Smell Ya Later


I have to admit something: I’ve always had a strong fear of smelling bad in public. Ever since puberty set in—heck, probably even before—I’ve been a big fan of deodorant. During the preteen years it was Teen Spirit—remember that kind in the white packaging with all the stars on it that looked like a remnant of the 90s? Later, it was Degree, always the 48hr-sport kind, strong enough to last through a busy school day and all my activities. Most recently, I became obsessed with borrowing my boyfriend’s deodorant. It comes in an orange tube proudly declaring it “men’s” and smells like the perfect combination of wood and spice.

The thing is, through all these deodorants—applied routinely after every shower, reapplied every morning, and almost every time I leave the house—I’ve known that deodorant filled with aluminum isn’t actually good for you. It’s that kind of fact that haunts the back of your mind, but doesn’t push you hard enough to actually change your routine. Besides, how would I deal with the social humiliation of smelling bad in public? Still, encouraged by my friends and beauty bloggers, I recently decided to embark on the journey of switching to all-natural deodorant.

When we talk about “natural” deodorants most people are referring to deodorants and antiperspirants that are aluminum-free. Aluminum and the other chemicals in traditional sticks enter our bloodstream via our skin, and when we apply deodorant these chemicals are sinking into our lymph nodes. Aluminum, in particular, has been linked to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, clearly not good. Hence, the all-natural alternatives.

When you begin the process of switching, you’re going to smell. Everyone warns you of this. There’s no way around it, as much as I wish there was. It’s your body naturally releasing the toxins built up from all the chemicals in your typical drugstore deodorant. There are masks to help you detox, but at the end of the day, you’re going to have a bit of a smelly phase. In an ideal world, during this “smelly phase” you could just lock yourself in your room and binge Netflix, but chances are you don’t have a free week to mess with all that. So, you’re going to smell bad in public.

I know this is the part where I personally want to give up and reach for some good ole’ Degree loaded with all the bad stuff that keeps me smelling fresh and not sweaty, but if you push through this phase your body will soon readjust. Whereas traditional deodorant uses chemicals to close up sweat pores, natural deodorants use a variety of essential oils to prevent this bacteria build up and leave you smelling nice. Most also contain baking soda which works as the antiperspirant to neutralize odors and absorb sweat.

I’ve tried a few brands and definitely found that some work better than others. One of the major problems is that “natural” deodorants don’t seem to glide on quite as easily as their chemical counterparts. Schmidt’s Naturals tops my list for offering a deodorant that works and glides on somewhat easily. As an added bonus, you can usually check Marshall’s or TJ Maxx and find some of the last season’s scents. I recently picked up the beach-themed “Waves” for $3.99, no more than I would usually spend on a stick of Degree.

I’ve also tried out Native Deodorant which features a really wide range of scents, both seasonal and permanent, for $12 a stick. They pride themselves creating “deodorant that isn’t a chemistry experiment” by using basic ingredients and it is, of course, paraben- and aluminum-free. They also have a sensitive skin option which is great if you have any sort of skin allergy. The sensitive formula is also a little softer which means it goes on easier. They are an online-only company, but they offer free shipping and free returns.

The popular LaVanila, “healthy deodorant,” is sold at Ulta and Sephora but is a bit pricey, ranging from $14-$16. They feature both traditional and sport sticks. The brand also offers coordinating perfumes, body creams, and body washes which means you can match up your scents if you’re into that.

The switch isn’t easy, but it’s certainly worth it. We use deodorant every day without thinking, and many of us are subjecting ourselves to dangerous chemicals each time we pick up the stick. The mere concept of flushing the chemicals from your body should be enough to make you think about the benefits of moving towards a more natural sweat stopper. Also, I promise smelling bad in public is not nearly as dangerous as daily aluminum under your armpits.

Illustration by: Lillian Cohen

Callie Bisset