What's the Deal with Natural Deodorant? - Cupcakes & Cashmere

What's the Deal with Natural Deodorant?

We asked three founders for their tips and tricks.
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What's the Deal with Natural Deodorant?_Promo

Last week I posed a somewhat embarrassing question: 'Why is it such a big deal to see a woman sweat?' You responded in droves, with so many pieces of advice, opinions, and questions, mostly about natural deodorant, that I decided to reach out to the experts themselves. After speaking with Jena, Emily, and Rachel, the female founders of three of the top natural deodorant brands, I was surprised to learn that each of them created their products to fit a need they were looking for in their own lives—and that making the switch from convention to natural deodorant is not only possible, but easyRead on for their tips for making the switch, and why they each believe it's so important: 

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Emily Doyle, founder of Ursa Major, has been in the beauty industry for close to 15 years ("I love products…. Always have."). I had so much fun talking about her about her love of coffee ("I just cannot function without a good strong coffee.") and raising a daughter (she has a nineteen-month-old daughter, Camilla). When Emily and her partner Oliver moved from New York City to Vermont to be closer to the outdoors, they launched Ursa Major. It's probably worth mentioning that Oliver's last name is 'Sweatman'... Despite having what she calls a "small, passionate crew," the brand has national name recognition and fantastic natural beauty products that go beyond deodorant—Leslie swears by their face wipes, which we also keep in our office. 

When did you start using all-natural deodorant, and why? 

I am super passionate about using clean products, and deodorant is top on the list. I probably started looking for an effective all-natural deodorant when I still lived in New York City, ten years ago at the beginning my green beauty journey. At that time, I was using a spray deodorant from Whole Foods. There weren't many options back then and I'm pretty sure it just made me smell like roses for about 20 minutes, ha! But I never went back to conventional.

Honestly, whether it’s Ursa Major, or another one of the great green, clean deodorant options out there—you have to make the switch! Conventional deodorants contain ingredients that no one should be rubbing in their armpits everyday, including parabens, aluminum, and fake fragrance (which typically contain phthalates).

What's the strongest argument you've heard to switch from conventional to all-natural deodorant?

I think once you understand the way that aluminum works in conventional deodorants and antiperspirants is usually enough to make the switch…. Aluminum salts create a ‘gel-like plug’ in your armpit pores which prevents the sweat from coming out, so when you use a product like that, you are stopping your body’s natural ability to sweat, detoxify and cool itself. It’s actually really gross (and totally unnatural)! There are other arguments to make the switch, like aluminum’s potential link to Alzheimer’s and parabens possible connection to breast cancer, but I do not think either of those have been clinically proven. Still, I feel like clean deodorants have come such a long way, there is really no reason to still be using chemicals. Why take the risk (and plug your pores!)?

What was the process of making an all-natural deodorant like?

Creating an all-natural deodorant was tough. It literally took us five years from start to finish... and there were definitely moments of serious doubt. Ultimately, as with all of our formulas, you just have to keep trying things and tweaking the formula. Our customers were asking for a clean deodorant, and it was a scary product to develop because so many natural deodorants are disappointing, but we weren't going to give up the opportunity to create something awesome, and luckily we landed on a final formula—which includes  kaolin clay, hops, baking soda, and saccharomyces ferment—that people love. Now it's one of our best sellers! 

Do you have any tips for making the switch from conventional to natural deodorant? Is there a transitional time?

Yes! I think it’s different for everyone, some people have no transition time whatsoever…. but generally, I tell people to give it two to three weeks and do not give up. If you’ve been using an antiperspirant, think about how long it’s been since you’ve let your armpits naturally sweat! You might go through a funky-stinky stage where you feel like it’s not working, but then you come out the other end and can truly give up your toxic deodorant! Also, this might sound super weird, but it’s important to really wash your armpits properly and apply your clean deodorant right after the shower… before any bacteria can appear. I never thought I would spend this much time talking about sweat and armpits!! 

What's your favorite way to sweat?

I love to run and hike (but not at the same time). It’s such an amazing way to get outside, breathe the fresh Vermont air and just let your mind slow down a bit... plus I can take Camilla and our boxer Lola with me. Pre-baby, I hit bikram yoga a couple of times a week—that is a serious sweatfest… talk about a detox! I would love to eventually find the time to get back to that.

