Ladies and Gentlemen, I have tried many a natural deodorant, mostly to be disappointed - but in the last five years, I've finally broken free of my anti-perspirant habit and made the switch to natural, even when exercising.
Even when exercising in a gym with no air-con.
In the summer.
Even when that exercise is getting up close and personal with other people (did I mention that I love BJJ
But before I explain what I use, we need to go back a little bit and answer this question:
Why do armpits smell?
Have you ever noticed that you have different kinds of smell?
You can be slick with sweat in your bikini after sun-bathing on a beach and barely smell at all, but if you're stress-sweating through an uncomfortable situation you are going to smell really bad!
It's because you actually have two different types of sweat gland. The first, your eccrine glands, are the ones you use for temperature regulation. They're all over your body and they mostly secrete water to help you cool down when you're too hot. Water isn't massively attractive to bacteria, so it evaporates off with mostly no smell.
Your apocrine glands, the ones found under your arms (as well as other places), are a whole different story. The sweat from those regions are a bacteria-buffet full of organic compounds that they love to feast on. These glands are primarily stimulated by hormones and stress - but stress can be physical, chemical or emotional.
Exercise creates physical stress and the body has to excrete the waste products; certain foods will create waste products and stress hormones create a LOT of waste products.
When bacteria start feasting on these products, they create thioalcohols, that sour BO fragrance we know all too well.
So how do we stop it?
Glad you asked!
One of the first things you need to realise is that your body is trying to do a good thing. You were designed to get rid of waste products in your sweat. Using an anti-perspirant to stop the natural processes of the body will only lead to the body being less able to eliminate waste, which is definitely not something we want.
My first tip is to use the Spa Detoxifying Mud Mask
under your arms, to help detoxify any nasty build up that's been happening thanks to the antiperspirants you've used over the years. When I first made the switch, I used to do this once a week, then once a month, now just every few months when I remember.
Any time I feel like natural deodorant isn't working, I go back and do this and we're good again.
Yeah, you heard me right. I use toner as a deodorant now.
I'd read online about people rubbing half a lemon under their arms as a natural deodorant, which sounded super sticky and unpleasant to me, but so many people were raving about it that I knew it must work, so I decided to delve into a little research and find out why.
It's all about pH
pH scales range 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline) and neutral is 7. It's a little confusing and I'm not sure why they didn't just make the scale run from -7 to 7 and have 0 be neutral, but here we are.
Your skin is acidic, around 4.5-5 is typical, and you will hear people talk about the 'acid mantle' which is your skins way of protecting itself from bacteria and pollutants.
Unfortunately, apocrine sweat is pretty alkaline, which brings the area around your arm pits to a bacteria friendly neutral.
Most natural deodorants work with something like bicarbonate of soda, which makes the area too alkaline for the bacteria, but this can be irritating to the skin if you use it regularly, because skin does not like to be alkaline. I literally get burns under my arms if I use anything with bicarb in for more than a month.
It's not fun. Also, this study reckons that a high pH might actually promote the growth of some odour causing bacteria - whoops!
Enter the lemon...
Not only does it taste great, but it's acid stops bacteria growth and it's free of aluminium, or anything else you might not want your skin absorbing.
I couldn't get past 'sticky' though, plus I heard horror stories of people applying right after shaving and regretting that decision.
Going back to acid mantle, that's your toners job in the skin care routine. You see, cleansing removes the acid mantle, which is made up of amino acids and lactic acid, so your toner helps to re-acidify your face.
It's not sticky, it's gentle enough to be used on your face every single day, so should be gentle enough to use under your arms too. I even use it right after shaving with no issues.
And it comes in a convenient spray bottle that's super easy to use.
But does it work?
Yes! For 99% of my normal daily life it really does work - but as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy a bit of wrestling in a sweaty dojo and that definitely requires a bit more power than the toner provides.
This is when I switch to HD clear.
It comes in a convenient roller, but to be honest, it's so powerful, I pop the cap off pour half into a spare roller bottle and top both bottles up with fractionated coconut oil. It works like a dream and even stands up to a 90 minute sparring class in the heat of the summer.
With litsea, melaleuca, eucalyptus and geranium it smells amazing, but can sting a little if used directly after shaving neat; once I've diluted it with my coconut oil though, I don't have any problems.
So what do you think?
Are you brave enough to give natural deodorant a try?