2019 Master List: Deodorant

AKA "Why buying ethical deodorant is a giant pain in the a$$"

In my post, The Quick and Dirty Guide on how to Clean Yourself Up, we reviewed a lot of issues that you can encounter when trying to shop more ethically. Sadly, there’s so much crap out there, both online and in stores, to worry about. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and psych yourself out from doing the research, or finally commit to a product in order to phase out the stuff you’re already using.

In the interest of making your life easier, I’ve been coming up with lists of (gender-agnostic) self-care products, in addition to home cleaning products, that you can trust are safe bets for both your health and the planet. You can find all of the 2019 Winter/Spring Master Lists here.

In this post, we’re going to be covering deodorant.


Why being a conscious consumer is important even when using antiperspirant deodorant

If you’re working a regular 9-5 and have to be in an office in person, odds are you’re a lot more reluctant to do things like touch your deodorant — no one wants to hit midday looking sweaty and smelling like that weird funk that happens when you combine antiperspirant and sweat.

If you’re committed to the idea of continuing to use antiperspirant deodorant (no judgment), then you’re likely already convinced that there’s no really “good” option, whatever you pick is going to be unhealthy, and that’s just the way things go. That may or may not be true from an ingredient standpoint (virtually all antiperspirant deodorants contain fragrance, and none of the ones I’ve found are officially phthalate-free), but it’s definitely not true from the standpoint of being cruelty-free.

I’ve mentioned before that there’s no absolutely no reason to buy personal care products that test on animals, but this is all the more important when you consider the chemicals found in your deodorant. Unless you’re already using a deodorant that has a cruelty-free label on it, you’re likely using a deodorant and/or antiperspirant that comes from a company that literally injects that gunk into beagles to see if they die from it (or, you know, otherwise react poorly).

Gross, and awful? Yes. Let’s not linger on that, let’s just look at the alternatives.

Currently, there is only one antiperspirant company that I have found that does not test on animals: Certain Dri. I have used them in the past, and I will likely use their products if I go to an event that requires I wear an outfit that I really, really don’t want to sweat in (so, basically, I’ll never need to use it). Their products are effective at blocking sweat, they don’t test on animals, and they have even a fragrance-free option that you can use at night.

If you’re convinced you need to buy antiperspirant, you can click here to scroll down to the product selection to link out to my personal recommendations.


A case for natural, non-antiperspirant deodorant

When I first started writing this article, I wanted to simply parrot the information I’ve heard about how antiperspirant is linked to Alzheimer’s, but I fortunately did the legwork and I discovered that the jury is actually still out as to whether or not there’s an irrefutable link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum exposure.

That being said, some people are adamant that you absorb basically everything through the skin in your armpits, so there’s very little buffer from any potential toxicity, there. I personally would argue that limiting your exposure to aluminum is probably safer, especially when you consider the fact that we’ve only had antiperspirants for a little over one hundred years (which is arguably not a whole lot of time to measure a lifetime of exposure to aluminum-based antiperspirants).

Perhaps most importantly, I’ll call out something I’m pretty sure Western medicine types don’t think very often: sweat is one of the body’s primary methods for detoxification. If you’re sick, fighting off stealth infections, have recently been exposed to toxins, or just not feeling 100% your best, the use of antiperspirants is inherently going to prevent your body ability to make full use of its detoxifcation pathways to feeling better. #justathought

So, if you think you’re willing to explore non-antiperspirant options, congrats! Your options for cruelty-free, eco-friendly, and healthy deodorant options just expanded considerably!

The road towards healthier armpits

There’s just one step between you and a more natural deodorant life: an armpit detox (also more here). Depending on the individual, it can take up to four weeks before your armpits and their bacteria normalize from having heaps of chemicals and antiperspirants thrown at them. Once that’s over with, the next step is to wade through the gazillion options to find a formula that works for you.

While I can’t help with the detox stage other than assuring you that you will get through it, I at least can help by sharing my hands-on experience with what deodorants work for me and what I’ve heard works for other people.

The important thing to know about natural deodorants is that most of them rely on one of two formulations to block odor: either a baking-soda based one, or some combination of magnesium and/or charcoal. You can expand the information on each below to learn about the potential pros and cons of each:

Some info on the use of baking soda in natural deodorants

You know how it’s a “thing” to put a box of baking soda in the fridge to deodorize it? Well, that same concept works for your armpits, too. The great thing about baking soda deodorants is that they generally tend to work really well for most people when it comes to odor protection and control.

The drawback of baking soda based deodorants is unfortunately pretty common: baking soda is a known skin irritant and can often leave your poor armpits broken out in a skin rash.

