Once a concern we used to all tip-toe around, odour control has evolved into the powerhouse of personal care that is helping push the clean beauty bandwagon. But in between the rumours about the potential harm of aluminum are the conflicting reviews of natural deodorants made by ingredient savvy consumers, which has this editor asking: Do natural deodorants actually work and do I need to start using them?
Known for being completely transparent with how their deodorants work, I reached out to clean beauty authority Kaia Naturals to get some answers.
“Here’s the issue: the reason why people don’t think that they work is because they’ve been using antiperspirants for years. When you suddenly stop using antiperspirants and move to a natural deodorant your body does go through some changes,” says Kaia Naturals founder Mary Futher. “You have to give your body time to adjust. It’s not the deodorant.”
To better understand it all, Futher walked me through everything I needed to know about natural deodorants before making the switch.
What’s the difference between antiperspirants and deodorants?
“When I give little talks, most people in the room don’t understand the difference between antiperspirant and deodorants — they’re two very different products,” she explained. “Antiperspirants stop you from sweating, while deodorants allow you to sweat but to stop you from smelling.”
Oh, I always thought they were the same thing. How do they work?
“Your sweat is actually odourless. But when sweat sits on your underarms, an enclosed area, the moisture forms bacteria which causes the odour. Deodorants aren’t designed to stop you from sweating, they’re designed to help you control the odour. Antiperspirant contains the ingredient of concern, aluminum chloride. How it works is aluminum forms a gel-like substance and plugs your sweat ducts to stop you from sweating. So, when you don’t sweat, you’re not wet and prevent bacteria from forming.”
Honestly, antiperspirants sound like the real deal, aside from the aluminum. How does it impact the body?
“The reason why [people] think that it's dangerous is because it goes into your body (it’s plugging your pores), it can travel through your bloodstream. Studies show to have seen it in other parts of your body like breast milk and breast tumours. I just don’t think it’s a very healthy process to plug your ducts,” she says. “Now people are using clinical strength [antiperspirants] and it just means that it’s higher doses of aluminum chloride, which is extra scary.”
So what would happen if I do make the switch from antiperspirants to a natural deodorant?
“Admittedly, all deodorants are not created equally, but for the most part, people don’t wait long enough to allow their body to transition from using antiperspirants to using deodorants. I always tell people that a good rule of thumb is 30 days,” says Futher.
According to the founder, once you ditch your conventional deodorant for natural deodorant, your body will go through a detox period where it produces more than its usual amount of bacteria.
“You’re probably going to get kind of smelly on week two when you start developing that bacteria. We’ve actually published that in that back of the carton of our deodorant to take people through that detox journey. I feel like it’s really good education that people know that. It subsides, it’s not going to last forever. You just gotta push through it.”
How do they work?
“The most common ingredient in a natural deodorant is baking soda. Baking soda is really effective, [hence] why you use it in your fridge to conquer odour. But it’s very alkaline, meaning it is quite abrasive on the skin. To cater to those with sensitive skin, we substituted baking soda for charcoal to eliminate odour. We also use probiotics to keep the odour away.”
Like all cosmetics, picking what’s best all depends on personal preference. If you’re simply aiming to mask odour then a natural deodorant is an effective and clean choice. But if you’re looking to beat the sweat, especially during these summer months, it’s perfectly fine to continue to rely on antiperspirants.
While the cancer-related whispers around aluminum continue to spread, one dermatologist insists antiperspirants are not as harmful as everyone claims it to be.
“No, [aluminum] does not cause cancer, particularly when used as an antiperspirant,” says Renée A. Beach of Bay Dermatology Centre and Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto. The amount absorbed in intact skin is around 0.01%, not enough to cause internal or organ damage.”
However, after speaking with Futher, I think natural deodorants are totally up my alley. Because I get super sweaty during the summer, I don’t think I’m going to make the switch from antiperspirants to deodorants just yet (for the sake of my comfort and everyone else’s). But until the weather cools down, here are the aluminum-free deodorants that are on my radar.
Shop it: $22, Well.ca
Shop it: $14, Sephora
Shop it: $9, Well.ca
Shop it: $6, Walmart
Shop it: $6, Shoppers Drug Mart
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