At the risk of embarrassing myself, I think it’s time I admit something private about me. But, while we’re at it, embarrassing according to who exactly? I’m not sure.
I don’t wear any antiperspirant or deodorant (not even natural) on a daily basis. Are you shocked? Yeah, I get that look a lot when I say it (to the few people I’ve admitted it to). During my quest to become as healthy as possible, I discovered about the many (many!) chemicals that were part of the small container I was using every day to rub on my armpits (antiperspirants AND deodorants contain harmful ingredients). The problem is that I sweat. A lot. But the more I learned about the contents of these products, the more determined I became to completely stop using them.
What’s the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants?
First things first, let’s clarify the difference between these two products:
- Deodorants try to hide the smell of body odour using other fragrances. They can also combat the smell by neutralizing fatty acids and creating a less hospitable environment for bacteria which can cause body odour. In short, they generally try to make it less smelly when you sweat.
- Antiperspirants, as the name implies, try to prevent you from sweating in the first place.
In my case, I decided to stop using both of these products. These days the two have become somewhat interchangeable, so you will find that most antiperspirants will include deodorants, and vice versa.
So what’s wrong with deodorants and antiperspirants?
Both products contain ingredients I decided I did not want to put on my body. Let’s explore some of these.
Aluminum is a dangerous heavy metal that can affect your nervous system and has been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Breast Cancer.
While some people argue that the aluminum (and other chemicals) used in antiperspirant is in such tiny amounts, it wouldn’t be dangerous, we need to remember that this is just one of many products we might use which contain it. The issue of accumulation is something to strongly consider, and eliminating as many sources as we can should be a priority. Also, let’s remember that it blocks your pores in order to keep the sweat IN, but sweat is a normal process used by our body to remove harmful toxins (similar to going to the bathroom…). We need that process to function properly. Stopping it is not healthy.
You will find this ingredient in many cosmetics, including deodorants. There appear to be links to breast cancer and it is thought to alter your body’s hormonal balance.
This ingredient is added to kill bacteria (to control body odour), you will also find it in hand sanitizers. Unfortunately, this kills all bacteria, including the beneficial bacteria you do NOT want to kill. Triclosan is classified as a pesticide by the FDA and has many possible toxic health affects indicated.
So, I thought that these reasons alone were sufficient to make me never want to wear antiperspirants or deodorants again.
How I stopped using deodorant completely
Even after I’d decided I wanted to stop using deodorants, it wasn’t that easy. I tried. For many months. I started by not wearing any during weekends, and sometimes skipping a day here and there at work, but it was hard. I felt like everyone around me could smell my stench. Because it wasn’t pretty at first. And by pretty, I mean I stunk (although I did my best to hide it by washing my armpits at work). The good thing is that I had already started eating better and the better I ate, the less stinky I was. During that time I tried dozens of natural deodorants, some not working at all, and some briefly (I would reapply it at work 5 times a day!). I gradually moved from antiperspirant to natural deodorants. Although there are many natural deodorants on the market that don’t contain dangerous ingredients, I noticed that I had to change brands very often because they weren’t working for long. A lot of the natural deodorants work with enzymes, and can suddenly stop working.
Something I noticed was that if I managed not to wear any for more than a few days, it wasn’t as bad as the first day after I stopped wearing any. Do you see what I’m trying to say? I would smell better after not wearing any antiperspirant/deodorant for 4-5 days in a row than I did on day 1. I don’t have any scientific backing for this (maybe I should search for it?), but I think it’s the body detoxifying from the crap contained in those products. Ever notice how we smell bad when we’re sick?
Then one day, I decided that there was no way around it, I had to stop. So, just like ripping a Band-Aid off, I stopped wearing antiperspirants and deodorants altogether. Some days were better than others, for obvious reasons summers are more challenging than winters. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
Alternatives to commercial deodorants
- At one point, I brought a facecloth with me to work, and I’d go to the washroom a couple of times a day, dampen it with water and simply wipe my underarms with it (no soap, because I found that the ‘antibacterial’ soap offered at work made it worse).
- When I shower, I always use soaps that are as natural as possible. I even started making my own!
- Most recently, I started using freshly squeezed lemon juice after washing my armpits with water and a washcloth. Just a little bit is needed, it takes 10-20 seconds to dry, and it seems to work really well on those hot summer days or for an appointment. So I’m liking this a lot!