Hang on, what do you mean, a skin irritant?!” you might be asking. Don’t worry, there’s a pretty straightforward reason: baking soda is mildly alkaline and hovers at a pH somewhere around 8.4 to 9, while the acid mantle of our skin is mildly acidic and rests, on average, below 5 on the pH scale. (For reference, water’s pH is usually around 7, which is considered neutral.)

Under normal circumstances, coming into contact with baking soda isn’t going to be a huge deal for most people. When you leave it in between the folds of your armpit skin (gross sounding, I know, but that’s what we do with any deodorant), though, the constant exposure can cause some people’s skin to freak out in red, angry patches or scales. Incidentally, this reaction is oftentimes the cause of mixed reviews on baking-soda-based deodorants (especially on Amazon). The odor-blocking protection is almost always there, but the irritation is usually also an issue.

There are steps you can take to mitigate this issue, but unfortunately, the only way to be 100% sure how a formula will affect you is to try it for yourself. Ultimately, whether or not your skin freaks about the baking soda is entirely dependent on a few things:

  • the concentration of baking soda in the deodorant formula
  • the concentration and effectiveness of the skin conditioning agents in the deodorant formula
  • the sensitivity of your skin
  • the steps you take to prevent a reaction to baking soda (e.g., soaps you use to wash yourself, how often you shower, and how often you shave your armpits)
Some info on the use of magnesium/charcoal in natural deodorants

As far as I’m concerned, magnesium/charcoal deodorant varieties with zero baking soda haven’t worked for me for blocking odor for longer than a few hours. I’m not sure why my body chemistry is that way, but I made peace with it.

Then I found my holy grail deodorant that contains only the barest hint of baking soda (which doesn’t cause my sensitive skin to freak out), and I finally understood the hype. When you find a formula that works, it freakin’ works. My new favorite deodorant causes no skin irritation and lasts over 24 hours without any reapplication — I couldn’t even get those results from antiperspirant deodorants! (The icing on the cake is that it comes in a glass jar. I’m seriously in love.)

That said, I have seen so many rave reviews for certain brands of charcoal/magnesium deodorants that forgo baking soda altogether that I think this subcategory is worth exploring first. These options are less likely to cause unhappy, skin-irritating side effects.

The only trade-off is that you may need to be careful about how much you put on: charcoal and magnesium deodorants tend to be grey in color, and wearing too much can cause the appearance of greyer armpits or some shirt staining. Note, however, that this won’t happen if you don’t put on an excessive amount. Remember: with most natural products, less is more.

There’s no telling which of the two will work for you, since it all boils down to your body chemistry. My personal recommendation is to buy a handful of samples from a brand you think you may like and try out a handful to see how the products work with your individual body chemistry.


Product Picks

Now that we’ve gotten all that context out of the way, let’s actually get into the whole point of all this post!

As before, the below products meet the following criteria:

  • cruelty-free: no animal testing has been done for the product to reach market, and no animal-derived ingredients are included if the harvesting process can cause harm to the animal (e.g., lanolin harvesting).
  • environmentally responsible: the ingredients listed on the label are of nonexistent or relatively low risk to the environment.
  • non-hazardous: the phrase “non-toxic” isn’t a regulated phrase, so we’re sticking with “non-hazardous” to keep a safe distance from meaningless marketing terminology. In this case, you should take “non-hazardous” to mean that the product, when used as intended (don’t drink it or bathe in it if the label doesn’t tell you to do so), poses overall less risk of experiencing negative side effects associated with exposure to various chemical compounds.
  • consistent results: the product delivers comparable results to conventional products, and works the way you want it to work significantly more often than it does not.

Author’s Note

As usual, this list isn’t sponsored in any way. The products listed below are products that come from brands with which I have experience (direct or indirect, through friends and family) or into which I personally have done extensive research.

Antiperspirant Deodorants


Certain Dri

$5-7 per deodorant container, varies according to options and stores

Pros

  • Cruelty-free, PETA certified
  • One of only two cruelty-free antiperspirant deodorants available on the market
  • The most effective antiperspirant options on the market (shy of getting a doctor’s prescription)
  • Because these antiperspirants are so effective, light to regular sweaters will only need to apply this antiperspirant every other day
  • Readily available at nearly all common drugstores (CVS, RiteAid, Walgreen’s, etc)

Cons

  • Although Certain Dri is cruelty-free, they’re owned by Clarion, which is a company that tests on animals
  • Certain Dri no longer offers an unscented version, meaning that there’s greater risk of exposure to endocrine-disrupting ingredients typically found in fragrance
  • Ignoring the question of aluminum, the remaining inactive ingredients aren’t ideal
  • It can be hard to remember to apply this antiperspirant at night rather than in the morning while getting ready

Author’s Note

Although I personally no longer use antiperspirants (unless I feel it’s necessary for an event outfit), my significant other feels more comfortable using antiperspirants while working in an office environment. To that end, he’s found that the Certain Dri Everyday Strength Solid is a great swap for whatever antiperspirant he was using previously. In fact, he actually can go up to two full days (48 hours) before he has to reapply any deodorant at all.

