June 2nd, 2011

Deodorant: Do’s and Don’ts for Naturally Smelling Fresh

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Deodorant: Do's and Don'ts for Naturally Smelling Fresh Groovy Green Livin

Let’s talk B.O. Not a pleasant topic, but let’s face it -everyone sweats and sometimes we all get smelly. Sweating is our body’s way of cooling down and releasing toxins.  Body odor comes from bacteria that live on us and grow in our warm sweat.

We are a culture obsessed with smelling pretty.  Take a stroll down the deodorant isle at any supermarket and the options are endless. A recent poll of over 500 parents revealed that approximately 50% of children ages 4 to 11 are using deodorant by age 11.

deodorant and antiperspirantFor years deodorant was part of my morning routine. It was also part of my gym routine and my going out routine. There were days when I would apply deodorant 3-4 times.

My frequent applications came to a screeching halt when news spread that there was possibly a connection between deodorant and breast cancer.  Then came more bad news for conventional deodorant users-aluminum, which is a common ingredient in deodorant and antiperspirant- was possibly linked to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.  These finding haven’t been confirmed and The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health and the FDA stand their ground claiming that no evidence or research exists showing ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.The Alzheimer’s Society takes a similar position; studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s.

But conventional deodorants and antiperspirants not only  contain controversial aluminum,  their ingredient list is long and filled with other suspicious chemicals that I don’t want on my body. That is reason enough for me to stop using conventional deodorants. Fortunately there are safer alternatives…….

The do’s and don’ts of healthy armpit care

Wear nothing.  Don’t use any deodorant. Eat a well balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Shower, wash and keep clean.

Say no to antiperspirants. Aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants and they block the sweat glands to keep sweat from getting to the skin’s surface. Some scientists have claimed that using the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer and/or Alzheimer’s. If you are determined to use a product use deodorant (not antiperspirant).

Make your own deodorant. I found this simple recipe from Wellness Mama:

  • 6 T coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) arrowroot or cornstarch
  • essential oils (optional)
  1. Mix baking soda and arrowroot together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Mash in coconut oil with a fork until well mixed.
  3. Add oils if desired.
  4. Store in small glass jar or old deodorant container for easy use.

Say yes to safe deodorant. If you aren’t a DIY type of person here are a few product suggestions for safe deodorants:

  • Toms of Maine-although it does contain propylene glycol, which is a petroleum derivative. This brand is simple to find at many retailers.  I have used Toms and the jury is still out whether or not it works.
  • Miessence deodorants. I haven’t tried this deodorant, but the ingredient list is great and it scored well on the Skin Deep site.
  • Soapwalla-this is a late addition, but felt compelled to add it to the list based upon the rave reviews of several readers. I placed an order  and am looking forward to giving it a try.

Don’t use “all-natural” crystal rock deodorants. The SmartMama tells us that those crystal rock deodorants that claim to be ultra natural and safe actually contain aluminum-the very ingredient that we are trying to avoid.

Avoid toxic chemicals. Avoid all deodorants with aluminum, parabens, chlorohydrate, propylene glycol, triclosan, TEA, DEA, FD&C colors, and Talc. Check the safety of all personal care products on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.

Do you use deodorant?  How do you feel about the long list of ingredients in conventional deodorants?

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[Top photos used under Creative Commons from lululemon athletica/Flickr]

[Deodorant photo used under Creative Commons from Clean Wal-Mart/Flickr]

Disclosure: If you buy Tom’s of Maine through the Amazon link it will put a few pennies in my pocket.

47 Responses to “Deodorant: Do’s and Don’ts for Naturally Smelling Fresh”

  1. Hi Lori, I had to stop using conventional deodorants a few years ago as I’m allergic to just about every brand. I currently use a combination of organic essential oils and alcohol (vodka). It works okay, but I will have to try that recipe you posted. Thanks!

  2. I use Tom’s myself but I think I’m lucky because I don’t sweat or stink a whole lot. 🙂
    Have you heard of Soapwalla? It’s a tiny, home-based business that makes a very nice deodorant cream. Here’s a link: http://www.etsy.com/listing/35641572/deodorant-cream

  3. I occasionally use Tom’s also Micaela-I’ll have to check in with my friends and family to see if it works 🙂 I haven’t heard of Soapwalla-but will check them out. I love that they are a small home-based business. They already have my support! Thanks so much for the link.

  4. Now that’s an interesting recipe Jennifer! I like that it is very simple-right up my alley 🙂 Let me know what you think of the recipe once you give it a try.

