In the always-heroic effort to stay free of stench, many of us go for the strongest goods available for our underarms. The problem with the heavy-duty stuff? They’re often full of chemicals.
Maybe swiping some super antiperspirant on before a key job interview makes some sense, but if you wear the typical stuff you find in the drug store, there’s research that says daily use of these products may alter the bacteria in your armpits — though not necessarily for better or worse. (Although, admittedly, some of the larger claims about breast cancer, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s from antiperspirant use haven’t quite held up.)
Our suggestion? When in doubt, go natural, because it actually couldn’t hurt to minimize your contact with potentially harmful chemicals. And it’s good to know exactly what’s going in your products … and on you.
According to Emily Doyle, co-founder of Ursa Major Natural Products, some of the more synthetic ingredients you might want to look out for include “parabens, aluminum, synthetic fragrance, PEGs [polyethylene glycols], petroleum, phthalates,“ among others.
“Natural deodorants should be totally healthy and free of any synthetic ingredients – they should keep you fresh and odor-free without blocking the body’s natural need to perspire,” says Doyle. “Unfortunately, a lot of deodorants that are marketed as ‘natural’ still contain synthetic or harmful ingredients, and/or do not keep their efficacy promise.”
While that covers deodorants, if you’re wondering about that super-duper all natural antiperspirant, keep wondering. “Sweating is natural; it’s how your body keeps itself cool, detoxifies and breathes,” Doyle says. “There are several natural ingredients that absorb moisture (baking soda, arrowroot powder and kaolin clay, etc.) but none that will prevent you from sweating altogether.”
A shame. But if you’re just looking for something with known ingredients, try these below. We spent a few weeks going au naturel, as it were, and we felt fine. And smelled great.
Anthony Logistics Alcohol Free Deodorant ($18)
Anthony's is also aluminum-free. It sports a fresh, herbal scent, and like all Anthony products, a portion of sales goes towards the prevention of prostate cancer.
Ursa Major Hoppin' Fresh Deodorant ($18)
With a light, pleasant fragrance and a cool feeling upon application, Ursa Major Hoppin' Fresh’s ingredients include hops, aloe, eucalyptus — without any petrochemicals, aluminum, or synthetics.
Nasanta Magnesium Deodorant ($15)
Nasanta claims its use of magnesium neutralizes body odor. And if you've ever taken a bath of epsom salts you know that magnesium is safe to absorb in your skin, at least much safer than aluminum is believed to be.
If you’re concerned about those prices — and no one will blame you for that — Doyle makes a good point that despite the fact that “natural ingredients are often 2-3x the price of their synthetic counterparts … the more demand there is for natural, safe alternatives, the faster this will change.”
So this might one of those places where for now at least, you don’t sweat spending a few extra bucks in exchange for the peace of mind.