DOES NATURAL DEODORANT WORK?
Let me start by saying that I’m not one of those girls who barely sweats and can get away with a splash of body spray instead of deodorant. I NEED to wear a proper deodorant and our Goan weather which is almost always in the 30s and extremely humid doesn’t help the situation much either. So, of course, when I initially switched over to natural deodorant, I was very concerned about how effective it would be.
When I started using natural deodorant 5 years ago, there were no options available in the Indian market. I started with the most basic formulation, a mix of baking soda, coconut oil and arrowroot powder, this worked extremely well for me, but the texture and oily residue took some time to get used to. Over time, my deodorant formulation has gone through many changes and is now a smooth, light creamy texture that absorbs easily into the skin, barely leaving behind any residue, but for someone who has never used a natural deodorant before, it is probably still an adjustment to have to apply a cream into your pits rather than a roll on or a spray.
NATURAL DEODORANT IS NOT ANTI-PERSPIRANT
Before we can continue discussing making the switch to natural deodorant, we need to clear something up. “Antiperspirants and deodorants work differently in their methods of reducing body odor,” says Aragona Giuseppe, MD, GP, and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor. “Put simply, an antiperspirant will contain aluminum. The function of the aluminum is to decrease perspiration by blocking sweat from exiting the body, thereby stopping adverse odor and keeping your body dry. In contrast, a deodorant works to neutralize the smell of your natural body odor by masking it.”
But sweating is important! Blocking the sweat glands from releasing sweat can cause the body to overheat as sweating is how we regulate our body temperature. And while you may associate sweat with smell, sweat doesn’t actually smell. “The odor is caused by bacteria that grows on sweat. Although aluminum is efficient in its end goal of stopping sweat, it actually operates by plugging your sweat glands,” says Dr. Giuseppe. “When switching from an antiperspirant to a deodorant, you are removing the aluminum and releasing waste which has been blocked. This is a natural process as part of our body’s built-in mechanisms, but it may contribute to releasing some slightly unusual body odor in comparison to what you are used to. So when you first make the switch, it’s not that your natural deodorant isn’t working—but your body is—and naturally!”
DO I NEED TO DETOX MY ARMPITS?
Any conversation around making the transition to natural deodorant will inevitably bring the question rampant among wellness fanatics, “But have you detoxed?” The claim is that aluminum-based antiperspirants, over time, change the type of bacteria in your underarm, and when you try to switch to natural, the imbalance in the bacteria can cause major stink. Using a detoxifying agent can hurry the process along and rebalance your natural bacteria by drawing the toxins from your body. Most homemade armpit detoxes use a mask of bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar or coconut oil, which can have antibacterial properties.
Since I never used an anti-perspirant, I don’t have any personal experience of detoxing, but when I switched what I noticed was my armpit skin immediately looked healthier. My armpits, which were earlier quite a bit darker than the rest of my skin, suddenly lightened up and became the same colour as the surrounding skin, also the rashes I experienced after shaving also stopped immediately, this was enough to convince me to never go back to conventional deodorant and I have never needed to.
So, what should you look for in a natural deodorant? Just because the label creates the illusion of being “all natural” and “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean it actually is. As a consumer you need to educate yourself and make it a habit to always, ALWAYS read the list of ingredients. At first, it will be all Greek to you, but over time you will start to recognize a good product from one filled with potentially harmful ingredients. A good rule of thumb is, the less ingredients, the better.
There are normally three categories of ingredients in a natural deodorant, an oil (coconut/ jojoba/ shea butter) which acts as the anti-bacterial agent, an absorbent odor neutralizing powder like arrowroot powder or baking soda and a fragrance or essential oil to add a pleasant scent. Also, a good thing to keep in mind, is that just because it’s a natural deodorant, doesn’t mean it will work for you, sometimes people with overly sensitive skin may react to the baking soda or essential oils. If you find that your skin is itchy or red, you are probably reacting to one of these ingredients and should consider switching to an unscented, baking soda free deodorant.
To conclude, natural deodorant isn’t for everyone, A lot of people might find the transition phase too trying or just never adjust to the idea of applying a paste in their armpit. But for those of you who are really keen on making a lifestyle change, I would highly recommend giving it a try for a few weeks at least to give your body a chance to transition. For me, I could see the results on my skin in a few days and that made all the difference. Friends of mine who I would never expect to use natural deodorant have also completely switched over after trying it for a few days. So give it a try, you don’t have anything to lose, but so much to gain!