I love deodorant, and wouldn’t want to be without it. However, it is the one body-care product that has been the most difficult for me to replace with a natural product. I have now landed on a GREAT product, and along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about sweat and stink:
Several things can make us stink:
- foods we eat, especially onions, garlic, and fried food
- toxins our bodies are trying to detox, especially medication
- bacteria in the armpit area, grows well in the warm wet environment; a rash makes this even worse
- hormones (I have not seen any studies to support this, but women I know of childbearing age -but not pregnant- seem to have the most difficult time getting deodorant to work, and it can vary through the month. I have also found that this kind of stink can stay in clothing, especially synthetic fabrics (petroleum based), leading me to believe that it is an odor expressed in oil, of which hormones are made.)
Ways to Reduce Body Odor
- Shower and shave (women) daily, washing twice with a mild natural soap like the Tea Tree Mint soap at Trader Joes (2 bars for under $2).
- Don’t wear a top twice between washes if there was any odor when you took it off.
- Eat a healthful diet based on organic vegetables, organic grassfed meats, eggs, dairy, and wild fish/oil, and some organic fruits, beans, and whole grains. Avoid all foods fried in vegetable oils; eat only organic cold pressed vegetable oils without heating (salad dressing).
- Onions and garlic provide important sulfur -a catalyst for heavy metal detoxification and joint health- in your diet, not to mention great flavor to foods. I would not avoid them for odor unless you know you will be stuck in the back seat on a hot day between two friends. 🙂
- Your body detoxes all the time, and changing your diet to the above will greatly speed up this process. However, you may want to follow a specific cleansing/detox program to give yourself a greater jump start. I noticed when treating/cleansing/healing from candida that my sweat had a mildew-like smell (gross, I know). When I did chelation to remove systemic mercury, my sweat would change between smelling like sulfur and smelling like cigarette smoke. I can’t comment here on all the cleanses I’ve tried, but finding a good Naturopathic Doctor would be a great place to begin.
- FAR Infrared Dry Heat Saunas are therapeutic for nearly any health condition except pregnancy, and the excessive sweating they induce is detoxifying and helps clear the sweat glands of odors.
- Sweating through exercise is another way to detox through sweating.
- Any kind of rash in the armpits can harbor bacteria growth. Treat your skin kindly, and avoid chafing.
- Avoid all chemical exposures, specifically medications/pain killers.
I’ve also learned why deodorant is one of the most important body care products to change to non-toxic. Smeared onto freshly shaved (for women) armpits, where just below the skin lie the second largest grouping of lymph-nodes in the body, conventional deodorant is a toxic blend of glycols, petroleum products, parabens, aluminum (for antiperspirant), and synthetic fragrance. To pick on two of these bad boys: parabens have been found in 89% of breast tumors, and aluminum has been indicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Already in 2003 when I asked my traditional Ob-Gyn about antiperspirant, she said that the studies showed a strong link to breast cancer, and she did not recommend it’s use.
Armpits are designed to sweat. Sweat is a key process for eliminating toxins from the body. And if you notice, your skin that sweats easily also absorbs easily; think hands and feet. (I hear reports that people putting a slice of garlic between the toes can taste garlic in 5-10 minutes.) So skin that is an “outlet” for toxins can work the other way as an “inlet” for whatever is placed on it. Add to this the fact that the lymph nodes near breast tissue are an intrinsic part of the breast cleansing process (and often removed with mastectomies when cancer spreads to them), and we need to be very careful about what we are putting on our armpits. (Note: both men and women get breast cancer although men’s is less common, likely for more reasons than just deodorant. More men wear non-antiperspirant deodorant, and don’t shave, both factors that reduce their risk, but the other chemicals in deodorant are still a toxicity concern for them.)
I’ve tried a lot of “natural” products, and here are my ratings on them. Just to give you a picture of where I was starting from: I used Secret Antiperspirant for years, then became uneasy with the aluminum, and went to using my perfume as deodorant. I wasn’t aware that this was just as dangerous, as modern perfumes are synthetic chemical mixes. I felt that NEITHER the Secret nor the perfume lasted/worked well even on a normal (no stress/sweating) day (I’d rate them at a 6). Here’s what I’ve tried since then (scale of 1-10, 10 being works well):
Crystal/Salt Stick There are a couple brands for this type of deodorant.
Works: 6 for me, 8 for my husband (better than his old one)
Feels: different to wet it and put that in an armpit, but I got used to it. However, after it dried, there was a fine salt layer on my skin, similar to after swimming in salt water. I have EXTREMELY sensitive skin, so this caused some chafing through the day.
