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Dear Backpackers, Please Stop Stinking. Here's Your Honest Review of Natural Deodorants.

by Tylea Richard Sep 1, 2015

How deodorant works

If you don’t know how traditional antiperspirants work, let me give you the low down: little pieces of aluminum plug up your armpit holes to stop you from sweating. It’s like a bunch of tiny, powder-fresh aluminum tampons for your funk holes.

Deodorant, on the other hand, doesn’t stop you from sweating but it makes your sweat smell like cucumber melon. Most stuff on the market is antiperspirant, but I use the two interchangeably (because I am lazy).

The problem

A lot of researchers say that the aluminum bits in antiperspirants get absorbed into the skin and can lead to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. The feds say there isn’t any evidence to back this up. But who has the time to wait for those jokers to figure it out? They used to let pregnant women smoke and kids drink soda with cocaine in it. There are also a bunch of other chemicals lurking in regular deodorant that threaten to turn your future children into mutants and so forth. All things being equal, I’d rather take my chances with the natural products, thankyouverymuch.

The dilemma

Ok, so switching deodorants shouldn’t be a huge deal right? Well, as far as I can tell the majority of natural deodorants on the market are not meant for people who actually have body odor. I’m a real stinker and these dainty little natural deodorants made from the essence of four leaf clovers and shooting star dust just don’t cut it. Finding something that actually keeps me from smelling like a heap of hot garbage has been a real challenge.

The test

I decided to buy the best natural deodorants I could find and use them each for a week. I had tried enough wimpy deodorants before that I didn’t even bother with the usual suspects at Whole Foods. And I immediately ruled out anything that sounded too lightweight or fruity (e.g., “organic lavender lemonade deodorizing mist” — give me a break, this is my body not a Taylor Swift video). The winners and losers are below! Please add your suggestions in the comments section.

The results

Green Tidings All Natural Deodorant

When I got this deodorant in the mail, I imagined it was made at a cooperative in Vermont by women in flowing skirts and dudes with long beards. The obvious disregard for package design made me feel like they weren’t some unscrupulous advertising guys in zoot suits filling up their Manhattan office with cigar smoke thinking of ways to cheat me. They probably have a really generous paternity leave and a company CSA, I thought. Seemed like a great way to kick off this research!

Unfortunately though, it did not pass the crowded subway at 6pm test and definitely didn’t pass the dancing on a Saturday night test. I had to rush to the bathroom and fish out my travel size canister of Secret before I became the laughing stock of Latin Night. Not so jajajajaja, tbh. (Also it turns out that this company is owned by a mom in Orange County, California. So there’s that.)

Not recommended

Love by Herban Cowboy For Her

This joint smelled husky as a motherfucka. I don’t believe in gendered deodorant; “powder fresh” for women and “pine forest” for men is some sexist bullshit. Guys spend about as much time chopping wood as I do, they’re not fooling anyone. But to be honest, I was looking for something that smelled a bit more….delicate? It’s overpowering and not in a great way. It’s also surprisingly juicy although it dries pretty quickly.

I thought this deodorant worked okay, but by the end of the day I found myself sniffing my pits every half an hour and asking my boyfriend, “Do I smell bad or not? I can’t tell.” If you have to ask that question repeatedly the answer is yes, you stink, please go take a shower. I didn’t make it through the week with this one.

Also, one of the ingredients is potassium alum. Does that mean it smells bad, doesn’t really work and has aluminum in it? I want my money back!

Not recommended

Lavilin Underarm Deodorant Cream

Not only was this deodorant aluminum-free, but it boasted seven straight days of protection. DAYS, people. I thought I had finally found the solution to all my life’s problems – being smelly and forgetful is a really bad combination (apparently not much has changed since middle school homeroom when I’d suddenly realize that I had forgotten to put on deodorant again).

But despite my enthusiasm things went south really quickly. My boyfriend leaned in to give me a hug and reported, almost cheerily, “that deodorant isn’t working AT ALL!”

There is something about this deodorant and my body that do not mix a’tall. I smelled worse than I did when I just skipped deodorant all together (and that is saying a whole lot, believe me). I was so frustrated I actually threw this space-age looking canister against the wall. That part felt great.

Not recommended

Real Purity Roll-On Deodorant

This deodorant smelled like my dad in the 80s. Not in a bad way, exactly. More like in the way that a grown woman remembers being a little girl who worshipped her dad and gave him hugs when he came home from work, burying her face in his chest, and then is transported to that moment every time she applies stink-repellant to her armpits. It’s a strange sensation.

Real Purity kept me dry and smelling decently for some long trail runs in July heat. I just really didn’t like the smell to start with, so this one just didn’t make the cut. The real question you should be asking yourself is what the hell I was doing running through the woods in July.

Not recommended

Alvera Aloe & Almonds Roll-On Deodorant

This deodorant smells like clean! It’s nothing fancy or extravagant, just smells like a soapy shower. Even my boyfriend, who around this time had turned into my ex-boyfriend, said I smelled nice when I went to pick up the rest of my things from his apartment and we did one of those awkward goodbye hugs.

