Natural deodorant has a bad rep when it comes to effectiveness; however, a handful of brands are offering perfected pure formulations that are causing the popularity of toxin-free options to explode here in the United States.
A 2016 research report from Technavio shows that, “Consumers in the U.S. are showing greater preference towards natural and organic products, especially in the personal care product segment. Deodorant manufacturers have been quick to capitalize on this trend.”
Another industry report, “Global Deodorant & Antiperspirant Ingredients Market,” from Persistence Market Research concludes that, “Natural ingredients usage is set to increase in deodorant and antiperspirant manufacturing throughout the forecast period (through 2021).”
This is great news for health-conscious individuals like you! The trick is to do your homework to identify the products that work.
The Changing Tide of Natural Deodorant
More and more people are opting for natural deodorant for two main reasons. First, research into natural ingredients and formulations has helped increase effectiveness. Yes, there are natural options out there that really work!
Second, more people are understanding that humans need to sweat, and that commercial antiperspirants block that natural function. Sweating helps balance salt levels and regulate body temperature. Many individuals don’t realize that sweat is actually odorless. The foul smell comes from bacteria on the skin. The apocrine sweat glands in the underarm area periodically secrete an odorless oily substance that contains fats, steroids and proteins from within your body. It isn’t until it reaches the outer skin surface that microbial activity begins and causes odor.
Third, news about questionable ingredients in traditional deodorants has inspired individuals to avoid the harsh and potentially harmful components. In “5 Things Wrong With Your Deodorant,” a 2016 article in Time magazine, it states, “Blood tests show that many of the substances commonly included in deodorant products can, in fact, worm their way past the epidermis and into the body. Research also shows that some compounds used in deodorant are absorbed and stored in fat cells. … experts are worried certain compounds in antiperspirant and deodorant could cause or contribute to developmental or reproductive issues, as well as cancer.” (Source)
Ingredients of Concern
Parabens: This group of artificial preservatives is used in many personal care products — like deodorant — to extend shelf life, prevent mold/bacteria growth and help the product smear well. Laboratory studies show that certain parabens may cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, hormone disruption (estrogen), reproductive health issues and other health issues. Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors, causing the cautious consumer to avoid them in favor of products that don’t use chemical preservatives. (Source) While the FDA limits the levels of parabens allowed in foods and beverages, it does not regulate these chemicals in cosmetics and body care products.
Aluminum: This is the compound found in antiperspirants that works to block sweat glands. Aluminum can cause gene instability in breast tissue, which may support the growth of cancer cells. While this link is still being researched, applying an aluminum-based deodorant, especially after shaving, could have negative health effects. In addition, aluminum is blamed for causing the yellowing that appears on white shirts. That’s because sweat, a protein, reacts with aluminum. In fact, cotton is also a protein, so antiperspirant, sweat and cotton are quite the staining trio! Read more about it in this post.
Triclosan: This artificial chemical (classified as a pesticide by the FDA) is valued for its ability to kill bacteria that cause odor, but research is showing that: it may cause thyroid function disruption; it accumulates in fat and can build up over time; and it forms toxic byproducts. It is also being studied for other effects. The Time article points out that the FDA claims there are no known hazards associated with triclosan, but, it also “acknowledges that the research has evolved since it issued that designation, and the agency could soon change its stance.”
Phthalates: This group of chemicals is often found in “fragrance” formulations. Research has tied phthalates to hormone interference, reproductive system risks and thyroid issues. Initial research is showing a possible link to asthma and diabetes risk.
Fragrance/Perfume: Since trade secret law protects companies from disclosing ingredients in “scents,” consumers are left at a disadvantage not knowing what chemicals are included in those products. It has been estimated that the terms “fragrance” and “parfum” are catchalls for 10,000 different ingredients.
What most reports assuring the safety of these chemicals do not specify is the length of exposure they have considered when determining their status. Daily or multi-daily use of products that contain them results in repeated, direct exposure to these potentially harmful ingredients. Is it worth the risk?
The expert in the Time article recommends using fragrance-free natural deodorant, and products labeled as free of the chemicals listed above.
Common Natural Deodorant Ingredients
Natural deodorant formulas are made with plant-based ingredients instead of aluminum, parabens, fragrance and other harsh synthetic chemicals. Some of these include:
- Tea Tree Oil
- Orange Essential Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- Lavender Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Magnesium Chloride
- Rosemary Extract
- Activated Charcoal
- Tapioca starch
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Baking Soda*
- Shea Butter
- Cocoa Butter
- Coconut Oil
- Aloe Vera
- Vitamin E Oil
These plant extracts and essential oils work to reduce the amount of bacteria in the underarms naturally. Ingredients like vitamin E act as natural preservatives. And, the essential oils also leave pleasing scents!
* While baking soda is technically a safe ingredient, it can be irritating to many people. If you have sensitivities, look for natural deodorant options that do not contain it.
Our Natural Deodorant Picks
Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant comes in Bergamot + Lime (shown here), as well as Tea Tree Sensitive Skin, Ylang-Ylang + Calendula, Fragrance-Free Sensitive Skin, Lavender + Sage and Cedarwood + Juniper.
These products deodorize the body without controversial ingredients. They are non-greasy, elegantly scented, award-winning formulas that come in stick as well as jar form. The brand, out of Portland, Oregon, is committed to the mission of changing the way people think about deodorant. Their selection of high-quality, carefully selected ingredients is suitable for even sensitive skin. Schmidt’s products are certified vegan, cruelty-free, easily absorbed, and free of aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens and phthalates. Whenever possible, the contents are packaged in sustainable materials, such as glass jars.
Besides being certified organic, Miessence products are also free from synthetic chemicals, GMOs and animal testing. They are 100% natural and safe enough to use on a baby. All of the ingredients – aloe vera, almond and tea tree, honey, lemon, geranium, mint, etc. – are bio-active, so they serve a helpful purpose by benefiting the health of your skin. In addition, all of their packaging is recyclable.
Real Purity, a family-run business, is in its fourth generation of carrying on an all-natural beauty and body care tradition. These products are made from organic plants, natural minerals and other natural sources. They do not contain any common allergens, chemicals or artificial substances, and are ideal for all skin types. This natural line of products aims to nourish skin and leave it feeling dry.
Body odor. It’s a fact of life. Now, thankfully, there are healthier approaches to dealing with it! Let us know about your experience with the newest natural deodorant formulas in the comments section below.