Does Natural Deodorant Really Work? We Tested It To Find Out

Here are some things that I know to be true: It is summer, and it is hot. I live in New York City, where, due to a high volume of bodies and lack of tree-based shade, it is happens to be especially hot. I also am naturally inclined to some heavy-duty sweating as it is–I drink at least a gallon of water a day, which means that I expel it daily, either through my bladder or pores, in amounts that many people might consider to be concerning. I’m a sweaty girl! This is okay. It just means that I’ve always felt I require a heavy-duty deodorant, too.

But here is another thing that is true: I am terrified of conventional antiperspirant–you know, your Secret and Ban and Degree and Dove. The kind that actually makes you not smell terrible, since it contains aluminum as an active ingredient. And, perhaps I have read one too many instructional guides from Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle blog, Goop, or maybe I spent too much time in Whole Foods as a child, but I am firmly of the belief that this aluminum will give me cancer.

Now, does aluminum actually and definitively give you cancer? It sure doesn’t! In fact, most research seems to point towards the contrary, but there is a stubborn part of me that remains convinced that every time I apply some Secret Clinical Strength deodorant, or whatever, its inherent aluminum winds up embedding itself in my brain, my bloodstream, and, like, my lymph nodes, carrying me to a certain death.

I know that this is dramatic, as well as psychosomatic (yes, I took Psych 101 my freshman year of college!! I know what “psychosomatic” means!!), but I don’t particularly like feeling as though aluminum is coursing through my veins. Which leaves me with a dilemma–use aluminum-based deodorant, smell good most of the time, and fear death always, or use natural deodorant (which is generally understood to be 100% ineffective), smell awful most of the time, and only fear death the normal amount? I wanted to see if it might be possible to become a “girl who can do both,” so to speak–use natural deodorant and not smell terrible all the time.  I tried four different natural deodorants–Kiss My Face, Lavanila, Mother Earth, and Nubian Heritage. This is my story.

I have four beautiful girls standing before me, but I only have one photo in my hand.

I have four beautiful girls standing before me, but I only have one photo in my hand.

 

Kiss My Face Active Life: Lavender ($3.55)

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Initial smell: Very, very strong lavender! It also smells a lot like tea tree oil. Not bad if you like those things, which I do. Probably awful if you don’t.

Did it work? I put this deodorant on right after I shaved my armpits, which was a catastrophically bad move for me–some part of the “Kiss My Face” chemical composition must have some slightly acidic component that caused my armpits to burn fiercely, sort of like they did when I tried to make my own deodorant out of coconut oil and baking soda (ah, memories!). I also began to sweat, and, subsequently, to reek, nearly the moment I stepped outside. The stinging did not subside.

My armpits alternated between stinging and feeling soupy for the rest of the day, and so, I kept my arms locked straight to my side, straightjacket-like, for the rest of the day. Not the best user experience, overall.

Overall rating: 2/10Maybe this product is just for women who don’t shave their armpits? I don’t know. Either way, it does not work very well.

 

Lavanila: Vanilla Summer Mini ($8)

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Initial smell: Like summer! Like vanilla! I could possibly be projecting here based on the deodorant’s name! Either way, it smells great.

Did it work? Lavanila–“the healthy deodorant”– is often heralded as being the only natural deodorant that actually works. Based on my experience, though, it only kind of works–I smelled okay for about half of the day, until it wore out, and I was suddenly very aware of my own odor. And that was it.

Overall rating: 5/10. Eh. The way I feel about Lavanila is the same way I feel about the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Like, it’s fine. It’s just that, for all the hype, and for $8 per 90 ounce bottle–$14 for full size–I expect a little more, you know?

 

Mother Dirt AO+Mist ($49.99)

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Initial smell: Like absolutely nothing!

Did it work? This is a newfangled, new-agey product made of “healthy” bacteria that, by spraying it onto your pits twice a day, is supposed to eliminate the need for deodorant altogether. (Man, 2016 is wild.) I was intrigued! It was like the armpit detox I had tried, and failed, a few weeks back!  Unfortunately, I could not have picked a worse day to try it. It was 90 degrees, terribly humid, and terribly sunny, which translates, in the Olde English, to being “hot as balls.” Because of this, the spray did not work. At all. My armpits gushed sweat. I smelled horrible. I was mortified. Fortunately, I had another deodorant at the office–more on that in a second–and it saved my life.

Overall rating: 1.5/10. I am allowing some benefit of the doubt, since it is possible that it would take more time for my pits to fully “detox” and stop relying on deodorant entirely. But, in terms of my own, personal, anecdotal experience? This was bad. Horrible, even. It also costs fifty dollars. I cannot in good conscience recommend it.

 

Nubian Heritage: Patchouli and Buriti ($7.99)

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Initial smell: Like a bar of of soap you’d get at a fancy hotel. (Very delicious.)

Did it work? It sure did! I was shook after my bacterial spray experiment went awry, but this made things feel better. It stopped up my sweat, sort of, but best of all, it just smelled pleasant throughout the rest of the day. It didn’t, like, refresh itself with notes of new fragrance every hour as some other deodorants do, but I smelled mostly okay throughout the day.

Overall rating: 8/10. Look, it isn’t perfect. But if a product can lift you from the ashes of new-age bacteria spray, well, that is a product I am prepared to endorse.

It should come as no surprise that, by the end of the week, the  most important thing I had done was grow accustomed to the scent of my own sweat.  Not one of the products I tried worked the way conventional antiperspirants do (nor, it should be noted, are they necessarily supposed to, given that they are advertised as deodorants, not antiperspirants). I sweated a lot.

Still, if there is one product that I have to recommend, it is Nubian Heritage: Patchouli and Buriti! I don’t actually know what “buriti” is, but it worked pretty well under the very poor circumstances, and I suspect that under slightly better conditions–i.e. less oppressively hot and sticky–it would actually work quite well. I don’t think I would wear it to a job interview, or to a date, or to weather the terrain while searching for Pikachu (I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon Go lately), but in terms of natural deodorant and effectiveness, I do think that it is the best option. So. That’s that, I guess.

Would you try natural deodorant? Which kind? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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