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Natural and Homemade Deodorants

| 8/3/2011 10:33:35 AM

L.HoltIn the ongoing project of “greening” my home and habits, especially in relation to all those routine products like cleaners, make-up and toothpaste, I think it’s time to talk about one of the changes I made a while ago—switching out my deodorant. As the weather shows no sign of dropping below 90 degrees anytime soon and people may try to slather on extra layers of potentially damaging antiperspirants, this seems like a better time than, say, February, when I made the change myself.

Deodorant is one of those things that I am acutely conscious of in my day-to-day life. Or rather, I’m conscious of the lack of deodorant, much as I have difficulty going to sleep without brushing my teeth, or stepping out of the house without something to cover my shoulders (this last is a style and modesty consideration I developed and internalized in Japan). Times when I forget or willfully ignore one of these things are peppered with tiny moments of distraction and irritability, especially if I have no way to easily rectify the situation.

My "obsession" is a habit I didn’t even think about until a few years ago, when a friend had a rather severe reaction to antiperspirants while at summer camp that left her unwilling (and possibly unable) to ever use such products again. But I’d never experienced anything remotely similar, so I just set that whole issue aside and continued blithely using antiperspirants until a few months ago, when I noticed some tenderness under my arms and my boyfriend suggested finding a product that was only deodorant, and not an aluminum-containing antiperspirant. He pointed out that aluminum wasn’t really something I needed to be absorbing into my skin (it's the primary substance that stops perspiration and can irritate skin), and that sweating is kind of something skin is designed for (sweating is the principle way for the body to cool itself and ward off dangerous reactions like heatstroke; regularly interfering with that process seems unhealthy). A week later, after rifling through the stock of local grocery stores and pharmacies, I found only one single product that was a deodorant and not an antiperspirant—Tom’s of Maine. Everything else had aluminum in it, or parabens (a carcinogenic), and likely both.

I know that there are other non-antiperspirant deodorants out there, but this truly is the only one I could readily find. It’s more expensive than a lot of other mainstream brands, but it keeps me from freaking out, seems to be generally kinder to my skin, neutralizes body odor and doesn’t have to be rigorously scrubbed off every time I shower like most other brands I’ve used. It took me a little while to get used to feeling sweat under my arms (never a lot, just some), but now I actually feel more comfortable than when I was using antiperspirants, possibly because my body can regulate internal temperature more easily. In my experience, the single $5 container lasts for several months. (In fact, I have yet to need to purchase another.) So I consider it a good investment. But if you’re interested in using something aluminum-free and unwilling to pay more for a stick of deodorant, you can’t find an aluminum-free brand in your area, or what you're using simply doesn't work well for you, there are some other things you can try. 

A scented deodorant powder can make a cute gift! Try this recipe.Photo by Lisa Clarke/Courtesy Flickr 

Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different, and some of these ideas may not work for you. Body odor can have many causes, including diet, weight and medication concerns. I’ve seen both dairy and meat mentioned as sources for diet-induced body odor, but it likely depends on your personal lifestyle and genetics. Also, with the exception of those options that contain corn starch, these solutions are not intended to stop sweating, only odor (and corn starch has only a mild effect). These are ideas I’m planning to experiment with whenever I do run out, too.

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