I’ve been talking about it a lot, this toxin-free caper. Recently I’ve covered off toxin-free cosmetics, why I use oils in my beauty regime and toxin-free sunscreen. You can catch up on all my toxin-free posts if you’d like.

Via weheartit.com
Via weheartit.com

In terms of deodorants, I’ve used natural, fragrance-free deodorant for five years now. It’s been a long search. I’ve traversed all kinds of stinky cess pits and scaled heights of compromised comfort. But I’ve now found the ultimate deodorant. I share details below.

The difference between deodorant and antiperspirant

Antiperspirants stop you sweating. They do this via ingredients like aluminum and zirconium, which plug the sweat glands. Without sweat the bacteria found in abundance in your underarms don’t have anything to eat, so you smell less.

Deodorants cut down on what makes you stink when you do sweat. They work to counteract the smell that’s produced after the fats and proteins emitted from your cells come to the surface of your skin (in your sweat). Specific chemicals (like triclosan) make the skin in your underarm too salty or acidic to support the bacteria that are meant to thrive there. So without any bacteria to eat the proteins and fats delivered through your sweat, less smell is produced.

What’s the problem with deodorant and antiperspirant?

The list below highlights some of the worst culprits you’ll find inside the average deodorant or antiperspirant. These are the ones to avoid when you’re reading labels.

  • Aluminium: This is the active ingredient in most antiperspirants. It functions by forming a precipitate that physically blocks sweat glands. Most evidence (check out this 2001 study) indicates aluminium is absorbed into the skin and is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Read more here.
  • TEA & DEA: These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects, although not in the rest of the world.
  • Triclosan: Recent studies suggest this chemical may disrupt thyroid function and other critical hormone systems. The American Medical Association recommends that triclosan and other “antibacterial” products not be used in the home. I abhor the stuff.
  • Talc: Hydrous magnesium silicate is a soft mineral used in personal care products as an absorbent and colour additive. It is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer if it contains asbestiform fibers. The quantity of asbestiform fibers in cosmetic grade talc is unregulated. Ergo: big issue.

If you do stick with conventional body odour fighters, at the very least avoid all products containing aluminium. This means avoiding everything labelled as an “antiperspirant”.

Great, I’m ready to switch. Now what?

1. If you’re after a paste, my new favourite is Black Chicken. I use the Axilla Deodorant paste from Black Chicken Remedies. This stuff is freakishly effective. Half the team over at IQS have also switched to this Black Chicken paste (they ordered in bulk) and are loving it.

2. If you want a roll-on, try Miessence fragrance free. If you don’t want deodorant residue on your clothes, Fresca unscented is good, too. To be honest, I don’t find either completely effective.

3. If you’d like a spray-on deodorant try Eco Tan. Yes, they make deodorant. I’m a fan of this one too.

4. If you’re up for it, prepare your pits for a deodorant swap by doing an armpit detox. It’s a natural way to to remove odour, speed up the adjustment to natural deodorant and help remove chemical build-up in armpit skin and tissue. I’ve personally never tried it…have you?

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon bentonite clay (you can order online if you can’t find it in a store)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons of water, to get right consistency

Mix all of the ingredients in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon until about the consistency of sour cream. Spread in an even layer over the armpits and allow to sit for 5-20 minutes. Start slowly and work up to a longer period of time once you see how your body adjust. (This may cause some redness as it increases blood-flow to the area, but it will go away quickly.) Wash off in the shower or with a warm, wet washcloth. Repeat daily or as needed until under-arm odour goes away and natural deodorant is non-irritating.

5. Try these simple DIY home options (thanks to Alexx Stuart over at Low Tox Living):

  • A slice of citrus wiped under the arm. Plain and simple. Again, I’ve never tried it. You?
  • Mix 1 teaspoon bicarb with 5 teaspoons of tapioca flour or organic/non-GMO cornflour and pop the mixture in a jar. Splash a little under your arms after the morning shower. Add a scraped out spent vanilla bean you’ve used for cooking into the jar for vanilla bean deodorant.
  • Coconut oil. So simple. Just scoop some out of the jar and rub it under your arm.

Got any favourite natural, toxin-free deodorants you love? Or any tips for DIY solutions? Feel free to share below and I’ll create a compilation post. 

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Rose

    I’m using and really liking Soapwalla. She has an Etsy shop and website. Alternatively, you could make your own with white kaolin clay, a carrier oil, baking soda, corn starch, and some favorite essential oils.

    • I love the Soapwalla deodorant, works so well.

  • Sister

    Do you put the paste on with your fingers? If so, is it tricky to wash off?

    • Alex Le Fevre

      You can use an ice cream stick, but fingers warm the paste up, helping it spread evenly and “absorb”. My boyfriend still laughs when he sees me playing with my underarms every morning! I use cold water and hand soap to get it off my fingers. (natural soap of course!) Warm water is enough, but it will leave an “oily” feeling on your finger tips which I find annoying.

    • Rose

      I just use fingers! I don’t use a lot…just enough to cover the underarm.

    • Your Local Markets

      It’s not tricky, especially if you’re in your bathroom. You scoop out a pea-sized amount, you rub it in, you wash your fingers. Voile!

  • Linsey

    I think I have tried most non-toxic spray and roll-on deodorants easily available in health food shops and Miessence Ancient Spice (rather than their fragrance free option) wins hands down. Low fuss roll-on, smells great and I never have any problems with smell, even after exercising.

  • Lisa

    I quite like Lavera deoderant as well although it can be hard to track down. For some reason the citrus one works best for me.

    • Lisa

      Also spray works better than the roll on for me.

  • Sarah

    Agree with you about the Triclosan. It’s useful in a hospital setting, but unnecessary in personal care/household products.

    A lot of the big companies (Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Avon, Crest) have started removing it from their products but unfortunately Colgate still use it in their ‘Total’ toothpaste and have said they will continue to do so.

  • Cass

    For one that ‘s found easily in the supermarket, I really like the Redwin Aluminium free spray deodorant.
    The smell is fresh & stops my pits smelling all day. It doesn’t stop me sweating which rarely bothers me.
    It’s affordable & doesn’t irritate my skin.

  • Naomi

    Love love love Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. Absolutely the best deodorant I have ever used!!! Though keen to try black chickens to reduce those carbon miles and it looks similar.

  • Kirsty Mcphee

    Just looked up bentonite clay on the interweb – in Wikipedia – it’s an ‘absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate’.
    Be interested to know if this form of aluminium gets absorbed into the skin like the aluminium found in a regular antiperspirant.

    • Bronwyn Turner

      all clay contains aluminium atoms, otherwise it’s not a clay. The atoms are bound to oxygen atoms and is useful as an absorption agent. i.e. it absorbs stuff like water or chemicals which is why it’s used in beauty products such as face masks as well as in industrial settings as a liquid absorber or liquid thickening agent.

  • Joanna Roy

    Just a dusting of bi carb does to job quite well..!

  • May Rebecca May

    I use Nasanta Magnesium deodorant. It is completely frangace free which I like and it works to make sweat non smelly. It is absorbed by the body so doubles as a magnesium supplement:) it does leave white residue though.

  • I make my own with 6Tbs coconut oil 4 Tbs bicarb 4 Tbs corn starch and a mix of grapefruit and sage essential oils. (Think the original recipe was from Wellness Mama.) Works amazingly well and lasts for ever!

    • Kim

      My récipe is quite similar, I use a mixture of coconut oil & shea butter to make a paste with arrowroot & some bicarb (less bicarb than arrowroot). I add my favourite essential oil of orange blossom. Works for me here in southern Spain!

      • Hannah

        Hi Kim, could you let me know the exact quantities so I can try to make my own? Thanks

        • Kim

          Hannah I’m really sorry but I don`t use measured quantities; as with my cooking, I tend to work instinctively. Saying that, I think I use about equal quantities of oil & butter, & keep adding arrowroot (with just a dash of bicarb, especially if you have sensitivity issues) till a creamy paste forms then add a few drops of essential oil. I store it in the fridge due to the warm climate here. Good luck with your experiment!!

          • Hannah

            Thanks so much Kim. I’ll give it a go. x

  • miriam Nichterlein

    I use LAVANILA deodorant, it’s pretty good. Smells nice too.Quite expensive but I’ve found it works really well for me.

    • Your Local Markets

      I like it too. Not quite as effective as Black Chicken but Miss 13 quite likes it because it’s not too hippy & different to her friends. Because it’s all about fitting in at 13! And it’s particularly good for her at camp this week. There is also a nice little travel size for gym bags 😉

  • Juvenna

    Moo Goo Fresh Cream! I just use Black Chicken (that’s awesome) and Moo Goo. Both seem as effective as each other.

    Moo Goo pro is its a roll on, con is it leaves marks if you don’t let it dry. Ingredients are Aqua,, Magnesium Hydroxide (Milk Of Magnesia), Xantham Gum (Food Grade Thickener), Backhousia Citriodora Leaf Oil (Aussie Lemon Mytrle), Zea Mays (Corn) Seed Flour, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract.

    Black Chicken pro is it smells awesome, con is you have to use hands to apply.

    • Danielle Jupp

      Black chicken also stains white clothes.

  • Joanne Musgrave

    Erica Brooke deodorant cream got the big thumbs up by the beauty editors at both The Glow and Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily. It’s fantastic, and comes in a double strength for those extra stinky days. The Fresca is my next pick. I alternate between them both.

  • Danielle

    I’m really struggling to find a natural deodorant that works! I have tried the Eco-Tan spray, however it didn’t work well and I had a horrible rash that would not clear up. Now I am onto Erica Brooks deodorant, and it is much better, but I have to reapply often and I still have this rash! Did any body else experience this…..will it clear up if I stick with it?

    • Gira

      I got a reaction from Eco-Spray deodorant too. It was sort of like a rash, but it wasn’t itchy. It’s a shame because I really liked the smell of the deodorant.

      • Simone

        You may be having a reaction to bicarb – or tea tree if there is any in there (my sister has the same problems with many natural deodorants)

  • Anna

    I combine coconut oil with lavender oil and run on with fingertips (also use same thing as a facewash). I *think* the antibacterial nature of lavender oil might help with odour. My quick go to is PitROK, from Europe. You may be able to help on this Sarah…the safety of Ammonium Allum..? It has a low rating on EWG so I presume is safe..?

  • Renee Gee

    I’m using the ‘body crystal spray’ from Coles. From what it states on the packaging and on their website, it’s aluminium free. it does state that the product contains alum & upon further reading I’m now not so sure this option is the greatest as it may be absorbed into the blood stream. Has anyone else used this/researched this? It does a fantastic job stopping that underarm smell, but as it’s not listed in this article I am know worried !

    • Julie

      Gee I use the body crystal roll on from coles & think it works well. Just looked & mine says alum as an ingredient but that must be something else as it clearly says no aluminium chlorohydroxide and chlorohydrate.

    • Your Local Markets

      Dr Mercola has an article on natural crystal deodorants and alum – from memory he basically said that alum is a form of aluminium and doesn’t belong anywhere near our bodies.

  • Kate

    Soapwalla’s deodorant is really similar to the axilla one and works just as well, for me. Ecotan’s spray smells lovely and coconutty and works pretty well and is good for people wanting to avoid baking soda as it can be quite irritating under the arms, especially after shaving. My holy grail is meow meow tweets deodorant cream. It’s a paste like axilla and soapwalla’s but it’s baking soda free and much more gentle, while smelling amazing. Obviously these are all only deodorants not anti-perspirants, but the pastes do soak up a bit of sweat and they’re all really effective at keeping you from stinking!

  • Jen

    I have tried half the products on this list. None were as effective as half a lime rubbed under each armpit. Slightly sticky, so some arm flapping required until it dries.

    • Marvellous Mary

      I’ve used lush’s solid deodoratnt which is made from bicarb but then switched to the solid crystal kind which works just fine for me but you have to put a spot of water on it first and do several applications. I’ve stopped getting horrible spots under my arms!

  • Nelly

    Started using black chicken after reading the recommendations by the readers of this blog. A. Mazing. So nice not to be stinky!!

  • How about crystal deodorant? I’ve been using it for years though some folks feel that it’s not “strong” enough…The roll-on and spray versions are terrible but the original crystal is great as a non-toxic deodorant.

  • Zoe

    I’ve been using black chicken for a while now and love it; but a warning to make sure at the end of the day it’s wiped off/showered off properly. It started to give me something similar to Acanthosis Nigricans that only cleared up by laying off the deodorant paste for a few days and making sure it’s properly wiped off at the end of the day.

  • I’ve been using Elixir Skin Food Natural Deodorant which you can buy online. It contains nothing but organic ingredients including aloe vera leaf juice, certified organic coconut oil, MSM, lavender oil, ylang ylang and marjoram. It smells beautiful and feels lovely on the skin.

  • Brandie (Neanderfood)

    I love Primal Pit Paste Stick – so much easier than the tub. Thyme and Lemongrass is lovely – they also have other scents. I buy it online at GPA Wholefoods.

