If you’re noticing a stronger stench in your pits and are fed up with ineffective all-natural deodorants, you’re not alone. Antiperspirants help to block sweat and are more effective in controlling stink, but they’re not recommended for nursing mothers. Antiperspirants have harsh chemical and endocrine (hormone) disruptors that can potentially be absorbed into the milk and baby’s skin. Many mothers choose to use an all-natural deodorant to lower exposure risks but are frustrated by the results.
Natural deodorants work by either masking the B.O. with a nicer scent and/or eliminating bacteria that causes sweat to stink. The science of stink isn’t so straightforward that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution. When looking for a deodorant, you’ll want to watch out for these toxic ingredients (similar to the watch list for lubes):
Aluminum salts help prevent sweating by blocking the glands. Sweating is a natural process necessary for temperature regulation and flushing out toxins. Some studies have also detected aluminum in breast tissue of patients with cancer, although that could be correlation, not causation.
In its natural form, talcum powder contains asbestos. That’s not to say the form in your deodorant is carcinogenic, but there are many studies starting to explore a potential relationship between talc powder and cancer.
Parabens are preservatives used to prevent mold, bacteria, and yeast from growing on deodorants. They also mimic estrogen in the body and interfere with hormone production. They’ve been associated with fertility problems, reproductive organ issues and a potential increased risk of certain cancers.
Propylene has a bad reputation for its use in antifreeze. The EPA’s safety disclosure instructions for handling also require gloves. It’s considered a neurotoxin and is known to cause dermatitis and liver/kidney damage.
Used to reduce bacterial contamination, triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor and a suspected carcinogen. In 2017, the FDA banned the over-the-counter sale of antiseptic products containing triclosan. It’s lipophilic, meaning it sticks around in body fat. It’s also been detected in human breast milk, blood, and urine samples.
Phthalates act as a fixative or solvent in children’s toys, fragrances, deodorants and lotions. They’ve been linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, autism, reproductive issues, male fertility issues and more.
Parfum or Fragrance
Scents are protected under trade law so it’s impossible to know if the ingredients that go into fragrance or perfume are safe.
The Five All-Natural Deo's We Love
Milk of Magnesia
Although not typically used as a deodorant in America, it’s been used as a deodorizer around the world for decades. It’s considered safe for internal consumption as a laxative during pregnancy and postpartum, so there’s no medical reason it’s not safe for use on your pits.
Milk of Magnesia (MoM) works in a couple of ways. Since it has antimicrobial properties, it can help lower levels of odor-causing bacteria on the skin. It also draws water (sweat) from the skin when applied (this is how it works as a laxative).
If you’re going to use MoM, check the ingredients. You’ll want to buy a variety that’s just magnesium hydroxide and water. You can also buy it in powder form and mix it with water. To apply, we recommend putting a small amount on a cotton ball and spreading it around the armpit.
If you’re not into putting a laxative on your pits (we get it), here’s a more polished magnesium-based deo that will do the trick:
Activated charcoal is carbon that has been processed to become porous. It works like a sponge, drawing in moisture and bacteria. It has natural anti-bacterial properties and has been shown to reduce body odor. Here’s two brands we like:
LUME’s deodorants use mandelic acid, which acts as an antibacterial agent that kills odor-generating bacteria without irritating the skin. LUME’s whole-body deodorant underwent clinical testing by Princeton Consumer Research and was shown to control odor for up to 72 hours!
What About Armpit Masks?
Armpit masks are trending and making a lot of promising claims. The biggest is that they detox the sweat glands and pull out the antiperspirant ingredients. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that supports this. In fact, our bodies naturally shed antiperspirant ingredients in about 24 hours without any outside help.
What armpit masks can help with is balancing the armpit microbiome. Any product used on your skin will alter the bacteria levels and armpit masks may be helpful in bringing your skin’s pH back to a slightly acidic state. Some research shows that switching from antiperspirants may cause increased odor, but returning your skin to its baseline pH can help rein in bacterial growth.
If you’re switching to an all-natural deodorant and want to improve your armpit pH to control bacterial growth, the easiest mask is a mix of bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar (important for improving skin acidity). This bentonite clay has over 25K reviews! Now sure how to mix or apply it? Here’s a tutorial.