Ahh, natural deodorants. Depending on your opinion on them, you either swear by them and love that they're free of bad-for-you ingredients or are completely turned off by them because they don't seem to "work" for you. Some people have been able to transition from regular to natural deodorants easily while others are still trying to figure out the brands that work for them. If you're of the latter and want to find your go-to product, you're in luck because I went to some experts to find out how to choose the best natural deodorants.
First, what exactly is a "natural" deodorant? It's okay to be a skeptic about that word because a lot of "clean" and "natural" products aren't regulated, so it can be tough to know if they're reallylabeled correctly. Emily Koko, a merchandise manager at Credo Beauty who oversees the category, says that most conventional deodorants use aluminum as an antiperspirant, which blocks your sweat glands. "Credo does not allow any aluminum or chemical antiperspirants," she says. "The natural deodorants we offer use ingredients like arrowroot powder and baking soda to absorb moisture; charcoal to draw out impurities; and magnesium, probiotics, and natural antibacterial ingredients to balance pH and control odor-causing bacteria. The yellow marks on your clothes are not sweat stains, they are actually caused by the aluminum in your antiperspirant. So, a switch to natural is not only better for you, it will save your clothes too!"
When it comes to shopping for a natural deodorant, Koko says it can be specific to each individual, so she recommends trying different formulas to find the perfect fit. A lot of brands offer travel sizes, which are great for testing. Give each deodorant a good week to prove itself, don't give up too soon!"
And Randi Christiansen, CEO and co-founder of Nécessaire, suggests looking for ingredients that have pH-balancing and antimicrobial properties, both of which create a tougher environment for odor-causing bacteria to grow.
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You've probably heard that there's a transition period when you make the switch, and it's actually true. And you might have heard some "horror" stories about this period—maybe friends have said they smelled even more and gave up, or they couldn't deal with the extra sweat. Well, that "additional" sweat and "detox" is actually normal, so it can be a matter of just pushing through, even if it's uncomfortable.
"Aluminum forms a barrier that blocks your sweat glands. As your body starts to flush out this built-up barrier, you may notice more sweat and odor," Koko says. "But trust me—it is brighter on the other side. Without an antiperspirant, you may notice more sweat than before, but it won’t be as smelly!" And Christiansen adds that the skin needs time to regulate and rebalance bacteria, too, and the transition period can last two to four weeks, depending on the person.
So what can you do to make it easier? Both Christiansen and Koko shared these three tips:
1. Use a charcoal-based cleanser: "During the transition period, we recommend using a charcoal-based cleanser to help accelerate the detoxification process and support skin health during the transition," Christiansen says.
2. Thoroughly wash your underarms: "This sounds like common sense, but most people don't realize just how much you have to scrub to get built-up deodorant off your skin," Koko says. "Using a charcoal-based soap like Kaia Naturals's Underarm Bar is really helpful to draw out impurities and kill bacteria."
3. Test out different formulas: Once your body has adjusted, Koko suggests trying out different natural formulas with various active ingredients until you find the best fit for you. "Everyone's skin and microbiome are different and may have different reactions to ingredients. Baking soda works well for me, but can be irritating for some," she adds.
Now that you know what to do, are you ready to test some out? Check out some options below.
Koko says this is one of her favorite natural deodorants. She says it's chock full of moisture-absorbing ingredients, like kaolin clay, arrowroot powder, magnesium, and baking soda to keep you dry, plus activated charcoal to detoxify.
"The Deodorant Gel is formulated without aluminum, baking soda, parabens, PEGs, or synthetic fragrance. These ingredients can be potentially irritating, especially in the sensitive underarm area," Christiansen says. She uses the fragrance-free version every day and adds that it's stain-free, mess-free, and formulated with 5% AHA, vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B5 (panthenol), and chamomile flower extract, which deodorizes, corrects, and comforts skin
"If you have more sensitive skin that does not tolerate baking soda, I love N° Green Natural Deodorant from Corpus," Koko says. "It has a refreshing citrus scent and uses naturally derived enzymes, like saccharomyces ferment, to balance bacteria and odor."
Who What Wear Senior Beauty Editor Erin Jahns says the natural deodorant from Kosas is one of the best she's ever tried. It features an AHA blend that deodorizes, exfoliates, and improves the skin's moisture. Other nourishing ingredients include aloe vera juice and hyaluronic acid.
Both Jahns and Who What Wear Associate Beauty Editor Katie Berohn recommended this one to me, saying it would make your pits smell like pistachio and caramel. It contains citric acid ester to block body odor–causing enzymes, papaya enzyme to gently exfoliate, and tapioca starch to absorb excess moisture.
Formulated without aluminum, parabens, phthalates, and talc, this natural deodorant feels lightweight and features strong protection. It comes in a variety of scents like Eucalyptus & Mint, Charcoal, Citrus & Herbal Musk, Coconut Milk Turmeric, and Pear Blossom.
Kopari's deodorant is vegan, nontoxic, and aluminum- and baking soda-free. It contains sage oil and plant-based enzymes to reduce odor and sweat, plus coconut oil and coconut water to nourish the skin.
This deodorant is a gel-to-powder formula that's a combination of organic tapioca, non-GMO cornstarch, and minimal baking soda. It also has refreshing and energizing scents of bergamot, grapefruit, orange, and eucalyptus.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.