  5. I completely stopped using deodorant at one point, but due the fact I didn’t have any nasty chemicals blocking my pores anymore I couldn’t believe how much more I did sweat. I don’t mind that except when I have something to do that involves a social situation. I do use aluminum-free Tom’s(actually, we use their body soap bar, body wash, and toothpaste(no SLS) as well. I don’t use the deodorant every day, but I like having it in my purse, just in case. 🙂

  6. Thanks once again for the great info Lori! I need to get back to finding a safe deodorant that works for me. I sort of stopped the search over the winter. I have tried a mixture of baking soda and cornstarch (half and half). I don’t think it worked for me. I will have to try the added coconut oil, maybe that will make it stick and thus work. I also bought Arm and Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant. It’s not listed in Skin Deep but I was able to enter the ingredient list and got a preliminary score of 2 (no parabens or aluminum, but didn’t see that it has triclosan). Either way, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t work for me. My goal is to have something, or a few “samples” around for my daughter. We aren’t there with deodorant yet, but I know it’s coming. I think the best advice is to not wear it, or use it sparingly. I swear my body became immune to deodorant and I had to keep trying stronger ones (this was before I was better informed about the ingredients.) Since I have backed off using it, I don’t NEED it as often.

  7. I had the same realization Cathy when I stopped using antiperspirants-so much sweat! Especially when I exercise. I use Tom’s once in a while too-but most of the time I use nothing. I know I’m not smelling pretty-but I shower! How do you like the other Tom’s products that you use?

  8. You are so welcome Kristina! I think it’s really hard to find a safe deodorant that actually works. That’s why I don’t use it most of the time. Did you try to use the Arm and Hammer yet? Just curious if you liked it. I think as our kids get older it will be interesting educating them on the issues with deodorant. I’m sure there will be lots of peer pressure to use conventional deodorants. I like your suggestion to keep safe samples around the house.

    I’m glad to hear you don’t need deodorant as often-I’m sure you smell lovely 🙂

  9. Ahhh, I had no idea about some of this. I am currently using a organic deodorant but I didn’t know about all the negative aspects of deodorant. I may have to try that homemade deodrant. I eat a very healthy diet but If I don’t wear any I still feel like I smell. I have heard if you can just get through the first week then the smell goes away but one week would be very hard for me. Especially becasue I practice yoga and will be sweating super close to people. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s yoga experience. :)Great Info!

  10. I have been wanting to stop using anti-perspirants for a long time, but my professional life made that a little tricky. I’m working from home now, so I really should give it a try. My boyfriend hasn’t used anti-perspirants for years and said that his experience was that we sweated a lot when he first stopped using them, and then it tapered off and he doesn’t sweat as much anymore. Not sure if that’s true of if he just got acclimated to it. At any rate, he only gets stinky if he’s had a lot of coffee or eaten something with a lot of onions. My current container of anti-perspirant is nearly empty, and my plan is to not replace it… right as we head into summer. 🙂

  11. My friend Emily tried a similar deodorant recipe that contained cocoa butter in addition to the coconut oil, and she reports that it is working beautifully. I don’t sweat much and have never really needed deodorant, though believe me, I didn’t come out on top of every genetic roulette wheel!

    I’d love to be able to say that we should just chill out and be more comfortable with our identity as mammals and physical creatures, but…well, I sure appreciate it when the people around me put on deodorant. I hope increased awareness will make safer deodorants more widely available.

  12. Hi Jennifer-If you have the recipe for the deodorant that worked please share! Yes, increased awareness about safe deodorant would be great. I don’t wear it a lot -I’m hopeful that my friends and family would let me know if I needed it. Maybe they’re just being nice?? Lucky you got that gene!

  13. Hi Meg-let me know if you try a homemade deodorant. I feel like I smell too when I practice yoga-and I know how close together you can be. Good point about not wanting to ruin the practice for those around you!

  14. Interesting observation by your boyfriend-that the sweat tapers off after some time. Your timing is perfect. As we head into summer you can try out different types of natural, safe deodorants and find one that works for you! Let me know what you find.

  15. You must be psychic Lori!! I was just looking for a homemade deodorant recipe! We use Tom’s of Maine but it is rater pricey and this seems like one of those “a little-goes-a-long way”. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  16. Hi Lori,

    Thanks for a great article on an oh-so-important topic! I came across this info about antiperspirants and all the harmful ingredients in them and many other “beauty” products last November, and since then, I’ve been trying to go as natural as possible. When looking for a natural deodorant, a friend recommended using Crystal (rock deoderant), so I’ve been using that for several months. I’ve been very happy with it so far, but I was alarmed when I read your article. For an added perspective, here is a link from the company disputing the use of aluminum in their products.


  17. Great info! This topic is on my list of things to post about. I’ll have to check out Miessence! I’ve found that Tom’s doesn’t work very well.

  18. You must be psychic!! I was just looking for a homemade deodorant recipe! We use Tom’s of Maine but it is rater pricey and this seems like one of those “a little-goes-a-long way”. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  19. Thanks so much for sharing that link Adrienne. I too was shocked to discover that Crystal rock deodorant contained ammonium alum. It is interesting to read Jennifer’s take on this issue and then the rebuttal by Crystal. According to Crystal “the possibility of absorption of aluminum ions through the skin is miniscule compared to everyday intake through food, water (and inhalation). The Smart Mama claims “it is true that the aluminium compounds are different in the rock crystal deodorants than in most conventional deodorants, and may be absorbed differently, but they still contain aluminum.” It comes down to personal choice and what you feel comfortable putting on your body. Thanks again for adding to this interesting debate.

