3 Natural Deodorant Pitfalls

Today I thought I’d talk about a few of the natural deodorant “pitfalls” (see what I did there?) I’ve picked up on since I started my crunchy, hippie, surprisingly NOT stinky natural skin care journey.
I’ve had some people express frustration with using the “natural” stuff. But there’s no need to feel pit-iful (hah! again!) because you CAN make natural deodorant work for you…if you keep a few things in mind!

Pitfall #1: using the store-bought “natural” stuff.

I’ve found that the store-bought “natural enzyme” and “aluminum-free” deodorants generally stink, both literally and figuratively. With their long ingredients lists, these crazy “enzymes” and their big promises, we assume these manufacturers (like Tom’s, for example) know something we don’t.
While they often use deodorizing essential oils like lavender, clove, or lemongrass, I’ve never had success with any of the fancy “natural” store-bought stuff (even Lavanilla doesn’t smell right after a few hours’ wear).
I’ve also found that many of the store-bought types are more expensive than the home-made stuff, so they’re not cost-effective either. (Update: there are some great Paleo/Primal brands creating natural deodorants that seem to grasp the proportions and materials that make a great natural deodorant, but none of ’em have long ingredients lists composed of enzymes and unpronounceables!)
Interestingly, the use of essential oils in store-bought deodorant doesn’t seem to compare to my homemade concoctions in which I’ve used my own preferred brand of essential oils (not available in store). It must be quality-related. The essential oils I’ve added to my homemade stuff have gone farther in eliminating odor for the long-haul AND soothing my skin than any of the strange, “natural” stuff at the store.
As a commenter pointed out below, some store-bought natural deodorants DO work, but the reason I discuss this is so nobody feels like natural deodorant WON’T work for them just because the store-bought types were a fail. If you find one you like, by all means – stick with it. 

Pitfall #2: smearing instead of dabbing.

The natural deodorants I recommend, whether home-made or purchased through online sources like Primal Life Organics, generally contain baking soda along with their deodorizing essential oils. Baking soda is MAJORLY effective in stopping odor, but some find it too irritating for their skin. Sometimes, a spritz of soothing preservative-free aloe juice (I like Lily of the Desert) before application does the trick.
More importantly, it’s often the application process that causes the problems.
Contrary to what Robin Williams told Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, men (and women) DON’T “smear.” At least, not when it comes to natural deodorant.
You DON’T need to glob, smear, or rub your natural deodorant all over your under-arms. I know I used to cover quite a bit of real estate with my natural stuff, thinking MORE was better. Elbow to earlobe, I covered myself in my baking soda-based natural deodorant. And I ended up with a bumpy, irritated mess.
All you REALLY need to do is dab. Dab your natural deodorant in that small, square-inch-sized area in the pit of your pit. You shouldn’t need much more, and this shouldn’t irritate your skin. If it does, just look to one of the sensitive formulas available, like the cooling pit stick from Primal Life Organics.

Pitfall #3: thinking it will make you stop sweating.

While we’re NOT supposed to walk around smelling like a skunk-bomb, we ARE supposed to sweat. Plugging up our sweat glands – which is what the aluminum in conventional anti-perspirants does – is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster. We’re supposed to sweat. It’s natural, and it happens for a reason. Let it be. (Or at least, let it be most of the time. Board meeting presentations and first dates are fair game.)
Bonus advice: Your diet CAN affect your body odor. When I stick to the Paleo/Primal stuff, take it easy on the sugar (hello, dried mango), moderate the booze (sorry, upcoming 30th birthday), and drink plenty of water, I have no body odor to speak of! When I slip, though, or get a little too dehydrated for a little too long, there are times when all the baking soda in the world can’t un-stink my pits. Keep the diet & lifestyle stuff in mind – it’s critical to making natural topical skin care work!
Thanks for reading!

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20 Responses

  1. I don’t necessarily think all store-bought are bad and that’s definitely the impression you give here. I’m sure Primal Pit Paste is great but it’s not financially viable for everyone and some people have zero interest in making their own or dealing w/ a non stick form. I use Stinkbug, it works (even through crossfit and/or an hour long run), has good clean ingredients and is affordable (and available at Whole Foods). So yeah, most of the “natural” store bought might not work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some that do.

