Everything that I've Learnt So Far About Natural Deodorants...
Updated: Mar 31
I get asked so often about natural (especially plastic free) deodorants. I have tried many now and had many conversations about them too. Because they seem to be a problem for so many, I've decided to write a break down of what I've learnt, why they may not work for some, how to find one that works for you, that you love and more.
Why I chose to go natural.
In most areas of my life, if I have the option to choose natural products, I normally do. Deodorants included.
Aluminium is probably the most "famous" ingredient in deodorant that people try and steer clear of. There is not significant scientific consensus between aluminium in our anti perspirant/ deodorant and carnicongetic properties, although there are studies for and against. I've put some scientific articles at the bottom of this article (note, shaving also may increase risk). I made the decision that I wouldn't obsess about removing aluminium from my deodorant because the science is not clear but it was a good idea to try and reduce where I could and to keep an eye on the current research. But it's not just aluminium. It's parabens, artificial fragrance and much more! I wanted a deodorant that let my body do it's thing without too many chemicals but most importantly, that I smelt fresh!.
About 3 years ago whilst travelling extensively, I also realised how impractical deodorants were in terms of how quickly they are used and the plastic associated with that. I was getting through a regular deodorant about every month. They cost between £1.50- £3.00 each and were hard to come by one whilst in Asia- that weren't whitening or smelt super heavily floral. Each deodorant came with a hefty round of plastic too. I realised this was not a sustainable aspect of my own routine and this was the push for me to research more sustainable alternatives.
If you've ever tried a natural deodorant, you will probably know that there is a lot of trial and error. I have tried so many natural deodorants to find that they simply do not work for me- and some even make my pits smellier.
This whole trial and error has allowed to find a few key patterns and I'm sharing them with you so that you can transition from harder deodorants to a more natural deodorant smoothly. If you've got any questions, comments, things to add let me know!
1. It does get better... Since switching to natural deodorants, over time I have noticed that my pits have detoxed. I had absolutely no idea that this was something lots of other people go through too.
About 6 months after not using any "standard" deodorant my pits are less sweaty and stinky, even without product on. I have now gone years without standard deodorant (bar once when I ran out/ didn't have any ingredients to create more and borrowed my mums) and now I rarely get stinky. This is to say, bare with the process. Eventually your body should adjust to less product. You might not even need deodorant, our bodies are all different.
2. An official detox?
I didn't purposefully detox because I didn't know that it was a thing. I just pushed through, which might not be something you're able to do. I wasn't that stinky, but did take a while to understand what worked for me. I would recommend trying a highly recommended deodorant option first of all and following this guide before you resort to specific detox products- because if like me, if won't need to. There are lots of points I've set out here that will help you adjust to natural based deodorants without worry & faff with detoxing either! I also find winter much easier to detox in, because it's cooler. You might also find during covid, when we're seeing less people and at home a lot- its an ideal time to test some deodorants or even try none.
3. The Future Is Solid & Plastic Free.
So after trying lots of natural deodorants, the one major factor that I find works for me more often than not, is solid deodorant. Wet deodorant is now, really, a little bit gross! Putting wet product on my pits just never works and I don't buy wet deodorant products anymore. Solid deo's for the win- plus a huge win with that, is that solid deodorant is much much easier to get PLASTIC FREE. I genuinely think that the future for deodorant is solid both for plastic reasons but also how bloody good it is. They last ages, are super handy to travel with and last yonks. Plus, if you buy a solid deodorant, there are less emissions associated with transporting water!
One thing I don't enjoy as much, is the tins of natural deodorant that you have to put fingers in. This is mostly because I tend to be putting in contact lenses around the same time of the day- and with scented bicarb products on fingers I have to wash really well... however you really don't have to go the tin route. Primal Suds No Bo Bar and Cacao Pow are both solid that can be applied direct and they're my favourites. Having said this, I am currently using a home-made deodorant that I apply with my fingers (recipe below) and I have gotten used to it more. You might find it handy to have a wooden stirrer to apply.
4. Switch up the scent
I have always liked switching up the scent of my deodorant. I get scent fatigue and this is absolutely the same for natural deodorants, although I think it is less because the scent is far less strong and "floral". So for me, finding two deodorants that I love was always important. This is something that a lot of you have also agreed happens too, with dozens of you telling me that you also swap your deodorant between favourites daily (natural or not) as sometimes they just stop working the same if you use the same one continually.
Solid deodorants can seem very different at first.
My best advice for applying solid deodorant is do it straight after the shower. Thats when your skin will be soft and warm. Your solid deodorant will melt on- both making it easiest to apply but also most effective. This is also a great advice for other solid products like body lotions. This way, your product really sinks in and I find this is how I get the best protection. It will also help your product last longer, as less will break off and crumble- it will simply melt on. If you do need to top up when you've not had a shower, be slow and firm- as this will help warm the bar up a bit on your skin.
Applying a homemade deodorant (in a reused truthpaste jar) straight after the shower helps the product work better and is easier to apply
6. Sensitivity to Bicarb
Unfortunately lots of people are sensitive to natural deodorants that have bicarb in them. Their armpits get sore if they don't stop using it. But luckily, there are lots of options bicarb free. You'll find out pretty quickly if they don't suit your skin and you can switch out. See points further down if you can’t adjust.
