I’m happy to say that I’ve received quite a bit of questions lately on the topic of making the switch to aluminum-free deodorant products (and I’m sure there are plenty more of you out there with some shy curiosity), so to anyone considering making The Switch, this one’s specially for you!
Why Should You Worry?
Let’s start with the basics – where does aluminum currently show up, in what form, and why? Aluminum used in antiperspirants is one of two common chemical forms: Aluminum Chlorohydrate (max 25%) or Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrate GLY (max 20%). (There are tons of other aluminum cocktails listed by the FDA, but these two seem most common.) Basically, if aluminum is present in your product, you’ve got an antiperspirant, because the aluminum mixes with the sweat in your sweat glands to create a temporary plug that blocks the flow of sweat. If aluminum isn’t in your product, however, then you’ve got deodorant, which works to control the level of bacteria hanging out in your pits. Deodorants (especially good-quality ones) will employ natural ingredients (herbs and essential oils, in many cases) that are great at killing bacteria and absorbing odor-causing wetness.
If you’re like me and millions of others across the country, you’re questioning the safety of aluminum being applied to your skin day after day, directly onto your lymph nodes. By definition, the product has to penetrate our skin’s surface in order to work, so there’s little doubt about it entering our bodies, but the research is lacking in terms of what long-term damage it can cause, or how much it can bioaccumulate (and in which tissues or organs). If nothing else, sweating is the way our bodies rid themselves of toxins, so blocking this process certainly isn’t natural and can’t be harmless.
It’s disturbing that some highly-visible and “reliable” sources, like WebMD, publicly pooh-pooh the results of studies that have begun connecting aluminum exposure to cancer and Alzheimer’s, and they ignore the need for further thorough study. [See here and here for two sources to get you started reading up on it.] To me, it seems money is talking, since aluminum is present in an overwhelming majority of products sold in this global $18 billion industry in 2015. Consumers are taking a stand though, as more and more of us are making the decision for ourselves of what goes on/in our bodies.
With that being said, if you’re ready to make the big change, congratulations on taking the first step on your path to…
What Should You Get?
The good news is, you can make The Switch with little inconvenience or financial risk, making it all the more appealing! Thanks to increased demand, many popular chains like Target, Walgreen’s, Walmart, Giant Eagle, Publix, and CVS are now carrying healthier alternatives to traditional aluminum-containing products. Of course, there’s an absolute wealth of products available online, so the sky’s the limit.
So, what choices are readily available and affordable? Well, I took the leap first using Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant in Fresh Apricot. (Gents, don’t fret! Tom’s has a Men’s line of deodorants in three scents too!) I found Tom’s the cheapest at Walmart, for <$4 each – very comparable with the cost of regular products. I’ve also used Arm and Hammer Essentials Fresh Scent ($2 -3), as well as Old Spice Men’s Deodorant ($4). Out of those three brands, I would rate the most effective and most affordable to be the Arm and Hammer Essentials.
While being good “starter” deodorants, keep in mind those three I just named aren’t as natural as you can get, not by a long shot. Being aluminum-free and paraben-free, yes, they are better choices than regular antiperspirants. However, if you’re also looking at overall ingredient safety/quality, they leave something to be desired. I would love to see these products made without propylene glycol (all three named above are guilty). Propylene glycol aside, Tom’s deodorant is certainly better ingredient-wise than A & H or Old Spice, as those two also contain other iffy chemicals, artificial fragrance, and (in Old Spice’s case) artificial color. Those are lesser evils, but still things you should avoid if you can. Most importantly, stay away from: aluminum compounds, parabens, Triclosan, propylene glycol, talc, silica, and steareth-[# here].
It’s really all up to you and how far you want to take it. You may be happy stopping there, simply avoiding aluminum. And that’s ok! You’ve got to pick your battles and make the best choice you can, within the bounds of what you’re willing to spend. Spending more than $5 on deodorant doesn’t work for everyone, and I understand that.
If you’re like me, you may latch onto the idea of healthy deodorant and want to keep using better, cleaner products (it’s a tad addicting). On that note, there are plenty of deodorants available from natural, organic companies all across the board (too many even to keep track of!) and in every price range. Leading the charge though, are companies like Soapwalla, Fat and the Moon, and Eco-Tan. [I hope in 2016 to be able to switch exclusively to one of them, and will certainly share my findings once I do.] Another great one, which my husband absolutely loves, is Everyman Jack deodorant!
What Should You Expect When You First Go Aluminum-Free?
For starters, be prepared that your body literally has to detox the aluminum and toxins out of your sweat glands. Many people switch to a natural deodorant, and within a couple days say it’s not working and give up, because they don’t realize they’re detoxing.
