In an effort to find a natural deodorant that works, I’ve tried upwards of 25 products. Products that gave me rashes. Products that made me a little bit stinky. Products that ruined yoga class, date night, and pool parties. But it was all worth it to find The One — or actually, the 13 natural deodorants that don’t completely suck.
When my search began years ago, there weren’t many options on the market. I was relegated to Whole Foods’ personal care aisle, or otherwise left to mix my own essential oil blends (which I did, much to my husband’s dismay). But lately, the industry has made some major strides — I can barely scroll through Instagram without being inundated with ads for new natural deodorants.
So what’s with the boom of natural B.O.-blockers? “The primary reason consumers switch from antiperspirants to a natural deodorant is one, the desire to switch to a 'clean beauty' product that's made with natural ingredients,” Meng Li, the VP of Marketing at Native (one of the best natural deodorant brands in existence, in my humble opinion), tells The Zoe Report. “And two, the desire to use an aluminum-free product.”
That all rings true for me; my initial interest in all-natural underarm care was spurred on by my interest in natural skincare. If I wouldn’t put it on my face, I thought, why am I putting it in my pits? After I did some research on traditional deodorant and antiperspirant ingredients, I knew I could never go back.
“Antiperspirants are deodorants that interact with the sweat glands to help stop perspiration,” Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist and the founder of BeautyStat, explains to TZR. He notes that antiperspirants often use high doses of aluminum to achieve this effect, which is potentially harmful on two accounts. “We are meant to sweat,” he says. “Sweating or perspiring is our natural way of staying cool — it helps us detoxify.” In other words, antiperspirants block the body’s natural function by impeding the flow of lymphatic fluid. What’s more, Robinson notes that some (still debated) studies have linked aluminum to the development of cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Traditional deodorants — aka, products that mask underarm odor but don’t stop you from sweating — aren’t much better, unfortunately. “They often contain a fragrance or perfume along with an active ingredient called triclosan, which is commonly used and works to prevent bacteria from growing, which in turn helps prevent odor,” Robinson says. “Studies have shown that triclosan might be linked to cancer.”
Granted, some of these studies are hotly contested, but I’m not much of a risk-taker. I’d happily trade a little post-workout stink for future peace of mind — but luckily, I don't have to anymore. Today's natural deodorants are just that good.
“Around age 20, I developed a small lump under my arm, and this was pre-internet days,” Shiva Rose, the founder of Shiva Rose Beauty, tells The Zoe Report. “No one really spoke of how aluminum in antiperspirants could cause this, but I intuitively stopped using my traditional deodorant.” Years later, Rose used her platform to collaborate with Agent Nateur on Holi(Rose), a natural deodorant — which is now one of my all-time favorites. “Our deodorant is made with simple ingredients like baking soda, coconut, beeswax, castor oil, and essential oils,” Rose says. “These all help nourish the body rather than deplete it.”
Robinson gives these natural ingredients his cosmetic chemist stamp of approval. “Look for clays and starches, or baking soda, that can work to absorb perspiration,” he instructs. “Aloe, shea butter, or natural oils like coconut or jojoba oil are also good ingredients to look for in a natural deodorant.”
The most surprising ingredient I’ve found to combat B.O.? Plain mineral salt, as seen in SallyeAnder’s Deodorant Stone. “Our Deodorant Stone is just one salt, no other ingredients or fragrances — it works to kill any smelly bacteria and lets your pores sweat naturally,” Sallie Austin Gonzales, the president of SallyeAnder, tells The Zoe Report. “The stone lasts three years with daily use.” To use, you simply wet it with water and glide it onto your pits.
I’ll admit: This sounds like it couldn’t possibly work. And yet, it does. Really, really well. I use it every morning and have no complaints — it feels and smells like I’m wearing nothing, just my natural scent, even after the gym.
Ahead, every natural deodorant that’s passed my personal test.
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"This kills the bacteria that forms under your arm (or on your feet), causing your body not to smell, but just to sweat, like it's supposed to," Gonzales tells TZR. I was skeptical at first, but now, this unscented stone is my daily deodorant.
"I was so excited when my friend Jena Covello started making her line of clean deodorants," Rose says of her partnership with Agent Nateur. "We decided to collaborate and used rose and sandalwood [essential oils] since we loved that they open the heart and third eye." The smell of rose is light, not overpowering, and lasts all day long.
"Baking soda and magnesium hydroxide absorb sweat, probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus) are a form of 'good bacteria' that counterbalance the 'bad' bacteria that causes odor, and shea butter and coconut oil moisturize," Li says of Native's top-billed ingredients. This particular blend of vanilla and rose is sweet enough to replace my usual spritz of perfume.
I stumbled upon local Los Angeles business No Tox Life at a farmer's market a few years ago, and now its deodorant is part of my permanent collection. Formulated with a blend of aloe juice, tapioca starch, and essential oils, it leaves my pits feeling smooth and moisturized (and smelling fresh, of course).
The latest in Agent Nateur's lineup is Uni(Sex). Its odor-fighting capabilities are on par with the aforementioned Holi(Rose), but the scent — a mix of vetiver and sandalwood — is one that my husband and I can share.
Clearly, I'm a sucker for anything with "rose" in the description. I stocked up on every Native deodorant that fit the bill, including Lavender & Rose. It's light and floral, yet surprisingly powerful in the B.O.-fighting department.
Despite being made with charcoal, this one feels super smooth (not gritty) upon application. I do have to reapply after SoulCycle, but with texture this good, it's not a big deal.
Kopari's offering was a great winter deodorant for me, although it might be a little too "wet" for the summertime. But if you live in a dry climate, or have dry underarm skin, this is a must-try. (Plus, it smells so good — like toasted coconut.)
Freshen Up, on the other hand, is *made* for summer. Its mix of kaolin clay and moringa helps give pits a daily detox, while antibacterial tea tree oil cools on contact.
Schmidt's has all-day odor control on lock — but I found this formula to be a little too drying for my taste. If you have particularly sweaty pits, or oily skin, you'd probably love this.
There's nothing here but essential oils; including rose, lavender, and sandalwood. I love this one for low-effort days — it's kind of like a rollerball fragrance — but if I'm doing anything more physically demanding than, say, walking my dog, it's not my top choice.
LUSH's charcoal-based deodorant powder is not the most intuitive to use — you deposit a bit on your fingers, then rub it into your armpits — but it's incredible when it comes to blocking B.O. Be warned, though: It will leave your armpits black with charcoal, so it's best suited for long-sleeve outfit days.
Just because I've found my go-tos doesn't mean I'm done experimenting. I'm dying to try this cream (made with absorbant arrowroot powder and aromatic essential oils) from Meow Meow Tweet when it drops at Ulta on Apr. 27. It's the beauty retailer's first-ever natural deodorant — so it's pretty much guaranteed to be good.