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You like your underarm deodorant, but you’ve read about how it can endanger your health are thinking of switching to a natural formula. 

Many regular deodorants and antiperspirants contain at least one of these ingredients – silica, triclosan, parabens, phthalates, aluminium compounds, propylene glycol and talc. These are not only believed to irritate the skin; they have also been linked to serious health conditions like breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and even kidney disease. But is there a case for deodorant that is supposedly less toxic?

Unfortunately there is no hard evidence against regular deodorant. The few studies that have been done have proved inconclusive, and both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute in America have stated that there is no clear or direct link between antiperspirant and cancer risk.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe and ditching your drugstore deodorant. So what should you look for when choosing a natural alternative, and how do you know if it will get the job done?

Staying fresh, the natural way

If you perspire a lot or are self-conscious about the way you smell, then you’re probably wondering if natural deodorants are as effective as conventional ones. Will they keep your ’pits dry and comfortable throughout the day? Do they need to be reapplied every few hours? Will they keep odour at bay?

When shopping for a natural deodorant, read the label. The product shouldn’t contain any of the supposedly harmful, pore-clogging and sweat-blocking ingredients listed earlier. It should, instead, have baking soda, corn flour or tapioca powder – ingredients that soak up sweat and keep your underarms fresh and dry. Second, keep an eye out for moisturising, skin-soothing ingredients like shea butter, beeswax or witch hazel. Essential oils of rosemary, tea tree, lavender, thyme, lemongrass or sage may also be on the list – these plant oils not only deliver a pleasant natural scent, they also have anti-microbial properties, which combat odour. Some natural deodorants, particularly the solid crystal ones, contain mineral salts in place of aluminium. These mineral salts form a temporary layer on the skin, preventing the growth of sweat-feasting bacteria.   

Do natural deodorants really work?

Not all natural deodorants are as effective on perspiration and odour as others. That being said, it’s important to experiment with different brands until you find one that best suits your activity levels and body chemistry. Natural formulas don’t always work the same way as conventional ones, so you may find yourself having to reapply the product throughout the day or as needed, for it to be truly effective. Watch out for any allergic skin reactions, too. 

You will also notice different formulas – solid crystal stick, paste/cream, wax/putty, and spray, for instance. It may take some time trying to figure out which formula fits your lifestyle. Some paste deodorants are effective on odour but are tricky to apply, and you may not like the “wetness” of a spray-on product. Some natural products also have a tendency to stain clothes.  

Once you’ve found a product that you really like, you can bump up its effectiveness by taking certain steps to improve your body’s natural scent. These include shaving your ’pits more often (since hair is a breeding ground for sweat-causing bacteria), scrubbing yourself down really well when you shower, and minimising your intake of foods containing pungent ingredients, like garlic and spices – when digested, these foods release foul-smelling gases that are released not just through your lungs, but also your pores. 


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