Natural Deodorant Labels Explained: Healthy Ingredients to Stop Sweat
Natural deodorant solutions have exploded in popularity. In response, droves of brands now tout natural and organic deodorant sticks, pit pastes and other sweat-stopping concoctions. With so many options, sifting through the marketing BS to find a truly natural deodorant is tricky and time-consuming. You want a healthy, natural deodorant, but you know the label "natural" doesn’t mean much. So what's a sweaty, health-conscious person to do?
My Search for an Effective Natural Deodorant
As someone who sweats heavily and prefers not to use harmful chemicals, I've struggled to find a natural alternative to excessive underarm sweating.
Over the years I’ve tried countless homemade solutions and natural deodorants. I was desperate to find a heavy-duty, natural deodorant that offers complete wetness protection and odor control, which inspired my extensive research into the topic.
In this post, I’ll outline the natural ingredients found in healthy deodorants (and ingredients to avoid) to help you better analyze natural deodorant labels.
The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant
Before diving into natural deodorant ingredients, it’s important to differentiate deodorant and antiperspirant. Deodorants prevent body odor by stopping the breakdown of bacteria in the armpits. (Bacterial breakdown is what causes the unpleasant odor associated with sweat.)
Like deodorant, antiperspirants mask the smell of sweat. But antiperspirants also contain the active ingredient aluminum, which plugs your sweat ducts and stops sweat. To be considered antiperspirant, the solution must contain aluminum. Because there is no aluminum in deodorant, natural deodorants are not considered antiperspirants.
While some studies have found a link between aluminum and certain diseases, the connection has not been proven. Still, some people (like myself) prefer to avoid potentially harmful ingredients and go the natural route.
Like regular deodorant, natural deodorants don’t reduce sweat. But many natural deodorant brands have concocted healthier formulas that reduce the embarrassing effects of underarm sweat.
The 3 Tiers of Natural Deodorants
Whether you’re health-conscious or antiperspirant ingredients like alcohol and aluminum irritate your skin, choosing an effective natural deodorant starts with understanding the active ingredients and their purpose.
Before choosing a natural deodorant, you also need to consider just how natural and organic of a deodorant you prefer. I tend to bucket natural deodorants in 3 categories. First, there are mainstream brands like Tom’s of Maine that have spearheaded the natural deodorant charge but still include suspect ingredients (like propylene glycol) in their formula.
Other natural deodorant brands take the commitment one step further to eliminate all chemicals and toxins.
And finally, there are the über health-conscious who resort to raw, homemade remedies — like coconut oil or lemon juice. I experimented with coconut oil and baking soda, but the mixture left a painful dark-red rash on my armpits after 8 hours.
Breaking Down Natural Deodorant Labels
At their core, natural deodorant brands contain similar ingredients. You'll likely find some type of powder for moisture and odor control, natural oils to form the base and wax for texture. Some also add naturally moisturizing or scented ingredients.
Here's a closer look at common ingredients in natural deodorants:
- Natural oil to form the base: Many organic deodorant brands use coconut oil or other natural oils to form the solid base of the deodorant stick.
- Powder or starch for absorption and odor control: Powders like baking soda and arrowroot not only absorb wetness, but they also kill bacteria that causes odor. Some type of powder is essential for an effective natural deodorant.
- Essential oils for antiseptic effects and scent: Essential oils also have antibacterial properties that fight odor before it starts. These include rosemary, sage, lemon grass and tea tree oil. These oils also add a natural scent to deodorants.
- Wax for texture: Don’t be alarmed to find ingredients like beeswax or candelilla wax in your natural deodorant. These natural ingredients add the waxy, glossy consistency you’re used to in regular deodorants.
Ingredients to Avoid in Natural Deodorants
Now that you know the function behind some healthy, sweating-stopping ingredients, let’s review ingredients to avoid in natural deodorants.
Here are some suspect ingredients in healthy deodorants that make them not-so-natural:
When you see “fragrance” on the label of any natural product — including deodorant — it likely contains chemicals. Manufacturers can claim their scent is a trade secret and get away with using the catch-all phrase “fragrance" as an ingredient. Often, "fragrance" is an industry workaround to not disclose the chemical cocktail that comprises the scent. If you're concerned about chemicals in deodorant, watch out for the ingredient fragrance in natural deodorant labels.
Made from the mineral talc, talcum powder absorbs moisture and reduces friction to help deodorant glide on easily. You’ll find talcum powder in a variety of consumer products, including deodorant. In its natural form, talc contains the cancer-causing agent asbestos, according to Cancer.org. However, the talc used in consumer products today is asbestos-free.
Talcum powder has come under scrutiny for its link to ovarian and lung cancers. Studies on both humans and animals have produced mixed results.
Propylene glycol is used in antifreeze and other consumer products like deodorant. The FDA and World Health Organization recognize propylene glycol as generally safe for use in foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. And companies like Tom’s of Maine use vegetable-based propylene glycol — an environmentally safer alternative. Still, the Environmental Protection Agency requires the use of gloves when handling the substance and disposal by burying, signaling its potential harm.
There's no shortage of natural deodorants. But narrowing the list to safe and effective options is much more difficult.
I hope this eases your search for an effective natural deodorant. Check out my review of top natural deodorant brands to narrow your search.