Chemicals, and carcinogenic chemicals, are everywhere. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of research about the effects of these chemicals on our bodies and regulatory bodies in the United States are underfunded and underpowered to address this. For example, right now the EPA is tasked with investigating chemicals that are in everything from cleaning products to household objects, but outdated laws exempted 64,000 chemicals from being tested for years, and only in July 2016 did the law get an update to address this backlog. However, they are capped at only investigating 20 out of those 64,000 chemicals per year.
For deodorant, this is pretty important, because it’s something that is directly applied to the skin and frequently contains chemicals (particularly in anti-persperants) that have been linked (although not conclusively) to cancer and hormone disruptors.
In light of the ubiquitous presence of chemicals in our daily lives, I think one of the best ways you can be an informed consumer is in knowing what the ingredients are in the products you use, and trying to limit your exposure wherever possible. Sometimes it’s just not possible. There are lots of things in air, water, things around me that I do not have control over. But I make the choices about what things I personally put on and in my body, so choosing products that limit your exposure is helpful. (For example, using nail polish that is 5-free)
Deodorant is tricky because it involves personal comfort in a way that say, nail polish, does not. When I decided to make try out natural deodorant, I didn’t stop using traditional anti-perspirants initially, which I think made the transition harder. And the thing about using products with fewer chemicals is that… your body actually can react to them. So when I used Tom’s of Maine deodorant, I found that it actually made my body smell worse. Like, worse than if I hadn’t put deodorant on at all. Feeling like I was emitting a particularly poisonous scent didn’t make me feel great. But that’s just my experience with that brand! There are fortunately other options.
I know some people make their own deodorant, which is great for them, but not something I particularly want to do, at least yet.
So here are two products that I like and use:
Duross & Langel deodorant – Duross & Langel is a local Philly brand that uses natural ingredients to make soaps, candles, lotions, etc, and their deodorant uses vegetable enzymes to fight stink, rather than aluminum in anti-persperants. If you want a natural deodorant that looks and feels like something you’d get at a drug store, this comes in a typical stick applicator package, goes on clear, and smells great. In my experience, if you’re going to be moving around a lot, you will have to reapply. (This is life without aggressive anti-persperant chemicals.) But if I’m just going to be indoors doing homework all day with maybe a trip to the grocery store, I’d probably be fine with one application.
PiperWai natural deodorant – PiperWai is another Philly brand that is also a women-owned company (heyo!) that uses activated charcoal and magnesium to neutralize odor. This comes in a pot and a stick, although I have only tried the pot. You scoop out a little with your finger, rub it in to your skin until you can’t see it, and there you go! It’s not the most distinctive smell (the D&L deodorant I have in “violet” is definitely flowery), but it’s not bad. It definitely feels more substantial and on hotter days with lots of activity, it does well. I have felt like sometimes at the end of the day I need to reapply, but it really depends on what you’re up to and what kind of humid swamp hell you have chosen to live in.
If you’re going to try any natural deodorant, I’d definitely recommend going all-in for at least 2 weeks to see how your body adjusts to it. You will probably feel differently than during anti-persperant use, but like all things, your body adjusts and with consistent use, you’ll figure out if it will actually work or not for you.