Finding products that work well AND have intentional packaging and sourcing can be hard. When speaking with people about barriers to minimizing their waste output, among the most common feedback we hear is, “I just haven’t found a product that works as well as the conventional version.” And there are few products for which “working well” is more important and less negotiable than deodorant!
There’s a reason why low waste deodorants, and particularly “natural” deodorants, are known for being less effective. And it’s one that many of us are very familiar with. Where conventional deodorants are usually also antiperspirants (which contain aluminum ingredients that block sweat pores), most (possibly all???) plastic-free deodorants don’t offer this benefit! While deodorants don’t reduce sweat (although some absorb sweat), they prevent bacteria from hanging out in your pits and therefore prevent you from smelling bad. Sweat is odorless, it’s the bacteria that breaks down sweat that causes BO.
Why bother with plastic-free deodorant?? Learn why reducing your landfill and plastic waste matters here!
Is aluminum bad?
Little known fact: it’s the aluminimum in antiperspirants, not sweat itself, that causes yellow sweat stains. So if those stains are a primary concern to you, then yes, avoiding aluminum could be just the ticket!
There’s a very common concern that antiperspirants might be linked with health issues. We’re not aware of any sources that we consider to be reputable that corroborate this concern. With that said, we’re supportive of healthy skepticism regarding any kind of product you put on your body. There are a lot of strong opinions out there, but whether antiperspirant is bad or good is neither our place to say nor the point of this guide!
Transitioning away from antiperspirant might seem particularly unappealing to many. Most of us started using antiperspirant when we were smelly pre-teens. Why would we ever want to return to our hygienic low point!? There are two things we will point out here: 1) you might not know it if you’ve been using antiperspirant continuously since then, but your baseline is likely less sweaty and smelly than it was when you were 13, and 2) if you haven’t tried antiperspirant-free deodorant yet, you might be surprised by how well it does the trick, especially after giving your body a little time to transition.
Are you interested in making the switch to plastic-free deodorant, but don’t know which deodorant to try? Are you worried about the transition process? Have you tried a natural deodorant before that didn’t work, and now you’re skeptical about trying again? We’ve put together this guide to eliminate some of the guesswork, because avoiding plastic shouldn’t take a ton of research, and buying a product that you won’t end up using isn’t very low waste!
Not everyone will need some kind of assistance in the transition from antiperspirant to deodorant, but some swear by going through a detox process. If you’re feeling particularly smelly in the first couple of weeks going antiperspirant-free, it might be helpful to employ some extra bacteria-fighting power. Ingredients like charcoal and bentonite clay absorb dirt and toxins on the skin (including residual aluminum compounds in the pores) and eliminate bacteria. You can create your own mask by mixing one or both of these ingredients with water, applying to your pits, and rinsing in the shower. Or you can add an Underarm Detox Bar to your shower routine.
Choosing the Right Deodorant
Picking the right natural deodorant is very literally a make-or-break decision! You certainly won’t be sticking with a deodorant that doesn’t keep you from smelling bad, and many will give up on natural deodorant altogether if the first pass is unsuccessful. So take some time and think through what your needs are.
Tried and true.
We have personally tested every deodorant we carry and stand by every one of them! (Like seriously, 24 hours and then some of freshness! Even through exercise!)
If you don’t have any skin sensitivities, and you’re open to touching your pits (some people aren’t!), you might love Deodorant Cream made with a coconut oil and baking soda base. This deodorant is seriously effective when it comes to keeping odor-causing bacteria at bay, and the essential oil blend is gender-neutral and altogether crowd-pleasing.
Or if you are of the crafty persuasion and have the time to try making deodorant yourself, we have a tested DIY recipe that also relies on the bacteria-fighting power of baking soda!
While baking soda is an effective deodorant ingredient, those with sensitive skin might find that it causes irritation. Sensitive Pit Deodorant relies on gentler arrowroot powder and milk of magnesia to absorb sweat and prevent bacteria growth. It also contains a milder essential oil blend.
Ehhh... rather not touch my pits thx.
If the stick application is more your thing, these Deodorant Sticks may be up your alley. They are also free of baking soda, so they are a great option for sensitive skin. And they come in a variety of scents (including unscented) so that your BO-free aroma can be a bit more personalized.
Give me aluminum. All the aluminum.
Crystal deodorant is a cult favorite! It’s made entirely of potassium alum. Unlike the aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants, these aluminum salt molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin and block sweat pores. Instead, they form a protective layer on your skin that prevents bacteria. This Crystal Deodorant comes in hyper-sustainable cork! Another great (and low waste) feature of crystal deodorants is that they last much longer than other alternatives. One crystal can last well over a year (we’ve owned one for multiple years and have barely made a dent), so they are a great value!
Whenever you’re trying new products on your skin, you run the risk of experiencing some irritation. If you’re experiencing a lot of irritation, as with any skincare product, you should discontinue use! But sometimes some mild irritation is normal, especially when we’re talking about a sensitive area like our pits! Using a moisturizing and soothing product before applying deodorant can be a big help. Underarm Primer contains ingredients like witch hazel and aloe to soothe irritation and balance pH. It can even be used instead of deodorant on those low-key low-sweat days. Or Rooted Oil is made to use anywhere you have hair (like your pits!) and has some serious calming qualities. It's also multi-purpose and can be used anywhere on your skin or hair.
Sticking With It
For many people, there is an adjustment period after making the switch. It can take a couple of weeks for things to start getting really good. So if it’s tough at first, we encourage you to stick with it a little bit longer.
If you’re someone who sweats a lot, and maybe even uses prescription antiperspirant, first of all, kudos for reading this whole guide! And second of all, it’s never our intention to make you feel pressured to try something that won’t serve you. Keep doing what works, and perhaps find ways to limit plastic in other areas of your life. Not sure where to start? How about your hair or skincare routine!
We’re always an email or DM away if you have any questions or concerns about your transition to plastic-free deodorant. And share in the comments if you have any other tips & tricks for making the switch! Stay un-smelly out there, y’all!