Certain Dri Everyday Strength Roll-on

$6.02 for 2.5 fl oz (74 ml)
$5.12 with 15% off through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save

Certain Dri Everyday Strength Solid

$5.99 for 2.6oz (74g)
$5.02 with 15% off through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save

Certain Dri Prescription Strength Roll-on

$5.67 for 1.2 fl oz (35.5 ml)
$4.82 with 15% off through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save


Jack Black Pit Boss

$19 for 2.75 oz (78g)

Pros

  • Cruelty-free, PETA certified
  • One of only two cruelty-free antiperspirant deodorants available on the market
  • Form of aluminum alloy used is considered to be gentler/milder, so this may be suitable for more sensitive skin types

Cons

  • Although Jack Black is cruelty-free, they’re owned by Edgewell, a company that tests on animals
  • Expensive, especially when considering that most users report that this antiperspirant only lasts a month or two with daily use
  • Not readily available at drug stores
  • Only available in one scent option, which women have described as being very “masculine” smell and not necessarily accessible to everyone
  • Ignoring aluminum, the inactive ingredients aren’t ideal

Jack Black Pit Boss Antiperspirant and Deodorant

Natural Deodorants


Routine. Natural Deodorant*

* this is my holy grail deodorant brand
$5 USD / $2-7 CAD for a sample size, $26-35 CAD for a full-size, 58g glass jar (lasts 3-6 months)
Available at Integrity Botanicals (US), Green Jungle Beauty Shop (CA), PureAnada (CA), and Routine (CA)

Pros

  • All-natural
  • Several vegan options
  • Cruelty-free
  • The most effective (natural or otherwise) deodorant I’ve found to date
  • Charcoal/magnesium options contain prebiotics for bonus odor control
  • Full-size options are all packaged in glass jars, rather than plastic
  • Brand offers a bunch of different mini/trial size kits so you can try out a bunch of their offerings at once to see which suits your chemistry and scent preferences

Cons

  • The two charcoal/magnesium/prebiotic options from Routine are not vegan, as they contain (ethically-harvested) beeswax
  • The sample sizes are packaged in small plastic units
  • Note: the charcoal/magnesium options still contain a little itty bit of baking soda — those with outrageously sensitive skin still may not be able to tolerate this option
  • Some may not like having to use their hands to apply deodorant

Top Picks (Charcoal / Magnesium)

Fragrance notes: vetiver, vanilla bourbon, cardamom, black pepper, tonka bean (unisex, bordering on slightly more “masculine”)
$34 CAD for 58g
$7 CAD for sample jar
Fragrance notes: neroli and rose (softer and more “feminine”)
$30 CAD for 58g
$7 CAD for sample jar

Sample Kits

Routine Her Faves Minis Kit

Contains the following 5 scents: Sweet Jane, Blackberry Betty, A Girl Named Sue, Moon Sisters, Bonita Applebom
$24 CAD for 5 5g minis

Routine This or That Minis Kit

Contains the following 12 scents: The Curator, Like a Boss, A Girl Named Sue, Sweet Jane, Superstar, Lucy in the Sky, Johnny’s Cash, Maggie’s Citrus Farm, Blackberry Betty, Bonita Applibom, Napoleon’s Dynamite, Sexy Sadie.
$36 CAD for 12 5g minis

Routine His Faves Minis Kit

Contains the following 5 scents: Like a Boss, Napoleon’s Dynamite, Superstar, The Curator, Johnny’s Cash
$24 CAD for 5 5g minis

Routine Top Sellers Minis Kit

Contains the following 5 scents: Like a Boss, The Curator, Sexy Sadie, Superstar, and Cat Lady
$24 CAD for 4 5g minis

Routine Sensitive Skin Minis Kit

Contains the following 5 scents: The Curator, Blackberry Betty, Sexy Sadie, Johnny’s Cash, and Superstar
$24 CAD for 5 5g minis

Routine Vegan Minis Kit

Contains the following 4 scents: Sexy Sadie, Lucy in the Sky, Cat Lady, Johnny’s Cash
$21 CAD for 4 5g minis

Other Scent + Formula Options

Author’s Note

Please note that magnesium is marked on certain formulas/scents with an asterisk (*) to indicate that this is a new formulation of the product. Depending on where you purchase these options, you may not get the new formula. If you specifically are looking for the newer formulation containing magnesium, my personal recommendation would be to buy direct from Routine’s website.