7. Loofah your pits.
I use a loofah in the shower and make sure I exfoliate my armpits in the shower regularly. I have found it seems to make a big difference in keeping my pits clean, exfoliated (free of dead skin) and hence less smelly. I have no proof of this, this is just my own experience but I think it also might keep things circulated and fresh under there! I use the Loofco heart shaped loofah and it's lasted for at least a year so far. Keep it hanging in your shower from it's built in string so it dries between uses to ensure long life.
8. Stick to natural fibres.
Wearing natural fibres goes a huge way in helping reduce pong! I rarely wear synthetic fibres (lucky me) but have spoken to many of you that wear polyester work uniforms. This can really reduce the performance of all deodorants, not just natural deodorants. Less breathable fabrics don't let moisture out and can make you sweat. If you can, try to reduce how much you wear.
9. Sparkly boobs.
I think this seems to be a problem for people who wear bras, more than those who don't.. but if you start wearing a bicarb based deodorant and find sparkles in your bra/ over your boobs at the end of the day, don't be alarmed. Unfortunately you're not secreting glittery-ness, it's the dry bicarb. I find it accumulates in my bra over the day, but doesn't seem to do this for the bra-less- which I guess it just falls away over the day. You will get used to a glittery chest, otherwise switch out to non bicarb based deodorant.
10. If at first you don't succeed...
The further I have come since my the last time I wore "traditional" deodorant the better natural ones work for me. Unless the deodorant you're trying makes you very smelly, if you can, bare with it. After your detox you'll find natural deodorants work better in general. Follow this guide, give it some time and if it really doesn't work for you, try something else and don't buy that one again. I've spoken to a few people who simply cannot get on with natural deodorants. Like above, they might not be able to steer clear of synthetic sweaty fibres. One lady I spoke to had tried more than 10 natural deodorants, all of which hadn't worked for her and she was feeling defeated... If this is you, please don't beat yourself up! There is a reason established brands have such huge ranges of skincare products on the market already- we all have different requirements and it might be that your uniform/ workplace/ skin type means natural deodorants aren't for you. Do not worry we all have different resources and privileges- sometimes we can't do everything we'd like to. Try some of the middle ground deodorants and don't feel any guilt if you need to stick to traditional deodorants. Don't let it get in the way of your work.
11. Deodorants that I love.
My absolute favourite deodorant is Primal Suds NO BO bar in Smoo. It works absolutely amazingly for me, lasts for ages, I love the smell and buying from an epic small business.
I also really like the Cacao Pow DeoBar. It has an unusual chocolatey smell, but the scent dissipates leaving your pits without any scent! It works for a few days even with heavy manual work like gardening.
It's also possible to get some amazing deodorants from smaller brands, like Strawberry Moon- who also do a bicarb free option too.
12. DIY DEO
First things first, many people simply do not have the time to make their own deodorant. With childcare, a job, dinner and much much more, hand making our skincare is sometimes too much. And that's OK! Find a brand that suits you and do not worry.
However, some of us enjoy the process. I regularly use my own handmade deodorant because it's cheap, easy peasy to make, I can choose the scent, it works, I can do it package free and I enjoy making "potions"!
This recipe takes me about 10 minutes, it uses things I have at home & use for other things.
I prefer to make up smaller batches, that way I can change the scent more frequently.
Unfortunately I don't get have a bicarb free recipe (yet!)
I have also chosen to use rapeseed oil because it's locally produced to me in South England. Many deodorant recipes use coconut oil, which does produce the best product, but I'm trying to reduce my dependance on it due to a recent study that it's production has a big impact on species(*). Rapeseed oil is very yellow, so be aware that it may stain light clothing. I don't wear light clothing so it doesn't impact me, but beware. Switch up to what suits you.
2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon Bicarb
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot
Few drops of essential oil of choice (I love peppermint- it's fresh!)
Mix it all up with a wooden spoon. You may choose to change up some of these ratios or include some luxury extras. For example, Jojoba oil is lovely added with a few drops- just increase your bicarb or reduce oil slightly. Experiment with the ingredients and get a feel for what works for you. You may prefer a slightly runnier mix or something really solid. This is your product that you're making so you have the power to do what you want and decide how you want to apply! I also prefer to make my deodorants in smaller quantities, but change the amounts in ratio how it works for you. I store mine in an old Truthpaste jar... be warned.. label your jar or risk accidentally brushing your teeth with deodorant!!
Also, hot tip, if you want to reduce your coconut oil use- but want a more solid consistency than rapeseed alone, mix rapeseed oil and coconut oil in equal quantity for your recipe. It makes a delightfully airy, light and fluffy mix that is perfect for application!
So, that's all the hints and tricks I've picked up over a few years of testing and trying lots of natural deodorants. Whether it's making yourself, buying from amazing small brands, finding something more traditional that works for you or finding that you actually don't really need deodorant at all! I hope it takes the pressure off, helps you transition and avoid some faff whilst staying fresh. Our bodies are all wonderfully different, we all have different circumstances and lives, but I hope this tricks can help you adjust.
Our content is free, with no google ads and we don't run sponsored content. Help us keep it sustainable. If you appreciate this free guide (and all our other resources) and would like to say thank you, you can "buy us a coffee". Thank you!
You might also like our review of the ecobrite solid body butter bar, find it here
Articles on deodorant: