Natural Deodorants, Yes They Do Actually Work

underarm deodorant

Do you check under your armpits periodically to make sure your deodorant is still working? Do you keep a supply in your purse for emergencies? What kind of deodorant do you use: a natural product or one with ingredients that are hard to pronounce?

If you have been shying away from natural deodorants because you're afraid they may fail you when things get tough, here's some reassurance: there are natural deodorants that work.

Let's explore the details. First, however, we need to clear up the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant.

Deodorant vs antiperspirant: the difference

Although both deodorant and antiperspirant can help you feel fresh, they are not the same. The job of a deodorant is to "de-odorize." That is, it works to reduce the bacteria on your skin, because body odor is the result of the breakdown of perspiration by those microorganisms. Deodorant is typically used in the armpits but also in the groin, on the feet, and for vaginal secretions.

Antiperspirants take on the challenge of stopping perspiration (aka, sweat), usually by blocking sweat glands. The "secret" ingredient that stops sweating is aluminum, which has been associated with Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer, although more research is needed.

Read about body odor stinks: 3 natural deodorants that actually work

Natural deodorants, they work

Here are few important things you should know about natural deodorants. One, they are the healthy way to fight body odor, hands down. Regular commercial brands typically contain a chemical lab of ingredients that can irritate your skin and be absorbed into your bloodstream and play havoc with your health. Truly all-natural deodorants harness the power of nature to keep you fresh.

Natural deodorants do actually work, but you may need to try several different types before you find the one that works for you. Think of it as discovering a specially designed product with your name on it. To help you with your search, below we talk about five different types of natural deodorants that you can try.

Armpit detox

The vast majority of women use deodorant every day. That's a lot of chemicals being rolled or sprayed into armpits everywhere. When you use conventional deodorants, you are likely getting:

  • Parabens, which can disrupt hormones
  • Steareths, which have been linked with cancer
  • Triclosan, a pesticide that can cause dermatitis and disrupt hormones
  • Propylene glycol, which can damage the central nervous system, liver, and heart
  • Triethanolamine, a carcinogen
  • Dietanolamine, a carcinogen

If you choose to use a natural deodorant, it's like doing an armpit detox! Your armpits will be exposed to healthy, effective substances only, and your body will thank you for it. That also means the scents you choose need to be natural as well. Scented deodorants, whether store bought or DIY, should contain organic essential oils. Suggested options for women are lavender, lemon, and sage, while men seem to prefer bergamot, cypress, and rosemary.

Different kinds of natural deodorant

For the purpose of this article, and the TV segment Andrea did on this topic, you can choose from 5 different kinds of natural deodorants that work, categorized according to their base ingredient or form. They are crystal, coconut oil, activated charcoal, baking soda, and lemon juice. While perusing the grocery story aisles, you will likely also see other natural deodorants made with other ingredients, including cornstarch, shea butter, and essential oils.

You also have two choices: you can buy an off-the-shelf natural deodorant—of which there are numerous excellent products—or you can make your own. If you decide to buy available products, be sure to read the label carefully. Just because it says "natural" on the label does not necessarily mean all of the ingredients are clean. For example, a product may say "paraben free" yet contain another chemical that isn't "natural."

Making your own deodorant gives you full control over the ingredients. Yes, it takes time, but the rewards can be amazing. If you have children, let them be part of the process. Such a DIY project can be a great way for them to learn about the importance of using healthy products.

Crystal deodorant

Also known as deodorant stones, this form of the odor fighter is often potassium aluminum sulfate. To use the crystal, simply wet it and rub it under your arms. Don't let the word "aluminum" scare you; this form of the metal, unlike the aluminum chlorohydrate used in antiperspirants, has large molecules that cannot be absorbed through skin. If you are still freaked out, you can buy aluminum-free crystal deodorants.

Coconut oil deodorant

Raw, virgin coconut oil has good antibacterial properties, which makes it a perfect ingredient for a deodorant. You can buy commercial brands with a coconut oil base, but why not try this DIY recipe!

