Deodorant is a tough subject. Many people I have spoken to have said that they want to use a natural deodorant, free from nasty chemicals, but that they just can’t find one that does the job adequately. And, let’s face it, nobody wants to compromise in this area.
The problem with regular deodorants is the they tend to contain things you don’t really want on your very absorbent skin (e.g. parabens, propylene glycol and articifical fragrances). Anti-perspirants are even worse. They work on the principle of disabling your sweat glands (as opposed to just covering up the odour), so less sweat actually reaches the surface. Usually this is achieved using aluminum zirconium compounds.
If you feel more comfortable having aluminum in your garage than on your skin, you are right. It has been associated with all sorts of nasty effects. And, in any case, disabling sweat, when we do actually sweat for a purpose, seems like a bad idea.
So let’s assume we can live with sweat….but do not want to become malodorous. What then?
Your natural deodorant team (that is me and my friend Laurie Thomson whom I have consulted at length on this topic) are right on it, though we acknowledge that deodorant is a very personal choice (try a small version first, if you can).
Laurie is a serial deodorant experimenter. She lives in Toronto and shops at the Big Carrot, which, fittingly, has a big selection.
Her hands-down favourite is Alba Botanica Clear Enzyme deodorant stick, in lavender. It also comes in tea tree and aloe unscented. She tells me (and I quote) “It keeps me dry all day, even those days when I’m particularly nervous about having to give a presentation and I inadvertently wear a shirt containing synthetic fibres.” Yes, this happens.
The Skin Deep database gives this deodorant a 1, which is excellent. Alba Botanica is part of a large eco products holding company that brings you brands such as Earth’s Best, Imagine and Jason. Alba is based in Colorado, but the packaging claims that the deodorant itself is made in Canada. Perhaps a new area of comparative advantage for our economy??
Laurie also recommends Honeybee Gardens deodorant powder. She applies this deodorant when she has finished a yoga class and is in too much of a hurry to shower. It is also good when you want to mop up a bit of that summer sweat. It is phenomenally absorbent and smells nice too. The EWG rating is 0.
The powder is made from baking soda, corn starch, arrowroot and essential oils. Nothing more. So simple, you could make it yourself. But why bother, since it only costs $6.99 for 4 oz, which seems to last forever. As an added bonus, a portion of sales goes to breast cancer research. The company is also unusual in that it ships to Canada from its Pennsylvania base at the same prices as to the US (and they do mini samples of their lipstick and eyeshadow colours for only 50c each: what a great idea).
As for me, for the last several years I have been using a deodorant that sells at our local farmers’ market, under the Morrison Manor mark. It is lovely and fresh-smelling and works for me (though I have to say that I do not sweat much). But this is not much of a recommendation unless you live in Ottawa. And I do regret the non-refillable roll-on containers.
More recently I have been using a crystal deodorant. I have always been deeply sceptical of these, but I was sent one by Green Virgin Products (a small Florida-based company that sells soap nuts and other non-toxic items…and ships to Canada). I thought I should try it since it is the off-season for the farmers’ market.
To my surprise, it has worked really well. I did a very strenuous 2.5 hour cross country ski yesterday and, really, my shirt was rosebud-fresh at the end of it. Perhaps I should also experiment with using this to combat foot odor, as one reviewer suggests on the informative Green Virgin website.
From an eco and also a cost-saving perspective these crystal deodorants are certainly the best bet as they appear to last forever (thereby limiting packaging, etc.). I have been using mine for 2 months and see no dent in it. And they are cheap to start with at $5.99.
I don’t like the application (wetting it, drips down my armpit and no fragrance boost to kick-start my morning), but that is the only bad thing I have to say about it right now (I AM AFRAID THAT THIS IS NO LONGER TRUE. SEE MY COMMENT BELOW: MOST CRYSTAL DEODORANTS ARE MADE FROM AN ALUMINIUM COMPOUND). Some crystal deodorants also come in roll-on or spray-on form, though that seems to be missing the point a bit.
Last word, though, to Laurie, the natural deodorant queen: she tells me that both she and her sister used crystal deodorant in the past and that they worked well for a while but that after about 6 months they ceased to do so.
I guess I’ll be back to you in 6 months.