Decoding Your Natural Deodorant: The Ingredients That Actually Work
If you’re thinking about switching (or have already switched) to a natural deodorant, you probably have an appreciation for the ingredients that you’re introducing to your skin. But not all natural deodorants are the same. It’s important to look at the ingredient list on your natural deodorant and understand the purpose of each so you can find the right formula for you.
The Difference Between Antiperspirant and Deodorant
Before we can get into the nitty gritty of natural deodorant ingredients and how they work, you should know about the general distinction between antiperspirant and deodorant.
The purpose of an antiperspirant is to prevent you from sweating under your arms (hence anti and perspire). Typically, antiperspirants use the ingredient aluminum to literally plug up the pores that release sweat so that it’s harder for you to do so.
Deodorant, on the other hand, has a dual purpose: to reduce body odor that comes from bacteria growth in warm, wet armpits as well as to absorb sweat once it has been released. (We have more to say about the benefits of sweating, if you’re interested.)
Common Natural Ingredients for Deodorant
We’ll save the run-down about aluminum for another post, because aluminum is the ingredient that all natural deodorants leave out. Here we want to help you understand the common ingredients you will find in natural deodorants and what they do.
Powder or Starch
You’ll find a powder or starch in every natural deodorant. They are used primarily to absorb moisture, but some also kill bacteria that causes body odor.
There are several powders and starches that may be used, including baking soda, corn starch, arrowroot powder, activated charcoal powder, clay and tapioca starch.
Extra tip: Be aware that baking soda causes a rash for some people. We prefer to make our natural deodorants with corn starch.
The skin in your armpit is very delicate, so a good natural deodorant will use gentle, soothing ingredients rather than harsh, irritating ones to do its job.
For example, you may see ingredients like aloe vera or Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, which is a total powerhouse. Not only does it soothe skin, it has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
Coconut oil may also be added for its skin-moisturizing properties. Be aware, though, that it softens in warmer temperatures, which may cause your natural deodorant to melt.
Without aluminum, which blocks sweat glands in traditional antiperspirants, you’ll need something that can combat the natural bacteria that grows in moist, warm environments (think: your pits)
Lots of natural ingredients are effective at killing bacteria. A few examples are Aloe Barbandensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, glycerin-derived Ethylhexylglycerin, coconut oil and tea tree oil.
If you’ve been using an antiperspirant or non-natural deodorant, you may have experienced itchy or dry underarms. While everyone has different reactions to different ingredients, itchiness or dryness may be from the amount of alcohol in the formula, which is especially high in spray deodorants. Alcohol is an antibacterial, but it can lead to these unwanted reactions. When alcohol is replaced by more nourishing natural antibacterials, you’re likely to see different results.
Essential Oils or Fragrance
Essential oils and/or fragrance are primarily used to give natural deodorants their fresh scent. Some essential oils (like rosemary, lemongrass, and tea tree oil) have antibacterial properties, which can help stop odor in its tracks.
But wait, isn’t “fragrance” bad? It’s true that the word “fragrance” is a general term that some companies use to include chemicals like Phthalates (see skincare ingredients to avoid) or to keep their fragrance formula secret. The ingredients that make up a product’s fragrance are also often present in such small amounts that companies simply list them under one term. Along with the fact that some fragrances cause irritated skin, that’s why it’s so important to understand the commitment your natural deodorant company makes to exclude certain ingredients and provide fragrance options for those with sensitive skin.
Emulsifiers and Stabilizers
Deodorants need ingredients that allow the other ingredients to mix with one another and form into a desirable consistency. Regardless of the deodorant type -- be it gel, solid, jar, spray, or crystal -- you’ll find some type of what’s called an emulsifier or stabilizer in there.
Ingredients that act as emulsifiers and stabilizers sound as complex, if not more so, than the words emulsifier and stabilizer. Some are gentler than others on your skin. The ones we use in our natural deodorants are vegan and plant-based: propanediol (corn-derived), Sodium Stearate (sustainably-grown palm oil-derived) and glycerin (plant-derived).
Other natural deodorants may use cetyl alcohol (coconut-based) or cetearyl alcohol (coconut or palm oil-based). Yet others may use a petro-chemical base like disodium EDTA or polyacrylic acid, which you may want to avoid given their petroleum roots.
Can I Just Make Homemade DIY Deodorant?
Honestly, we wouldn’t encourage it. We go through extensive testing to get the balance of ingredients just right so that our natural deodorants are safe and effective. The wrong amount of a certain ingredient can cause redness, soreness and breakouts, leave you with pit stains or B.O., or create a concoction that is a crumbly mess. We know there are lots of recipes for homemade deodorants online, but we’d skip going DIY on this one.
The Oars + Alps Benefit: Natural Deodorant Ingredients for an Added Boost
At Oars + Alps, we’ve selected ingredients for our natural deodorant that not only allow you to avoid sweat and BO, but that give your pits the gentle, kind treatment they deserve. The natural deodorant game isn’t just about taking out the toxins -- it’s about replacing them with ingredients that have truly positive effects on your body -- and that’s what we commit to giving to you.
Every single one of our products lists the natural ingredients that are in them on our product pages online and on our product packaging. We invite you to explore the natural ingredients we love and use across our entire line of natural skincare products on our ingredients page.