I often hear when someone tries to switch from commercial antiperspirant to a natural deodorant that "It doesn't work. I'm wet, and smelly, and I have to keep reapplying all day but it still doesn't work as well."
Here's what you need to know, in order to successfully make the switch.
1 – Antiperspirant works by blocking your sweat glands/pores so that sweat isn’t released. That means that although your armpits are dry and odour is reduced, one of the body’s elimination pathways has been blocked so waste products build up in that area instead.
2 – When you stop using antiperspirant/switch to a natural deodorant, those sweat glands re-open and begin to release all the waste products that have been blocked up. That means you’re almost guaranteed to stink. This isn’t necessarily because your new product “doesn’t work” but because your armpits are essentially detoxifying and that’s a normal, but stinky, part of the transition. It is also possible that you will experience a rash or irritation or bumps.
3 – To help ease this stinky transition be sure to start each morning with freshly washed armpits – using both gentle natural soap and water. Apply a small amount of your chosen natural deodorant and rub in if needed/desired. Over application will NOT help prevent wetness or odour but will often melt and transfer to your clothes potentially causing an oil stain. This can be removed using your preferred oil stain removal product and a hot water wash. I like Ecover personally. BunchaFarmers is also popular.
4- As soon as you notice that your armpits are beginning to get smelly, take the opportunity to wash them again with soap and water, then re-apply deodorant. In the first few days you may need to do this often as your body sweats out the waste products which have built up over time. Each day however the time between washing & re-applying should decrease until you only need to apply as you typically did before switching. If you are not able to wash with soap and water, a baby wipe or even hand sanitizer will do in a pinch. Just do your best to wipe your armpits clean before re-applying deodorant. Be mindful that a babywipe or sanitizer may sting on recently shaved armpits.
5 – If you’d like to help speed up the transition process, drink plenty of water or organic herbal teas, preferably with a squeeze of fresh lemon added. You can consider adding liquid chlorophyll to your drinking water as a natural internal deodorizer. You can also do a clay mask on your armpits to help draw out the waste products more quickly. If you find that you are experiencing a rash or irritation it may be wise to stop using natural deodorant altogether until it clears so you can determine whether it is a reaction to your chosen product or a result of your body releasing stored waste products. If your armpits are irritated be cautious also when choosing to use baby wipes, hand sanitizer, or conventional cleansers. If you are using a natural deodorant that contains baking soda and you notice your skin texture or colour changing you can try wiping your armpits with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice after cleansing and before applying your deodorant to help balance the pH but I do not recommend this on broken, irritated, or recently shaved skin.
6 – Most people find that they have successfully transitioned to natural deodorant within 1-2 weeks but depending on your overall body burden the process may take more or less time for you.
7 - What deodorant product works for you may change with time - especially if you go through major hormonal shifts such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, perimenopause, and menopause. If you are a heavy sweater &/or eat a lot of processed inflammatory foods you may find that you need to wash and reapply your natural deodorant throughout the day even after you've transitioned.
8 - When selecting a natural deodorant, be sure to thoroughly read the label as not all "natural" products are created equally. Many contain parabens, fragrances, PEG, and other questionable ingredients that I am not comfortable using myself. My general rule is that if you can't put it IN your body you shouldn't put it ON your body. Many natural deodorants also contain baking soda &/or essential oils as key ingredients. While they can be effective, they can also be too strong for some people. Baking soda alters the pH of the skin which can lead to burns or raw skin and essential oils can also cause irritation or even burns especially if the integrity of the skin has already been compromised by baking soda or if the concentration of essential oils is not mild.
9 - Natural deodorants can seem expensive on the surface but be sure to look at the cost per mL/gram and the quality of the ingredients.
10 - Salt rocks are a super natural and very inexpensive alternative deodorant. Green Beaver is a Canadian brand I trust and while I don't love their stick deodorant, I do love their spray. Weleda makes a couple spray deodorants that are all natural too. Or you can DIY with things like coconut oil, bentonite clay, arrowroot flour, baking soda, and essential oils. Wellness Mama has some great recipes to choose from if you want to make something fancier for yourself. There are also a number of small companies now making natural deodorants that I've heard good things about but don't have personal experience with such as routine.