If You Have Sensitive Skin, Here's A Natural Ingredient In Deodorant To Avoid
It’s easy to assume that if a beauty product is labeled “clean” or “all-natural,” it’s ingredients must be safe on everyone. But, could it really be that simple? Well, if the natural deodorant that turned my armpits into a HOT F*CKING MESS has any say in it, the answer is no.
I guess I should start with the fact that I have sensitive skin. You know, the type that gets pissed off a lot. The kind that never allows me to pay $5 extra for the exfoliating foot scrub at the nail salon. Trust me, I’m never one to refuse a spa package, but a scrub makes my skin react like an angsty teenager.
Alright, let’s talk armpits. About a year ago, I made the switch to natural deodorant for two reasons:
1) Most drugstore-classic deodorants contain aluminum, which has since been studied to cause an increase in breast cancer. It's added to clog your sweat glands temporarily to block moisture from seeping through pores. Or in other words, so you can avoid embarrassing pit stains. A natural deodorant replaces aluminum with a less-harmful alternative.
2) Natural deodorant itself has gotten a major facelift over the years. It seems like everyone and Sephora is slangin' them. And a good majority of them are proven to work. My proof came from the people I knew that wore a specific natural deodorant and managed to not smell like a Burning Man festival at high noon.
So I bought what they bought. Even though I have sensitive skin, I never thought to read the ingredients on the label. If it didn't contain aluminum, what would be the issue?
The deodorant and I had a beneficial relationship for about a month. My armpits felt softer from the essential oils, and that felt amazing. I also started to notice I had stopped sweating almost entirely. As someone who could easily sweat through a grey shirt, I was ecstatic.
That was until a few weeks later when both of my armpits started to itch. Like bad. I also began to feel a painful sensation radiating from my pits and traveled down to my fingers. It felt like I had just done an arm workout, which I knew was impossible considering I hadn't gone to a gym in over four years. The "sitch" (situation, for y'all who don't know abbrev) I found during my mirror examination was grim. 3-4 large bumps or nodules had formed under the skin of both my armpits. Shortly after, WebMD told me I was dying, but after researching the ingredients on the label, I began to blame sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda).
Remember how I said that natural deodorant needs an aluminum alternative to keep your sweat glands in line? Yeah, well that's baking soda. For many people, it's a safe ingredient, and what gives natural deodorant it's sweat-proof effectiveness without the health risks. But since our underarm is already a delicate area of skin, it could cause issues for super-sensitive skin.
I went to Urgent Care, just in case, and I confirmed that baking soda was the culprit. Although I didn't experience irritation right away, it slowly exacerbated each time I shaved and used the product shortly after. (So, like twice a week?) The large bumps were clogged sweat ducts that took their job seriously. With baking soda as their new boss-in-charge, they just said clogged, and I couldn't properly detoxify through sweat. As for the pain, that was my lymph nodes having a freakout.
Luckily, I just needed to stop using that deodorant and exfoliate my pits with a loofah and gentle bar of soap for a couple of weeks. Except instead of giving up on going natural altogether, I did more research and learned that baking soda isn't the only aluminum-alternative. There is also arrowroot powder and magnesium, which help to neutralize odor and combat sweat, but more gently.
Separately, I tried a few of the baking soda-free options over the next several months. It was important that if my skin did react, I knew exactly what deodorant or ingredient caused it. Thankfully, these baking soda-free alternatives still contain essential oils and plant butters, so I wouldn’t miss out on those nourishing benefits.
If you are new to natural deodorant and have sensitive skin, here's my guide to THREE baking soda-free alternatives that worked for me:
I found this brand at Target, checked the label, and bought it immediately. While the brand’s regular deodorant contains baking soda, their sensitive skin version uses the magnesium and arrowroot alternative.
As for scent, you can pick between Tea Tree, Coconut Pineapple, Jasmine Tea, Lavender Tips, Geranium Flower, and Fragrance-Free. I bought the Coconut Pineapple. It smells like the good kind of sunscreen. The best part about Schmidt’s is that I stayed fairly dry all day. I feel it’s the most similar to a traditional deodorant you’d get at a drugstore.
Ingredients: Magnesium hydroxide, coconut oil, arrowroot powder, shea butter, Candelilla Wax, jojoba seed oil, Vitamin E, and natural fragrance.
Like Schmidt’s, Native Deodorant sells a regular and sensitive formula. The sensitive formula contains arrowroot powder, and also L. acidophilus, a probiotic found in our bodies, which helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
It comes in three different scents: Cotton & Lily, Coconut & Vanilla, Gardenia & Orchid, and Unscented. You can go online and buy a sample pack before committing to one particular scent. I liked Gardenia & Orchid the best.
I would say that Native absorbs the quickest out of the three. I didn’t feel like I had to wait for it to dry to put my clothes on and avoid powder marks. As for the scent, the Gardenia & Orchid fragrance didn’t last throughout the day, but I didn’t smell bad either (or at least no one told me I did).
Ingredients: Coconut oil, arrowroot powder, stearyl alcohol, shea butter, milk of magnesia, castor oil, Cera Bellina wax, jojoba oil, Vitamin E, L. acidophilus
I’ll be honest, I bought this product for the packaging. I mean, how could I resist? The product itself is extremely gentle. I found that it helped my skin heal and my armpits felt noticeably softer after a few weeks. I will say that this shouldn’t be your top choice if you’re concerned about actual sweat. You will still need to apply it twice a day if you want to stay completely dry.
The scent itself lasted all day. It comes in Grapefruit, Rose Geranium, and Cedar Spruce. I bought the Rose Geranium, and whenever I use it people ask me what perfume I’m wearing.
Though the packaging sold me initially, it was the hardest to apply. The push pop-style tube doesn’t retract, so you have to run your finger around the inner edge when it runs low. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it needed to be said. All in all, the scent was worth it to me.
Ingredients: Arrowroot powder, magnesium hydroxide, coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, sweet orange peel oil, grapefruit oil, lemon oil, and bergamot FCF oil
** Like I said, baking soda will not cause this reaction for everybody. It helps to know your allergy history or skin type. That goes for any product we put on our bodies. When in doubt, always check the label or check with your dermatologist. Just because something is all-natural doesn’t mean your body will always like it.
If you don’t have sensitive skin but you're still in need for a recommendation, we got you. Here are some of Susan’s picks: