Last week we talked about:
- why you sweat
- what makes you smell
- what’s wrong with conventional deodorant and anti-perspirant
- how to get a toxicity rating for your deodorant
Are you ready for a better deodorant?
We’re lucky that it just got hot in Austin—it’s like an oven outside so it’s a great time to test deodorant. And luckily, I’m the one testing it, because if it works for me it’s sure to work for you. Not saying that you will be the exact equivalent—you’ve got different DNA. You might also have some pit hair or razor stubble and I have neither (I laser’d away all my hair). And this is a trial of one, so this study is not likely to be picked up by the New England Journal of Medicine or Good Housekeeping. But still, I’ve done some serious research, so this is a good place for you to start ( You, too, Red!).
Here’s how to transition to non-toxic
When you switch from an antiperspirant or conventional deodorant to a non-toxic one, there may be a period of adjustment in which you get swampier and smell more—you need to clear the toxins out your pores. So before you wave goodbye to harmful chemicals, you should prepare your armpits for the challenge. Dealing with the causes of odorous pits can make the journey smoother. Eventually you will cultivate less smelly microflora in your armpit.
- Wear breathable fabrics which don’t trap moisture against your skin.
- Drink lots of filtered, purified water. Water helps your body detoxify.
- Use a loofah in the shower to remove dead skin and toxins.
- Dry your armpits well after showering.
- Wipe your pits with healthy astringents: use apple cider vinegar or witch hazel before applying deodorant.
- Take a probiotic supplement to increase your body’s healthy bacteria.
The detox period can last up to two weeks but it will be worth it!
I used to have furry armpits and they captured and trapped moisture and odor. I waxed it off for about 20 years but hated the dreaded grow-in “stubble” period. When laser hair removal machines were unveiled in the 90s I was one of their first test rats. Most practitioners charge by surface area, so legs cost a lot, but armpits are tiny so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Back then, treatment was provided by licensed nurses at hospitals but now you can use a Groupon and get it done almost anywhere. I urge you to get a trusted referral or to compare yelp reviews for practitioners in your town before going this route. But it can really be liberating to be armpit-hair-free.
Here are GFF-approved deodorant ingredients
Most natural deodorants contain a combination of these ingredients. Some of them may cause reactions if your body is not used to them:
- aloe vera gel: kills odor-causing bacteria, soothes razor burn
- arrowroot powder: keeps skin dry, wicks away moisture, thickening agent for deodorant sticks and pastes
- baking soda (sodium bicarbonate): neutralizes the acids in your sweat, diffuses odor, absorbs excess wetness, can cause rash on sensitive skin
- beeswax: natural moisturizer and emulsifier (turns a liquid into a solid). Also candelilla wax.
- bentonite clay: helps absorb moisture and eliminate odor
- coconut oil: improves texture, makes it easy to apply. Has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Contains lauric acid which kills bad bacteria.
- cornstarch: absorbs moisture, has no scent
- essential oils: These are natural scents that have beneficial effects including antibacterial properties without the adverse side effects. Many are too strong to apply directly to skin, but the following work well: lavender, rosemary, sandalwood, rose, bergamot, grapefruit, clary sage, cypress, lemongrass, tea tree.
- hops: yes, really. It’s a natural odor-fighting anti-bacterial as well as a natural preservative.
- jojoba oil: allows deodorant to glide on
- kaolin clay: a gentle, detoxifying powder, it helps absorb moisture and eliminate odor
- magnesium hydroxide: smell inhibitor
- shea butter: natural moisturizer
- vitamin E oil: helps preserve shelf life
- zinc ricinoleate: odor absorbing agent
What’s that? Probiotic deodorant theoretically helps treat body odor by encouraging good bacteria to grow. But the success is very individual and depends on a lot of factors. It’s probably not wise to go from an industrial product to a probiotic one overnight, but after you adjust to non-toxic deodorant you might want to give it a try. Small steps: from conventional to natural, then to probiotic.
As I was exploring the deodorant shelf at my neighborhood pharmacy, one of the trusted employees confided that his trusted brand had just added aluminum to its ingredient list so stopped using it. But he took some lemons and made lemonade. Actually, he took a lime and rubbed it on his armpit and it worked wonders: he was odorless for four days. So I couldn’t wait to try it for myself, and as I write this, I am experimenting with lime-juice-doused pits and waiting and watching…and smelling.
