If you're accustomed to using anti-perspirant to keep your underarms from offending your friends, the thought of switching to a natural deodorant may seem overwhelming. Not only is the infamous armpit detox period something to consider, but if you're hoping your new deo is as eco-friendly as can be, looking for a deodorant that is natural, non-toxic, plastic-free, wasn't tested on animals (and whatever else may be important to you) can feel like a tall order. So to help you take out the guesswork, we compiled a list of seven zero-waste natural deodorant options — including a few DIY ideas.
Natural Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
Firstly, what's with all the bad press for conventional deodorant and anti-perspirant? Well, many of them contain aluminum, and some scientists have called out a link between aluminum in deodorant and breast cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute states that there is not enough scientific evidence proving that aluminum deodorants can cause cancer.
Additionally, many conventional deodorants also contain parabens, which are endocrine disruptors (as is aluminum). The science on aluminum-based deodorants causing breast cancer varies, and prominent medical organizations and experts have different opinions on it — but the possibility is enough to keep some health-conscious people away from the conventional deodorant aisle.
Benefits of Natural Deodorant
Luckily for those looking to shift away from chemical-laden deodorants, there are so many other benefits to using a natural alternative. For one thing, aluminum combined with sweat is actually what causes those not-so-cute yellow stains on your white shirt — so you can kiss those days goodbye when you switch to natural deodorant. Same with underarm razor burn and irritated armpits — the sweat buildup underneath the skin can worsen those uncomfortable symptoms for some people. Additionally, it's actually good for our bodies to sweat, as sweat is one of the body's natural ways of releasing toxins and adjusting body temperature, according to The Everygirl.
Switching to Natural Deodorant
That said, there are a few things that may take you some time to get used to (like with anything in life.) Aluminum-filled anti-perspirants actually clog your sweat glands to prevent you from schvitzing. When using a natural deodorant, you may find yourself sweating a bit more, because the natural deodorant is allowing your underarms to sweat naturally. But that doesn't mean you'll stink, thanks to active ingredients found in natural deo, such as baking soda and arrowroot powder, which absorb odors. Additionally, zero-waste deodorants are sometimes packaged in a jar, requiring you to dip your finger into the jar and then rub the deo into your armpits. (But if you're not into that, biodegradable tubes are a thing — you'll see.)
Some people who try natural deodorant are turned off by how stinky or sweaty they may be at first — but don't let that stop you. As natural skincare company Meow Meow Tweet explains on its website, during the transition to natural deo, toxins that have built up under your skin will use this time to trickle out of your pores, which are now unblocked for the first time in a while. During that time, your pits may have a stronger odor than usual, but that will go away in a few days or weeks. In the meantime, you may need to reapply your new natural deodorant a few times a day until your body adjusts. That said, not everyone experiences this, so cross your fingers that you're one of the lucky ones.
Is Natural Deodorant Better?
As you can probably gather from the above information, there are pros and cons to both natural deodorant and antiperspirant. If you prefer to avoid applying potentially-harmful toxins to your body, opting for a natural deodorant is probably a better option for you, or at least for your peace of mind. If you prefer using antiperspirant, just make sure to do your research on all the ingredients — because you may find that preventing your underarms from sweating is not worth the risk that aluminum and parabens present.
Best Natural Deodorants — That Actually Work
So if you're ready to make the switch, read on for seven deodorant recommendations that will keep you smelling fresh, are totally natural, zero waste, vegan, and cruelty free.
1. Meow Meow Tweet
All of Meow Meow Tweet's deodorants are free of chemicals, vegan, cruelty-free, and packaged in zero-waste packaging. The small company sells its cream deodorants in fully recyclable glass jars with metal lids (which you apply with your fingers), and its stick deodorants in cardboard tubes, which can be composted once you finish the deodorant (and make for a more traditional application).
Meow Meow Tweet offers a mix of baking soda-based and baking soda-free options. (Some people are sensitive to baking soda on their skin, so look out for that!) Plus, the brand also sells an Underarm Primer (in a glass bottle) that can help with the transition from conventional to natural deodorant.
Schmidt's is an entirely cruelty-free and vegan company, and the company's signature natural deodorants are available in completely recyclable glass jars. To reward you for choosing glass, Schmidt's offers a Recycling Club program: Mail five plastic lids from empty deo jars back to Schmidt's, and the company will send you a free deodorant of your choice (for U.S. residents only).
The deodorants in glass jars all contain baking soda, and the company's plastic stick deodorants are available with or without baking soda. Plus, Schmidt's is fairly-priced and available in thousands of stores across the country, including Target. Not to mention, the deos come in a variety of refreshing and bright scents that will make you smell A+.
3. Pretty Frank's Primal Pit Paste
Pretty Frank, formerly known as Primal Pit Paste, offers a range of deodorants in recyclable glass jars with BPA-free plastic lids. The company's website boasts that all of its deodorants are vegan, biodegradable, free of harsh chemicals, and cruelty-free. Pretty Frank provides delightfully descriptive prose about each scent so customers know what they're getting into, and it also offers both zinc-based and baking soda-based versions of each scent. Find Pretty Frank's Primal Pit Paste in natural food stores or on the company's website.
4. Natural Vegan Club
As one might gather from the company name, all of Natural Vegan Club's products are... natural and vegan! Natural Vegan Club is a small company, only offering one formulation for each product on its website. The Natural Vegan Deodorant is made with food-grade ingredients, and the cardboard tube is backyard compostable and non-toxic.
Plus, Natural Vegan Club recently completed a round of crowdfunding to finance "the world's first compostable paper bottle," called EcoBottle. The product is a 100 percent backyard compostable bottle made from recycled paper, cork, PHA naturally occurring biopolymer, and soybean wax. The bottle is water-resistant, can hold liquids, and Natural Vegan Club plans to sell shampoo and conditioner in the bottles in the near future.
5. Dirty Hippie Cosmetics
Dirty Hippie Cosmetics' deodorants are a little different than your average stink-fighter. The popular deodorants are made with probiotics, and Dirty Hippie Cosmetics claims that the live bacteria will fight against bacteria-based odors. The New Zealand-based company offers formulations both with and without baking soda (aka bicarbonate soda), in either a compostable cardboard tube or an aluminum screw-top container. You can order Dirty Hippie Cosmetics via international shipping, but the shipping will cost you $22.
6. The Natural Bath Company
Etsy shop The Natural Bath Company sells Deodorant Crystal Salt Bars, made from 100 percent ancient Himalayan crystallized salt. The bar works similarly to crystal deodorant or an alum stone, but it's aluminum-free. To use, just rub under your arm, and the stone will give you an "invisible layer of protection that helps prevent odor causing bacteria from forming," according to The Natural Bath Company. And as a bonus, Himalayan salt bars can also be used as a natural and dry hand sanitizer, the Salt Cellar claims.
7. DIY Natural Deodorant — How to Make Your Own
If nothing on the above list is exactly what you're looking for, consider making your own! (It's way easier than it sounds.) That way, you can adjust the ingredients and essential oils to achieve your perfect consistency and scent. The internet is filled with DIY deodorant recipes, which can be made into the form of a cream, a stick, or a spray. Check out a variety of recipes on the blogs Trash Is for Tossers, Going Zero Waste, Wellness Mama, and Zero Waste Chef. Additionally, there's a cult following for using a lemon as a natural deodorant, which you can read more about on Collective Evolution.
Good luck smelling nice!
This article was updated on July 22, 2021, to include a correction about the risks associated with aluminum in deodorant. It was also updated to reflect changes to the brand Pretty Frank, formerly known as Primal Pit Paste.