Unpopular opinion: sweat is a good thing, seriously! It’s often linked to feelings of discomfort and embarrassment due to the stink that inevitably builds up over time, something we’re well-acquainted with thanks to our humid climate, but get this — the natural process is essential in helping the body detox and regulate its temperature. Oh and here’s another fun fact: sweat itself doesn’t smell.
When we perspire, bacteria on our skin breaks it down, and it’s the by-product of this particular process that emits unpleasant odours instead, Our mild paranoia over wanting to smell good, always, then brings us to the topic at hand, deodorants.
We’d honestly never leave the house without slathering some on our underarm area, a dutiful practice that even the most rebellious non-conformists among us stick to. And while conventional deodorants and antiperspirants do an effective job at inhibiting bad smells, the beauty community has raised concerns over the use of aluminium in their formulas, leading many to consider the alternative — natural deodorants. Read on as we answer some frequently-asked questions about the controversial issue, and recommend some top natural deodorants if you’re considering aluminium-free alternatives.
What’s wrong with conventional deodorants?
Many of the roll-on deodorants that we grew up with happen to be two-in-one deodorants and antiperspirants. These contain aluminium, which is known to clog pores and sweat glands, so sweat cannot flow through. At first, this sounds like a good thing, because the process that causes us to stink doesn’t even occur in the first place.
However, sweat is now trapped under the skin layer, and with it, toxins that now cannot be as easily expelled from our body. Without natural perspiration, you may also feel warmer, while aluminium salts often combine with sweat to form that unfortunate yellow tint we might observe on our white t-shirts.
In some circles, there is talk about how aluminium salts from antiperspirants can be absorbed through the skin, which negatively impact our health. Studies have linked aluminium-based products to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, though objectively speaking, there are currently no medical studies that show a clear cause and effect link.
The main point here is this — if you don’t want to block your sweat glands unnecessarily, and want to embrace the natural process of perspiration, then it might be time to consider natural, aluminium-free deodorants.
How are natural deodorants effective in making us smell good?
The first thing most of us would be considering is how effective aluminium-free deodorants are. If they don’t block sweat, how can they be truly effective in dispelling odours? Natural deodorants are called as such, and are mostly touted by clean beauty brands, because many of them use natural ingredients in their formulas.
Instead of preventing sweat, they focus on neutralising odours and discouraging bacteria growth. Plant-based actives such as coconut oil and tea tree oil are lauded for their antibacterial properties, while baking soda, kaolin clay, and arrowroot combat moisture without clogging pores.
Is there a transition period? What else do I need to know before I make the switch?
The short answer is, yes, there’s a transition period or a detox phase, though this varies from person to person. I personally experienced this after ditching my old antiperspirant for a gentle, clean formula, only to find that my pits got sweatier, faster, before the awkward odour came through; I wasn’t able to last through the day with just a few swipes of my natural deodorant in the morning. It took about a week before I started to see good results. In fact, medical experts say that it can take up to a month for the body to fully regulate itself. Using a charcoal soap during showers or gently exfoliating the underarm area might help speed up this process.
With more natural deodorants on the shelves these days, there are also certain things to look out for. Some brands use synthetic fragrances which might irritate the delicate underarm skin; most natural deodorants use only essential oils for scents, which keeps their formulas green, though some people with sensitive skin might want to avoid these. The safest option would be to go fragrance-free, which many clean beauty brands offer as an alternative alongside their naturally scented ones.
1. Coconut Matter MOOD Natural Deodorant
Just launched in Singapore, Coconut Matter is an ethical and clean beauty brand that also adopts a zero-waste approach to their lineup — they’re also most famous for their range of vegan natural deodorants. During an online press event, founder Diane van Zwanenberg was happy to share with us how these work, noting that they’ve been tried-and-tested to withstand Hong Kong’s fierce humidity too, which is comparable to ours. This is therefore an aluminium-free, natural product that works for our weather!
Coconut Matter’s MOOD Natural Deodorants are powered by ethically-sourced organic coconut oil, a known antibacterial ingredient, alongside up to 19 plant and mineral ingredients that are carefully considered before they’re introduced into the formula. Arrowroot powder, for instance, helps control excessive sweat; Elderberry is a strong antioxidant; and Magnesium Hydroxide helps regulate the skin’s pH, while Triethyl Citrate stops bacteria from decomposing to further prevent odour. All these culminate in a non-sticky formula that’s presented in a biodegradable paper tube.
Beyond these exemplary qualities, what we also love are the unique scents we get to choose from, thanks to essential oils that create the most pleasant and subtle smells; the floral freshness of SPRING, and the energising greenness of eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint in HERO are standouts for us.
$33, available at SOCIETY-A.
2. Drunk Elephant Sweet Pitti™ Deodorant Cream
Drunk Elephant’s skincare range needs no introduction, though we have to say, the clean beauty brand’s hair and body line has proven to be quite impressive as well. A most underrated product though? That has to be the Sweet Pitti™ Deodorant Cream, which I was excited to try after having entrusted my face to founder Tiffany Masterson and her skincare formulas for a while now.
Compared to the typical roll-on deodorants, this one’s a deodorant cream that’s made to soothe and moisturise the delicate underarm area, while keeping odour at bay. A blend of Mandelic Acid and Arrowroot is here to save the day, and help in both eliminating odour-causing bacteria and absorbing excess moisture from the skin. Just as well, their skincare expertise is also put to good use here, with Marula, Baobab and Mongongo Seed Oils and Shea Butters doing their part to calm and replenish dry, dull skin.
Unlike other natural deodorants that I had bought at Whole Foods Market in the U.S., I found Drunk Elephant’s Sweet Pitti™ to be the most effective at keeping me smelling fresh for long hours, despite the humid weather we’re accustomed to here. This could be due to its cream formula, which went on smooth and was easily absorbed into the skin.
$23, available at SEPHORA.
3. Kopari Coconut Oil Deodorant
Another popular choice would be Kopari’s cult-favourite natural deodorant, which, similar to Coconut Matter, uses the brand’s signature 100% plant-based active: Coconut Oil. This is combined with Coconut Water and Sage Oil to soothe sensitive underarms while working together with, and not against, our body’s natural processes to reduce odour, simply by warding off the bacteria that causes it in the first place. The non-toxic formula is free of both aluminium and baking soda, glides on clear, and is accompanied with the faint, sweet scent of coconut that will put you in the mood for a tropical vacation every time.
$25, available at SEPHORA.
4. Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant
Schmidt’s is a well-known drugstore brand in the U.S., while their line of natural deodorants has the distinction of being the first and only Ecocert Certified Natural Deodorant in the United States, since they’re proudly made of 100% natural origin ingredients. These fight odour without aluminium salts, artificial fragrances, parabens, phthalates, or filler ingredients, and instead contain Magnesium, as well as uplifting essential oils for scents that range from Rose & Vanilla and Bergamot & Lime, to Lavender & Sage.
A recently-announced reformulation also sees them reducing the amount of Baking Soda in favour of more odour-neutralising Magnesium, a key ingredient in its sensitive skin line. Looking at their ingredients list, it’s quite comforting to see familiar ingredients such as Arrowroot Powder, Coconut Oil, and Shea Butter at the top too. Plus, thousands of reviews online rave about Schmidt’s natural deodorants and their formidable lasting power, which have been tried-and-tested to last all day long.
USD8.99, available at SCHMIDTS.COM.
5. Sukin Natural Deodorant
This clean Australian brand and their natural deodorants are one of the rare few seen on our drugstore shelves, including Watsons and Guardian, and works like a body spray for use at your underarm area when required. All the ingredients here can be found in nature, including Aloe Vera, Burdock and Nettle Extracts that help to cool and soothe delicate skin after shaving. Zinc is key to help prevent bacteria growth, while a blend of Citrus and Aromatic Oils such as tangerine, mandarin, and lavender gives off the most refreshing scent that you’ll want lingering on your skin.
6. Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant
The New York-based apothecary brand boasts an uncomplicated approach to skincare, as you can tell from the distinctive packaging of their products, and this nifty deodorant comes highly recommended for its no-fuss effectiveness. The Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant is infused with natural Eucalyptus and Citronellyl, which helps greatly in neutralising odour. Formulated without the use of aluminium, alcohol, baking soda, parabens or synthetic fragrance, the transparent stick glides on and is especially suitable for those with sensitive skin.
$35, available at escentials stores and ONLINE.
7. Aesop Herbal Deodorant
For a luxurious formula that stands up to Aesop’s other trusted skincare formulas, the Herbal Deodorant, available in both a roll-on and spray format, ought to do just fine. The aluminium-free, botanically-based formula uses Zinc Ricinoleate to curb bacteria growth and prevent unpleasant odours, while Sage Leaf and Witch Hazel are also key in this little number’s mission to rid bad smells. What you do smell instead is an herby blend of essential oils, quite similar to the feel you’ll get when you walk into an Aesop store, of a subtle and fresh, never overpowering scent, that calms you and makes you feel right at home.
$45, available at AESOP.
credit for introduction images: coconut matter.