The human body is a strange and wonderful thing, full of creases, crevices, and fun surprises. Like the armpit, for example; an exciting part of our bodies basically just there because arms gotta go somewhere. Most of us have been applying deodorant or antiperspirant daily since middle school, due in part to our social agreement to not be stanky, plus decades of successful marketing from companies like P&G. But what’s even in these pit products? Are they safe? Are they helping? Do we even need them???? People should know! As consumers become more aware of what we’re putting on our bodies, a shift in armpit care is taking place.
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
These two terms may seem interchangeable but are actually two very different things. Deodorant is meant to curb body odor, while antiperspirant is designed to curb sweat. Antiperspirants often contain harsh, pore-blocking chemicals, so many health conscious consumers have been ditching them altogether. Surprisingly (or not,) there are plenty of men’s deodorants on the market that don’t contain antiperspirant, but it’s not as easy to find them in the female-branded aisles. Why? Besides women should NEVER SWEAT! Nor should they poop, pee, or have period blood that comes out in any color other than the light blue in Always commercials. Yeah, fuck that. But without going on a whole tangent about how personal care products are gendered to make money off of women’s bodies (and marketed to make us insecure), just know we say “screw the standard!” Sweat is sexy. So is body hair. And stretch marks. And period blood! Anyways...
If you have absolutely no interest in sweating, that’s your choice, too! In that case, you’ll want to stick to an antiperspirant.
Chemicals That Could Be In Your Pit Products
Only found in antiperspirant, not in deodorant. Designed to clog your pores so you sweat less. Also blocks body odor by inhibiting the natural bacteria that cause it. Although there is no concrete scientific evidence linking the aluminum in antiperspirants to Alzheimer's or Breast Cancer, some studies suggest there is a correlation. Many people feel it is unnatural to stop the body from perspiring, which is also a huge factor for avoidance.
An antibacterial and preservative designed to kill surface bacteria. A known irritant that may be associated with endocrine (hormonal) toxicity.
An umbrella term used by manufacturers to safeguard “valuable intellectual property.” Generally used to refer of dozens of ingredients. Several of the ingredients inside of the label of “fragrance” are known allergens, skin irritants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and neurotoxins. Check out the “Fragrance Loophole” on Think Dirty
A mineral that absorbs moisture, reduces friction, and keeps the skin feeling soft (think, baby powdery). Some research has suggested association between talc and ovarian cancer.
be mindful of Greenwashing
Tons of products out there claim to be “natural,” but are still chock full of synthetic fragrances and chemicals. This is commonly known as greenwashing and can be tricky to weed out unless you check your product’s ingredients label. Don’t be afraid to read ingredient lists or scan products on the Think Dirty app to find out what’s really in there. Just because something claims to be “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe for you.
The Detoxing process
Making the switch to a more natural deodorant product can sometimes include a detox phase. Don’t be alarmed if you’re a little smellier or sweatier than normal, or if your armpits suddenly feel sensitive or irritated. That’s the body’s way of purging the nasties that have been clogging your sweat glands and lymph nodes. This is very common and generally doesn’t last too long. When Hannah first went natural, she noticed tender red bumps under her armpits and more sweating than usual. She originally mistook this as a bad reaction to her new natural deodorant, but when it went away later, she realized it was her detox phase.
If you’re switching from an antiperspirant, you’ll probably notice more sweating at first, since the aluminum has been blocking your sweat glands. Most people find their body is able to adjust after a couple weeks, so you shouldn’t have to deal with detoxing for too long. You might also notice some stronger BO right after the switch. According to studies, this could be due a to a build-up of stinky bacteria, Staphylococcaceae, more prevalent in antiperspirant users. If you’ve been a Secret Sheer-Dry devotee for 15 years and have just started using Tom’s, your body will purge that staph and it may take some time to self-regulate.
To speed up the detox process we recommend drinking lots of water and getting a good sweat session in however you prefer (sauna, working out, dancing at the club).
Another option is giving up the stick altogether. Consistent deodorant use–yes, even natural–can cause buildup in the armpits that can make you sweat and smell more when you skip a day. There’s certainly no more natural choice than nothing at all, so if you’re curious what would happen, go without for a month and see how it goes. You might not smell as bad as you think.
Our Natural Recommendations
Milk + Honey : a cream based deodorant that comes in a few different fragrances. Our favorite is the Coconut Vanilla.
Aesop : a tad on the pricey side but works super well. A roll-on option that had an earthy/woodsy vibe.
Kiss My Face : a roll-on liquid that dries quickly and smells neutral throughout the day. It’s also $5.99, and you can’t beat that.
Bulldog : we hear rave reviews on Bulldog all the time, especially from men, because it doesn’t have a “feminine” scent and has great, long-lasting odor protection. Kathryn will probably buy this one because she sweats a LOT and fully resents that that’s not seen as a feminine quality!!!
Takesumi : cold pressed rose and charcoal. What’s not to love? This stick option looks cute in your cabinet and works like a charm.
The Fanciful Fox : another affordable pick. If baking soda isn’t your fav (it can be a skin irritant!) then try the Lavender Vanilla scent, which is clay-based.
Want even more control over what's in your deodorant? You can always make your own. We just might try it ourselves sometime.
Stay sweaty, Dummies.