Natural Deodorant: Making the Switch

In the last blog, I reviewed Lavanila’s natural deodorant, and how it’s an overall good product. This week, I’m going to give you some hints if you want to switch to a gentler, less-processed brand of deodorant. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but if it’s a move you want to make, I’m here to ease the transition. Like I said a couple weeks ago, you’ll still get good results once you’ve adjusted to it.

If you’ve never switched from big-box to natural deodorant before, here are some things you should know before you make the leap.

  1. There’s an adjustment period for your body. Big-box deodorant has a bigger effect on your skin than you’d think – your body gets used to you using it all the time, so when you first stop using it, you’ll probably feel a tiny bit sweaty and/or smelly for a week or two while your skin adjusts to not being coated with metallic powder (Wikipedia says there’s no link between deodorant and health problems, as does the FDA, so going natural is an entirely aesthetic decision, but yeah, metallic powder). The excessive sweating calms down after that time, because your body has adjusted to life without the chemical stuff. You might just need to wash more often during that adjustment time.
  2. There’s an adjustment period for your mind too. The thing about chemical deodorant is that it makes your sweat smell like whatever insane fragrance they’re running that production cycle, so you kind of forget how humans are supposed to smell. When you start smelling like a human again, i.e. no longer sweating perfume, it’s a little unnerving. For a bit there, I couldn’t shake the idea that I smelled and everyone knew it. In Western society, that’s a pretty big problem. But I ran it by some close friends (because what are friends for?), and my mom has never been one to mince words if I smelled weird because her nose is as sensitive as mine, and it turns out it was all in my head. No, I didn’t smell like Coconut Moonbeam, but I didn’t ‘stink’ either. What a relief.
  3. You can’t reapply. You know the drill: you didn’t shower last night, you need to get out the door, so you put on another layer of deodorant and some body spray and it’s fine until you can shower after work, right? Not so with the natural stuff. It doesn’t have as many, or the same kind of, preservatives as the chemical stuff, so it soaks into your skin and wears off by the end of the day. If you’re an every-other-day shower-er, you might find yourself needing to just wash your pits with a washrag on your off days, so that you can reapply the deodorant to freshly-cleaned skin. It doesn’t fail to work entirely if you skip this step, but it definitely doesn’t work as well as if you’d washed up.
  4. There are two kinds of sweat. I knew this academically from a couple of Anatomy and Physiology classes I took in college, but it was a different story when I smelled the effects on myself, and it was a little surprising at first. Regular, daily sweat that’s there to regulate your body temperature doesn’t really smell all that much – natural deodorant handles this kind of sweat easily, even if it’s from working out. But then there’s stress sweat. Yikes. Stress sweat has some other chemicals in it, because  you’re sweating due to a different biological process that I won’t bore you with, so if you nearly get rear-ended, or your boss starts yelling at you, you might just start sweating in such a way that your deodorant can’t keep up. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s entirely possible that you’re the only one who can tell, but it is surprising when it first happens, because again, you’re no longer sweating Coconut Moonbeam, you’re sweating regular sweat like humans do, so you kind of become more aware of what’s going on in your body. For me, that’s a good thing, but it might not be for you. It’s good to be informed.
  5. Oh yeah – you start sweating again. It’s damnear impossible to find a mainstream brand of deodorant in America that isn’t also an antiperspirant. For the record, deodorant = not smelly, antiperspirant = not sweating. That metallic powder I mentioned earlier actually clogs up your sweat glands, which is what keeps you from sweating. It’s one of the reasons I switched – personally, I think we’re supposed to sweat. Natural deodorant doesn’t have that antiperspirant factor at all, so you have to get used to sweating again, just not smelling rank when you do it. Like I said, the extra sweating calms down after a bit, but if it’s hot out, you’re just going to sweat. The upside of this, however, is that while the big-box deodorant can sometimes cake onto your shirt when you sweat and be hard to wash out or stain your clothes, the natural stuff doesn’t do that. My clothes get cleaner and last longer if I’m just sweating normal human-sweat and not ‘sweat mixed with god-knows-what and Coconut Moonbeam fragrance.’
  6. It helps if you shave. Look, I’m not against armpit hair on anyone of any gender. It’s hair, and it’s on you, so I don’t care. But this isn’t an aesthetic thing – natural deodorant actually works better if it’s applied to hairless skin. It gets to soak into your skin better without hair getting in the way. Since it’s a gentler product, you kinda have to give it a leg-up by making sure it has the best chance to come into contact with your actual skin, which is the part that’s sweating. Also, more hair = more body odor. Why fight an uphill battle?

Hopefully this will arm you (see what I did there?) with some knowledge before you up your natural-skincare game. You may need to try a few brands before you find one that works, but once you do, I hope you enjoy the results. Happy hunting!

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