From lumps in your armpits to painful rashes, natural
products that just don’t work and aluminium is not our friend, deodorants are a
fraught subject. You’ve tried traditional antiperspirants and deodorants,
you’ve tried natural deodorants and crystals, and you’ve found fault with all
of them? Me too! So I did a little digging…
Formulators have been using the same active ingredients in
deodorants and antiperspirants for many years, keeping consumers convinced of
the notion that humans are innately disgusting stench emitters, civilised and
tamed only by the zealous use of commercial deodorants. The marketing has made
us so terrified of releasing our inner caveman, we have become chained to a slew
of products designed to prevent our body odour from wafting freely into the
nostrils of those around us. Deodorant marketing has been just as effective as
the dairy industry’s sales pitch, “But where will you get your calcium?”
Trawling the internet, I stumbled upon a few ideas that have real potential to help us ditch our dependence on deodorants. This is the simple fact that changed my perspective on the subject: it is bacteria, not sweat, that creates odour. In areas where we have hair, humans excrete what’s known as apocrine sweat, unlike the other areas of our body where we excrete benign eccrine sweat (water and salt). But in addition to water and salt, apocrine sweat is also comprised of fats and proteins that bacteria love to feast on, causing a mighty stench as they party.
Vegan deodorant alternatives
Traditional and natural deodorants and antiperspirants employ three methods to combat odour: Strong fragrance to overpower any unpleasant smell, crystal salts or aluminium to plug sweat glands, and/or a potentially sensitizing or abrasive absorbent powder such as bicarbonate soda or charcoal to soak up odour and moisture. But could the stench be better eliminated by addressing the bacteria and their preferred environment? Let’s consider the science.
1. Bacteria love
a warm, moist environment, which is why they love our armpits, so keeping dry
is one option to consider. After a workout, or as you find yourself sweating
throughout the day, use a clean, dampened washcloth to gently exfoliate and wipe
away sweat and offensive bacteria, then importantly, towel dry before lowering
your arm. As long as you can keep the area dry and clean, your pits will smell fresh,
without interfering in your body’s excretory process.
2. Use a slice of
lemon wiped over your armpits to dissolve build-up, which feeds stinky bacteria,
and to raise the pH of your skin in that area. Other useful odour killing
substances include dilute solutions of apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil. These
substances are antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial and render the skin environment
more difficult for bacteria to thrive. To offset a slightly raised pH, these solutions
are best applied to armpits before an application of a rich emollient such as coconut
oil or vegetable glycerin to ensure skin barrier health.
Youtube vegan dermatologist, Dr Dray’s favourite deodorant tip is to use an antibacterial
wash in the shower. Ideally, she says, this would contain benzoyl peroxide, but
I have not found a vegan wash product available in Australia. An alternative
might be to apply and rinse off after a few minutes, a lotion containing
benzoyl peroxide such as Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin
Clearing Treatment With 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide. This may seem like radical idea
to repurpose acne medication, but seeing as she’s medically qualified and an
exercise-loving vegan, I’m inclined to take her advice. Of course an antibacterial
lotion could also be used throughout the day, or after a workout. As with
previously suggested options, an emollient can be used to mitigate the
potential for dry or irritated skin.
4. Highly rated
and internationally sold out, Kosas’ newly released vegan serum deodorant called
‘Chemistry’, uses alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) both
commonly used as chemical exfoliants in skincare products, to dissolve any
tasty fats and proteins from your apocrine sweat, as well as to disrupt the pH
of your armpits. The product promises that those reeking bacteria will disappear
into the ether never to return. It is also balanced with skin loving
ingredients to counteract any skin dryness. At least to my knowledge, using
AHAs and BHAs in deodorant is an innovation in armpit management. If indeed, here
in Australia we are unable to source such a prized product, I have to wonder if
indeed we could just use an AHA/BHA solution such as Paula’s Choice Daily
Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA, which also contains BHA on our armpits just as
effectively? I decided to try it, and so far I’m impressed with not only the
product for it’s intended use, but with my own ingenuity in finding a vegan
alternative, as well as my odour free pits.
I hope this has given you some ideas for your own deodorant
journey. Have you tried any of these options? Are you game? Afterall, now is
the perfect time to discover your perfect deodorant routine, before the summer
weather hits, and while we are laying low, keeping out of circulation, -although
I’m sure you’ll want to throw your hands in the air and dance for sheer joy!
Editor’s note: If you’re keen to try some natural vegan deodorants, we road tested 11 that actually work. You can read about them here. And be sure to check out an impressive vegan deodorant range at Flora & Fauna.
About the Author
Jessica Ferguson grew up on a nudist health farm in the Sunshine Coast hinterland to vegetarian parents, and was raised with ethical consumerism at the forefront of family life. In a small country town in Queensland, these ideals were often viewed as suspicious and against the norm.
While studying a Masters of Teaching, and a Bachelors degree in Anthropology from Sydney University, Jessica spent many years working part time in modelling and television, where her interests in beauty and fashion developed.
Making a sea change to the NSW Hunter Region earlier in 2019 with her surfer husband and twins in tow, has been a revelation, revealing a vibrant and fresh lifestyle, rich with dynamic and motivated people.
Jessica feels this is an exciting time to grow the vegan voice, as we witness an enlivened global movement towards plant-based lifestyles and social awareness.
Our writers independently select all products featured on The Vegan Company. We only recommend products and services we love – and think you’ll love too. Just letting you know that when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.