  • Ang Ericson

    I owe you a massive thank you for the Black Chicken Remedies recommendation – I used to use an aluminium free Red Earth one 20+ years ago that worked really well, but since they discontinued that I’ve tried so many things and they all left me with whiffy pits and on special occasions I had to bust out the anti-perspirants – until now! Axilla is my new hero. My husband loves it too (though he does complain it’s hard to rub through his pit hairs haha). Thanks heaps! xo

  • maddy

    what about Tom’s or Jasons deoderant

  • Lori

    I’ve tried countless natural products spending hundreds of dollars in hopes of finding something that worked for me…everyone’s different but for me, after years of trial & error, this is what I’m currently using and I have to say it’s pretty effective, though not 100% fool-proof on a hot summer day in Nashville but it’s the best I’ve found so far! I use a mix of both MoM Milk of Magnesia roll-on from the People’s Pharmacy and Real Purity deodorant roll-on — both can be found on Amazon and it’s the best combo I’ve found to keep my both dry and stink-proof.

  • bnh

    I use coconut oil (6 tbs), baking soda (1/4 c) and corn starch (1/4 c) mixed up in a canning jar. Melt oil over low heat and stir! Works wonders and a batch lasts close to 6 months. I bike a ton-and work in law enforcement wearing a ballistic vest–and I swear I don’t stink, even though I sweat buckets!

  • Nicole

    I have used Arbonne’s pure mint, love the scent and find that its great at keeping me feeling fresh. I was a bit of a antiperspirant junkie so the change has been hard, but very satisfying!!

  • Sandra

    I’m using Young Living Thieves Dentarome Plus Toothpaste – yes as an underarm deodorant. I was using their toxin free Aroma Guard deodorant for many years and it worked well – even though I was living in the tropics, but when I began to have hot flushes, nothing worked until I switched to the Thieves toothpaste. It’s a soft grainy paste- toxin free and powered by essential oils – and I use just a tiny smear applied with my fingers. Do not put on wet pits though as it has hot oils and may sting – just dry off first. When travelling you need just one tube for both toothpaste and deodorant.

  • Tash Bailey

    Sarah, have you scoured the U.S. market for effective toxin-free deodorant options? Do you have any suggestions?

  • Chlobebe

    Pitrok crystal! It’s the best! And easy to find as well..

  • alicia anne

    Hi there, I’d love to know your thoughts on the ‘Crystal Essence mineral natural deodorant stick’??

  • Jackie Isles

    1/4 cup coconut oil,1/4 cup pure baking soda and 10 drops of doTERRAS Patchouli Oil. Combine ingredients and store in a glass container for use <3 Jackie x

  • Nic

    Has anyone considered the effect that clothing fabric has on body odour? Synthetic fabrics (nylon, polyester, all that petroleum-based crap) barely absorb any moisture (1-2% of the fabric weight) before moisture accumulates on the surface of the fibre, creating an ideal environment for bacterial proliferation. Bacteria produce the stench that we know as body odour. Cotton is slightly better, absorbing 7-8% of the fabric weight in moisture before feeling ‘sweaty’ or damp. The superstar fabric choice for low odour is wool – it can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture before feeling wet. The wool fibre has an active surface which also inhibits bacterial growth. This is why when you wear wool clothing you don’t have to worry about body odour! Thats why it is so popular with endurance athletes and adventurers (who may go days, weeks or even months wearing the same clothing). Wool is amazing!! And wool is a natural, sustainable fibre that has loads of other incredible properties (fire, wrinkle and stain resistant to name a few). I wear wool tops every day and never wear any deoderant, and never have to worry about body odour. Highly recommend wearing this amazing fibre!! If you don’t have a washing machine, just hang your wool clothing outside in the fresh air for a couple of hours and it refreshes itself – the power of nature is truly amazing!

  • Ben

    I am using Grandlee Cottage Soap Hello Sunshine natural deodorant from Tassie amazing products.

  • Sarah Fiore

    I discovered DeodoMom 3 years ago and have become a life-long customer – it has zero aluminum, and zero scent, and only 2 ingredients (water and magnesium hydroxide), and is safe to eat. And it simply works – keeps me odor free even when if I skip showering for a day.

  • BeHappy

    MY DIY is vodka with essential oils like tea tree, lavender and a fav scent Vata blend from Perfect Potion. I tried all the usual naturals listed on this site and even my own DIY with coconut oil and bicarb, but they just didn’t cut it at all. I stunk in Brisbane’s humidity. But my vodka essential oil blend works a treat all day long.