally sweat a lot, or you’re worried that it won’t work for you and you’ll end up being that person. Well, the good news is, these fears are all very normal. The bad news is, and hopefully I don’t lose you here, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Let me explain.
My Journey to an Anti-antiperspirant Life
Personally, it took me about four years of contemplation before I finally made the switch to natural deodorant, and even now, it’s an ongoing journey. Rewind back to when my health journey truly started about 7 years ago. (And I don’t mean my fitness journey, because I’ve always been an active gal, but I mean my journey to an all-around, holistic approach to health.) I know I’ve touched on this a few times in my other blog posts, but I was learning so much information about living a cleaner, safer, healthier life through a 6-week course that my Mom was taking at the time. This included everything from the food we consume, to household products, to toxins found in personal care products – one of them being deodorant. It was right around that time as well that, if I remember correctly, consumers were becoming increasingly aware at how dangerous drug-store deodorants are, specifically products that contain antiperspirant.
Yet, even though I was aware of this information and I was making changes in almost every other aspect of my life, my deodorant was the last thing on my mind. Maybe it was because I truthfully didn’t take this new information seriously enough, or that I was held back by my own fears, either way, I didn’t begin to make the switch until around 3 years ago. And I can tell you, it’s not as simple as stopping using your current deodorant and starting a new one. That was how simple I thought it was going to be, when in fact, it most definitely is not. (I’ll go into more detail shortly.)
Over the last few years I have used quite a few different natural deodorants, with my search for the perfect deo still an ongoing quest. Sometimes I even slip back into the bad habit of using a non-natural deodorant, but always feel incredibly guilty when I do. As I said, it’s a journey. Be kind to yourself, be kind to your body, be patient and trust the process.
My hope from this blog post is to provide you with some knowledge and give you some tools in order to finally make the jump to a cleaner, safer deodorant. Trust me, your body is worth it.
Why do we Sweat and How is Body Odor Caused?
Let’s start with the real reason we even need deodorant in the first place. When your body temperature starts to rise, your brain reacts by releasing a milky liquid, called sweat, from the over 2.5 million eccrine glands (aka sweat glands) spread out across the body, in an attempt to decrease body temperature.
Surprisingly, our lovely friend sweat doesn’t actually smell, and is not the reason behind body-odor. One type of gland in the human body is the aprocrine gland, primarily found in the armpit and groin region. The fluid released from these glands (aka sweat) contains specific nutrients, which makes it attractive to the Staphylococcus hominis bacteria, which largely resides in those two regions. When this bacteria and sweat interact, body-odor is formed. Unlike eccrine glands, aprocine glands also come alive when we get emotional, nervous or excited, which is why you’ll find an increase in sweat during a particularly stressful or nerve-racking situation.
In a nutshell, the human body requires sweat in order to maintain a healthy body temperature and rid the body of toxins. The dreaded smell and other side effects from sweating isn’t actually from sweat itself, but instead from bacteria. The key is to still allow your body to sweat, but to fight the bacteria that causes body odor. Enter, deodorant.
The Dangers of Conventional Deodorants
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that we all know that antiperspirant and aluminum – both highly prevalent in drug-store deodorants – have a bad rep. But do we really know why? Let’s break it down.
They interfere with toxin release
As I mentioned, one of the main active ingredients in drug-store or mainstream deodorant brands is antiperspirant, of which the main purpose is to ‘seal up’ sweat ducts in the armpit to keep you dry. Well, here’s the issue, we just learned that the body requires sweat to keep it cool and release toxins. So, if antiperspirant works to stop sweat from being released, how is the body cooling itself? That’s the issue.
The aluminum in antiperspirant prevents sweat and toxins from being released, trapping them inside the body. Aside from interrupting a perfectly natural process, the aluminum in antiperspirant has also been linked to both breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
They cause hormonal imbalance
The toxic chemicals found in antiperspirant are endocrine disruptors. These substances effect how the body regulates hormones, which play a role in basically every bodily process. Hormonal imbalances may also be contributed to the presence of phthalates, which have been linked to a variety of hormone issues, but in particular to a significant decrease in testosterone in men and women.
They negatively impact your microbiome
The human body is home to a whole load of microbes, many of which fight off disease and maintain good health. An antibacterial compound found in conventional deodorants called triclosan has been shown to negatively impact the human microbiome, leaving the body more susceptible to disease and infection.
They are linked to a slew of health problems
On top of aluminum and triclosan, conventional deodorants also contain other toxic chemicals like parabens, propylene glycol, artificial fragrances and other skin irritants. These substances have all been linked to allergies, infertility, hormone imbalances, cancer, tumors, birth defects and disease.
Making the Switch
We now know why the body sweats and how body-odor is caused, and we also know why conventional deodorant is not the solution, but what’s the next step? As I previously mentioned, making the switch from conventional to natural deodorant is not as simple as you think. I’m not saying you need an engineering degree to do it, but it definitely takes some patience, perseverance, and feeling a little uncomfortable along the way as well.
Step 1. Stop using your old deodorant
Pretty obvious, but you know, I didn’t want to assume.
Step 2. Detox your pits
Yes, you read that right. After years and years of being ‘sealed-up’ from the use of antiperspirant, a little extra love in the form of a detox is needed to help your precious armpits. There are a few things you can do: wear natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo, drink plenty of water and focus on eating a diet low in processed sugar and high in plant-based, whole foods. You could also apply apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice to your armpits after showering, or apply a bentonite clay mask to neutralize odor and help with toxin release. (I still do this about once a month.) One of my favourite brands, Kaia Naturals, has even created this handy Underarm Soap Bar to help with the detoxing stage.
Now, you can definitely apply your new natural deodorant immediately after detoxing on clean and dry armpits, or you can skip deodorant for a few days before starting your new routine. It’s completely up to you. (If the thought of going deo-free FREAKS YOU THE F OUT, then start using your new deodorant now.)
Step 3. Find a formula that works for you
Now this part will likely require some trial and error. Natural formulas come in a liquid roll-on, a cream stick, a spray and a scoopable cream application, so you may have to go-through a few different options before figuring out what works best for you, and what makes you feel most comfortable applying every day. In addition, there are some ingredients in natural deodorants that may irritate your skin, like baking soda, charcoal and essential oils. For me, after a few attempts, I learned that I cannot use deodorants that contain baking soda, and those that contain charcoal keep me the driest throughout the day. So, be open to trying out some different formulas and don’t expect to find the golden ticket on the first try.
What to Expect
You made the switch to a natural deodorant, so now what? Well, this is the fun part. As I already mentioned, this part of the process does require some trial and error, some patience and a little bit of humour. (After all, we are talking about armpits here!)
You may need to continue detoxing your armpits for a few weeks to thoroughly remove the buildup from your old antiperspirant and get your sweat glands working properly. You will likely also notice that you sweat more than usual at first, and that your body odor is even stronger then you’d like. (I know, not ideal.) But, remember, this is totally normal as it means that your body is releasing toxins that were previously blocked. Sweating is good for you, after all!
After about three weeks you will probably notice the sweating and odor start to subside. This signals that your body has gone through the detoxing process and is now just working as it should. Remember, without using antiperspirant, you will probably still sweat more then you were previous to making the switch. If the excessive sweating and odor does not improve, then try increasing your detox methods, focus on increasing your water intake and stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet. When you stick to it and trust the process, you’ll get used to the natural way your body is supposed to behave and adjust to your natural scent.
My favourite all-natural deodorants & products:
As I mentioned about a dozen times, this is definitely an ongoing journey for me, but here are the products that I’ve used throughout and have worked for me at different stages:
And that's it! I know it can seem overwhelming and maybe even unnecessary, but trust me when I say that your body and your health is SO worth it. I am a pretty freakin' active person who is sweating almost daily, so if I can do it, you can too. Good luck, you've got this!
Have you recently made the switch to natural deodorant, or are you a seasoned veteran at this point? If so, what products have worked for you? Comment below and share the love so we can all be naturally stink-free together!