Switching to a Natural Deodorant? Here’s What You Need to Know

Is it just us, or does it seem like right now everyone’s talking about natural deodorants? Whether it’s your friends, your favorite bloggers, your yoga instructor, or beauty editors for your favorite magazine, it seems like everyone’s giving them a try. If you aren’t already familiar with the world of natural deos, though, it can sure seem confusing!

Here at Merz Apothecary and Smallflower, we’ve always been big fans of natural deodorants and are proud to carry some of the best options out there. So we thought we’d put together a guide for anyone who’s looking to change things up and give natural deos a try.

Why Make the Switch?

One of the biggest reasons that people make the switch from mainstream deodorants to natural options is out of concern for some of the ingredients typically used. The biggest offender out of these is Aluminum salts, most often in the form of aluminum chloride or aluminum zirconium. Many people believe that these are linked to certain diseases, such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Though the evidence to support this is limited, it can be worth it to watch out for harsh chemicals in something you apply to your skin every day.

Many people want to eliminate mainstream deodorants for animal rights issues. More and more consumers are looking for deodorant replacements that are vegan or are created without animal testing. If you’re looking for a cruelty-free choice, natural deodorants offer far more options than the ones you’re used to finding in the drugstore.

Another reason people make the switch is to reduce waste. The vast majority of mainstream deodorant is packaged in a plastic tube with a plastic cap and a plastic twist-up, often wrapped in clear plastic for protection–that’s a lot of plastic that’ll just get thrown away in the long run! Plus, because the tubes are often made from different types of plastic, they’re rarely recyclable. Forms of natural deodorant like creams tend to come in more eco-friendly (and recyclable!) glass jars.

Deodorants vs. Antiperspirants

If you’re new to the natural deodorant world, it may seem like it’s deodorant that does it all — prevents unpleasant smells and keeps you dry. But most things marketed as mainstream deodorants are actually deodorants and antiperspirants. It’s the job of antiperspirants to keep you from sweating, and the deodorant is what masks body odor.

Because most people are used to using a deodorant/antiperspirant combination, switching to natural deodorants can be a bit of a surprise. Most natural deodorants don’t contain an antiperspirant, so you may find yourself sweating more than you’re used to. But this is okay! As long as you’re wearing a deodorant, you should still smell fine, since what causes body odor isn’t actually sweat. It’s the bacteria that mixes with sweat that’s responsible for unpleasant smells.

Natural Anti-Stink Ingredients

Since natural deodorants don’t rely on antiperspirants to do away with body odor, natural brands have had to develop different options for combating the telltale smells. Here are a couple ingredients you’ll commonly find on the back of the tube.

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a common ingredient in natural deodorants because it’s simple and effective. Its alkaline nature makes it an effective bacteria killer, making it ideal for knocking out the odor-causing germs in your pits. One drawback is that some people may experience a sensitivity due to the higher pH of baking powder. Products made by natural brands normally have a low enough concentration for safe use, but this can be an issue if you’re trying a DIY deodorant recipe.

You may come across some natural (and mainstream!) deodorants that use alcohol (like ethyl alcohol) to stop stink. Like baking soda, alcohol is used in deodorants because it’s an effective antibacterial. The alcohol kills the offending bacteria and leaves you feeling clean and fresh.

Potassium alum is a naturally occurring mineral that’s usually found encrusted on rocks in areas of weathering. It’s a common ingredient in many crystal deodorants, but can be found in other formats as well. It can be used in combination with other deodorizers to keep unpleasant smells at bay. Those who are switching to natural deodorants to eliminate aluminum should be aware that Potassium alum does technically contain aluminum, but not in the same form as many mainstream antiperspirants.

Essential oils are another popular choice for odor repellents in natural deodorants, in part due to their plant-based origins. Because essential oils are created through distillation, they’re incredibly potent. Several different kinds — like peppermint, citronella, and lemongrass — have been shown to possess bacteria-killing properties. Plus, they smell great and add a pleasant aroma to the formula.

Arrowroot powder is created by drying out a paste created from the root systems of the Maranta arundinacea plant. Once it’s ground into a powder, it can be used in a similar way to talc. People have used it for thousands of years to treat wounds and to moisturize the skin. Like talc, it helps keep you dry and fresh throughout the day with the added bonus of anti-microbial properties.

