What You Need to Know About Natural Deodorant

Welcome cleaner, greener ingredients for optimal pit health…

When making the switch to green products, deodorant seems like an easy place to start. It’s fairly inexpensive, doesn’t require a tutorial for use and, if you have a weird reaction, well, at least you can hide your armpits from public view. But natural deodorant can also be fear-inducing. Haven’t we all heard horror stories about the person who started smearing a crystal on her pits and left a trail of body odor in her wake? If I may implore you, don’t let these stories scare you away. Deodorant may be one of the easiest ways to dip a toe in the clean beauty pool, but it’s also one that can have the biggest impact.

If you’re ready to wade in, here’s what you need to know.

First, the “bad” news.

If you’re used to conventional deodorant or antiperspirant, know that a natural version is not going to produce the same results. Your body will likely take some time to adjust to the new stuff (which means time to detox from the old stuff, but more on that later), and the way your sweat smells may also change as it reacts to new ingredients. But humans are allowed to have an odor — everyone does.

Next, the “meh” news.

That floral powdery smell you’re used to? The one that masks the smell emanating from your pits? That’s gone, replaced by natural, plant-derived scents that don’t smell like they were concocted in a lab. If you’re into botanical smells, you’ll be a fan but it can take some getting used to after years of powder-fresh scents.  Oh, and you’ll likely need to reapply once or twice throughout the day, but that seems like a small price to pay for optimal pit health.

But there’s also good news!

As something we apply every single day, that sits on our skin for hours at a time, deodorant ranks super-high in terms of exposure. We also apply it on a part of our bodies that is very, very close to a highly sensitive, highly reactive, highly important group of glands called lymph nodes that carry fluid, nutrients and waste material between the body tissues and the bloodstream. So anything you apply to the skin (especially skin that’s been recently shaved and may have small nicks) has a pretty easy time making its way into the body via your lymph nodes.

When you use a conventional deodorant or antiperspirant, all the potentially bad stuff in them is gifted with slowly making its way into your body and blood stream. Among the bad stuff commonly found in conventional products? Aluminum (believed to increase the risk of breast cancer and neurological diseases), fragrance (which often contains hormone-disrupting phthalates), triclosan (an antibacterial agent that forms carcinogenic chloroform when it comes into contact with water that contains even trace amounts of chlorine), and parabens (preservatives that mimic estrogen). All things you’d rather not have coursing through your veins.

So yes, natural deodorant may take some getting used to and you may not smell the way you used to, but as far as long-term health is concerned, this all seems pretty benign in the grand scheme of things, no?

So how does it work if it’s bad-stuff-free?

The reason you smell a little ripe sometimes is a result of the fats and proteins in your sweat meeting bacteria on your skin. Sweat is a totally natural and normal part of being a person, as is bacteria. In fact, the bacteria that lives on our skin — all one million per square inch! — is really good for us. (Never heard of the human microbiome? Look it up! Fascinating stuff.)

Conventional deodorants work by killing or blocking that bacteria by making your armpit an inhospitable environment for the little guys. And antiperspirants work by literally plugging sweat glands with aluminum salts so nothing can get out. Neither sound particularly healthy, right?

Natural deodorants, on the other hand, produce the same results but in a gentler way by combining cleaner, green ingredients like alcohol, zinc oxide and hops extract to inhibit bacteria growth (without completely stopping it!), arrowroot powder, kaolin clay and cornstarch to absorb moisture, baking soda to neutralize odor, witch hazel to shrink pores and reduce sweating, and essential oils to act as antimicrobials and also to make you smell nice.

Many also contain “extras” like aloe, coconut oil, shea butter and vitamin E to help soothe skin — sometimes baking soda can be a bit harsh on raw, just-shaved skin — and act as antioxidants for your pits.

Any other tips?

Why yes! Glad you asked. Here are a few things to know about natural deodorants:

They work better over time: Your pits might need time to adjust to the natural stuff, and may even go through a “detox” of sorts to purge themselves of the chemicals in the conventional stuff you’ve been using for years. So stick with the process — your body will come around eventually. Lucky for you, Kaia Naturals makes a Takesumi Detox Deodorant that helps speed up this detox process through ingredients like charcoal, which attract bad stuff and pull it out of your body.

Follow the instructions: I know, deodorant doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that requires instructions but, if you use too much, you run the risk of the oils staining your clothes. So only use the recommended amount and wait a couple of minutes after applying to let it sink in. This is especially true of cream deodorants that you apply with your fingers as they tend to be a bit thicker.

Don’t apply after shaving: Recently-shaved skin can be extra sensitive since the pores and follicles are open, and there may be tiny cuts on your skin thanks to your razor. If you just shaved your armpits, you may want to wait an hour or two before applying natural deodorant as some people find baking soda to be an irritant. And while baking soda is a popular ingredient in natural deodorants, there are many that don’t use it, or use it in small enough quantities that it won’t bother your skin (like Milk + Honey’s regular strength deodorant). If you’re really sensitive, try applying a tiny bit of coconut oil to your skin before the deodorant.


+Ready to make the switch to natural? Check out our deodorants here.


0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I didn’t know there were “natural” deodorants. I thought they were all the same! How interesting, definitely going to look into it further.

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

6 years ago

I’ve honestly tried the Lush deodorants and I really recommend them for anyone trying natural deodorants. Plus, I never had a period of time of adjustment, I just smelled fresh af ! :)

x Maria

6 years ago

I’ve been using the deodorant from the picture of this post, in terms of smell I don’t have any problems…. the only things I really DON’T like is how all my white t-shirts are turning yellow from the armpits :( literally after one use!!! I have to change the brand.

6 years ago

I don’t think it really natural :(

6 years ago

I love Noniko. https://nonikoskin.com/

6 years ago

I agree with Pau! The schmidts rose vanilla stains my clothes even if i barely use it. i found the Jasons brand at TJ Maxx and it has been an easy transition. It’s clear but it isn’t that weird sticky gel feeling. Ya’ll there are a lot of natural products and deodorants at tj maxx !!

6 years ago

I’ve used Tom’s of Maine for years now and it is the best deodorant I’ve ever used! It did take about 2-3 weeks to adjust but now it’s great.

6 years ago

While I love natural deodorant, the myth that aluminum (in deodorants and otherwise) causes cancer or neurological diseases seriously undermines the author’s credibility.

5 years ago

Natural charcoal deodorant is made up of activated charcoal, shea butter, cocoa butter, and a blend of essential oils, among other nourishing natural ingredients. Activated charcoal is made from burning wood, regular coal, or other natural materials. This enables the charcoal to create porous surfaces that help suck out impurities from the skin.

Michelle Hunton
5 years ago

What is the grainy stuff on the roll on? It is uncomfortable. What is this?

5 years ago

Hi Michelle! Thank you for writing – what roll-on are you currently using? That may help us better deduce what this grainy material is?

4 years ago

I was surprised when you talked about how the bad chemicals found in conventional deodorants can make their way into our bloodstream over time. I’ve been thinking about treating myself to an at-home self-care day next weekend by buying some organic personal care products online. Getting some natural deodorant isn’t something I would have considered before reading your article, so thanks for helping me understand some of the benefits it offers!