It’s The Pits

My last real hold-out on personal products containing chemicals has been deodorant.  I’ve found great toxic-free alternatives for everything from shampoo to nail polish.  But fresh-smelling underarms was the one thing  that I was unwilling to sacrifice in my quest to use products without toxic chemicals.  (I don’t want to scare off my friends by stinking!)  Consequently, I was hesitant to toss out the conventional sticks and venture towards natural alternatives.

Aluminum fact

First, let me specify that when I say “deodorant” what I’m referring to is deodorant/antiperspirant.  Most conventional sticks do both.  Deodorant covers body odor and anti-perspirant prevents sweating so the two work together for fresh-smelling underarms.  It’s the main ingredient in antiperspirants that raised a red flag for me.  The NIH’s National Cancer Institute cites, “Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer.”  NIH does state that there is no conclusive evidence showing that underarm antiperspirants cause cancer.  However, I don’t particularly want to roll aluminum into my armpits every day for the next 30 years waiting for them to find something “conclusive.”  As I feel about most products, if there is a more natural alternative, sign me up.

During my teen and college years, I used Dove Go Fresh “cool” scented sticks.  Dove had just become very trendy at that time and they continue to do a great job with their marketing campaign aimed at women.  They even make their products seem natural.  But if you read the ingredients, the main one is aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY.  It also lists fragrance “parfum” as an ingredient.  Interesting…no extract of cucumber which is the picture on the front?  I guess nobody would buy it if the cool cucumber slice graphic was replaced with chemistry pipettes.

For several years I used Secret Clinical Strength “light & fresh” scented stick.  For the first time, I felt like the antiperspirant was really doing its job.  I liked the fragrance and I wasn’t sweating as much. Likely because this stick contains 20% of that same aluminum product to Dove’s 15%.  But when I began to take a closer look at the chemicals in my personal products, I knew I wanted to find something without aluminum, petroleum products, and vaguely-labeled fragrance.

Finding an effective natural deodorant was a two-step forward, one-step back process.  I tried many and was often disappointed, so I kept my conventional sticks in circulation for a while.   I first tried Crystal Essence stick which lacks aluminum so it was like, why bother.  It did nothing to stop sweating.  Now I understood why all the conventional products used aluminum.  So I tried a Tom’s of Maine product: Naturally Dry “natural powder” scented stick.  This does contain aluminum so it works as an anti-perspirant just as other mainstream sticks do.  The small difference is that it doesn’t contain other toxic chemicals like synthetic fragrance or petroleum-based products.  I figured this was at least marginally better than the other mainstream products I had been using for years.  

My deodorant evolution…

...felt almost as gradual as this

…felt almost as gradual as this

Then, one day while I was browsing the selection at Union Market’s lovely Follain shop, I came across Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Deodorant Cream which comes in a jar.  You scoop out a little bit and massage it into your armpits with your fingers.  This sounds really weird, but I used it after showering as an overnight deodorant and the grapefruit scent was fresh and lasted all night.  Arrowroot powder and magnesium are the natural antiperspirants in that product.   A friend also gave me a jar of Soapwalla Deodorant Cream that she had tried but that had irritated her sensitive skin.  I used it and never experienced a rash or noticeable irritation, but with its baking soda formulation, it is significantly grainy so it does scrape the skin a bit more than the smoother Meow Meow Tweet.  I also didn’t love the scent as much.  The same awesome friend (who shares my love of natural products) gave me a stick of Lavanila deodorant which I had been wanting to try.  Finally, this Goldi-pits has found a deodorant that is just right!  I love how Lavanila (original vanilla scent) smells and it does work as an antiperspirant, miraculously without aluminum.  It contains ingredients derived from things like artichoke, tea tree, and valerian.  Also, cornstarch is a main ingredient.

So if you’re looking to make the switch to a more natural deodorant, I would recommend Lavanila and/or Meow Meow Tweet (both are $14).  And have no fear about stinky armpits.  Both products get the job done and won’t make you nervous about rolling toxic chemicals onto your body’s largest organ.

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