Raise your hand if you’ve ever attempted to make the switch from a conventional antiperspirant or deodorant to an all-natural deodorant and found the results to, well… stink.
Come to think of it, maybe we should all put our arms down? Whether your interest in switching to an all-natural, chemical-free deodorant stems from the desire to live a more naturally-aligned lifestyle or you’re looking to cut the harmful chemicals and compounds found in conventional deodorants from your routine, finding the right product for you can feel like an uphill battle. Ask almost anyone who is used to the sweat-free and highly perfumed results of conventional products how they feel about the natural options available and they’ll likely regale you with tales of noble attempts to make the change – only to slink back to the tried and true products they were trying to kick. All natural deodorant just doesn’t work, right?
Turns out: wrong. But it’s more complicated than simply recycling your old deodorant tube and swiping on the natural stuff. Making the switch to an all-natural deodorant is a process.
But first, let’s talk about why you should switch from a conventional antiperspirant deodorant to an all-natural option, starting with the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant.
What’s the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?
The difference between these two products lies in the name: antiperspirant quite literally makes you stop perspiring – or sweating – through the use of chemical agents, typically the metallic salts aluminum chloride and aluminum chlorohydrate, and sometimes aluminum zirconium. These products work by blocking the sweat ducts, when the compounds come into contact with your sweat, your body pH rises and activates the salts, causing them to block your sweat glands. You’re still sweating, but the sweat isn’t able to escape to the surface of the skin.
Deodorants don’t prevent your body from sweating, but they do mask the odor caused by sweat by killing bacteria and with perfumes and fragrance. Did you know your sweat doesn’t actually have a smell? The odor often attributed to sweat is actually caused when the fat and proteins in your sweat meet the bacteria on your skin, this is especially prevalent in the underarm area because of the apocrine glands, which have more protein and fats in the sweat they produce. When coupled with the tendency to have more bacteria in the underarm area, your underarm sweat tends to have an odor, whereas the sweat on your brow or hands tends to be odorless.
What’s wrong with conventional antiperspirant & deodorant?
Now, when put simply like this, these two conventional products don’t sound so bad, right? If they make it so you can confidently raise your hand in class or use the gym without clearing out the weight room – what’s the big deal? Unfortunately, some people consider the ingredients in antiperspirants actual carcinogens and they’ve even been associated with risk of breast cancer because of the proximity of those ingredients to the breast and chest area. While the jury is still out on whether or not there’s solid evidence to back up these claims, some reports suggest that applying metallic salts to the underarm area may cause estrogen-mimicking hormonal effects and contribute to the risk of breast cancer in some users.
For many people, that’s enough to send them to the closest natural products aisle. For others, it’s the idea of literally blocking your body from performing a natural and very necessary function. Our bodies sweat to regulate temperature by bringing moisture to the surface of the skin, which cools as it evaporates. That’s why it feels so amazing to catch a breeze while you’re running or when you position yourself in front of the fan at your gym.
Unfortunately, conventional deodorants aren’t much better. While they may not prevent your body from physically sweating, the synthetic fragrances and antibacterial compounds in their ingredients lists pose their own threats, with synthetic fragrances possibly contributing to hormone imbalance.
For anyone concerned about the possible health risks of conventional antiperspirants and deodorants, the obvious answer is switching to a non-toxic variety, but it’s not as simple as swapping one for the other.
What happens when you stop using conventional antiperspirant/deodorant?
Did you know that in the U.S. and Canada, antiperspirant is considered an over the counter drug? And like many OTC drugs, your body can build up a dependence on, or tolerance to, antiperspirant. If you’ve been using antiperspirant/deodorant since you were a teen, your body has become accustomed to, well, not releasing the sweat it produces. Take that product (or drug) away, and things go a little haywire. It’s not that your natural deodorant isn’t working, it’s that your body is overcompensating. You may not notice a huge difference at first because it takes some time for all the product to release from your pores, but after a couple of weeks your sweat ducts are unblocked and your body is free to perform the function it’s been trying to perform for years, even decades. You’d go a little crazy too.
You may notice an excess of sweat and odor during this time – which is known as the detox period. After a few weeks, the amount you’re sweating and the increase in bacteria and odor should subside. While unpleasant, the good news is you can help the armpit detox along with a simple mask. Yup, the same way you’d treat your face with a pore-loving face mask, you can do the same for your pits:
ACV Armpit Mask
- 1 Tbsp bentonite clay
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or water
- Splash of water
*Be sure to do a patch test on the inside of your arm, as the combo of ACV and bentonite clay may be irritating. If the ACV is too strong, sub for all water.
How to: Mix clay, water, and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl to form a paste. Use a clean paintbrush or your fingers to paint onto clean, dry armpits. Relax with your arms above your head (you may want to lie down) until mask is dry. After 5-10 minutes, remove with a warm, damp washcloth and pat dry.
Repeat as needed.
Finding the right non-toxic deodorant
Once you’ve successfully detoxed your pits and navigated the detox period (for some it may be quick, for others it may take 30 days or longer – stay strong!), it’s time to find the right non-toxic deodorant. Notice how we didn’t mention antiperspirant? While some brands advertise all-natural antiperspirants, an effective, healthy antiperspirant is a bit of a misnomer because they still contain aluminum compounds and prevent sweating. Non-toxic, natural deodorants, on the other hand, are much easier to find – and far healthier.
There are plenty of non-toxic options on the market with a veritable rainbow of ingredients – from baking soda to charcoal to coconut oil. For many natural deodorant users, finding the right one was a matter of trial and error. For this reason, we recommend purchasing from a retailer with a generous return policy for cosmetics and personal care items, but once you find the right one – it’s smooth (and good-smelling) sailing.
Have you made the switch to all-natural deodorant? Share your tips with us by tagging us on social @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine!