Non-toxic deodorant is often the last things people are willing to make the switch to. I’ll be the first to admit, I was extremely reluctant to toss my favorite deodorant to experiment with something less toxic. No one wants to look sweaty, smell foul, or rock a pit stain.
If you’re using conventional deodorants, it’s a good chance your antiperspirant could be interfering with your body’s natural rhythm of remove toxins and cleansing itself. But if you’re willing to make the switch to an au naturale deo, quarantine is the perfect time to do so. Here’s how to detox your armpits and switch to all-natural deodorant.
Understanding why we sweat and smell
Sweating is a natural, necessary process of cooling and detoxifying your body. It’s truly something we need to embrace, and it’s one of the most vital features of your body’s biggest organ: your skin.
The human body has anywhere between two to four million sweat glands. The vast majority of them are “eccrine” sweat glands, which are found mostly on the soles of the feet, palms, face, and also in the armpits. These glands secrete a clear, odorless fluid (sweat) that helps control body temperature by promoting heat loss through evaporation. Your body also releases different proteins, ammonia, urea and sodium in eccrine sweat to keep your body’s balance in check.
“Apocrine” sweat glands, on the other hand, are found in the armpit and genital regions. The sweat these glands produce is “thick” compared to eccrine gland sweat, and it produces body odor when the sweat comes in contact with bacteria on the skin’s surface. Depending on the food you eat and what deodorant you’re using, your body odor can be different depending on what you put in and on your body that day.
This specific sweat also contains pheromone-like compounds which attracts the opposite sex (this is found in all mammals.) Apocrine glands are triggered by adrenaline and increase in size during times of stress, sexual stimulation, pain, anxiety, and fright.
Do we actually detox when we sweat?
I can’t say sweating from your pits is enjoyable – no one likes a pit stain. But knowing your sweat is releasing potentially toxic chemicals makes it that much more bearable.
- Sweating clears your skin pores of bacteria and build-up that may be clogging your pores from overuse of antiperspirants. Glycoproteins in sweat bind to microbes (microbial adhesion) and help wash them off of the skin.
- Sweating helps remove toxic chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and bisphenol A (BPA), that are commonly found in plastics and other common products. These chemicals are known to have negative, long-term physical and cognitive effects.
- Sweating removing heavy metals from your body in high concentrations. Heavy metals, such as Aluminum, are often found in most conventional antiperspirants.
The bottom line: As we’ve mentioned before, we’re in an era where our body’s toxic burdens are at an all-time high. And sweating is a natural, crucial, beneficial bodily process that aids in our body’s natural detox process. That being said, why would we want to inhibit this necessary process and clog it with more chemicals?
The *no* list
Conventional antiperspirants and deodorants typically contain a concoction of chemicals that do more long-term harm than the temporary good. A few chemicals you should look out for include the following:
The main active ingredient in antiperspirants. Aluminum is what inhibits sweat- it’s ions cause the sweat ducts to swell up and shut. The sweat and toxins your body wants to release are now trapped in your armpits.
“Fragrance” is a generic term that could potentially be anything. In majority of cases, fragrance is a cocktail of chemicals blended together to create a specific smell. Synthetic fragrances have been linked to hormone disruption and other negative health effects – so err on the caution when you see fragrance in anything.
Phthalates are a known reproductive toxicant, linked to birth defects and compromised fertility. They’ve been banned in the EU since 2005, although they’re still found in countless products throughout the States.
Parabens are a known preservatives in many commercial personal care products. Parabens are *always* on the no list is because they contain properties that mimic estrogen, which can quickly throw off your body’s hormonal balance.
Triclosan is an antimicrobial that kills bacteria and fungus. It’s used in deodorant to kill the smelling bacteria, although we’re avoiding it because it’s classified as a pesticide by the FDA and labeled as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.
QUICK TIP: More and more companies are showing “NO XYZ” on their labels for marketing purposes. Instead of focusing on what’s NOT in the product, take a good look at the ingredient label to see what’s actually being used. Even if some of the “natural” brands in drugstores claim to be aluminum-free, many are still using other toxic chemicals. Do your research!
How to make the switch to natural deodorant
So we know why we smell, why sweating is good, and what chemicals to look out for. But how can I make the switch to natural deodorant? Will I smell? Here’s how to get started.
Step one: throw out your deodorant and never look back. Make the conscious decision to STICK WITH THIS DETOX and dedicate the time (could be two to three weeks) to “normalize.” Quarantine is the perfect time to make the switch! Your years of chemical-filled deodorant screws with your armpit’s bacteria + microbiome, so it will take some time for that bacteria to normalize. You will smell – but stick it out.
Step two: take a day or two off of deodorant. Or longer, if you can handle it. And sweat! Allow your armpits to “breathe.” Again, being quarantined at home is the perfect time to do this. Get your pits sweating to promote detox of the glands that are probably clogged. When you’re in the shower, scrub your armpits and dry them well once you get out. Bonus points if you dry brush your armpits in the mornings.
Step three: do a bentonite clay “pit mask”. This mask is great for temporarily reducing smell and helps balance your pit’s ph levels. Take a few tablespoons of bentonite clay and mix with some apple cider vinegar to create a paste. After you shower, rub the paste over your armpits and leave it on until dried. Gently rinse off and repeat weekly.
Step four: purchase a clean deodorant. There are tons of clean deodorants out on the market. A few clean brands I know and use regularly are Schmidt’s, Primally Pure and by Humankind. My boyfriend is a big fan of Hawthorne, too. I’d recommend trying out a few and seeing which ones work best for you!
Step five: use a detox night deodorant. I’m a big fan of Herbalix Restorative’s Nighttime Detox Deodorant. It’s a natural formula that helps purge aluminum that may be trapped in your armpits. I’ve noticed that I smell much better throughout the day when I use this at night.
Step six: stick to the plan and ride it out. You will sweat more, smell more, and probably lose faith. But don’t! Your body is in a period of adjustment and needs time to create it’s new normal. Over time you’ll notice less sweat, and you’ll get to a point where the deodorant actually starts working. Using the nighttime detox deodorant will help a ton.
Meet Liz, the founder of The Hive. When she’s not working on the site, you’ll find her either cooking some steak, taking a bike ride or playing with her pup, Ziggy.