The experience will vary by individual, but in general, here’s what to plan for. While you’re transitioning, you’ll notice way more underarm moisture than usual, and you’ll probably smell worse than normal because of it. So, for at least several days (but possibly even a week or slightly longer), you’ll likely feel not-so-fresh. Your glands are basically having a little party, adjusting to their new-found ability to sweat freely without being blocked. (It probably goes without saying, but plan accordingly – don’t switch to natural deodorant right before a big event like a wedding or anything!)
There isn’t too much you can do other than grin and bear it, but a few things can help. It’s tempting, but don’t schlep on 8,000 layers of deodorant during The Switch – use just a normal amount, because that pile will hinder the glands’ ability to detox. It may sound silly, but it can help to wash your pits over the bathroom sink a couple times a day while you transition. Not exactly convenient, but hey, gotta do what ya gotta do.
[Update: You can try using Bentonite clay masks to detox your pits after you’ve stopped using antiperspirants, which can help pull out the toxins faster, and therefore make your transition period a little easier! Check out my Bentonite clay post!]
While you go through it, don’t get discouraged. Don’t assume that the deodorant isn’t going to work. Whatever you do, don’t go back to using antiperspirant, or you’ll set yourself back and start the cycle all over again.
One of the most common problems I’ve encountered when helping people frustrated with The Switch is managing their expectations. My best advice is to give it time! I always recommend giving at least 2 weeks to a month for best results. Think about how many years you’ve been using antiperspirants! You need to give your body time to adjust and purge out all the chemicals and toxins that have been accumulating there. It won’t happen overnight.
Realize that, performance-wise, deodorant likely won’t provide exactly the same results as the antiperspirants you’ve been using. Chemically, it’s not really possible – remember, antiperspirants use chemicals to artificially plug your sweat glands! Deodorants do not. They function totally differently (controlling moisture and bacteria to prevent odor), so your experience will be different. Your pits will be able to sweat when needed.
What’s It Like Being Aluminum-Free in the Long Run?
For the average person, you might not really feel much difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, once you pass the initial transition phase. For those of us suffering from hyperhidrosis, getting good results is a bit more challenging because we naturally produce more sweat there than normal, for no reason! Depending on the degree to which we’re affected by the condition, it can complicate matters. Personally, I’m thankful that my condition has drastically improved as I’ve aged, and actually, I attribute much of the improvement to going aluminum-free! So there’s that.
The great thing is, once you get through that initial period (which hopefully is a short one), your body will adjust and you can start determining if your new deodorant is right for you as an individual or not. It might be, it might not be. Trial and error can become the name of the game, and remember that it’s not wrong to have more than one deodorant in your arsenal. Once you’re aluminum-free, you don’t have to worry about re-detoxing when you switch between brands, provided that you don’t use anything containing aluminum again.
I’ve found it really amazing that, post-switch, I’ve seen trends in my own body that I never would’ve observed before. Like, one armpit is consistently more trouble than the other. Who knows why. Some days, I’m self-conscious because I feel like the deodorant isn’t working as well (which I then exaggerate in my mind). But then there are also fabulous days where the deodorant is totally on point and I have near-perfect pits. Balance, right? I’m thinking it’s food related, since what you eat really does affect things like that! I also notice correlations, as a woman, in my deodorant’s effectiveness with hormonal changes throughout the month – these certain peak times tend to be a bit more challenging. So ladies, just a little heads up on that!
I’m sure to some, the hassle of detoxing may not be worth it. And for some, the risk of smelling anything less-than-perfect on a daily basis is a total no-go. If so, that’s okay – there are plenty of other ways you can reduce your daily exposure to chemicals. For health and safety, though, I would truly recommend to everyone to make the switch, but it’s a personal decision! I don’t think I’ll ever go back, especially with mounting claims that aluminum exposure plain and simple is not safe. Since demand is exploding, more and more companies are coming on board with better and safer products – it’s just going to get even easier from here.
Now that you’ve learned more than you ever thought you’d know about my armpits, let’s hear about yours! Please feel free to ask any questions or share any personal experiences in the comments. Good luck!
Wishing you healthier, happier days!
July 2016 – Hello again! Check out one of my newest posts, where I review a fantastic natural deodorant that is not only aluminum-free, but also has an unbelievably clean and organic ingredient list!
Find it here: Product Review: Fat and the Moon Deodorant Cream
September 2016 – Oooooh, another update! Look at me go! I wanted to share a product review that I just did in collab with Kiss My Face, to review their new Quick Dry Spray Deodorant for them. It’s another aluminum-free choice for anyone looking to switch!
Read it here: Product Review: Kiss My Face Deodorant Spray