Experts weigh in on underarm products.
Sweating is a natural bodily function that regulates our body temperature so we can run that extra mile, lift that heavier weight, or even bask in the sun without needing to be submerged in a bucket of ice water.
But sweating can also be a nuisance — it dampens our clothes, often leaves us with an unsavory scent and makes makeup melt. Deodorants and antiperspirants are the first line of defense, at least with armpits, when it comes to this excessive excretion of water, ammonia, and salts, but many mainstream products may have the potential to do more harm than good.
As a healthier substitute to both your skin and your body’s response to overheating, some consumers have opted to incorporate natural deodorants into their daily routines. But what exactly makes these sticks “natural?” And are they really safer and just as effective?
We chatted with Dr. Asli Samanci, food scientist, biologist, and CEO of BEE&YOU (which sells its own natural deodorants using Anatolian Bee Propolis: a natural product that honeybees collect from the leaves, buds, and stems of the plants to protect their beehive from fungus, bacteria, and viruses) for her expert take on why the natural way may be the right way.
What makes a deodorant “natural?”
Before answering this question, it’s important to note the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. Deodorants simply mask odors while antiperspirants reduce how much you sweat. Sometimes the two are combined in a single product for double the efficacy.
“A natural deodorant should not contain an antiperspirant, given that antiperspirants temporarily create plugs at the uppermost part of your sweat pores that prevent perspiration,” advises Samanci, who argues that a drastic reduction in the act of sweating is, quite simply, the opposite of what’s “natural.”
“Deodorants should be formulated to eliminate armpit odor, but not perspiration. Since we apply deodorants directly to the armpit skin, it is very important that ingredients are natural and do not contain any chemical ingredients that would harm our body.”
Popular ingredients in natural deodorants
Natural deodorants offer an array of ingredients to keep underarms odor-free including baking soda. While effective at absorbing unsavory scents, it can also irritate sensitive skin. Charcoal and magnesium are other common ingredients, along with arrowroot which is said to help absorb moisture. And coconut oil, which is reportedly antibacterial, is another common ingredient.
Why should you consider avoiding many mainstream deodorants?
Some studies show that popular deodorants containing aluminum may increase the risk of breast cancer. In fact, aluminum may even block the sweat glands to create a new species of bacteria to grow in the armpits, which defeats the purpose of masking what’s already there.
Further research is required to validate these claims, but Samanci is a firm believer in not taking any chances, especially when there are all-natural alternatives. For those who prefer a cautious, clean approach to skin and body care, she advises on skipping the deodorants that contain aluminum.