What’s that Smell? Putting “Natural” Deodorants to the Test, Part 1

When you get a group of massage therapists and estheticians together, the topic of body odor is bound to come up. In this case we aren’t talking about our clients, but about ourselves. We work in very close proximity to people, probably closer than most people you encounter in your day to day lives, so we want to smell clean!

The other day the discussion was about deodorants and antiperspirants that are free of chemicals but still effective. Someone pointed out that deodorant and antiperspirant are two different things, a fact that I’m fairly sure I knew at one point but then forgot. The difference is that antiperspirant prevents sweating while deodorant allows sweating but stops the odor. Right of the bat it’s probably safe to say that something that’s affecting the natural process of our body like an antiperspirant should be at least a tiny bit suspect.

Generally antiperspirants get most of the blame when it comes to causing cancer because they contain aluminum. As I’ll talk about another day, finding an accurate and unbiased scientific study is really difficult but The American Cancer Society’s website says there isn’t a “clear link” between antiperspirants containing aluminum and breast cancer. Personally I don’t really want to find out the hard way if they’re wrong. EWG ( as discussed in the previous post) also rates Aluminum as an innocuous 1 on their toxic scale, meaning they think it’s harmless. Still, there is such a thing as aluminum toxicity, meaning it is possible for your body to be negatively impacted by excess aluminum. Besides aluminum, many of these products have other nasty ingredients like parabens and fragrance and other chemicals that are under dispute.

What are My Options?

The general problem with most natural deodorants is that they have a reputation for not working. In massage school all of our body and personal products had to be unscented, including laundry detergent (topic for another day) and deodorant. This led me to my first option the Jason Fragrance Free Deodorant Stick.


Pros: Goes on super smooth, unlike most natural products

Cons: No smell means there’s nothing to stop YOU from smelling either.

Overall: Ingredient wise its good- no aluminum, no parabens, no scents (although I’ve read reviewers say they liked the smell). I still use it sometimes but generally double it up with another brand to make see if it works better.

 Looking to move away from scent-free I tried a brand which I consider fairly reliable in the natural world: Tom’s of Maine. At this point I forgot to check for aluminum and let myself be swayed by the words “natural” when I went shopping. I bought a 2 pack of this Tom’s Naturally Dry Antiperspirant. Oops.


Pros: Overall the EWG gives it a score of 3 which is the low end of moderately toxic. The aluminum and talc also score a 3 on EWG so it puts it at moderately offensive. Tom’s own website details why they think Aluminum Chlorohydrate is safe as per their research. I’d say that’s a personal choice.

Cons: Most of the ingredients are good but “Fragrance” has a highly toxic rating because it’s one of those generic words that can include anything.

(Somehow fragrance has managed to skate by as an unregulated word that appears on almost every personal product. My thought is that if it was something good for you they would probably label it as what it is.)

Overall: The product worked OK.  It wasn’t amazing or terrible.  I actually threw mine in the garbage recently when I saw it still contained aluminum. That said, Tom’s is a reputable brand and I wouldn’t totally rule it out.

I’ll update on my two current favorite choices in the next post so stay tuned.


One response to “What’s that Smell? Putting “Natural” Deodorants to the Test, Part 1

  1. Pingback: What’s That Smell: Part 2, The Natural Deodorant Winners – From City to Crunchy·

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