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If you’ve ever tried switching to natural deodorant, you’ve probably noticed an inescapable fact—and one that isn’t particularly pleasant. We stink. And when we make the switch to non anti-perspirant deodorant, that single fact makes itself known all too well.
I’ve been using natural deo on and off for several years. But it has been hit or miss for me for a long time. And it wasn’t until I decided to design one for ME, that I realised it was so much better than my previous experiences. And after lots of testing, I feel I finally came up with something I could share with others.
Love it or hate it, one thing is for sure. When you decide to switch to natural deodorant your pits will have to go through a detox period. Neither love nor money can change the fact that natural deodorants—or at least, aluminium-free deodorants—have a “transitional phase,” complete with a transitional smell. For me, that smell lasted about two weeks (for others, it can take up to four), during which time I kept my head (and arms) down, and patiently waited for my brand-new botanical odour blocker to kick in. This was in Queensland weather mind you, where there is no such thing as cool, let’s be brutally honest.
It did. I no longer stink.
This is all to say: Transitional B.O. is a bummer, but don’t let it stop you from going natural. For one, a few weeks of funk is actually a good thing (more on that in a minute). And also, there are a few tips and “detox” products that can help make the process suck less. Here’s what you need to know.
There’s a big difference between antiperspirant and deodorant.
First thing’s first, it helps to know why antiperspirants contain aluminium. In short: It prevents you from sweating. “The function of aluminium in conventional deodorant-antiperspirant formulas is to essentially plug your sweat glands, which in turn keeps you dry,” says Nadia Musavvir, N.D., a naturopathic doctor who specialises in skin health. Deodorants, on the other hand, work to mask or neutralise the smell of body odour. A lot of traditional formulas you’ll find at the pharmacy do both.
Aluminium is effective at stopping sweat, but as more natural deos are becoming available, many now want to avoid the ingredient and preservatives that come in antiperspirants. Musavvir notes that humans are also meant to sweat—it’s our built-in mechanism for temperature control and detoxification. “One of the ways we eliminate waste through the skin is via sweat,” she says.
Why you smell while switching to natural deodorant
The good news: Sweat itself doesn’t actually stink. “It’s the bacteria that grows on sweat that causes odor,” says Katie Sturino, founder of Megababe.
The bad news: “When you remove the ‘plug’ of aluminium, you begin releasing what you had been blocking off, which contributes to that brief B.O.,” says Musavvir. Basically, your body goes into overdrive, releasing waste, sweating some aluminium out, and yes, stinkin’ up a storm. It’s not that your all-natural roll-on isn’t working; it’s that your body is. Hard.
How to fight deodorant detox odour faster
Thankfully, there are ways to make this two-week(ish) phase less of a pain. Using clay or charcoal masks can help remove a build-up of the former deodorant. Essentially these masks can help unplug your underarm pores.
Using a product like bentonite clay helps draw out impurities including bacteria and dirt in a natural way. Charcoal works in much the same way.
Another promising internet hack? Probiotics. Topical probiotics are wonderful in restoring natural body fauna and flora and may reduce the detox period for your pit area.
You’ll sweat, but you won’t stink.
While charcoal, clay, acids, and probiotics can definitely help in the odour arena, and they may help you sweat slightly less after your armpits readjust to normal functioning, they won’t stop you from sweating altogether.
So yes, you might be a little sweaty after making the switch to natural deodorant—pro tip: Try formulas with cornstarch or arrowroot powder to soak up moisture)—but after masking, toning, spritzing, or just waiting it out for a few weeks…at least you won’t stink.