Since puberty I’ve been a pretty smelly gal. Chalk it up to hormonal changes and (I later discovered) poor diet, but deodorant and I go way back. When the funk began, my mom tried to stave off my graduation to deodorant with a few home remedies. I recall swabbing my pits with apple cider vinegar, spraying them with rubbing alcohol and finally coating them with baking soda. None of these things did much. I just ended up being vaguely wet, powdery and smelling like crap. Thus began my affair with Teen Spirit and, not long after, Secret Ultra Dry.
In my early twenties, as I was trying to make better choices for my health, my deodorant came onto my radar. I had heard that the aluminium content in deodorant could cause cancer (though more recent studies are “inconclusive”…a word that makes me rather uncomfortable). I also was leery about slathering chemicals pretty much directly onto my lymph nodes. Oh, and most deodorants contain parabens, which are endocrine disruptors. And so my quest for a good natural deodorant began. It was a long, stinky road.
First I tried a Crystal Body Deodorant stick. It’s basically a giant stick of salt you rub on your armpits. It was about as effective as it sounds. I remember keeping my jacket on in class in hopes that it would hold back the stench-typhoon emanating from my body. Yuck.
Next up was Tom’s Natural Deodorant Stick, which worked slightly better than the pit-rock, but left me smelling like vague funk beneath a thin veil of pine and essential oils. It didn’t smell like me (which I guess was an improvement) but it also definitely didn’t smell good. Arm & Hammer Essentials had more or less the same effect. Oh, and it also turned my white shirt a sickening yellow. Needless to say, Secret and I were back together pretty quickly.
Since then I’ve taken breaks from Secret whenever I come across a new natural deodorant, hoping that I’ll find the one. But it just never happened. Until now.
In talking about natural alternatives to deodorant, my cousin tipped me off on what worked for her: a combination of coconut oil and baking soda. I thought that was pretty cool, but the thought of leaning over the sink trying to slather some baking soda-infused coconut oil onto my pits was less than desirable.
Soon after, Willow & Oak (my new, all-natural go-to skincare line) released Inspired Pits, a deodorant balm. Do I need to tell you that I was skeptical? But then I took a look at the first ingredient: cold-pressed coconut oil infused with tahitian vanilla beans. I flashed back to what my cousin had told me and figured this might be a less-messy way to give her suggestion a shot.
Inspired Pits smells warm, clean and a little spicy. Its consistency is slightly more buttery than chapstick. When I first opened the container, I kind of wanted to eat it. What’s cool is that if I did (I didn’t), nothing would happen. The ingredients are all natural in the truest sense (seriously: arrowroot, cardamom, manuka honey). But would it work?
I set the bar pretty low for trial number one. I was working from home and figured if I began to reek the only other person who would notice would be my husband. He’s amazingly body positive and chill about things, so I took the plunge. I actually forgot I wasn’t wearing my usual deodorant. There was no stink whatsoever. I was cautiously optimistic.
Round 2 was a bit more rigorous. I had a meeting in the morning, would be walking around in 90+ degree heat for about 45 minutes as part of my commute, and I had a Pilates class. But again, no funk to report!
Now for the ultimate test: 90+ degree day, a spin class and a sweaty coffee date with a friend. There have been times even faithful old Secret failed me in a spin class. I was already preparing my apology speech for stinking up the coffee shop. But, I did a quick sniff test in the bathroom after class and… Nothing! I got through my sweaty coffee date, preserved my friendship and walked the 20 minutes home in the heat with no stank to speak of.
It took me over a decade but I’m happy to report, I’ve finally made the switch. Here are three things to note before you break up with your deodorant:
1. Body odor is closely connected to diet
I do think cleaning up my diet is a major part of why I was able to successfully switch to natural deodorant this time around. When I’m eating lots of sugar, overdoing it on caffeine or eating nightshades (which my body is a bit sensitive to), I just smell worse. Take note of what makes you more sweaty and smelly. It may be your body’s way of saying enough of this.
2. Keep your pits fresh
I would be irresponsible to not mention hygiene, though I’m hoping this is an obvious one for most readers. In addition to regularly showering, occasionally exfoliating and even “detoxing” your pits can be super helpful. If you’ve been using traditional deodorants for years like I have, all those chemicals can build up. A clay mask on your pits, per Wellness Mama’s formula here, can help draw out some of the build-up and reduce the likelihood of any funky smells going forward.
3. If you’re chronically dehydrated you will smell worse
I can be awful at drinking water, especially during the work week. When I’m engrossed in something at my desk the day can escape me without even having one glass of water. Drinking more water is probably one of the most underrated changes you can make to your daily routine. It sounds so basic, but your body needs to stay hydrated. Water helps flush out toxins and keeps your insides clean, thus reducing the potential for body odor.
Are you ready to make the switch? Test out a natural deodorant in a low-risk situation first like I did. Try some of the suggestions to improve your body chemistry and reduce odors naturally. You may be pleasantly surprised.