Written by Grove Collaborative

We tried it: Switching to natural deodorant.

Last Updated: June 7, 2021

Conventional deodorant isn’t that great for your body or the planet, but is it true that switching to natural deodorant is a nightmare? Let’s find out, shall we? Grove writer, Kristen Bailey, sniffs out the hard questions while trying three natural deodorants.

Have you ever wondered how, exactly, your Speed Stick keeps your sweltering pits nice and dry, even when it’s so hot you should be projectile sweating? It’s not a pretty story, but here it is.

Why are antiperspirants bad?

Mainstream deodorants generally double as antiperspirants, which means that in addition to killing the bacteria on your skin — including the beneficial bacteria — ingredients in these dual products prevent you from sweating. These ingredients, which almost always include aluminum compounds, reduce your pore size and combine with the electrolytes in your sweat to form a thick, gel-like substance that blocks the openings of your sweat glands.


So, what’s so stinkin’ bad about that? Well, for starters, your body is designed to sweat, because it helps you regulate your body temperature. Furthermore, antiperspirant deodorants may reduce the effects of your pheromones, which help you attract compatible mates. Finally, conventional deodorant contains all sorts of additional chemicals that aren’t good for you, including the following below.

Parabens

Parabens help prevent fungi and bacteria from growing on deodorant. Parabens can cause skin irritation, and they may disrupt hormones, harming fertility and birth outcomes and increasing cancer risk.

Triclosan

Triclosan is a pesticide widely used in deodorant, although it’s banned in the U.S. in products like hand sanitizers because it’s associated with skin cancer, antibiotic resistance, and thyroid dysfunction.

Diethanolamine (DEA)

DEA is an emulsifier that’s fully banned in Canadian and European products because it’s a known carcinogen and can affect your kidneys and liver. DEA is also known to cause respiratory illness.

Fragrance

Scented conventional deodorants are rife with synthetic fragrance, or parfum, which contains thousands of chemicals, many of them toxic and linked to cancer, reproductive harm, allergies, and migraines.

What is Grove Collaborative?


At Grove, we take the guesswork out of which products are good for you and your home. Every product meets strict standards for being nontoxic, effective, sustainable, and cruelty-free. Once you find products you love, we ship to your home on a flexible, monthly schedule.


Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the transition to natural cleaning products, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials or natural beauty products to start shopping healthier products for you and the environment.

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The claim: Switching to natural deodorant is a drag

When you ditch the standard deodorant and switch to natural, your body may go through some stuff that could be rather unpleasant. Since you’re no longer blocking your sweat glands and shrinking your pores with antiperspirant deodorant, your body has to relearn how to sweat naturally. This can take up to 30 days.


During the first week or so, your sweat glands will begin to unclog, and around the second week, they’ll start oozing out built-up bacteria and toxins. These do not smell pleasant, and you may be super-extra-ripe for a week or so. This is when many people decide that it’s the natural deodorant causing the funk and switch back to their old brand, which reseals the sweat glands.


Around the third week, your epic stank will begin to subside, but you may experience a few days where you’re sweating buckets and buckets of pit juice. No, nothing is wrong with you, and no, this isn’t your “new normal.” It’s simply your body’s final purge, and by the end of the fourth week, the prolific sweating will end, and your body’s normal, healthy sweating habits will return. From here on out, natural deodorant should work beautifully for you.

The products: Three natural deodorants

I tried three different brands of natural deodorants from Grove Collaborative, all made with plant-based ingredients that are gentle on your skin, don’t muck around with the function of your sweat glands, and are nontoxic to your body and the environment.

SmartyPits Aluminum-Free Deodorant

Packed with prebiotics to feed the healthy bacteria that fight off foul odors, SmartyPits Aluminum-Free Deodorant is made with coconut and avocado oil and natural butters that give it glide. Free of all the baddies, this deodorant is made in the USA by a woman-owned business.


hello Sweet Coconut Deodorant

A sweet coconut scent and soothing, moisturizing shea butter make this delightful deodorant a pleasure for pits. This deodorant is free of aluminum, parabens, sulfates, and triclosan, and it’s vegan and never tested on animals. The container is made from 100 percent recycled materials.


Ursa Major Sublime Sage Deodorant

This spray-on deodorant is scented with sage, geranium, sandalwood, and lemon myrtle. It’s free of aluminum, sulfates, parabens, synthetic fragrance, petrochemicals, and it’s vegan and cruelty-free. Ursa Major Sublime Sage deodorant is made in Vermont.

The experience: Switching to natural deodorant

First, I have to admit that I initially misunderstood the purpose of this article, thinking it was about trying natural deodorant. It’s actually meant to document the process of switching to natural deodorant from conventional deodorant. Which kinda put me in a bind, because I only wear deodorant when I absolutely have to — and that’s so infrequently that I’m pretty sure I’m still using the Suave stick I bought during the Obama administration.


Happily, the universe sent me the answer unexpectedly one morning, when I finally uncapped the SmartyPits deodorant I was planning to try out first. And there, lying on its creamy, white surface, were two black, wiry hairs — unmistakably man hairs.

“Holy snails, what the feathers! Did you use my new SmartyPits deodorant?” I asked the only man in the house. “I dunno,” he shrugged. “I’ve just been using what’s in there. I’m out of my spray.” I pondered this for a moment. “Well, how long have you been using it?” “I dunno — a few days? A week?” “And... do you like it?” “I love it,” he said, which was very strange coming from someone who is notoriously noncommittal. But he even elaborated: “It doesn’t make my shirts all white and stiff, and it smells great. People keep telling me I smell good.”


Folks, the fragrance of this deodorant is deeee-vine. Like you’re sitting in an orange grove in Orange Grove, and someone hands you an icy-cold, sparkling orange-vodka martini with a generous orange twist glimmering with deeply fragrant oils. You take a sip, and close your eyes. “Now, that’s a martini,” you say. And that’s exactly how this deodorant smells.

So I asked him if he wanted to swap out his old deodorant for SmartyPits for a month. He agreed, and I gave him the rundown of what he might experience in the process. I told him to pay very close attention at all times to what his pits were telling him.


For the next month, as soon as he got home from work, there I was, in his face. “How was your day? Are your pits dry? Did you stink at all? Do you still like the deodorant?”


And every day, I got the same answer: His pits are dry, he didn’t notice any odors, yes, he still likes it, and will I please stop bombarding him with these questions every day.

Find SmartyPits Sweet Orange Prebiotic Deodorant at Grove

The verdict on switching to SmartyPits natural deodorant

Fortunately for my sig other — but unfortunate for the dramatic arc of this article — making the switch from conventional, manly-man aerosol antiperspirant deodorant to 100 percent natural stick deodorant had absolutely zero negative side effects for him — no excessive sweating, no unfettered man-malodor. Also, he recently ran out of SmartyPits and asked me to order more, so it looks like this switch is permanent!

The experience: hello Sweet Coconut meets stinky pits

With the SmartyPits deo claimed by man pits, I reached for the hello Sweet Coconut with Shea Butter Deodorant for my own odoriferous underarms. I stopped bothering with deodorant when I quit teaching and became a full-time, write-from-home mom, but whenever I have to be in polite society, I try to remember to give the pits a little swipe of the somewhat dried-up Suave.


Now, I know I’m not the only one who secretly enjoys their own sweaty-pit aroma, but sometimes — like after I walk around the lake with my mom in the Nebraska heat and humidity — it does get a little… extra. But my 11-year-old is a reliable stink-o-meter, always happy to let me know when I’ve crossed the line and really need a shower.


I wondered if a natural deodorant like hello could:


  • prevent body odor after a three-mile power walk if I put it on before the walk
  • and mask the tangy bouquet of a three-mile power walk if I put it on after the walk

  • I kinda had my doubts about both.

The scent of hello’s Sweet Coconut Deodorant is far more subtle than the bright, citrusy smell of SmartyPits. It’s definitely coconutty, but not like a pina colada. The shea butter gives it a more spherical note compared to the sharper angles of SmartyPits.


For experiment A, I rubbed the deodorant on my pits eight times — up and down four times — and went for my power walk on a hot, sunny afternoon. Afterwards, I sniffed my pits and smelled only the sweet whispers of coconut and shea butter. To confirm, I asked the kid to take a whiff. She made me pay her $2 — I had to talk her down from $5 — and she agreed that my pits smelled pretty good!


For experiment B, I went for the walk on a similar day, sans deodorant. Driving home, I could smell my funky pits without having to stick my nose in there. At home, I swiped on the deodorant eight times, grabbed a couple of dollar bills, and asked the kid to smell me again. She took her money, obliged, and gave me a big thumbs-up.

Find hello Sweet Coconut Deodorant at Grove

The verdict: Do natural deodorants really work as well as conventional deodorants?


The hello Sweet Coconut Deodorant effectively prevents pit odor when you put it on before you sweat profusely, and it effectively masks odor when you’re already stinkin’. The important thing to know about natural deodorant is that it doesn’t prevent you from sweating (and that’s a good thing, unless you’re, say, the weather person on the news.) But it does have ingredients like arrowroot or baking soda that help absorb moisture.


Bottom line, I’ll be tossing my old (very old!) conventional deo and keeping hello around for social emergencies.

The experience: Ursa Major Sublime Sage finds a new calling

I don’t like spray deodorants because I don’t enjoy having to do the chicken dance until they dry. So I only used the Ursa Major Sublime Sage Spray Deodorant on my armpits once, just to give it a chance and say I did it.


Yep, nope, didn’t like it, although the scent is absolutely to die for — a little citrusy, a little woodsy, a little sagey — and that’s how I ended up finding a non-pit use for it after all.


There I was, late for a thing, with no clean shirts to wear — a frequent occurrence since I only have, like, four shirts I put on my body. I dug them out of the basket and tossed the one that smelled the least offensive into the dryer for a quick freshen-up. As I was about to hit the start button, my eyes fell upon the Ursa Major spray, and a lightbulb went on in my head.


I pulled the shirt back out of the dryer, sprayed it down liberally with Ursa Major — especially the pit area! — and tumbled it for five minutes.

The verdict: Ursa Major natural spray deodorant is… versatile?

Folks, that shirt smelled so good — even better than when it’s freshly laundered. If you love spray deodorant, I highly recommend this one. If you don’t like spray deodorant, I still highly recommend this one.


My Ursa Major spray deodorant is pretty much how I “do laundry” now, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the natural laundry detergent in the world. Sometimes, I even spritz it in the air for a little natural room fragrance. 10 out of 10, I would happily make the mistake of buying it again!

Find Ursa Major Deodorant Spray at Grove

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