How to Make the Switch to Natural Deodorant

guy with beard inspects back of stick plastic deodorant to see if it's natural

Treehugger / Lexie Doehner

Many people give up on natural deodorants, claiming they don't work. The fact is, natural deodorant is an entirely different product than conventional deodorant and anti-perspirant and requires special treatment. Learn how to make it work for you.

Most of us, at some point, have had the unpleasant experience of purchasing natural deodorant and using it enthusiastically, only to discover that it does not work as well as the anti-perspirant we’re used to. We end up with embarrassingly smelly armpits and excessive dampness, which curbs one’s enthusiasm for the natural version and tends to push one back toward the old, chemical-laden stuff.

Several people have told me, “I wish I could use it, but it just doesn’t work.” My response, after several years of experimenting with a variety of natural deodorants, is that you’ve got to learn how to use natural deodorant in order for it to be effective. It’s not the same as rolling on anti-perspirant and forgetting about it for the rest of the day; it does require a bit more attention, but knowing you’re safely chemical-free is worth the effort.

1. Buy a good product

Natural deodorant in a windowsill.

Helin Loik-Tomson / Getty Images

Not all natural deodorants are created equal. Do some research before you buy, because it may take you a few tries to get the right fit. Some of my favorites are PiperWai Natural Deodorant, Crawford Street Lemon Deodorant Cream, Geranium Deodorant from the Rocky Mountain Soap Company, and Love Your Body Deodorant by Ashley Asti, as well as my homemade deodorant. I’ve heard great things about Hawaiian company TLDYEU and Deodorant Cream from the Soap Walla.

2. Make sure you’re clean

guy in shower washes armpit with loofah before applying natural deodorant

Treehugger / Lexie Doehner

Lather up those armpits thoroughly to ensure all traces of sweat, old deodorant, and bacteria are gone by the time you apply. If you do detect an odor during the day, wash with soap and water, or give your pits a quick wipe-down with some apple cider vinegar, then reapply natural deodorant.

2. Apply more than once

hand places deodorant in gray backpack so they can reapply later in day

Treehugger / Lexie Doehner

With natural deodorant, you can’t apply in the morning and forget about it. If you’re going out for the day, take your deodorant along and reapply a couple times throughout the day. If using a liquid roll-on, such as the Geranium Deodorant, let it dry fully on your armpits before putting on a shirt.

3. Wear natural fabrics

clothing label on brown fabric with 95% certified organic cotton

Treehugger / Lexie Doehner

Cotton, wool, bamboo, and hemp fabrics are much better at wicking away moisture than synthetic clothes. They also hold in less odor and wash out better than synthetics, which can start to stink after a while.

4. Drink water and eat well

hand refills glass of water at modern sink to stay hydrated

Treehugger / Lexie Doehner

Hydration has the effect of ‘watering down’ your sweat; it won’t smell as strong. Certain foods can also make your sweat smell more pungent, making it harder for the natural deodorant to mask. According to Berkeley Wellness of the University of California, these include vegetables in the Brassica family, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, because they contain sulfur; red meat; alcohol; and strong spices such as curry, fenugreek, and cumin.

5. It’s fine to feel damp

A woman in a green t-shirt sweating in her armpits.

spukkato / Getty Images

We need to get over our cultural abhorrence for damp armpits. Damp doesn’t necessarily mean smelly; it’s just a difference sensation from the perfectly dry armpits to which we’ve grown accustomed over the last half-century.

6. Give it time

A white woman with tattoos smelling her armpits in the washroom.

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Your body needs time to adjust. If your armpit pores have been blocked daily for years, there will be a lot of build-up that needs to get flushed out before your pores can start working and sweating normally again. Seek out sweaty activities to get that flow moving. As a former profuse-sweater, I have found that the longer I go using natural deodorant, the less I sweat overall. Patience is key. Give your body time to transition and don’t expect instant changes. Live with it, work with it, and you’ll figure out a way to make natural deodorant work for you.