Natural deodorants have a reputation for being less strong and failing to keep sweat at bay, but these tried and tested environmentally friendly favourites work just as well as their aluminium counterparts – without the nasty chemicals.
Deodorant’s part of pretty much everyone’s daily routine, but a lot of us are reaching for the antiperspirant without knowing what’s inside the can. Let’s get things straight: antiperspirants and deodorants are two different things. The former uses aluminium salts to plug pores and stop sweating, while the latter simply disperses or covers up body odour. For that reason, many aluminium-free deodorants don’t help with sweating, but they do help stop bacteria from breaking down sweat and releasing body odour.
It turns out there’s a lot of calculation behind creating an aluminium-free deodorant that’ll stop odour rather than simply mask it. “A number of different ingredients can help reduce sweating without stopping it completely,” explains Dr Simon Jackson, founder of botanical brand Modern Botany and creator of the first natural antiperspirant.
“Antibacterial essential oils like eucalyptus and lemon tea tree ward off bacteria, therefore eliminating odour. Astringents like witch hazel and tannins dry out the underarms and reduce pore size. Aluminium definitely isn’t necessary.”
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I grew up using aluminium-free deodorants – my mum was convinced they caused breast cancer thanks to their sweat-blocking properties and unpronounceable chemicals. After rebelling in university and using antiperspirants that would see me through a sweaty student union night to an 8am lecture, my underarms turned dark grey.
It was bacteria reacting to the aluminium that my underarms obviously weren’t used to, so I hastily returned back to the aluminium-free life. I’ve finally found a number of deodorants and one antiperspirant which do actually work (even in this year’s heatwave) – and smell pretty amazing. And if I’ve learned one thing after years of trialing different formulas, my number one tip is this: apply twice the amount that you would normally for best results, and keep one in your bag/at your desk to top up once or twice during the day. It’s a small change to your daily routine and seems like a pain, but it’s more than worth it.
Cowshed Cow Pit Deodorant Spray
It’s a little bit drippy after the first spray, but seriously keeps odour away all day long – plus the blend of peppermint, lemongrass and aloe vera smells unbelievably fresh.
Bionsen Sensitive Stick Deodorant
The Japanese spa minerals keep underarms feeling fresh without an overbearing fragrance. Plus it comes in several formulas, from spray to aerosol to stick.
Aesop Deodorant Roll-On
This alcohol-free formula uses zinc, wasabi and sage leaf to combat bacteria with a earthy scent. Aesop’s classic brown glass protects the product inside from UV rays, lessening their use of preservatives.
L’Occitane Citrus Verbena Deodorant Stick
This sparkling, super fresh scent is enough to make you quit aluminium for good. And while it doesn’t last as long as the others, you won’t mind whipping it out a couple of times a day thanks to the rustic lemon yellow packaging.
Modern Botany Deodorant
Modern Botany’s antiperspirant formula uses tannins (the stuff in red wine and tea that gives you a dry mouth) and witch hazel to simultaneously dry out your underarms, reduce pore size and carry the antibacterial essential oils straight to the site of action so they can ward off bacteria. Clever stuff.
Malin + Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant
The eucalyptus in this is pretty potent in getting rid of bacteria (one slick at the end of the day sorts out any odour that’s built up) but it doesn’t smell too strong. It doesn’t feel sticky and weightlessly sinks straight into the skin.
PiperWai Natural Deodorant Jar
This is hands down the best natural deodorant I’ve ever tried. Don’t hate me, though – it’s only available in the US. They do ship to the UK, and trust me – it’s worth the customs charge. Either use a tiny scoop from the jar (which lasts you for most of a year) or use their stick version. The activated charcoal neutralises odour and moisture, and spreads across skin easily with a dry touch.
Urban Outfitters Ohii Pure Stick Deodorant
Not only does the pale mint packaging evoke seriously calm, cool and clean vibes – the formula does, too. The charcoal base absorbs moisture and wards off bacteria, while the citrus and tea scent keeps everything fresh and fragrant. Oh, and it’s vegan too.
Ho Karan Natural Power Deodorant
Alum stone keeps this miracle rollerball from feeling too wet, plus cannabis sativa seed oil and aloe soothe skin and combat underarm eczema.
Agent Nateur holi(stick) No.3 Deodorant
With coconut oil, beeswax and avocado butter, you’d think this is a skin-soothing body butter – but sweat-absorbing baking soda and eucalyptus stop it from feeling greasy. Our underarms get shaved, scrubbed with harsh soap, and rub up against clothing all day, so the nourishing ingredients in this one work well as an overnight treatment that also keeps sweat under wraps.
Dr Hauschka Sage Mint Roll-On Deodorant
There’s just something about mint that refreshes and awakens your skin and senses like nothing else. This liquid formula uses the herb to its full advantage, leaving a satisfying tingling sensation that feels like it’s actually cleaning you, and a subtle scent that lasts for hours.
Aurelia Botanical Cream Deodorant
Stylist’s beauty director Shannon Peter swears by this natural deodorant by Aurelia. “It takes a little while to get used to applying it with your hands, but honestly, it’s the best deodorant I’ve ever tried. It smells minty, herby and delicious and is just as powerful as its heavyweight drugstore equivalents.”
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