Toxicity: I thought it wasn’t toxic when we tried it, but then found out that the “natural salt” used is Ammonium Alum, other names for which are ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE; ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE DODECAHYDRATE; and ALUMINUM AMMONIUM SULFATE; this shows as an extremely low hazard level on cosmeticsdatabase.com BUT with a 94% data gap: I think this means they don’t have evidence yet for this ingredient. But to me, aluminum of any form shouldn’t be on or in my body. So we don’t use this anymore.
Herbal Solid Stick Deodorants I’m grouping these together, as I can’t say that I found them to be much different than each other. Look for one without Propylene Glycol (antifreeze) and parabens, the other ingredients are usually herbs or essential oils that are mildly antibacterial or fragrant. The best of these that I’ve found is by Alba Botanica in lavender, it also comes in aloe unscented.
Works: 3-5 The Alba one shown here works about as a 5 for me, however, I’ve heard that others are very happy with this type of deodorant.
Feels: Somewhat sticky to me for the first hour or so, then no feeling, unless I sweat a good deal, then it feels slippery.
Toxicity: As long as these are made without Propylene Glycol, aluminum, and parabens, they are a very low toxicity concern.
Herbal Roll-On Deodorants I’ve tried several of these, as shown here. Avalon used to make one in lavender, which they have discontinued in favor of spray on deodorants (shown), and I thought that worked best of the roll-ons I’ve tried. I have not tried the spray, but it seems promising.
Works: 5-7 The lavender roll on worked about as a 7.
Feels: Wet/slimy at first, dries to no feeling. Not as sticky as the solids if I sweat later in the day.
Toxicity: Read the ingredients, but these are usually a very low toxicity concern, if made with essential oils, glycerin, and no parabens.
Baking Soda Some people have found this old fashioned remedy to work well for them. It is drying, anti-bacterial, and odor absorbing. Powder onto freshly showered/dried skin. If this seems to work well for you, but you would like an easier way to apply it, check out the recipe adding coconut oil on PassionateHomemaking.
Works: 7, however, a downside can be white rubbing onto dark clothing.
Feels: I have found, with my ultra sensitive skin, that soda causes chafing, initiating a rash. However, others do well with this.
Toxicity: Very low toxicity.
Essential Oil of Lavender Yes, just a few drops of the straight oil, rubbed with fingertips into the armpit. I came upon this solution when I needed something to use while I healed a chafing rash. It is mildly anti-bacterial, and I had noticed that many of the deodorants which worked better for me had this in them. Also, lavender is very soothing and healing to skin, so it helped with the rash healing. Of course, the fragrance is quite potent in the pure oil, so not everyone would desire to use this, and I don’t on a daily basis. Whether the oil is covering/blending with oil based odor, or just preventing it, I can not tell.
Feels: Warm when applied, dries to no feeling.
Toxicity: I am not aware of any health condition which is contraindicated in lavender oil use. In general, essential oils are quite strong, and should be used with caution. Toxicity concerns would be quite low for this product if you choose an organic pure essential oil which is not extracted or extended with chemicals.
Dentarome Plus, from Young Living This is what I use on a daily basis, and feel that it works better than any natural or conventional deodorant I’ve tried. It is actually toothpaste, but the blend of essential oils, glycerin, and baking soda is a strong natural anti-bacterial and odor fighter. Young Living evidently sells deodorant, however the reports I’ve heard is that they don’t work so well (likely along the lines of the other reviews I have here). To apply: squeeze a small pea sized amount onto finger, distribute between fingertips of both hands, apply thin layer to freshly washed/dried armpit area.
Feels: minty, even hot when applied, dries to no feeling, and no residue rubbing onto clothing. At times when I have developed a chafing rash, I must discontinue using this as the soda gives enough friction to inhibit my rash from healing. One tube has lasted me almost 2 years, but next time I order, I plan to get the original Dentarome as well as this Plus version. The original doesn’t have the thymol and eugenol oils, which I think is what make it hot when applied; if it doesn’t work as well, I’ll just use it as toothpaste!
Toxicity: Young Living is a reputable company, so there is very low chemical/contamination concern for this product, however some of the essential oils are contraindicated during pregnancy. I have used this successfully during my last and current pregnancies, as I don’t feel that I am taking this in therapeutic amounts. However, you must make this decision for yourself under the advice of your doctor.