Switching to Natural Deodorant

Let me tell you a story, once upon a time in 2012 I decided I wanted to make the switch to natural deodorant. I went to a health food store, picked one out that smelled good and started using it. The end. No, NOT the end. More like my pits were dripping like Niagara Falls, I had wet marks on my shirt and I smelled like onion soup on a hot day. Here is my journey to making the switch!

Let's rewind, when I decided to make the switch it wasn't because it was trendy, it was because I was getting hard painful lumps in my underarms. They were pea to dime size lumps that hurt when I lifted my arms and would appear every few weeks. Based on what Google said I was sure I was dying. I went to the doctor and she said I have clogged hair and sweat follicles and I should stop using deodorant for a few days and apply hot compresses. Luckily, her recommendations worked and the lumps went away, but what happens when I start using deodorant again? It got me thinking and I went down the rabbit hole into armpit research.

Why we sweat

We have two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are all over our bodies and regulate our body temperature. This is the salty type of sweat that contains water and sodium. Apocrine, on the other hand, is mainly found in the underarm region and is triggered by stress, anxiety and fluctuating hormones. This type of sweat also produces bacteria, it's the reason why we smell and also why we use deodorant in just our underarms and not our entire bodies.

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

Deodorant works by helping to fight bacteria in the underarm and scent the area. While antiperspirants will actually clog or shrink the sweat gland with ingredients such as aluminum. This stops the body from regulating body temperature, releasing toxins and sweat. 

When I read that I am essentially stopping a natural body function from happening and holding on to toxins in my body that were the moment I decided to make the switch. That fact grossed me out more than anything.

Toxic Claims

One of the main ingredients in antiperspirant is aluminum and it gets a pretty bad wrap. In a 2002 study, there was some finding that aluminum may contribute to the formation of breast cancer since it's applied regularly and near breast tissue. It's said that aluminum may mimic estrogen contributing to breast cancer. It has also been linked to seizures, Alzheimer's disease, and kidney disorders. However, these findings are mixed and whether or not it's true, why risk it and stop my body from performing a natural body function?

We can't forget the other ingredients in commercial deodorants that are not so healthy.

Parabens -  a preservative that mimics estrogen and throws off hormones.

Propylene glycol - used to increase absorption of ingredients, but a known irritant.

Triclosan - kills bacteria and fungus - linked to an increased risk of cancer, allergies and thyroid function.

Synthetic fragrance - a known skin irritant and hormone disruptor. 

Phthalates - used to make products "feel" better but have been found to be a hormone disruptor as well.

Making the switch

The first thing you need to know about making the switch is your body will have to adjust and go through a detox period. Think about it, most of us started using deodorant once we hit puberty and that is years and years of us fighting a natural body function. Our body essentially has to figure out how to regulate itself again. 

Let me warn you, you're going to sweat a lot more than normal for a little bit and you will probably smell like a middle school locker room. Your pores will unclog and start to function like the way they were intended. When the sweat and stink start pouring in this is when most of us start running back to their trusty antiperspirant. Stay strong people, stay strong! This process usually last for 2-4 weeks with most people and I advise doing this switch in the winter months when it's not super hot to make it more bearable for yourself and other people around you!

How to survive the deodorant detox

Exfoliate your pits - This is I think one of the most important steps to natural deodorant success. Commercial deodorant causes a sticky chemical residue on the skin. This is usually was gives people that dark appearance to the skin.

Also, if you have layers of dead skin building up chances are you are holding on to bacteria there too. This means once sweat hits that area and mixes with the natural bacteria we all have on our skin = smell city. Exfoliating mitts work really well and are my personal choice. You can also use a body scrub or make a paste with baking soda and water to exfoliate a few times a week. 

Pit mask - Clay masks are known to be super detoxifying and can also be used in the armpit area for the same effect. I recommend bentonite clay + apple cider vinegar + water a few times a week for 15 mins. 

Sweat it out -  Working out, steam rooms or dry saunas will really help you sweat out all those toxins and speed up the process.

Drink water - Drinking water will stimulate the lymphatic system and this will help flush your body and detox even quicker.

Does it work?

You betcha it does! Since I jumped on the natural deodorant train I have spent more time talking about armpits and deodorant with my friends than ever! I know many people that have made the switch as well. All have said the same things, it was tough at first but now they hardly smell or sweat as much. Plus, no more armpit dark residue. I even have a friend that completely stopped wearing deodorant at all! I notice that after my hot yoga class I don't smell at all. It's the craziest thing and the body is pretty amazing!

Ingredients to look for:

Baking soda - since baking soda is naturally alkaline it helps to neutralize acidic odor causing bacteria.

Magnesium - a natural mineral, helps to decrease and neutralize stink

Arrowroot powder - derived from a root plant and helps absorb wetness.

Coconut oil - naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial. 

Essential oils - some essential oils like rosemary and citrus are naturally antibacterial and smells great too! 

My picks

After trying about 96,433,647 brands over the years, I have 3 top winners - Schmidt's in both regular and sensitive formulas, Primal Pit Paste, and Lavanila particularly the Sport Luxe. This varies for many people as what works for one may not another and it may take some trial and error. 

Schmidt's comes in a variety of scents and two formulas. Regular which contains baking soda and sensitive which does not contain baking soda but magnesium. My personal favorite is the Bergamot + Lime and the Sensitive Skin Geranium Flower. 

I even got my husband to start using natural deodorant too and he uses the Cedarwood + Juniper scent which I nicknamed "lumberjack in a stick" and it's delightful! 😍

Tips for success

+ Exfoliate your pits 1-2 times a week

+ You don't need to apply as much as you would for commercial deodorants as it may leave a residue on clothes. A little goes a long way!

+ Make sure you are applying to clean underarms as natural bacteria on the skin may cause odor

+ Accept that if you have been working all day and are headed out for the evening, you may need to do a quick wipe and reapply. (Unscented natural baby wipes are GREAT for a quick freshening up!)