Don’t Sweat Over Organic Deodorants And If They Really Work

We did all the hard work and here’s all you need to know about replacing your deodorant stick with a natural alternative.

Prachi Sibal

We’ve all been warned of the risks of carcinogens in our beauty products and of an even greater one with deodorants and anti-perspirants. Even though a study conducted in 2002 concluded that there was no greater risk of cancer associated with the use of deodorants and anti-perspirants, it’s often one of the first, yet the hardest shifts to make when choosing to go all-natural with your personal care regimen.

We’ve spent years trying to find a product that gives us the perfect balance of odour-free underarms, without a huge compromise on ease of use, and without breaking the bank. It’s important to note that anti-perspirant options, that hamper the production of sweat, are few among natural products.

Deodorants, on the other hand, have now made it to the lists of most homegrown personal care brands. Look at the ingredients and you will realise that they use a combination of common kitchen ingredients—from coconut oil to arrowroot powder, and baking soda. These are combined with natural essential oils that have anti-bacterial properties and impart a scent to the product. 

What’s wrong with chemical deodorants?

Dr Jaishree Sharad, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and author, helps us break down the ingredients and says, “They contain chemical compounds like aluminum chloride or aluminum hexachloride. These can lead to contact dermatitis, blocking of sweat ducts or cysts sometimes”. These aluminum compounds rank high on the list of ‘don’ts’ with the experts we consulted. In fact, they can also be counter indicative. “When aluminum compounds block sweat glands, they can increase body odour. Bacterial and fungal infections can also occur,” adds Sharad.

Other ingredients to avoid, as per Sharad include alcohol propylene glycol and phthalates.

Dr Sadhana Deshmukh, dermatologist and founder, Forever Young Dermatology Skin Hair Laser Clinic and Hinduja Healthcare Surgical Hospital, also warns of the risks of parabens and triclosan. She adds, “Aluminum compounds most often present in deodorants and other active antiperspirant ingredients are dissolved in alcohol because it dries quickly and feels cool when applied to skin. A small percentage of people are allergic to aluminum and may experience contact dermatitis, skin may develop an allergic, axillary granuloma response.” Deshmukh recommends that you look for alcohol-free deodorants in this case.

Why natural deodorant alternatives are better?

The market seems to be flooded with natural deodorant options that promise the moon and the stars. From floral fragrances to citrusy, woody, even fruity, in some cases. They come as sticks and in jars, for easy application. There is the occasional spray-version, too. We asked the experts what ingredients one should opt for, and avoid, in these natural variants.

“You must look out for natural ingredients like clove oil, curcumin (turmeric). Avoid fragrance in deodorants. Synthetic fragrances can cause hyperpigmentation and contact dermatitis,” says Dr Sharad. “Some of them have arrowroot, corn starch, and baking soda. Baking soda can also cause irritation sometimes. Be careful of bergamot oil too, it can cause allergies in some people. Some also use coconut oil which can cause clogged pores, especially with oily skin,” she adds.

Deshmukh , on the other hand, believes that natural deodorants may not always be effective against odour concerns. However, when you do, she suggests you pick a fragrance-free one to avoid reactions in cases of sensitive skin.

“You can also use Clotrimazole dusting powder, which is what I use. For people who sweat too much, we do a tiny botox treatment which takes care of the sweat and odour for four to six months,” says Sharad.

Both dermatologists strongly emphasise strong hygiene practices to counter issues of body odour. They also suggest regular shaving or laser hair treatment that helps rid the axillae of microbes.

5 organic deodorants we recommend  

Clearly, choosing a deodorant for daily use, is no child’s play. So, while you scour the market (the virtual one, in this case) for what suits your skin and your needs, here are our notes from the ones we tested. Most of these options are available on common e-commerce platforms like Nykaa and Amazon.

1. Common Oxen’s Do the Birdy Dance

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Among the earliest natural deodorants to be produced by a homegrown personal and home care label, this one came in a round aluminum tin. You need to pinch a small amount and apply as you would a cream, to your underarms. It’s effective in moderate temperatures, smells citrusy and contains baking soda. We would refrain from using it on a hot summer day. Buy here at Rs 375. 

2. Maroma Body Deodorant

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From the Auroville-based incense and fragrance label, this deodorant comes in the form of a liquid roll-on. Use like you would, your chemical deodorant, but give it a moment to dry. The aroma is heady, with deep woody notes offset by spicy ones. It lasts four to five hours but we recommend a reapplication following that. Buy here for Rs 500. 

3. Bella Vita Organic Deodorant

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One of our searches for a quick fix on Amazon led us to this one. This is another easy liquid roll-on deodorant with a choice of fragrance. It lasts nearly the entire day and could even serve you well in summer with a reapplication. We aren’t too kicked about the fragrance we chose, but well, it serves the purpose. It’s also easy on the pocket. Buy here for Rs 199. 

4. Indus Valley Natural Deodorant

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This, by far, has been the closest to the chemical ones, we were once hooked to. It’s like an anti-perspirant stick and doesn’t leave your underarms wet. You can choose from natural scents like lavender and lemongrass, they even have an unscented option. It lasts a while but again, we do recommend a reapplication. The only downside, it leaves your garments stained white. Buy here for Rs 199. 

5. Vilvah Deo Shots

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As much as this is being marketed and sold as a deodorant, with the inclusion of baking soda that tackles body odour, we like to slip it into our purse as a solid perfume. We tried the vetiver and patchouli fragrance, which is a great blend of essential oils with a strong woody scent. The shots are pocket-sized and priced a tad too high for what they are worth. Buy here for Rs 290. 

Underarm care tips 

-By Dr Sadhana Deshmukh

  • Hygienic measures, such as proper washing of the underarms.
  • Prompt removal of sweaty clothing.
  • Use a topical deodorant in a stick form, if you have allergies.
  • Regular shaving of underarms hair prevents the accumulation of sweat and bacteria on the hair shafts. Permanent laser hair reduction might also be considered for hair removal to minimise bacterial growth.
  • Topical antibiotics should only be used when other antiseptics are ineffective because they have a greater risk of bacterial resistance.
Photo: Shutterstock
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