Routine. Blackberry Betty Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: blackberry and raspberry
$26 CAD for 58g
$2 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Blackberry Betty BS-free Deodorant

baking soda free, contains magnesium

Fragrance notes: blackberry and raspberry
$30 CAD for 58g
$7 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Bonita Applebom Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: chocolate, apple, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg (possibly like gourmand apple cider)
$30 CAD for 58g
$6 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Bonnie & Clyde Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: unscented
$30 CAD for 58g
$6 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Cat Lady Deodorant

vegan, reduced baking soda, contains magnesium

Fragrance notes: pineapple and strawberry
$30 CAD for 58g
$6 CAD for sample jar

Routine. The Curator Deodorant

vegan, reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: cocoa and eucalyptus
$32 CAD for 58g
$7 CAD for sample jar

Routine. A Girl Named Sue Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: raspberry and sage
$32 CAD for 58g
$7 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Johnny’s Cash Deodorant

vegan

Fragrance notes: cedarwood, pine, and patchouli
$26 CAD for 58g
$2 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Johnny’s Cash BS-Free Deodorant

baking soda free, contains magnesium

Fragrance notes: cedarwood, pine, and patchouli
$26 CAD for 58g
$2 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Like a Boss Deodorant

extra strength baking soda

Fragrance notes: geranium, rosemary, and mandarin
$28 USD for 58g
$5 USD for sample jar

Routine. Lucy in the Sky Deodorant

vegan

Fragrance notes: lavender and patchouli
$28 USD for 58g
$5 USD for sample jar

Routine. Maggie’s Citrus Farm Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: lemon, grapefruit, and orange
$28 USD for 58g
$5 USD for sample jar

Routine. Napoleon’s Dynamite Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: samdalwood, bergamot, and black pepper
$30 CAD for 58g
$4 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Reuben & the Dark & Stormy Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium

Fragrance notes: amyris, blue cypress, palo santo, patchouli, ginger, vetiver, coffee, and tobacco
$30 CAD for 58g
$5 CAD for sample jar

Routine. Sexy Sadie Deodorant

vegan

Fragrance notes: ylang ylang, orange, and cinnamon
$28 USD for 58g
$5 USD for sample jar

Routine. Sexy Sadie BS-Free Deodorant

baking soda free, contains magnesium

Fragrance notes: ylang ylang, orange, and cinnamon
$28 USD for 58g
$5 USD for sample jar

Routine. Sweet Jane Deodorant

reduced baking soda, contains magnesium*

Fragrance notes: vanilla and pear
$28 USD for 58g
$5 USD for sample jar

Rustic Maka

Price varies by product type
10% off through Subscribe & Save program on Rustic Maka’s website

Pros

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free, PETA and Leaping Bunny certified
  • Uses many organic ingredients (where applicable)
  • Fragrances are all-natural and from naturally-derived sources

Cons

  • Comes in single-use plastic dispenser tubes
  • Fragrance formulations are proprietary, so even though the company uses all natural fragrance, you still won’t know the exact ingredients

Author’s Note

It’s worth mentioning that, although I personally had minimal luck with this brand (I found I needed to reapply at least once a day for odor protection), I’ve observed that I’m in the minority. This brand tends to get rave reviews and the “Luna Bliss” option is a fan favorite option for both performance and scent.

Baking Soda Free Formulas

Rustic Maka Lunar Bliss Activated Charcoal + Magnesium Deodorant

baking soda free, contains magnesium and charcoal

Fragrance notes: fresh powder, melon, and jasmine (clean, fresh, and faintly sweet)
$14.99 on Amazon
$9.90 through Rustic Maka’s Subscribe & Save

Rustic Maka Wind of Change Magnesium-Fortified Deodorant

baking soda free, contains magnesium

Fragrance notes: sandalwood, mint, violet, and amber
$15.99 on Amazon
$10.80 through Rustic Maka’s Subscribe & Save

Baking Soda Options


Agent Nateur Deodorant

varies per product scent
$7.99 for 4 samples of any product of your choosing through The Detox Market