  • ½ cup raw, virgin coconut oil
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 40 to 60 drops essential oil (your favorite)

Combine the coconut oil and baking soda in a bowl and mix well, until smooth. Add the essential oils and mix again. Store the deodorant in a small glass jar with a lid. Apply with your fingers.

Read about 9 health benefits of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal deodorant

Are you thinking, won't charcoal stain my underarms black? No, it won't! Activated charcoal is a great deodorant ingredient because it can detox your skin while being gentle to underarm areas. In fact, charcoal can adsorb one thousand times its own mass in impurities because it has thousands of tiny pores that attract the toxins.

Here's an activated charcoal deodorant recipe to try:

  • ½ cup unrefined virgin coconut oil
  • ¼ cup arrowroot powder
  • ¾ Tbs baking soda
  • ½ tsp activated charcoal powder
  • 5 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 8 drops each of these essential oils: peppermint, tangerine, bergamot, lavender

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend until it is a smooth paste. If it is too runny, put it in the refrigerator so it hardens. Store in a glass jar with a lid at room temperature. Apply with your fingers.

Baking soda based deodorant

Baking soda has been deodorizing our refrigerators and freezers for decades, and it can do a super job on armpits as well. That's because baking soda can neutralize acids, and body odor comes mostly from organic acids.

You can make a baking soda based deodorant simply by mixing the soda with a small amount of water until you have a smooth paste. Apply the paste to your underarms. You also can use just the dry soda and pat it under your arms. If you have a reaction to plain baking soda, you may need a deodorant with an acid base, such as lemon juice.

Our favorite brand of baking soda-based deodorant (because they work well for us!) is Clean Kiss Organics. In fact, we love this brand so much that we asked the founder, Jodie Pappas, to offer our reader's a special 15% discount. Be sure to use this code when checking out: NSSAVE15.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is a natural odor killer because the citric acid destroys bacteria. The juice of this citrus also is mildly astringent, which means it can help close pores and thus reduce sweating. You can simply rub a slice of lemon under your arms (but don't do so if you have just shaved!) or choose a product that contains lemon juice. Be aware, however, that because lemons are acidic, they may cause some skin irritation in some folks.

Bottom line

Are you ready to make the switch from conventional to natural deodorants? The latter is a healthy, effective choice for stopping underarm body odor—and other body regions as well! Whether you choose an over-the-counter brand or make your own, be sure you are getting natural (organic when possible) ingredients. With a little trial and error, you will find the best natural deodorant for your needs and preferences.

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Klotz K et al. The health effects of aluminum exposure. Deutsches Arzteblatt International 2017 Sep; 114(39): 653-59
Moss L. 5 natural deodorant alternatives. 2015 Jul 16
Statista. How often do you personally use deodorant? 2017 survey of women in the UK
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Andrea Donsky, B. COMM is an international TV Health Expert, Best Selling Author, Nutritionist Podcast Host, and Founder of—a recipient of Healthline’s Best Healthy Living Blogs for 2019. As a pioneer and visionary in the health food industry, Andrea’s passion is to inspire people to make healthier choices. Andrea has combined her background and expertise as both a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and an entrepreneur ("She Boss!") to educate the public on living a healthy lifestyle through the creation of her businesses, books, articles, podcasts, videos, talks, and TV and radio media appearances. Andrea founded Naturally Savvy Media Inc. in 2007 in order to share her passion for healthy living, and love for natural products and companies. Among her numerous publications, Andrea co-authored Unjunk your Junk Food published by Simon and Schuster, a book that journalist, author and mother Maria Shriver endorsed: “Unjunk Your Junk Food has certainly made me more aware about the food that my children eat and the effects it has on our body and mind."</P. Andrea also co-authored two e-books entitled Label Lessons: Your Guide To A Healthy Shopping Cart, and Label Lessons: Unjunk Your Kid’s Lunch Box.