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Fifteen years ago, Rachel Winward, founder of Soapwalla, was diagnosed with systemic lupus. The auto-immune illness causes your body to attack its own cells, as if they're foreign bodies, leading to a whole host of symptoms. One of the most common is skin issues. "Overnight, my skin went from totally normal—I'm not exaggerating when I say I barely had a pimple my entire teenage years—to wildly reactive," she told me. She tried everything with the buzzwords of "hypoallergenic, natural or organic," but found that "not only were they not calming my skin but they were exacerbating my overall health issues because of the intense preservative methods." Rachel resorted to teaching herself chemistry, formulation, aromatherapy, and herbology in order to be able to create a product for herself that she felt comfortable and safe using. Roughly years after her diagnosis, she launched Soapwalla

How do all-natural deodorants work compared to conventional deodorants? Are they as effective?

They are as effective! The major difference between natural and conventional deodorants is the lack of certain ingredients (most commonly, propylene glycol, triclosan, and parabens). Alongside a host of other potential health issues, all those ingredients are known skin irritants. A well-formulated natural deodorant that has the correct pH and a proper combination of anti-bacterial ingredients will work just as well as, if not better than, conventional deodorants. 

Our combination of food-grade powders and clay help keep moisture at bay, while our combination of essential oils (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial) keep odor at bay by not permitting odor to form in the first place. At the end of the day, you're fresh and clean and neutral-smelling!

Are there any must-avoid ingredients to look out for in deodorants?

I personally don't use triclosan, propylene glycol, SLS, parabens or phthlates in my skincare products, based on personal experience and scientific studies on long-term effects of their use.

Do you have any tips for making the switch from conventional to natural deodorant? Is there a transitional time? 

Yes! I have a bunch of tips: 1. Make sure to apply a few times a day as your body gets used to freely sweating, 2. Drink a ton of water during this time to help flush everything out, 3.  Sweat as much as you can—go to some fun exercise classes, schedule an hour in the sauna, etc.—sweating will also help you flush everything out, 4., Apply an easy mask to your underarms to help get everything working easily—equal parts clay and full-fat, no-sugar yogurt (Anita's Coconut yogurt is the perfect vegan option), 5., Wear only natural fabrics—set aside the polyester and rayon for a few weeks til you're switched over.

What's your favorite way to sweat?

I love to box, practice yoga and hike. I box and/or do yoga every day, and I try to get upstate to hike as often as possible, while the weather holds. I'm a big wimp when it comes to the cold, so I pretty much hibernate all winter. I get in all my outdoorsy adventures in during the nice months.

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Jena Covello, founder of Agent Nateur, began using natural deodorants in 2014, when she created her own formula to help treat her her endometriosis and adenoymyosis. At the time, most of the deodorants on the market contained aluminum antiperspirant, which some evidence shows mimics estrogen and is an endocrine disruptor [Ed note: while scientists have suggested possible connections between conventional deodorant and diseases, no solid evidence links them to breast cancer]. After nine months and 100 different formulas, she became the first brand to get baking soda deodorant into stick form (rather than a jar), which is still Agent Nateur's main active ingredient in combatting smell.

Do you have any tips for making the switch from conventional to natural deodorant? Is there a transitional time?

It can take up to a year. Have patience. When you begin using natural deodorant you initially sweat more because you’ve been clogging those pores for most of your life, and your body is detoxing. After that time period, I actually stopped sweating.

Some people are sensitive to baking soda and can break out in a rash. If this occurs, try the apple cider vinegar wash that we talk about on our website or try our sensitive version that is baking soda-free—and always apply to clean skin.

What's the strongest argument you've heard to switch from conventional to all-natural deodorant?

I don’t like to say aluminum antiperspirant causes breast cancer but it can lead to breast cancer because it’s an endocrine disruptor. Aluminum is a toxic heavy metal that wreaks havoc on the brain and hormones.

How do all-natural deodorants work compared to conventional deodorants? Are they as effective?

Just remember that natural deodorant is the same as conventional in terms of efficacy. Not every conventional brand works for everyone. Since we’ve paved the way for natural deodorant, there are plenty of brands to choose from, so don’t give up if a particular brand doesn’t work. Keep trying...

What's your favorite way to sweat?

I like steam rooms and pilates with Karen Lord. She’s pretty much that best pilates teacher I’ve ever seen.