My Transition to Natural Deodorant

As I slowly ease back in to working out (per my physical therapists guidelines) I wanted to take a moment to answer a few questions about a topic that has received a lot of interest lately. Natural deodorant.

As the weather starts to get warmer, and we take our workouts outside, smelling (or not smelling in this case) during a workout or on a hot day is something we start to think about more frequently. So, today I am sharing my journey to staying fresh and smelling presentable plus details about making the switch to natural deodorant.

The basics:

Stopping the stink before it starts.

Some of you (who have been following me since my early running days) may recall my struggle in the deodorant/underarm odor area. I must have tried eight different deodorants/anti-perspirants/crystals etc during my first marathon training. It was a futile attempt to find a product that kept me smelling at least a little less off-putting after a long run (or after a stressful day at work).

I tried deodorants and anti-perspirants with varying aluminum content, talc, baking soda, triclosan, witch hazel, and even some natural crystal and homemade paste options.

Without fail, sometimes even on a non-workout day, I was left with embarrassing stink and excessive wetness! Underarm sweat spots anyone? So embarrassing! 

The cliffs notes version (back then) was that I settled on using a Men’s anti-perspirant. I know there are articles and studies about women’s under-arm products being stronger, better, etc but they simply didn’t work well for me.

After using this stronger anti-perspirant for a while, I began to get concerned about the high amount of aluminum (not to mention other chemicals) I was slathering on my underarms each day. I also felt there was always a ‘film’ on my underarms that I couldn’t wash or scrub hard enough to make it fully go away. It was a little worrisome. 

I started to do a little digging online. I found an an increasing amount of research studies that correlate anti-perspirant ingredients (particularly high aluminum levels) with increased risk for certain types of disease or cancer. Adding to that, was my worry that freshly shaved underarms would provide a near-direct conduit for absorption of the anti-perspirant ingredients into my blood and lymphatic systems.

I tried really hard to make the switch to only deodorant. Deodorants aren’t designed to prevent wetness but instead to mask odor or ‘de-odorize’ as the name implies. I found that deodorant based products were often very overwhelmingly perfume-y or were so heavily scented they smelled like potpourri.

You can imagine that once a workout got underway and I began sweating, I smelled like sweaty dead flowers. So the deodorants were a no-go.

I decided it was time to try something else, and as I was running out of available options, I hopped on the natural deodorant train.

Making the Switch:

Now a little forewarning about switching to natural deodorant. There are quite a few articles about the ‘purging and detoxifying’ that your underarms go through once you stop using certain chemicals, particularly aluminum.

Let me tell you, the armpit detox it is a real thing!

You will be sweaty and not so fresh smelling when you first make the switch. As your underarms start working hard to release all those chemicals and open the pores clogged by layer after layer of aluminum components (about 2 to 3 weeks in) you can expect an increase in stink.

I know what you are saying, “Wait, you stink more at first?” Technically, Yes. The bacteria levels initially increase in your underarm area. You also start sweating more, both to flush out toxins and because you are no longer using a product that is designed prevent wetness under your arms.

This is only temporary I assure you! 

Stick with it:

It can take about a month for your body to fully release those clogged pores and recover from the aluminum and other ingredients found in most anti-perspirants. If you’ve been using anti-perspirants since you first went though puberty, it may even take a little longer.

The how and why it takes so long:

The aluminum and other chemicals essentially form a gel-like plug in your underarms, preventing sweat and wetness. As such, when you stop using anti-perspirant, your underarms still need to flush-out and clear those clogged pores. It takes time to get rid of the residual gunk clogging them up.

Think of the length of time you have been using anti-perspirants and then how long it would take to release all that accumulated stuff in your underarm pores.

The one month mark:

Thankfully, after around 30 days, your pores are mostly back to normal. Your natural underarm bacteria begins to rebalance itself and stop over-colonizing. Your moisture levels and amount of sweat released, begins to subside as well. It may still take some time to get used to the feeling of sweat/wetness under your arms.

Speeding up the detox:

There is no magic wand to make this process faster, but there are a few things that can help.

Be sure you are using an antibacterial soap in the shower. Gently scrub those underarms to get rid of the overactive bacteria. Remember that bacteria itself doesn’t necessarily cause you to smell, but when mixed with moisture (i.e. sweat) thats when you get a smell or odor.

Take a hot bath to help open the pores in the underarm area. You want to encourage sweating in the tub to help flush out those clogged pores and release the gel plugs and toxins. Be sure to stay hydrated and drink lots of water during the underarm detox.

Consider wearing natural fibers and fabrics to help absorb the excess sweat. Think of cotton, linen, or bamboo fabrics as your best bet. Plus these fabrics don’t tend to show much sweat, as compared to polyester or other types of synthetic materials.

If the wetness truly bothers you, consider applying a cornstarch or other starch powder over your natural deodorant to help absorb moisture. You will get the benefit of a natural deodorant with the added wetness reduction of the starch.

You may also want to carry a small deodorant with you for touchups throughout the day. I know that having a tiny deodorant in my purse made me feel less self-conscious about this process. Any time I was worried I might be stinky, I could just ‘freshen-up’ in a snap.

There are also charcoal soaps, charcoal deodorants, and even a few clay paste choices that are purported to help ‘hasten’ the underarm detox process. I am not sure how effective these products are at speeding things up, but they do exist and I am sure the product reviews can give you more insight in how effective they really are. I didn’t use any of the charcoal or clay products, and I still had great results, so use them at your own discretion.

So after all that detox and ‘purging of the pits’, I am happy to say I am fully converted to using natural deodorant. I am very happy I finally made the choice, and I feel good every morning I apply natural deodorant. It’s nice to know I am doing something simple, but beneficial, for my health every single day! 

If you are looking for somewhere to start, or a good natural deodorant to try,  here are my top two choices for natural deodorant. I use both of these brands and I alternate between them fairly frequently.

Ursa Major is a great brand! Their ‘Hoppin Fresh’ deodorant keeps me smelling wonderful no matter what. I have used this deodorant for a full 12+ hour shift at the hospital, and it kept up with me in high stress and high pressure situations. It also left me smelling great after the bike ride back home, which in Boston traffic can be pretty harrowing some days. You can also purchase directly from their website HERE

Kopari is another brand I love. It’s also made with all natural ingredients. It keeps me stink free through my long runs, and I am no longer self conscious about my smell afterwards. Finish line hugs anyone?

I hope you decide to give your underarms an upgrade, and try out natural deodorant. I know your body and your health will thank you for it!

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