For those who are adventurous enough to try making their own deodorant, here are the essential ingredients. It will probably require some trial and error to achieve the perfect consistency and scent for your liking.
- mason jar or silicone molds
- wooden utensils for stirring
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp shea butter
- 1 tbsp beeswax
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
- 2 tbsp bentonite clay
- 6 drops essential oil. Experiment with them. Mix and match.
- suggestions for men: sandalwood, clary, sage
- suggestions for women: rose, lavender, grapefruit
- Heat up the coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax in a double boiler and stir until liquid.
- Add clay, powder, and essential oils. Mix.
- Pour into a silicone mold, a small air-tight container, or an empty deodorant stick dispenser.
- Let concoction cool to room temperature. If using a silicone mold, remove bar and store in a sandwich bag.
- When applying to armpit, pull out a small ball of it, let it soften on your finger, then spread till it dissolves.
The GFF’s picks (drum roll…)
- Real Purity roll on. Goes on very wet. Minimal unisex scent. Long list of impressive essential oils. Didn’t last quite as long as the others.
- Bali roll on. I’ve been using this for a year. Roll-on is convenient and mess-free. I like rose scent. Duration is good. Effectiveness waned after two years.
- EO spray. Spraying is convenient and you don’t have to wash your hands afterwards. I did not enjoy inhaling it—I had to escape from the bathroom till the vapor dissipated. The duration of effectiveness was slightly shorter than the others.
- 3rd Rock Odorblock spray. Scentless. Edible ingredients, in case you get hungry when you’re out running. Just kidding.
- EO individually wrapped wipe. I LOVE these. I carry a few in my purse just in case I am out and become odor-challenged during the day. It’s an astringent and will completely eradicate armpit smell.
- Probiotic deodorant paste. Apply with your fingers. The consistency is a bit sandy but once it’s on all is well. Good duration. It’s a local Austin company but you can get it online here.
- Soapwalla paste. This was the very first natural deodorant that I tried years ago that really worked. But after a few years it wasn’t as effective. Nice consistency. Smells good. Most ingredients are certified organic and food grade. They make each one to order! If you order it online in August from Austin, TX, it will arrive as a liquid, and when you open it up, it’ll splash all over the place, including into your eyes. Pictured is their very small travel size, which is very handy.
- Primal Pit Paste. Goes on smooth. coconut lime scent is nice. Lasts for a long time, even after biking on a hot day. There is also a Roll-on version which I liked almost as much. I tried a “guys” scent—charcoal magnesium—which wasn’t bad except it turned my armpits grey.
- Magsol Magnesium Deodorant roll on: I tried the rose scent which is magnificent. It’s true that magnesium helps relax your muscles, possibly also your mind.I didn’t know that magnesium helped with odor but it worked for me! Rose oil soothes irritated skin.
- Smarty Pits roll on: Sometimes goes on a little chalky but you can rub it in with finger. I tried rosemary mint—very nice scent. Made in small batches.
- Zion Claydry. Rolls on smoothly. I tried sandalwood which is apparently a male scent. Smells nice. Contains arnica montana which is great for pain.
- The lime. That’s right, folks. This humble citrus fruit was just as effective as the top performers. Can’t hurt to try and it’s a mere .25 cent investment. I was stunned. If you try it, comment on whether it worked for you! Don’t use on freshly razored armpits–it’ll burn!
According to the website of the Food and Drug Administration:“Under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA premarket approval, with the exception of color additives…Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA…Recalls of cosmetics are voluntary actions taken by manufacturers or distributors to remove from the marketplace products that represent a hazard or gross deception, or that are somehow defective (21 CFR 7.40(a). FDA is not authorized to order recalls of cosmetics.”
There you go. You’re on your own. Choose wisely.
According to the Environmental Working Group, it has been 80 years since Congress last passed legislation regulating the cosmetics industry.
The European Union has banned 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects. In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. Unlike the United States, EU law requires pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes.
What is the future of deodorant?
I bet you daydream about this every day, like me. Lucky for you, a recent study looked at the scents caused by 150 underarm bacteria. Researchers identified the genes responsible for breaking down sweat molecules into compounds called a thioalchohols. Traditional deodorants kill all underarm bacteria or block our sweat glands. Hopefully one day you’ll be able to buy a custom deodorant that targets the proteins that your own body produces. Imagine that!
- How come deodorant was initially rejected and what changed everything.
How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad.
- Can you be too clean?
My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment