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Are you curious about Non-Toxic Deodorant? Not sure where to start or how to make the switch? Learn about the primary chemicals you should always avoid and what brands are working well for me in my Non-Toxic Deodorant Guide.
Ahhh, deodorant. I have been wanting to write a non-toxic deodorant article for a long time but have just never sat down to do it. Well, now is the time. The reason? Because postpartum has made me SUPER stinky. So if there was ever a time to do a REAL test of deodorants, now is it. LOL! If they can work during this strange period of life, they will work all the time.
On a side note, regarding the postpartum funk, this is totally normal for many women. And unlike body odor at other points in your life, postpartum BO has little to do with nutrition and everything to do with hormones. You see, we are fearfully and wonderfully made and God thought of every tiny detail for breastfeeding moms… right down to the BO.
After our baby arrives (and often before — I was having increased BO before I gave birth), our hormones start making us sweat more and the increased sweat, coupled with bacteria on our skin, causes us to stink more. This is so that the baby knows who we are and where to find their food.
For some women, this clears up after a little while, but for most, the body odor issues will last the duration of your breastfeeding journey. You may also find that some days you are super funky and others not so much. You just gotta roll with it. For me, I noticed a marked improvement around 8 months postpartum but I still had some stinky days.
Ok, and now let’s stop talking about the funk and get down to the non-toxic deodorant business, shall we?
3 Reasons Why You Should Select a Non-Toxic Deodorant
As you may have realized by now, I am pretty passionate about safe skincare and helping change the landscape of this industry. That is one of the primary reasons I am a Beautycounter consultant — because they are doing work that matters. They’re not just selling their products, they’re working to make the entire personal care products industry better and safer.
When it comes to deodorant, there are a few reasons that you want to choose a non-toxic deodorant brand.
- Avoid excess exposure to toxic chemicals that can harm your health. Ingredients like aluminum, phthalates, and parabens are linked to all sorts of health issues from cancer to hormone disruption. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.
- Brands that care about their ingredients most likely also care about the environment and people too. They tend to have higher standards when it comes to manufacturing processes and quality ingredient selection. These companies tend to source sustainably and do their best to avoid harming the environment and people in the process. Lastly, they also tend to treat their employees better and know that caring for people and the environment CAN coexist with profits.
- Sweating is GOOD for your health! It’s a vital part of our body’s natural detoxification system and when we use antiperspirants, we are literally blocking our body’s ability to detox. Regular sweating is just as important for your overall health as good nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, etc.
Specific Ingredients to Avoid in Deodorants and Antiperspirants
If you look at the ingredient list on conventional deodorants and antiperspirants, you will likely see a laundry list of things you can’t pronounce. That alone is worth making the switch to a non-toxic deodorant. While there are many problematic ingredients in our common personal care products, I am going to discuss the top ingredients you should avoid in your deodorant and antiperspirant (and any skincare product, for that matter).
Aluminum is a common ingredient in antiperspirants. It’s the thing that keeps you from sweating. In addition to antiperspirants, there are countless other ways that humans are exposed to aluminum on a regular basis. Aluminum cans, aluminum foil, aluminum cookware, etc.
While the scientific studies of aluminum that involve humans have typically focused primarily on ingestion and inhalation, aluminum can also be absorbed through the skin. This is even more true when the skin being exposed has been damaged, for example by shaving the underarms.
Aluminum may accumulate in the body over time as a result of this type of regular exposure. This is especially concerning in regards to breast cancer because the use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants are applied to skin, near the breast.
“Aluminum came under investigation as a possible carcinogen because it can damage DNA and prevent DNA repair, which are well-known mechanisms of carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer). This led to the hypothesis that aluminum in antiperspirants could penetrate the skin, accumulate in the breast and cause tumor formation by damaging DNA.” (Source)
The health effects of aluminum are well known and have been extensively investigated. There has been a particular focus on neurological diseases, but other diseases are being looked at too. While, according to Cancer.org, there has been no “formal” data showing a link between aluminum and breast cancer, some scientists believe there is a link and they do support the idea that things like parabens and phthalates have a role in cancer formation. (source)
Phthalates are common industrial chemicals that are used not only in personal care products (for example, in the form of synthetic fragrance) but also in PVC plastics and solvents. They’ve been used since the 1930s and are well known to be a “plasticizer”, meaning that they promote plasticity and flexibility and reduce brittleness. You’ll also find them in things like hair spray and nail polish.
