All things labeled “natural” and “organic” are popular at the moment as people strive to live a lifestyle which is healthier for people and for the world. Many people are even experimenting with natural personal care products, like deodorant. Is deodorant really something that contains dangerous substances? Does natural deodorant really work? What are the pros and cons of using natural deodorants? This article will demystify natural deodorants so you can make the best choice for you.
Are Deodorants Harmful?
When people make the switch to natural deodorant, perhaps the most significant reason they cite is that deodorant is linked to breast cancer. Is there a documented link between deodorant and breast cancer?
According to the National Cancer Institute, the ingredient that has been researched the most is aluminum. Most deodorants are not just anti-odor; they are antiperspirants which actually plug the sweat duct, stopping sweat from flowing to the skin’s surface. Some studies suggest that antiperspirants could be absorbed by the skin under the arm and potentially create an estrogen-type effect. Estrogen does promote the growth of breast cancer cells, so scientists have hypothesized that this could be a contributing factor to breast cancer. There have not been any studies, however, which have confirmed that aluminum-based antiperspirants have contributed to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Parabens are another chemical which can be found in deodorants that some people object to. Parabens act as preservatives and they too create an estrogen-type effect inside the body. Although there are reports that parabens have been found inside breast tumors, according to the National Cancer Institute, these parabens have not been linked as a causal agent in breast cancer. Parabens are found in many other cosmetics and foods but have mostly been phased out in deodorants.
Although antiperspirant deodorants have not been conclusively linked to breast cancer, they have also not been conclusively ruled out as a risk factor. Some people prefer to avoid antiperspirants containing aluminum. Thankfully, there are also natural deodorant options.
Does Natural Deodorant Really Work?
Whether natural deodorants really work depends substantially on your own body and preferences. Not all deodorants contain antiperspirants. If you are a heavy sweater, you may not be comfortable using natural deodorants. The purpose of deodorants that are made naturally is still to reduce the bacteria which grows in your armpit. Many natural deodorants use natural substances to kill bacteria. Things like mint and other plant extract reduce bacteria and also cover smells.
Natural deodorants can generally be sorted into two categories: those which use baking soda and those that do not. Baking sodas take the place of parabens and when combined with vitamin E, mask the smells which are generated by underarm sweat glands.
Non-baking soda based deodorants rely on natural crystals. These are dry crystals that have a wet feeling and are applied to your armpit, creating a thin layer of crystal on the skin. Crystals contain salt that reduces the bacteria. Look for an ingredient called alum, which has molecules that are too large to be absorbed by the skin.
Pros and Cons of Natural Deodorants
The pros and cons of each natural deodorant depend largely on the person. However, there are some good rules of thumb. Crystal deodorants are different than traditional store-bought deodorant. The crystals can hurt your skin if you apply them to dry skin. They should be somewhat damp in order to work the right way. The wetness allows them to slide on the skin easier. For this reason, crystal deodorants are often used right after a shower or bath.
Crystal deodorants are allergy-free and do not smell on their own. The most significant downside to crystals is that there is a learning curve to using them because they can feel rough. People with sensitive skin may want to try something else.
Spray deodorants are obviously easy for people on the go. They apply easily and do not irritate the skin. Natural spray deodorants include essential oils but they do not have strong antiperspirant effects. If you generate lots of sweat and are concerned about the smell, the spray deodorants may not be the best for your lifestyle.
The best way to determine the best natural deodorant for you is through trial and error. There are so many different brands that it may seem too daunting. If you like making your own things, then here are some recipes that will let you do just that.
Recipes for Homemade Deodorant
Shea Butter Deodorant (With Baking Soda)
The most comfortable homemade deodorant requires the use of shea butter, a compound that is found in many lotions.
Ingredients: 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of shea butter, 2 tablespoons of arrowroot or organic cornstarch and your favorite essential oils.
Lavender, lemon and sage are common essential oils to cover smells. Some people prefer rosemary and bergamot.
Directions: First, melt the shea butter and coconut oil in the microwave. You can combine the two in a saucepan or glass jar. It is easiest if you have a jar that you will use every time you make deodorant so it saves your dishes. After removing from heat, add in the baking soda and arrowroot and mix. As the final step, add in your essential oils. Then let it cool for several hours. Some people prefer to put the finished product into a deodorant stick.
Vodka Deodorant (Baking Soda Free)
If you don’t mind waiting for several days before the finished product is ready then you’ll enjoy this recipe.
Ingredients: 1¼ cup 80 proof vodka, ¼ cup of sage leaves, ¼ cup of thyme, ¼ cup of lavender buds, 1 lemon or lime peel. Add your favorite essential oils. This recipe recommends sage, lavender, lemongrass or tea tree oil.
Directions: Add the herbs and citrus peels into a mason jar. Cover with the vodka and top with a solid lid. Shake the jar once a day for about a month. After the month is up, strain the herbs out of the liquid and then add to spray bottle. Add drops of your favorite essential oils. Store the remainder of the tincture in a cool, dry place (no need to refrigerate). Be sure to shake the spray bottle each time you use it to disperse the essential oils.