The first step to understanding how natural deodorants work is to understand what creates body odour in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the sweat itself that smells, but the reaction between the fats and proteins in the sweat with the bacteria on our skin.
Non-natural deodorants work by killing off the bacteria on the surface of the skin, and adding a different scent to mask any odour. It does this using chemicals like Triclosan (a registered pesticide) or alcohol. Antiperspirants are usually also deodorants so have similar properties and chemical ingredients, but with the addition of an aluminium salt which blocks the sweat glands to prevent sweat being produced in the first place. Without sweat, and without bacteria, body odour is eliminated.
So how do natural deodorants work?
Using a range of natural ingredients, natural deodorants, like non-natural deodorants, aim to reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin, and mask any odour with a pleasant smell. These ingredients can be plant extracts or essential oils which have natural antibacterial properties, like honey or tea tree. The pleasant smells of these extracts and oils also help mask body odour. Some use salt crystals instead, so that when they dry they leave a very thin layer of salt on the skin, which prevents bacteria from multiplying.
For many, they work just as well as non-natural deodorants, but like non-natural deodorants, you sometimes have to try a few different brands before you find one that works for you, since everyone’s bodies are different. However, since natural deodorants don’t contain chemicals like aluminium chlorohydrate, they do not act as antiperspirants so will not reduce the amount of sweat you produce.
Why should I switch to natural deodorant?
Firstly, it’s safer for you. While research into chemicals like triclosan, aluminium salts and parabens is mixed, with some declaring them safe, and some suggesting they can cause breast cancer, Alzheimer’s or reproductive issues, no one really knows what the long term effects of these chemicals are – and since most of us use these products every day, these chemicals can easily build up over long periods of time. Using natural deodorants eliminates this risk – and although some contain aluminium, it is usually a naturally occurring form of aluminium such alum, which is thought to be less harmful.
Natural deodorants are also less likely to cause irritation or allergic reaction, because their ingredients are natural, and gentler on skin.
They’re better for the environment and more ethical too. Natural deodorants are less likely to pollute water supplies because their ingredients are found in nature anyway. In addition, their distinct lack of synthetic chemicals means that most natural deodorants are not tested on animals and are suitable for vegans.