Phthalates are known to be endocrine system disruptors (meaning they influence/mimic our hormones). They have been linked to reproductive system issues, including decreased sperm levels and motility and genital abnormalities in baby boys. More recently, they have been found to cause asthma and allergies. There are also links between phthalates and cancer formation. (source)
When looking at ingredient lists, keep an eye out for the words Dibutyl- or Diethyl- phthalate, which is sometimes shortened to DEP or DPB respectively. You also want to avoid the words “fragrance”, “perfume”, and “parfum”.
In general, if you avoid products like conventional nail polish, makeup, perfume/cologne/body sprays, vinyl toys, plastic kitchenware, paints, and air fresheners, you will be reducing your exposure immensely. (source)
Long story short: anything that has a scent or is a type of plastic or PVC is going to run the risk of having phthalates in it.
Parabens are a type of preservative that are used in a wide array of personal care products, including deodorant. They prevent spoilage and mold growth and have been used since the 1920s. The issue with them, like phthalates, is that they mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt your natural hormone production and balance. When our hormones are disrupted and imbalanced, it puts us at a much higher risk of disease.
When looking at ingredient lists, be on the lookout for the word parabens preceded by the following: methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutyl-.
“…scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer. They can also cause skin irritation. Moreover, studies have detected parabens in nearly all urine samples taken from adults in the U.S., regardless of demographic. (Source)
PEGs (polyethylene glycols)
PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are used extensively in personal care products. They act as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. You will commonly find PEGs in anything that has a creamy base. They can also be found in pharmaceutical drugs such as laxatives.
The problem with PEGs is that due to the manufacturing process, they are often contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. According to The International Agency for Research on Cancer, ethylene oxide is a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen.
“Ethylene oxide can also harm the nervous system and the California Environmental Protection Agency has classified it as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it may interfere with human development. 1,4-dioxane is also persistent. In other words, it doesn’t easily degrade and can remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain. 1,4-dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping, but there is no easy way for consumers to know whether products containing PEGs have undergone this process. iv In a study of personal care products marketed as “natural” or “organic” (uncertified), U.S. researchers found 1,4-dioxane as a contaminant in 46 of 100 products analyzed.” (Source)
With PEGs, carcinogenic contaminants are the primary concern, but that doesn’t mean there are no other issues with these types of ingredients.
There is some evidence that PEGs cause genotoxicity, the process by which chemical agents damage the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer. Another concern is that if they are used on broken or damaged skin, they can cause irritation and systemic toxicity.
Lastly, PEGs function as a type of “penetration enhancer,” which means they increase the permeability of the skin in order to allow greater absorption of the product. This is great if all the ingredients in a product were safe. Not such good news if there are harmful chemicals present.
When assessing ingredients, look for words with “eth” in the name. This will be a good indicator that PEGs are present.
Propylene glycol is a chemical that is related to the PEGs discussed above. It too acts as a penetration enhancer in personal care products and helps ALL ingredients (harmful or not) to be absorbed more easily. It is also known to cause allergic reactions. Health Canada has categorized propylene glycol as a “moderate human health priority” and had flagged it for future assessment under the government’s chemical review plans. (source)
3 Tips for Managing Deodorant Detox
Whenever you make a switch from conventional deodorant to a non-toxic deodorant, your body is going to go through a detox period. You will probably find that you get pretty stinky for a certain amount of time as your pits detox all the junk and your body adjusts to your new products. With a little time, you will likely sweat less and find that you may not need as much product you did before. Some people find that they sometimes don’t even need a deodorant after the detox period is over!
Here are some tips to make this detox process go as smoothly as possible:
- Be prepared to sweat. A lot. This may be off-putting or unsettling for you, especially if you have been using antiperspirants and are not used to sweating. This is completely normal and your body is doing exactly what it was designed to do. You can use little pads under your arms if it’s really bad. Reusable breast pads work (the ones designed for breastfeeding mamas — these are my favorite). You may also find that you need to change your shirts more frequently and that’s ok.
- Be prepared to detox (yes, stink). Sweating is one of your body’s natural detoxification methods so as you sweat, your body is moving out the junk that has built up in your underarm sweat glands over the years. Yes, you will likely stink. Know that it’s not your sweat that’s stinky, but actually the bacteria on your skin that is breaking down the sweat. You may also find that your skin may get sensitive or rashy. Totally normal. And if you are really feeling icky, you can always do a little wipe down with a cool washcloth and a little non-toxic soap.
- Be patient. This may be frustrating but know it will end and your body is simply adjusting. The amount of time detox will take varies from person to person, but on average it typically takes 2-4 weeks for your pits to sweat out all the gunk that has built up. Once you get past this detox period, you’ll be good to go!
My Non-Toxic Deodorant Review
The wonderful thing about non-toxic deodorant (and skincare products in general) is that there are more and more safe brands coming on the market every year. This is far from a comprehensive list and I will do my best to update it as I try new brands. For now, I am just focusing on the brands I have had extensive experience with.
I have been using all of these brands for years (except Beautycounter’s deodorant because it just launched). They’ve all worked pretty well for me, depending on the season of life I was in. But there was no time like 2020 to put them to a good stink test thanks to my postpartum hormones. LOL!
Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different so what works well for me may not for you, and vice versa. Also, don’t forget that if you are making the switch to a non-toxic formula from traditional deodorant, your body is going to go through a detox period (see above if you skipped that section). So don’t judge a brand until you are fully past that detox period.
How to Find the Lowest Risk Skin Care Products
I used the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for this post on non-toxic deodorant and included their ratings. Currently, it’s one of the best places to get the full scoop on a brand’s ingredients and toxicity ratings. I use the Skin Deep Database any time I am considering a new skincare product. It is chock full of information about the brand, the product, the ingredients, and health risks in 4 categories:
- Developmental & Reproductive Toxicity
- Allergies & Immunotoxicity
- Use Restrictions
Ideally, you want to use a product that has the lowest rating possible, but a general guide for safety is to look for products that rank a 3 or lower. They also have their EWG Verified Brand seal, which means the product meets EWG’s strictest standards for transparency and health.
Non-Toxic Deodorant Brands
The landscape of non-toxic deodorant has changed immensely since 2012 when I started making the switch to cleaner, safer personal care products. Back then there were only a couple of options and you could only find them in health food stores. But now there are a ton of safe options available locally and online. I’m only focusing on the brands that I have used regularly but I will update this post with new brands as I try them.
Brand: Primally Pure
My Postpartum Stink Star Rating: ★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: Beautiful packaging and super clean ingredients.
Scent(s) I’ve Tried: Lavender, Charcoal, and Lemongrass
EWG Rating: 2 (currently the Charcoal scent is the only listing on EWG)
My Thoughts: If you’re looking for a deodorant that is reminiscent of something you would DIY, this is your brand. Their formulas are really basic and use ingredients that you will immediately recognize. I like the simplicity of their formulas and packaging, but I don’t like that the tallow scent gets stronger with age. There was a jar that didn’t get used up quickly enough and it smelled super strongly of tallow after awhile. It feels like their formulas dry out really fast so if you’re going to use them, don’t open more than you need and use them up within a couple of months. I found that with long-term use, their formulas do leave a residue on your clothes if you really lay it on thick. This brand didn’t work well for my postpartum stink but has worked well for me at other times.
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My Postpartum Stink Star Rating: ★★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: Fantastic scents and a refillable container that really cuts down on waste.
Scent(s) I’ve Tried: Lavender and Coconut
EWG Rating: Not yet rated since it’s a brand new product (as of early 2022), but Beautycounter is an EWG Verified Brand, meaning they rank THE BEST with very low hazard.
My Thoughts: If there is one product that we have all been waiting for Beautycounter to release, it’s deodorant! I’ve been using their products since 2014 and knew at some point they had to add a deodorant to their line-up and they finally did! This product didn’t officially launch until early 2021, but as a consultant, I got a sneak peek in the summer of 2020 and have been enjoying them ever since. They also did a mini launch of them around the holidays and they were a big hit. The formula goes on silky smooth and doesn’t leave a residue on my clothes. The scents are wonderful, not too overpowering. It did a decent job of controlling my postpartum stink. When my body goes back to normal, I think this formula will work even better. One thing that sets this brand apart is that they are refillable, which really cuts down on waste.
My Stink Star Rating: ★★★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: One tube lasts forever and it works great!