  2. HI! I was glad to see this article. I have had such trouble switching to a natural deo. I do like the mineral salt stick but the one I had got crusty and wouldn’t stay in it’s holder. I tried all sorts of home made with baking soda and while it stopped the odor my pits became a red, sore, rashy mess. Not something I want to deal with. I’m using Tom’s now but not sure I love it. I liked your tips on how to make naturals work better for us. I’m a slather er so maybe I’ll try just dabbing.
    Thanks for the tips as this has been a hard journey for me. I’m ok with sweating as long as I don’t stink.

  3. I tried a baking soda/coconut oil paste for about two months… I wasn’t stinky at all but the sweat caused heat/moisture rashes that burned so bad I finally gave up and started using Toms. I’d like to try homemade again but there has to be a way to avoid the painful rashes… Any advice?

    1. Try what a few facebook folks have suggested, and try some pure lemon juice, spritzed on your pits! See if that does the trick. If not, I like the spray deodorants from BubbleandBee.com too!

  4. nice article! I have also found that I dont have the irritation issues as much if I dont crank down while shaving. If I lightly shave things are much better!

  5. I like to apply coconut oil under my arms after I shower at night. In the morning I apply deodorant over top of it. I’ve found that it helps my deodorant work better.

  6. I’ve tried dabbing before and I still get a rash! Super duper sad face.
    I’m using this Kiss My Face deodorant currently, and it’s just okay. I will have to try the Primal Pit Stick. I’ve even tried mixing a bit of baking soda with a bit of arrow powder. Sarah (from Real. Skincare) told me that she too has a baking soda sensitivity (I contacted her inquiring about her deodorant and baking soda sensitivities), and so she uses CO, arrowroot powder, and essential oils.
    I’m hoping that someday I find the holy grail of deodorants for my sensitive, stinkin’ pits.

    1. Be sure to let me know when you figure it out! Maybe a spritz of lemon juice mixed with aloe juice would do the trick? Maybe add a drop of lemongrass?
      Have you tried anything from Bubble and Bee? The spray deodorants can be customized if I remember correctly!

      1. Cool post. Informative and pun-y. I’ve never heard of the lemon juice solution. What about trying magnesium oil? It’s not really an oil. It’s magnesium dissolved in water that you use topically. Wellness Mama and Cheeseslave are where I read about it. They both have posts on it with tons of comments, which also have good tips. It works for me, and I know some people who haven’t been able to tolerate baking soda that it has worked for too.

  7. Have any of you tried the Thai crystal deodorant stones? Most sources seem to agree that it’s a safe, natural option, and I’ve found that it works pretty well.
    Also, I think bad body odor is often a sign of liver stress (which would explain why things like sugar and alcohol make it worse). Liz’s lemon-ginger tonic first thing in the morning is one of my go-to’s for supporting liver detox, and I’ve noticed it tends to reduce odor.

  8. I have been using the coconut oil/baking soda mix for about 6 months – I love it!! I don’t use it when I travel though because it melts too much.
    If you are having irritation problems try arrowroot powder in place of baking soda. Also I have read that just using coconut oil works too (I guess it has some antibacterial properties and the smell comes from bacteria).
    I did notice when I switched that it took about a week for my body to adjust.

  9. I have very sensitive skin and use a mineral salt stick alternating days with a smear of coconut oil (rubbing it in works best). If I apply one of these each day I never stink. If I miss a day then there is a mild odor if I’m active but it’s not offensive. Oh, and I’m menopausal and I sweat a lot.

  10. So glad I read this post. Just purchased some Primal Pit Paste for my 9 year old daughter. She’s getting to that stinky stage. She’s been using homemade deodorant, but lemonade scented it soooo much cooler. I’m starting her off chemical free now in hopes it stays with her for life.
    Mahalo for being such a wealth of knowledge.

  11. I apply just a little coconut oil to my pits after I shower and then apply a little bit of baking soda by lightly dabbing it on with a big makeup brush. It’s extremely cheap and I don’t have any sensitivities to it. I used to get pretty bad rashes in my pits and once I stopped applying directly after I shaved, that cleared it up. I’ve been using CO & BS for just over 2 years now and I’m stink free!

  12. Cool tips!!
    It’s a shame you haven’t found a store-bought natural deodorant that works for you.
    I use the Lavilin roll-on. I used their creams for years, but I prefer a lower maintenance product so I switched to the roll-on recently. If you’re looking to give another brand a shot, I’d highly recommend checking out Lavilin : http://www.lavilin.com

  13. I use native and love it. All other natural deodorants I tried left me a sticky mess or they smelled horrible. I use the coconut vanilla one. Had nothing but great results.

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