 

Types of Natural Deodorant

Sticks

Housed in a plastic container and sporting a twist-up design, deodorant sticks are the format that we’re most familiar with. Sticks usually have some sort of emollient ingredient or another element that helps them smooth onto the skin evenly and comfortably.

The Ursa Major Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant eliminates underarm odor with baking soda, and pampers skin with a soothing mix of aloe vera and shea butter. ($18, Shop Now→)

The Primal Products Lavender Stick Pit Paste mixes the antibacterial properties of arrowroot powder and baking soda to keep you smelling sweet, with a dash of lavender essential oils for added freshness. ($10.95, Shop Now→)

The Schmidt’s Bergamot + Lime Deodorant Stick uses essential oils and plant-based powders to soak up moisture, and a fast-absorbing formula eliminates that greasy post-application feeling. ($8.99, Shop Now→)

The Lafe’s Natural BodyCare Fresh Deo Stick fights odors with a mix of antibacterial active ingredients (like Witch Hazel!) and offers up a fresh scent with a blend of essential oils. ($5.99, Shop Now→)

 

Creams

Cream deodorants resemble a thick lotion in consistency, and you use your fingers or a special tool to apply it. With this type of application, you have more control over where the product goes and therefore you can get more coverage out of creams.

The Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda-Free Grapefruit Deodorant avoids the irritation that can sometimes accompany baking soda-based deodorant, and instead uses dietary magnesium and arrowroot powder to fight the funk. ($14, Shop Now→)

The Primal Products Lavender Jar Pit Paste is full of great moisturizers, like Shea butter and organic coconut oil, to keep your pits feeling smooth and happy. ($8.95, Shop Now→)

The Lavilin Underarm Deodorant neutralizes odors for up to seven days with just one application–all without the use of harsh chemicals! Plus, it comes with its own applicator stick so you don’t have to use your fingers. ($17.99, Shop Now→)

 

Roll-Ons

Roll-on deodorants have a liquid or gel formulation and are applied similarly to the traditional stick. The applicator works almost like a ballpoint pen — a rolling ball evenly distributes the product as you apply. Due to the liquid formulation, these are the most likely deodorants to contain alcohol as an antibacterial.

The Ombra Mild Roll-On Deodorant goes on clear and dries quickly for odor-fighting protection that lasts all day. Chamomile extract makes it extra-soothing for those with sensitive skin. ($6.95, Shop Now→)

The Dr. Hauschka Rose Deodorant manages odor throughout the day without interrupting the body’s natural processes. The botanical blend soothes skin and won’t stain clothes. ($24, Shop Now→)

The Dreadnought Eco-Warrior Deodorant Roll-On is an all-natural pick that keeps you smelling fresh all day long with a pleasant, masculine aroma. Plus, it’s never tested on animals. ($9, Shop Now→)

The Bath House Bergamot & Amber Deodorant contains 98% natural ingredients, including aloe vera, sage, and cucumber extracts to soothe and moisturize your skin. ($10.95, Shop Now→)

 

Crystals

Crystal deodorants are made up of lots of minerals formed into a sort of rock shape. To apply, you wet them to create a mineral-infused liquid and rub them on the area that needs deodorizing.

The Crystal Body Deodorant Crystal Deo Stick offers up to a year of use, all in one tiny container. Simply wet it and spread for natural deodorizing power. ($6.99, Shop Now→)

The Deodorant Stones Thai Crystal Deo Stone is a pure crystal, aluminum chloride-free stick that offers odor protection without added fragrances. ($6.66, Shop Now→)

Sprays

Just as you’d expect, spray deodorants are applied by a (usually non-aerosol) spray. These deodorants have the advantage of being more time-efficient than their counterparts, since it’s one spritz and done.

The EO Organic Tea Tree Deodorant Spray keeps odors at bay with organic ethanol that kills stink-causing bacteria on sight. The bright, fresh aroma of tea tree keeps you feeling fresh all day. ($7, Shop Now→)

The Crystal Body Deodorant Crystal Body Spray contains all the odor-fighting goodness of the original Crystal Body Deodorant, but in a more convenient format for those on the go. ($4.25, Shop Now→)

The Weleda Natural Citrus Deodorant is scented with zesty citrus oils and extracts for a fresh burst in the morning. Lemon peel oil works as a purifying disinfectant to fight odors. ($14, Shop Now→)