Scent(s) I’ve Tried: Unscented
EWG Rating: 2 (please note that their scented versions all have higher ratings due to fragrance)
My Thoughts: My husband was actually the one who found this brand a few years ago when they first came on the market. We thought their commercial was hilarious and decided to order. This brand has worked great for me postpartum and really keeps the stink under control. A little goes a long way so one tube lasts a super long time. I use the tube version but they do offer a stick version for those who don’t want to use their fingers. I have not tried any of their scented versions. They’ve also added a ton of new products since they first started but I have only ever used their unscented deodorant. This brand leaves no residue on my clothing.
My Stink Star Rating: ★★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: A little goes a long way (which means one tube lasts forever).
Scent(s): Unscented (the only one they offer)
EWG Rating: Not currently listed on EWG
My Thoughts: Their formula only has 10 ingredients in it and each one I felt fine with using in my skin, even without an EWG rating. They use micro silver in their formulas which gives a level of bacterial protection (i.e. helps control the stink) without harmful chemicals. The form of silver they use is safe for topical use and won’t cause health problems. Their formula worked really well for me postpartum and like Lume, a little goes a long way so one tube lasts forever. It will leave a whitish residue on your clothes if you use too much or don’t rub it in all the way. But it’s temporary as no residue remains after washing.
Brand: Type: A
My Stink Star Rating: ★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: The unique tube application helps you use just the right amount.
EWG Rating: 1
My Thoughts: This deodorant did a pretty good job controlling my postpartum stink. They offer a few scented versions but those all use fragrance and rank higher on EWG so I stuck with the unscented. It’s a smooth cream that comes in a tube, but you apply it like you would a stick. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds. The formula stays pretty smooth and creamy, even after it’s been opened for a while. It felt like to did get a little grainy towards the end of the container. But like the Lume and Nuud brands, one tube lasted a really long time. It will leave a whitish residue on your clothes if you lay it on too thick but it does wash right out when you launder your shirts.
Brand: Each & Every
My Stink Star Rating: ★★★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: Super smooth, creamy formulas and great scents.
Scent(s) Tested: Cedar & Vanilla and Citrus & Vetiver
EWG Rating: Each & Every is an EWG Verified Brand, meaning they rank THE BEST with very low hazard.
My Thoughts: I don’t know what it is about this brand, but it worked SO well for me postpartum. Ironically, I wasn’t able to use this brand when I was pregnant because the orange scent made me nauseous. Anything that was orange-scented made me sick. So weird. Anyway, I’d say it’s tied with Lume in its effectiveness. The scents are bright and vibrant. The formula stays super smooth and creamy, even after a long time. Since I rotate through deodorants depending on the day, I was surprised this formula stayed as fresh as the day I opened it, even after several months. Application is a breeze and it goes on so well. It never left a residue on my clothing either. When I was researching for this post, I found that they’ve added a ton of other scents since I purchased the ones I got. I can’t wait to try some of the new ones. It looks like they also have added some additional, non-deodorant products too.
My Stink Rating: ★★★
My Fave Thing About This Brand: Widely available at almost any store. Cheap prices make it more accessible on a tight budget.
Scent(s) Tested: Lavender & Sage, Bergamot & Lime, Charcoal & Magnesium, and Fragrance Free
EWG Rating: Lavender & Sage (1), Bergamot & Lime (1), Charcoal & Magnesium (3), and Fragrance-Free (1)
My Thoughts: If you’re looking for a cheap, non-toxic deodorant, this is a decent option. They’ve been around for years and this was one of the first brands I started using when I made the switch. Frankly, for a long time, they were one of the only options for a decent non-toxic deodorant. You used to only be able to get it at my health food store, but now it’s widely available at almost any major retailer. I find the formulas go on smooth for the first little bit, but if you don’t use it up relatively fast, they start to dry out and don’t go on very well. The Charcoal one is the only one I don’t like. They use synthetic fragrance in that one, which I didn’t realize until after I’d used it. Synthetic fragrance is a big concern and why they decided to use it is beyond me when they do such a good job with the ingredients on their other products. I did find that this brand left a residue on my clothing after repeated use. This brand also didn’t do well for me during my postpartum stinky phase.
What Are Your Favorite Non-Toxic Deodorant Brands?
Well, there you have it! As I mentioned before, I’ll keep adding to this list as I try new brands. I’m almost out of all of the ones I mentioned in the post so I will be in need of some new ones soon!
What brands would you add? Leave me a comment below!