Natural deodorants have been on the scene for a while, but they've had their issues. The most common complaint is that they aren't powerful enough, meaning they're unable to stand up to actual sweat and body odor. For that reason, most people haven't made the switch. But there's been an incredible amount of innovation behind more recent formulas, and these market disruptors are just as good as the traditional deodorant you grew up using. We spoke to industry experts to find out if transitioning over to natural deodorant is worth it—and how to do so without ruining your favorite shirts.
Understand the difference between antiperspirants and natural deodorant.
Natural formulas aren't simply botanically based replicas of traditional deodorant. "Antiperspirants use aluminum to block the sweat ducts, so when you ditch the aluminum formulas and switch to natural deodorant, your sweat ducts are open—and your body can now release the sweat it naturally creates," explains Katie Sturino, the founder of Megababe. Skipping aluminum is the key here, our experts note. Natural formulas work without "introducing chemicals into sensitive parts of your body such as your armpits, lymph nodes, and breast tissue," adds Ada Juristovski, the co-founder of Nala.
Look for natural formulas with sweat- and odor-absorbing properties.
Most people think sweat stinks, but it's actually "the bacteria that forms on the sweat that causes body odor," says Sturino. "A good natural deodorant should include a wetness-absorbing agent to instantly absorb sweat to help to keep you dry and include anti-bacterial properties to ward off the stink-producing bacteria."
As for odor absorption? "One of the most common odor-fighting ingredients is baking soda, but it can be harsh on the delicate underarm skin," explains Greg Laptevsky, Myro's CEO and founder. "Myro uses antimicrobial ingredients like sage extract and probiotics to obliterate odor-causing bacteria naturally. Plus, the 100 percent naturally derived scents gradually release over time, to keep you smelling great when you need it most. And if you're extremely sensitive? Opt for a formula with "arrowroot powder or activated charcoal," adds Juristovski.
Expect a detox period.
"Since aluminum physically blocks the pores under your arms, preventing you from sweating, it could take up to a month to flush out all those toxins. During this detox, you may feel sweatier than usual, but that's just your body flushing out the toxins," explains Laptevsky. "As the biome of your underarm skin adjusts to natural ingredients, you may have a temporary spike in odor, but these issues will subside as your body acclimates. This detox period may last a few weeks for some, while others may not experience any effects at all."
Making the switch, however, can be more successful if you "start with clean, neutral smelling pits," adds Sturino. Make the most of your shower time by ensuring that your body wash is thoroughly removing stubborn odors, and then finish with some underarm exfoliation. Look for an exfoliant with charcoal, glycolic acid, and vitamin C to ease the transitional phase and get those toxins out. "Charcoal is key because it acts like a magnet, pulling out bacteria, toxins, and dirt," explains Sturino, who developed an underarm mask product—Megababe's Happy Pits ($16, ulta.com)—with this star ingredient to shorten the detox phase.
Read your labels.
According to our experts, making the switch to a natural deodorant is beneficial for your health, overall—but you need to read formulas' ingredient lists before purchasing. Your natural deodorant should be "actually natural," and not full of "irritating ingredients, which is why it's important to look for options and formulas that don't contain any perfumes or synthetic fragrances," says Kyle LaFond, the founder of American Provenance.