There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for the best natural deodorants for you. Most importantly of course, they have to actually work—they have to mask and neutralize body odor without causing any irritation on your sensitive pits. But that’s a lot easier said than done.
While spending so much time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, many of us at SELF have started reevaluating our relationships with antiperspirant. This felt like as good a time as any to take a break and see what else is out there, especially in the now gargantuan market of so-called natural deodorants.
But what actually is “natural”? For starters, know that the term is not FDA-regulated, so a brand could really slap it on any product. In the world of deodorants, though, it generally means that, at the very least, a product that’s aluminum-free or doesn’t contain any other antiperspirant ingredients because products with those ingredients are regulated as drugs rather than cosmetics. Normally, these ingredients work by actually plugging your sweat glands and preventing sweating, thereby also preventing the bacteria that cause B.O. from accumulating in your pits.
There is no definitive research proving that aluminum in antiperspirants is harmful, as SELF explained previously, but the ingredient has still fallen out of favor with some consumers anyway.
Without those ingredients, deodorants rely on fragrances—often from essential oils—to mask the smell of body odors rather than to prevent them from appearing. Some products might also contain ingredients that soak up oil and neutralize the smell, like kaolin clay, charcoal, or sodium chloride (salt). Others contain ingredients like tea tree oil, which has some antibacterial properties, according to recent research. Ultimately, there’s nothing inherently better or worse about this approach than that of an antiperspirant, so really, your choice comes down to personal preference.
It’s also important to remember, though, that natural does not automatically mean safe—especially for those of us with sensitive skin. In fact, botanical extracts and essential oils are some of the most common skin irritants out there, SELF explained previously. Baking soda, another common deodorant ingredient used to neutralize body odor, is also a common irritant. So know that choosing a deodorant over an antiperspirant isn’t a guarantee that you won’t have a bad reaction.
And, of course, just take one look at the reviews for any deodorant and you’ll realize how individual people’s preferences are. Finding the best natural deodorants for your skin will probably take some trial and error. But, in general, take a look at the ingredients, especially keeping an eye out for potential irritants, ingredients that can neutralize odor or bacteria (like kaolin clay, charcoal, or tea tree oil), moisturizing ingredients, and a fragrance you’ll actually enjoy wearing (or none at all, if that’s your thing).
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