Photo: milkos via 123RF

Your wellness journey likely includes heavy-hitting workouts, and a good deodorant is vital to feeling confident after every session. Mainstream products can contain harmful ingredients that may block some of your body’s natural processes and potentially cause health problems. If you’re ready to switch to a more natural product but are afraid that you’ll be trading better ingredients for a worse stench, read on. We’ve gathered everything you need to know about choosing a natural deodorant that’s better for you and more effective.

Sweat and Body Chemistry 101

When you sweat, the millions of bacteria that live in places like your underarms interact with the fats and proteins that your body is releasing—and those bacteria release smells that are often unpleasant. A deodorant/antiperspirant aims to block or kill those bacteria and their smelly chemical reactions. Most mainstream deodorants work by blocking sweat in various ways. Aluminum is used as a physical barrier against the glands that produce sweat, while chemicals such as sodium chloride or triclosan can make your underarms uninhabitable for bacteria.

Transition takes time

If you’re just looking to stop the smelly part of sweating, a deodorant does the trick – if you’d like to block the actual sweat, an antiperspirant is needed. Fortunately, you can achieve both goals by using a natural deodorant free from too many chemical compounds. One of the most important things to note is that transitioning from a mainstream product to a natural one will take time – generally two to six weeks. Your body has adapted to the chemicals in your current products, so the first few weeks without them may not be pleasant. Over time, you’ll see your body’s true reaction to the new, natural products. It’s also important to remember that everyone’s body chemistry and hormones are different – what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment until you find something that’s right for you!

Aluminum-free … and baking soda-free?

Aluminum is found in almost every mainstream antiperspirant because it blocks sweat effectively. The problem is that it artificially changes how your body responds to sweat production, and some studies show it might be linked to several long-term adverse health events. Buying a natural deodorant should, first and foremost, mean finding something aluminum-free. Baking soda is often used in natural deodorants as an adequate odor and sweat blocker. Still, about 1 in 10 people have sensitive skin that can react to baking soda – if you find yourself in this category, look for a baking-soda-free option like Kopari.

Photo: James Rodrigues via 123RF

Aim for 100% natural ingredients

Ultimately, your goal is probably to find a 100% natural deodorant. Some products certify that they don’t contain synthetic ingredients. For many natural options, though, one or two ingredients may be synthetic but haven’t been linked to any long-term health risks. Parabens, phthalates, and “fragrance” are big ingredients to avoid. If you find an ingredient on the list you’re unsure about, reach out to the company and ask!

Active skin-soothing ingredients

While odor-blocking is the primary goal of any deodorant, having additional ingredients that help moisturize and soothe your skin is always a plus. Deodorants that use hydrating ingredients are also more likely to glide on smoothly and not stick to your clothing. Native products use shea butter to moisturize your skin while also providing antioxidants and vitamins, while Beautycounter’s deodorant uses beeswax to help hydrate skin.

Antiperspirant…or not?

Most of us assume we need something to block the sweat, not just decrease odors. After switching to natural products for several weeks, however, you might learn that you don’t sweat as much as you thought – even during a hard workout! If you realize you’d like some sweat-blocking properties, Arm & Hammer’s Essentials deodorant does the best job. It contains one synthetic ingredient, but it’s aluminum/paraben/colorant/animal-ingredient free.

“Bonus” features

In addition to the must-have qualities discussed above, many companies that make natural deodorants also embrace wellness goals that might match your philosophy. If vegan, cruelty-free, and/or planet-friendly packaging is important, seek a brand that provides good natural coverage without compromising these values. Each and Every products check all of these boxes and come in a variety of fragrances, including unscented. Meow Meow Tweet offers a “classic” option and baking soda-free creams (these come in refillable jars rather than the usual stick!). Lume offers OB/GYN-developed creams that can block odor anywhere on your body (and we mean anywhere!) —so if you’ve always wanted a versatile deodorant, this is for you!

If you’re ready to switch to a natural deodorant, order a few sample packs, head to the gym, and put them to the test!