  20. Hi Petunia-Please keep me posted. I have used Tom’s of Maine and don’t think it’s working. I’m certainly not smelling like roses now that the weather is warm.

  21. I think most of us are agreeing Charise that Tom’s isn’t the best option. Let me know how you like Miessence. I’ve also had a number of people suggest Soapwalla

  22. I use the homemade deodorant with coconut oil and tea tree oil. Works great, even on the hottest days.

  23. Coconut oil seems to be the common denominator in all the deodorants that work. What a simple recipe-tea tree oil and coconut oil. I can handle that! Thanks so much for the recipe Wendopolis 🙂

  24. I have never had any luck with Tom’s but I do have great luck with Weleda Deodorant Sprays, Soapwalla, and Bubble & Bee Pit Putty (Geranium Lime). My tips for going natural: gently exfoliate your arm pits with a wash cloth and when switching to a natural deodorant be patient. It can take a couple of weeks for your body to adjust to it. 🙂

  25. I have to try some of these home made recipes! Thanks for the info. I use NYR Organic Lemon and Coriander deodorant (us.nyrorganic.com) and I do love it. I love all their stuff!

  26. Hi Francesca-if you try out some of the homemade recipes let me know which ones work for you. I haven’t tried NYR Organic before. Thanks for the recommendation.

  27. Hi Kathy-It seems as though Tom’s isn’t working out for most of us. I didn’t realize Weleda had a deodorant spray. That’s an interesting concept. I just ordered Soapwalla since it has received rave reviews from my readers. I prefer au natural-but there are times when deodorant is needed. I like your idea to exfoliate. Thanks so much for the great tips (as always :)).

  28. I don’t own deodorant and it hasn’t been a problem (I hope). I find that shaving my armpits is good for odor control; it gets stinky much faster when I forget. My bf uses deodorant all the time, even before bed. I’m trying to convince him to try shaving…

  29. Now that’s an interesting suggestion Judy-keep me posted on whether your bf is up for shaving. Maybe he could start a new trend -males that shave. I know some already do….why not??

  30. My gf shared this link with me the other day. Now that I am done with shampoo, I will have to go for this deodorant free life!

  31. When I made the switch to deodorant, then deodorant free of nasty chemicals, I didn’t notice a difference in how much I sweat. I just sweat a lot no matter what is on my skin, and I have to get used to it!

    One thing that I noticed is that my B.O. is more or less noticeable depending on what I wear. Synthetic materials seem to hold on to the smell more? It’s an interesting side issue to this topic.

  32. haha-David, you’ll have to let me know how that one goes! I am still fascinated by the 150 shampooless days.

  33. Great point Andrea-I think synthetic clothing does hold the stink much more than cotton.

  34. Hi Lori,
    I haven’t tried the homemade deodorants, but I do use the NYR Organic Lemon and Coriander Deodorant. It works really well, now that I have gotten used to it! I will never go back.

  35. Hi Amy-Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll check it out. It’s always nice to find something that works and is actually safe.

  36. I have been using Tom’s of Maine for a few years, but my husband doesn’t use any deodorants. I have found that using tea tree oil works well because it kills the bacteria that causes the smell.

  37. Hi Lisa-do you just rub the tea tree oil directly onto your skin? I use tea tree oil for everything-cleaning, lice prevention. My husband doesn’t use anything either.

  38. Try our vintage all natural deodorant made with Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Beeswax and Melaleuca Oil. PitStik – Changing the way you stik your pit **It WORKS!!!**
    ~*~*~*~*~* COMING SOON *~*~*~*~*~*~*
    Our all natural milder deodorant for your junior or tween – twit-Stik!!

  39. If you don’t sweat a lot, Lavilin is an a great choice! Love the natural scent and it’s always worked for me. I actually also had my husband test it out He likes it too! If you’re on the fence, do some more research on Lavilin. You will find great reviews, and some great articles and interviews online. Good luck!

  40. Colorado PitStik Natural Deodorant

    GMO Free. Lasts all day. Made in the USA!
    http://www.pitstik.com – Check us out and keep small business going!We have Mild (great for sensitive souls or kids) or regular strength.

  41. Tanya’s right – go for Lavilin!!!!

  42. […] Did you know that it only takes 26 seconds for a body care product to enter our bloodstream? Conventional deodorants and antiperspirants could not only contain controversial aluminum, their ingredient list is long and filled with other suspicious chemicals that I don’t want on or in my body. That is reason enough for me to stop using conventional deodorants. Fortunately there are safer alternatives……. […]

  43. […] We are a culture obsessed with smelling pretty.  Take a stroll down the deodorant isle at any supermarket and the options are endless. A recent poll of over 500 parents revealed that approximately 50% of children ages 4 to 11 are using deodorant by age 11. […]

  44. I looked on my Tom’s of Maine deodorant ingredients and the Active Ingredient is Aluminum Chlorohydrate (23%).

  45. On my Tom’s of Maine, however it did label it as an antiperspirant deodorant, so maybe I should’ve looked for just deodorant.

  46. I am going to try the recipe. I heard that Tea Tree Oil is great.

  47. Let me know how it works for you Josie.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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