In the beginning, there was humankind, and humankind was… stinky. Humanity has been fighting odor ever since, but the perfect solution has been elusive. Why? Well, it’s complicated.
Let’s start with odor. It’s the smelly result of sweat mixing with bacteria. To eliminate odor, you need to eliminate either sweat or bacteria. Antiperspirants attack sweat, but they do it by blocking your glands with pore-clogging aluminum. (Yuck.) This is harmful for many reasons, including the basic reality that your body needs to sweat to get rid of toxins.
Enter deodorant. Deodorant fights odor by attacking bacteria. Over the course of history, deodorant has been made with many things, but leaps in knowledge and technology have made each generation’s better than what came before—especially in today’s Golden Age of Natural Deodorants. (You didn’t realize you were living in a Golden Age, did you?)
Today, your natural deodorant options are as plentiful as the day is long. There’s the earliest natural deodorants: completely water-based, yet still solid, and you roll them on. Then came cream-based deodorants in jars, followed by water-based deodorants that you could spray on. More recently, wax/oil based sticks have become the most innovative category on the market. And your favorite influencer has probably tried to sell you on the virtues of crystals. (To be crystal clear: You don’t need them.)
Each option has its pros and cons. We break them down for you, including our recommendations for each category, below.
OPTION 1: WAX / OIL
With the introduction of effective powders like baking soda and new “active” ingredients (like triethyl citrate and caprylic/capric triglyceride), wax/oil-based formulas now perform well enough for the average wearer. No longer limited to the health-conscious, these formulas boast fun, innovative and appealing natural fragrances.
Pros: Highly effective. A drier, quick application. Longer shelf life. Smell amazing.
Cons: Can sometimes be either too oily or too gritty. Still considered “crunchy,” though that’s changing fast.
Our pick: Explore Naturals
OPTION 2: WATER (SOLID)
This is a popular pick because solid-water deodorants look a lot like antiperspirants, which makes going natural a little more comfortable for some people. (Then again, they’re not as effective as wax/oil deodorants, which might be why some people switch back to aluminum.)
Pros: Smooth application. Can have a cooling effect.
Cons: Not as effective. Sweaty, wet-feeling application. More prone to long-term stability issues.
Our pick: Herban Cowboy
OPTION 3: CREAM
Until the development of better wax/oil-based natural deodorants, a cream was your best pick. A little funky to use, but definitely effective.
Pros: Effective. Longer shelf life.
Cons: The experience: You stick your hand in the jar, then you stick your hand in your armpit. And then repeat.
Our pick: Little Seed Farm
OPTION 4: WATER (LIQUID)
Typically sold in a rollerball or spray. Again, a familiar experience to users of antiperspirant, but one that lets a lot of people down.
Pros: Simple application.
Cons: Not as effective.
Our pick: Weleda
OPTION 5: CRYSTAL
Yep. A deodorant for the “If it’s weird, it must be good for you” crowd.
Cons: Contains aluminum. The experience—wetting the rock, then rubbing it on your armpit, leaving an “invisible” residue behind.
Our pick: We can’t, in good conscience, recommend one.