Finding the best natural deodorants that work great in all situations (from stressful boardroom negotiations to hot yoga workouts) is a lot more difficult that you’d think. I put a handful of these beauty products through my own tests to find out which one will do the trick for some of the stinkiest situations.
No, really. THE STINKIEST.
A few months ago I started moving toward becoming more vegetarian. Thanks to a video of a starving polar bear (no, I am not going to link it here–you can Google it up if you haven’t seen it–and fair warning–it’s not for the faint of heart or those who think global warming is a farce), some migraine problems, and a desire to do less harm to our world (I blame yoga-in a good way), I started examining a lot of the products I use on a regular basis. While I didn’t get rid of all of my conventional things, the purge did however, include my beloved Dove Clinical Protection Deodorant and Antiperspirant.
I’ve been a Dove girl for as long as I can remember buying my own beauty products. I got sucked in by their everywoman marketing back in the 00s and just never switched. Their deodorant worked great in pretty much any situation I was in–whether running a newscast for CNN (yes, I used to do that) or practicing yoga in an 120 degree room with 60 other super stinky people. Sure, the stuff sort of discolored clothing. Sure there was that whole random underarm rash that would come and go and often required a trip to the doctor for some antibiotic cream. Mostly I ignored those things because, hey, at least I didn’t smell–and boy, can I smell.
Full (and fun?) disclosure–I can take a shower at night, put on deodorant and wake up and smell like I just got finished at the gym. That’s not an exaggeration. Bonus for those times when I have a nightmare or something super stressful keeps me up all night.
Add to the fact that when I get anxious or have to perform under pressure my body apparently thinks it’s time to up the ante and start producing even more awesome sweat and stink. I have a full-time, non-yoga, job where I manage anywhere from 10-15 people on a daily basis. I have to give giant presentations in front of large groups of people, fire and hire people, and live in fabrics that don’t breathe (hi polyester!), retain smell, and require dry cleaning. Trust me, I’ve walked into my fair share of unvented conference rooms and thought “So this is what the men’s locker room smells like!” It’s a perfect storm of sweat!
Typically, I go straight from the sweaty, stress-filled office, to teach at a sweaty, damp, yoga studio which of course magnifies the stink-factor. By the time I get home at night I need a good shower and a scrub–and that was when I was using the drugstore stuff!
You can imagine my reluctance to move toward natural deodorant as a result. After the polar bear incident and an enlightening Yogaland Podcast on non-toxic beauty (which in turn introduced me to a fantastic app called Think Dirty which helps you discover how bad or good your beauty items are) and the harping of the MD (and my mom who is a breast cancer survivor), I finally decided to go for it.
I’m not gonna lie to you. The first month was ROUGH. Like really, really, rough.
TOM’S OF MAINE LAVENDER DEODORANT
My first foray into the natural deodorant started with Tom’s of Maine-a brand you can find in pretty much every drugstore across America. There are a range of products that you can get in their line, but I started with their Lavender Deodorant.
I started at night. I’d give my pits a break by showering and using the Tom’s stuff before bed. This was when I learned the key difference between antiperspirant and deodorant. You see, antiperspirant keeps you dry, while deodorant just keeps you smelling nice. Very different tools for very different problems.
The Dove I’d been using did both–so I was dry and not-stinky during the day. At night–the Tom’s kept me mostly just less stinky. I still sweated and felt wet–and the combination of the lavender scent seemed to make the stink worse. I was definitely not convinced but, it turns out that may not have been Tom’s fault.
You see, when you start making the transition to natural deodorant you have to do it all at once. There’s no halfway.
Traditional antiperspirants use aluminum to block your sweat glands that happen to sit right over the top of a set of lymph nodes that are part of your endocrine and lymphatic system that helps you get rid of toxins in your body. When you stop using those aluminum-laden antiperspirants that block your sweat glands, you start sweating more. When you sweat more, your pits become this awesome place for bacterial growth–and the bacteria is what makes you stink.
So when you go natural–you have to do it all at once-otherwise you’re not really giving the natural stuff the chance to work. You have to go through this detoxing phase (that literally all the natural deodorants warn about), in order to actually get the results you want.
That brought me to some well-targeted Instagram ads, courtesy of Native Deodorant.
Clean looking packaging, and stellar reviews on their site (I know, I know, it’s suspect), had me hooked. I ordered a 3-pack of their coconut, lavender and unscented and waited for the package to show up.
First I decided to try the Lavender. I love the smell and hoped it would work. I followed their instructions (scrub under your arms every day and then apply and don’t be surprised if it takes about a month to work).
About a week in, I was mortified when I was in a meeting at the office, wearing a loose cotton button-down shirt and a pair of skinny jeans and leaning over a big drafting table sorting out a new seating plan for my team. My shirt flapped out away from my body as I leaned forward and then flapped back against me as I stood up straight. The stink was almost unbearable. I hoped no one nearby had smelt what I dealt, and I immediately retreated to my desk and kept still for the rest of the day. I had to come up with an alternative solution but I was determined not to give up on going natural.
It was late November and warm in L.A., where I live. I had a big event coming up and knew I’d have to be “on” for hours at a time. I also knew I’d have to wear dresses, blazers, tights and heels to look the part.
This time I came prepared. I donned Native’s Lavender deodorant, and kept the Coconut & Vanilla version in my purse for touch-ups.
