Switching to Natural Deodorant: The Ultimate Guide

Person checking ingredients on a plastic deodorant container

Treehugger / Lexie Doehner

Transitioning from conventional to natural deodorant is daunting. For starters, natural formulas don't normally contain aluminum, the primary antiperspirant used in deodorants. Many worry about the increase in underarm dampness that comes along with natural deodorants and question whether non-chemical ingredients can really, actually curb their B.O.

The answer is yes, they can, but transitioning from one to the other is rarely seamless. Switching to natural deodorant takes time and patience. But rest assured the effort is worth it for peace of mind knowing you aren't subjecting your skin to harsh chemicals.

Here are seven tips for making the switch to natural deodorant.

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Always Apply to Clean Armpits

You should only apply your natural deodorant to clean pits. Scrub those underarms thoroughly to ensure all traces of sweat, old deodorant, and bacteria are gone. Cleveland Clinic even recommends keeping pits shaven "so that sweat evaporates more quickly and does not have as much time to interact with bacteria." It's the bacteria, after all, that mixes with sweat and results in a fowl smell.

If you begin to detect an odor throughout the day, wash your armpits again with soap and water—or at least give them a wipe-down with some apple cider vinegar—before reapplying your natural deodorant.

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Wear Natural Fabrics

Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding synthetic fabrics. Natural fibers like cotton, wool, bamboo, and hemp allow your skin to breath. Some of them—merino wool, bamboo, etc.—are even better at wicking away moisture than synthetics. They also hold in less odor and wash out better whereas the likes of polyester and nylon can start to stink after a while.

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Apply More Than Once a Day

With most natural deodorants, it isn't enough to simply apply once in the morning then forget about it. Keep in mind that with the lack of aluminum, you'll see an initial increase in sweatiness. So, when you do break a sweat during your lunchtime walk or on the stuffy bus ride home, don't be afraid to wash and reapply. If using a liquid roll-on, let it dry fully before putting on a shirt.

Treehugger Tip: If you find that you are an especially and embarrassingly sweaty person—no shame, it's normal!—then look for formulas containing moisture-absorbing cornstarch or arrowroot powder.

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Don't Stress About Dampness

While it's good to wash the bacteria from your armpits a few times a day, don't become an overwasher. Too much cleaning can lead to skin irritation and dryness, which isn't what you need during this transitional stage.

Prepare to experience some dampness throughout the day. It's normal. What's not normal is blocking our pores with metal. If your natural deodorant is working, your mild sweating shouldn't smell.

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Drink Water and Eat Well

In case you need another reason to drink more water, staying hydrated can "water down" your sweat, therefore making it less odorous. Certain foods can also make your sweat smell more pungent and difficult for the natural deodorant to mask.

According to Ohio State University, these include vegetables in the Brassica family, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, because they contain sulfur. Red meat, alcohol, seafood, asparagus, and strong spices such as curry, fenugreek, garlic, and cumin are also on the list.

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Give It Time

Dermatologists say it takes up to eight weeks for your skin to get used to a new product, including deodorant. If your armpit pores have been blocked daily for decades, there's bound to be buildup that needs flushing out before your sweat glands can start behaving normally again. Most estimates say our bodies rid odor-causing bacteria after about four or five weeks.

Go ahead and seek out sweaty activities to get it flowing. Have patience. Give your body time to transition, and don’t expect instant improvements. Many find that they sweat less in the long run using natural deodorant than they did while using chemical deodorants.

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Buy a Good Product

Not all natural deodorants are created equal. Some can contain common skin irritants like baking soda and essential oils like lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, and tea tree. Sensitive skin or not, you should start with a safe and unscented formula (and try a small amount on your arm first to make sure you aren't allergic).

A good natural deodorant for sensitive skin might include arrowroot powder or cornstarch instead of baking soda for absorption. Aloe vera and coconut oil are great for keeping your armpits smooth, and both contain antibacterial properties. However, it's best to avoid oils if you're a heavy sweater.

Some deodorants come in bar form, which eliminates the need for plastic packaging. For a zero-waste option, you can also make your own deodorant using common kitchen ingredients.

View Article Sources
  1. "Sweating and Body Odor." Cleveland Clinic.

  2. Dena Champion, RD. "Five foods and drinks that affect body odor." Ohio State University Health and Discovery. 2019.