Pros

  • Convenient to use stick application
  • With the right formulation/scent for your body chemistry, a little goes a long way
  • Gorgeous packaging helps make using natural deodorants more appealing
  • You can sample all four of the Agent Nateur deodorants through The Detox Market’s sample program, which offers 4 samples for $7.99 (+ $1.99 S&H)

Cons

  • None of the Agent Nateur’s bs-based deodorants are vegan (they contain both honey and beeswax)
  • Agent Nateur is not officially cruelty-free: they make no mention of it on their website, and they didn’t respond to me when I reached out for clarification on their cruelty-free status
  • Comes in single-use plastic tubes

Author’s Note

Up until I discovered Routine’s Superstar deodorant, I was in love with Agent Nateur’s Uni(Sex) No. 5 deodorant (originally called Holi(Man), until they realized that women loved this formulation, too) for odor protection. Out of the container, I was completely unenthused with the scent, as I found the only fragrance note to be “overwhelming incense stick.” A few hours after I applied it, however, I began to love it: somehow, the formula reacts with your body and unfolds into this really intoxicating, exotic, semi-sweet earthy smell. It’s phenomenal for a day-to-night level of odor control, but I ultimately found the baking soda a little too much for my armpits. I can use this for a day without issue, but repeat days are when it gets challenging for my skin and I start to develop the dreaded baking soda rash.

In terms of the other fragrance options, I had decent success with Holi(Stick) No. 3, but Holi(Stick) Sensitive ended up being my least favorite mostly because it was the least effective at odor control for me, personally. Holi(Rose) was almost as ineffective, if not equally so, as the baking soda free option, but I’ll admit I haven’t worn it enough times to be able to assess if the days I tried it were just hot/sweaty days that pushed it past its limits.

Agent Nateur Holi(Stick) Sensitive Deodorant

Fragrance notes: neroli, patchouli, and cedarwood
$28 for 1.7 fl oz (50 ml)

Agent Nateur Holi(Stick)
No. 3 Deodorant

Fragrance notes: French lavender, eucalyptus, and honey
$21 for 1.7 fl oz (50 ml)

Agent Nateur Uni(Sex)
No. 5 Deodorant

Fragrance notes: vetiver, rose, sandalwood, cistus, and cedarwood
$21 for 1.7 fl oz (50 ml)

Products to Boost Your Natural Deodorant’s Efficacy


If you’re going completely natural with your deodorant, there are a couple of products you can try to help your natural deodorant go the extra mile in terms of odor protection. Note that these products are more of a mix-and-match type situation: you don’t need to pair these items below with the same brand, since they all theoretically behave in similar ways. Again, it all just comes down to your individual body chemistry!

Author’s Note

I personally use the Kaia Naturals Underarm Charcoal + ACV Bar and love it for helping improve the efficacy of deodorants. That said, any activated charcoal soap bar is likely a good investment — both for undergoing an armpit detox and for continued use. I haven’t used the primer or body powder (I find I don’t need them with my new favorite deodorant), but the primer in particular may be helpful in preventing irritation from baking soda based formulas.

Rustic Maka Detox Kit

contains detox soap, konjac sponge, mask (body/face), and deodorant primer

Kaia Naturals Underarm Charcoal + ACV Bar

formulated with charcoal and apple cider vinegar to help detoxify skin and balance pH

That’s pretty much all for this installment! Before closing out, I’ll leave you with a quick reminder: there are tons of other eco-friendly natural deodorant options out there, including brands you can find at a health store/Whole Foods (think Schmidt’s, Primal Paste, JASÖN, or Every Man Jack, to name a few). If you’re disappointed to see that your deodorant didn’t make the list, there may be a reason:

  • in some cases, I didn’t include a deodorant brand because they didn’t have reliably good reviews and I haven’t personally used them;
  • in other cases, like with Schmidt’s, it’s because the brand is owned by a parent company that tests on animals and isn’t 100% cruelty-free;
  • in cases like Every Man Jack deodorants, I didn’t include them on the list because of their use of undesirable/unhealthy ingredients like fragrance/parfum, which can contain up to 3,000 different (undisclosed) chemicals, many of which can potentially be endocrine disruptors.

Moreover, I personally have tried and used all three of the natural deodorant brands I’ve recommended in this list, and I’ve used one of the Certain Dri antiperspirants listed, too. Given those facts, I figured there’s no good reason for me to recommend brands with which I have no direct or indirect experience.

All that said, please let me know what your experiences are with natural deodorant. If you’ve found one that I’ve missed and you swear by, drop me a comment and I’ll check it out! Who knows, I may update this post to reflect your recommendation 🙂

Until next time!

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