The first day of the big event was warm and sunny and I spent most of my time walking miles between one convention hall and the other. My day started at 8 and by 10am I had to touch up. I was only 2 weeks into the change over so I was still sweating profusely and stinking up a storm. The touch up took the stink down a notch but I still didn’t smell lovely. I touched up 3 more times throughout the day and resorted to keeping my hand gestures to a minimum until I could get home to shower.
I’m now almost 6 months into the switch and have found that the best Native deodorant so far is the Unscented version. Yes, I still sweat and get wet–because Native makes a deodorant not an antiperspirant. The coconut version just makes me smell a bit like a rotting coconut and the lavender version tends to make the stink worse. It turns out that’s not uncommon. When you are switching to natural you have to choose a scent that works well with your chemistry. Lavender just doesn’t combine well with mine, so I have to avoid Native’s version of it.
The truth is Native still wasn’t completely cutting it for me–even in Unscented. I still had to touch up (I still have some Coconut & Vanilla scented Native Deodorant left over) at least once to twice a day depending on my stress and sweat levels and I still feel like I stink when I get home or get on my mat to practice.
That, in-turn, sent me on another hunt for the perfect natural deodorant, this time with a little extra oomph.
While I was in New York this week for work, I went on a natural deodorant and antiperspirant hunt. As anyone who travels knows you can pretty much find ANYTHING you want in New York City–it just takes a bit of effort. I spent the night before my trip re-examining the clothing I’d worn in November and giving it the good old sniff test. Even though it’s been to the cleaners, the dresses and blazers I wore during that first round, still stink and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to get the stench out.
As a self-proclaimed stink-opotomus I make a pretty good test bed for anyone who has a corporate job and doesn’t want to smell like a cave woman (or man) during their giant presentation at work.
Since I had a day to myself while in New York I figured I’d give the test another go and after doing a bit of research found that the Thai Crystal Deodorant tends to get pretty darn good reviews. Having lived and worked in NYC for years I knew a lot of the places to go to find somewhat hippie-ish items and so I went on a walk around Manhattan to find them.
I found this Thai Crystal at Whole Foods. I was (and still am) rather leery of the claims of 24-hour scent protection but I thought I would give it a shot. I had a big event that evening and had to do the whole “look professional” thing for it and decided to go big or get stinky. Thai Crystal was my deodorant of choice for the event.
The weather in New York has been weird lately. It was warm and humid most of the week which never bodes well for sweaty, stinky pits. I got the slippery crystal wet, threw it on under my arms, zipped up my dress, threw on my blazer, and headed for the event. About 30 mins in I was doing the arms-akimbo stance to dry off my pits. The room was stifling hot and packed and there was no where to get any air.
The good news was I didn’t stink–and it lasted for the 6 hours I was out and about. I also could carry the Thai Crystal through TSA without having to put it in my liquids bag. The bad news was that it felt like I never dried off and the thing feels like it weighs about a million pounds. You also have to get it wet to activate it and then rinse it off afterwards. I’ve taken to leaving it open on my countertop at home to let it dry off between uses.
PRIMAL PIT PASTE
That eventually brought me around to Primal Pit Paste. Another round of Googling and I discovered that this stuff gets great reviews AND it battles that wet feeling I had with the Thai Crystal.
The next morning I knew I was going to spend the day in another convention center wearing another blazer and dress and having to paw-shake with CEO’s and partners alike. This was going to be the one day that I couldn’t stink.
A trip to a local natural foods market in NYC yielded this little pot of lavender stuff-and it was the level 3 protection I was looking for. The Pit Paste comes in three levels based on how active/stinky you think you are likely to get. Since I had a big day, I wasn’t going to let anything get stinky so I went for the highest level of protection.
I’m not super keen on slathering on somewhat gritty feeling stuff under my armpits. Hell, I don’t even really like touching my armpits after they’ve been deodorized so I was a little leery. I also read that it can give you a rash (lovely) but despite my qualms I showered, slathered the stuff on (it’s a little tricky to get on the vertical wall of your armpit so don’t be afraid to get up in there), dressed and went out the door.
I spent the day moving from overheated space to under-heated space. I was on my feet for more than 10 hours and “on” for at least 8 of those hours. I stressed and flapped my arms and hugged people. And guess what? I didn’t stink at the end of the day. Not even a little bit. I was able to head directly to dinner sanz-shower and not worry about gassing my dinner companions out of the restaurant. In my opinion it was a total success and for now, anyway (keeping in mind that your body chemistry changes every 7 years) the Primal Pit Paste is my go-to for those high-stress situations that require a bit more oomph. Bonus that the little pot is small enough to fit in my TSA approved liquids bag and gets right through without drama and after a week of use I don’t have any rash or reaction. Plus it keeps me dry (thanks to the non-aluminum
Bottom line–if you don’t want to smell but want to do some good for the environment, Primal Pit Paste will do the trick. I’m curious to see how Primal Pit Paste works at the yoga studio and when I get super sweaty during a workout. It definitely keeps my stress sweat in check while the Thai Crystal is great for a lazy day at home or some very low key, cool, work.
I plan to keep trying other natural deodorants out there (and buy them all myself–just so you know), and I’ll update this blog post as I do. Let me know in the comments if there are any deodorants you’d like me to try!