Sometimes in the heat of the summer, even the most dedicated green beauty might be tempted to revert to conventional products, if only for the sake of those within close smelling quarters. A few years back you might have been forgiven, but now natural deodorants aren’t to be sniffed at.
Over recent years, aluminium chlorohydrate, used widely in antiperspirants, has been shunned due to health concerns surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. Studies on both are not conclusive, but whether it is implicated or not, deodorants also typically contain other ingredients some of which are not approved for use under natural and organic certifications – propylene glycol and parabens being two.
Before you switch, you need to understand what differentiates a deodorant from an antiperspirant.
Antiperspirant Vs Deodorant
Antiperspirants aim to reduce sweating (using most commonly, aluminium chlorohydrate) by temporarily plugging the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface where as a deodorant allows the body to still perform this important regulatory function, while deodorising and neutralising any scent. Sweat is actually scentless until it comes into contact with bacteria, which love a warm, dark place to live – like your underarms. A deodorant will use ingredients that have an antiseptic and odour-neutralising action against bacteria – it shouldn’t stop you sweating. A typical mainstream antiperspirant formulation will read as this example, Aqua, Aluminium Chlorohydrate, Isoceteth-20, Paraffinum Liquidum, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Isostearate, Parfum, PEG-150 Distearate, Benzyl Alcohol. Most of which won’t make the cut for those choosing to go natural. So how can deodorants differ?
Many of the liquid or roll-on types employ a combination of alcohol and essential oils such as sage and citrus to keep things fresh, while others use a combination of potassium alum (odour neutralising) and silver (antibacterial action). Potassium alum is not to be confused with aluminium chlorohydrate – the action is quite different. Where aluminium chlorohydrate is used in an antiperspirant to temporarily plug the sweat glands and there is some concern over it being absorbed, potassium alum molecules are generally too large to be absorbed by the skin and sit on the surface of the skin to inhibit bacteria and odour. Potassium alum makes up the solid salt deodorants commonly found in health food stores.
Natural Deodorant Ingredients
There is a common kitchen ingredient, which has been used for years as a deodoriser at home which also works well on the body. Bicarbonate of soda has a neutralising effect on odour and when combined with kaolin clay and essential oils, it is the closest to a natural antiperspirant I have come across. While this clever combination of ingredients won’t halt sweating, the mixture of clays and bicarbonate of soda are effective at absorbing moisture and reducing bacteria to help keep you odour-free and semi-dry. The other kitchen staple that works a treat is coconut oil – many people swear using this alone is enough. Its antibacterial quality reduces odour, or you can just dust on kaolin clay, which will absorb sweat.
This is an area that some people struggle with switching. I get it. It’s a trust issue – will the natural version last the day, will I get stains, will it even work? If hesitant, switch in the winter, when things don’t heat up as much. Or try alternating with your usual deodorant to give your body time to adjust.
Expert Tip: Rachel Winard from Soapwalla is responsible for many a disgruntled natural deodorant wearer finally making the switch for good:
‘When you first switch from commercial antiperspirant to a natural deodorant, your body may go through an adjustment period. Some people sweat a bit more than usual, or find their skin smells metallic. Some people experience skin reactions: redness, itching, bumps, and dry/darker skin patches. These are often caused by
the ingredients in commercial antiperspirants slowly working their way out of your lymph system and/or by excess dried skin getting caught in the pores.
Three things that speed up the adjustment period include: drinking more water, creating an underarm mask out of clay, and gently exfoliating the underarm area once or twice a week. When I started exfoliating my underarms weekly, I saw a dramatic improvement in skin quality almost immediately! I use a bamboo glove for the underarms.’
This post on antiperspirant vs deodorant was adapted from The Nature of Beauty book by CONTENT founder Imelda Burke.
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