It seemed to stand up to all of my tests. It maybe doesn’t have alllll the staying power of a drugstore deodorant, so if you are heading out for a long night of dancing after a full day of work you might have to reapply. But my social life wasn’t really popping around this time, so I’m not sure (see above re: breakup).


Update: This deodorant uses an ingredient called “alcloxa” which is supposedly an aluminum salt. I’m not a chemist, so I really have no idea. Will do some more research on this and get back to you!


This deodorant smells like absolutely nothing in the best way possible. It’s totally unscented and only has two ingredients: water and magnesium hydroxide (I have no idea what this is, but supposedly it’s a “mineral safe to eat”). And the packaging is also so charmingly bland that I kind of love it.

I ran, I biked, I danced, I took the train, I went camping and stayed fresh the whole time. I got no comments out of my ex when I ended up at his house on a hot August day (I am so weak) because it literally smells like nothing. Just your skin. It won’t cover up already existent funk, though, so put it on when you’re fresh. And don’t judge me for trying.

Around this time, however, I started noticing some weird bumps. They weren’t the standard red bumps you get after shaving, they were more like small, fleshy stalagmites hanging from my armpits. They would appear for a couple days then go away. They didn’t hurt or anything, but they looked weird and I freaked myself out about it a couple times. I can’t say for sure if they were caused by this deodorant or if it was just an accumulation of all the different alternative hippie compounds I had been slathering on over the proceeding weeks. I’ll keep you posted…

In the meantime, I will Recommend this one. But can you let me know if you get weird bumps too? I’m curious.

Crystal Body Deodorant Stick

Absofuckinglutely not. This was the epitome of hippie funk. I started to smell bad about midway through the day, slightly and subtly. But by the time I was headed home from work, things had gone from bad to worse. I decided to flail around the train with my arms pinned to my sides while being elbowed violently by commuters instead of grabbing hold of the metal pole and creating any airflow to my stench. I just refused to be the girl that this deodorant wanted me to be.

I know a lot of people who swear by these crystal deodorants, but I just don’t understand who they are and is it just rainbows that come out of their sweat glands????

Not recommended

Truly’s Natural Deodorant

You could take all of the ingredients from this deodorant and bake them into cupcakes (coconut oil, sugar, baking soda, and ok, maybe not the beeswax but you get the idea). And coconut cake is exactly what it smells like: delicious and tropical and kinda weird for a deodorant. I wasn’t complaining, though, coconut oil is my religion.

Unfortunately, this deodorant didn’t last very long into a sweaty, dance-filled August wedding (which I went to by myself, obviously; going to a wedding with your ex is so tacky). I was extremely self-conscious during the Cha Cha Slide, which is supposed to be my moment of wedding reception glory, and had to rush off to the bathroom to clean my pits with a Shout stain remover wipe (it was the only thing in the bathroom). It was a low moment, friends.

Not recommended

Lafes Roll On Deodorant

Most of the other deodorants I tried in this review aren’t available in stores, and that’s pretty annoying. So I figured I would grab this one off the shelf at Whole Foods and give it a whirl. I am a sucker for all things vaguely Scandanavian, since they have a pretty good track record (Legos, Abba, the meatballs at Ikea).

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it through the week with this one either. By the time I started to feel the funk coming on about 2/3 of the way through my day, I was so beaten down by this deodorant experiment that I caved and went back to the Alvera right away.

Not recommended

Some other things I learned about body odor

Everybody’s body chemistry is different: so there isn’t one solution that is going to work for everyone. Be patient because it takes some trial and error to find what works best for you. If you want me to send you any of the barely used fancy ass deodorants mentioned above, just let me know. It’s not gross if we don’t tell anyone.

A detox is recommended: between when you stop using aluminum-based deodorants and start using natural ones. I didn’t have time to just sit around stinking for a couple weeks, so I didn’t do this but it’s probably a good idea. I did notice that I smelled the worst right after I quit traditional deodorants. It seemed to take my body some time to adjust to life post-aluminum.

Garbage in, garbage out: Supposedly people who have plant-based diets or eat super healthy don’t smell as bad as the rest of us. Maybe this is just another argument vegans use to make us feel bad about ourselves, but it very well may be true.

20% of people don’t even need deodorant! You either have the stinky gene or you don’t. And apparently some people don’t ever realize it because they apply deodorant obediently every morning and never notice. If you’re one of those people, for the love of Tina Knowles, please stop using toxic products if you don’t even have to!

Your body odor is natural, embrace it: Said nobody employable, ever. Ok ok I mean, yes, you should love your body and get used to all of it’s natural smells and rhythms. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. But I refuse to believe that even ancient people used to walk around the forest just stanking. Native people in Peru were performing brain surgery more than 1,000 years ago for godsake – there is no way they had totally unchecked body odor. Maybe they weren’t as obsessed or self conscious about their pits as we are, but some women were probably hustling leaves or oils or soaps at the market to keep the village smelling fresh. So be natural and do what makes you happy, but it’s okay if you don’t want to be that natural.

Finally, I would like to say thank you and sorry to all of my loved ones who endured some very smelly time with me over the last several weeks. You can start inviting me to stuff again, ok?

This article originally appeared on the blog Thundress and is republished here with permission.

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