- Witch Hazel can be used by applying it to your armpits directly, but I’ve never used this one personally
- Coconut Oil is another option you can try, again by applying it to your armpits. I haven’t tried this one yet either but am planning on it!
A couple of my closest friends mentioned to me that they’ve “smelled” me a few times in the beginning, but nothing bad enough to get them running to the hills! haha
How it worked out long-term
And now? Well after several years, I still don’t wear anything. Not even when I go jogging or work out. Especially if I exercise! I mean what’s the point of going to sweat if we block that sweat?? Just have a quick shower afterwards, or wipe your sweat off, and be done with it.
I do have a natural deodorant that I keep for special occasions, or if I have a meeting that makes me nervous, but that would be a handful of times per year. And you know the best part? My body is not as smelly as it used to be (most likely because I eat healthy food, lots of raw fruits and vegetables, and not a lot of meat). I also sweat less now (I used to sweat like a fountain). This also saves money, helps the environment by not releasing more chemicals out there, and most of all, is really good for my health.
So, back to my opening sentence, why do I feel embarrassed telling you this? Because of this strange world we live in where nothing can smell normal (think of all those products available out there to ‘hide’ smells: for your laundry, for the house, for the car, for the cat’s litter and even pet perfume, or for the stinky furniture, sports bag, etc. — whatever happened to just cleaning things?). They even have antiperspirants so powerful nowadays that it stays on for a week! I can only imagine what chemical ingredients are necessary to make that happen!
Why can’t we smell like humans? Why do we need so many chemicals to hide our scent?
I know this is a strange touchy/taboo subject, but what do you think about all this?? I’m feeling nervous about publishing this post… Please don’t smell my armpits if I see you! 😉
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Love your post. And I totally agree with you. Ever since having kids who are very sensitive to scents (in laundry soap, cleaning products etc) I have removed almost all scented cleansers from my home. Its so true that we’ve lost a sense of just plain clean because we expect “clean” to have a strong (or something other than natural scent). We clean with water…sometimes vinegar….and use soaps only scented with esential oils (even then sparingly). Its amazing how offensive I find the laundry soap aisle at the grocery store now that I’m not used to smelling those overpowering scents anymore.
Don’t be embarassed. I think its more embarassing to admit we’ve been poisoning our bodies without even thinking about why or what harm we might be doing.
I could not agree with you more about the “cleaning” aisle in the stores! I usually run through it as fast as I can (since I don’t buy anything in that aisle anyway)! It makes me gag!
Thanks for the kind word of encouragement, it’s strangely liberating to say it. haha
I’m so happy to read this post! I’ve rarely worn deodorant or anti-perperant. It was my little secret for so many years, the truth is, I could never really remember to put it on! So, as a teenager and now into my 30s — I’ve simply given up trying to remember. I want to add that there are times I feel guilty and then try to put on a natural deodorant and guess what? I end up smelling terrible all day long!
There’s good news to all those who want to convert: as long as you shower and wear clean clothing, your body will not smell foul. You just need time to re-callibrate to your normal odour. (Or at least that’s what happens for me)
Awesome! I agree, the same thing happened to me, it made me stink more than not wearing any. But I think it’s part of the vicious cycle that we’re in. Companies make us believe that as much as we might smell WITH their products, you can only IMAGINE what it might be WITHOUT?! I think it’s a scam! haha Like a lot of other products that we can live without!
Thanks for sharing, and spread the word, deodorant-free sister, I’m sure there are more out there, and we need to stick together! haha
L'Univers de Miss R says
Love your post! Çet article fait vraiment réfléchir! De plus, j’ai apprécié ton audace de le dire et de l’écrire! Bravo!
Merci!!! (j’avais complètement oublié de te répondre plus tôt! haha)
Kathleen Jones says
My husband doesn’t wear any and he never smells bad and if I don’t ( and I have tried not to) it can be quite unpleasant. We eat extremely healthy and we both eat the same thing its just that he barely sweats and when he does I like the smell ( don’t judge me!) and I don’t sweat a lot but when I do my whole night could be ruined if I wasn’t wearing something. I just use a liquid mineral deodorant to minimize odor and it really works for me! So to each their own. I would never recommend an antiperspirant they are very toxic and unnatural.
I do sweat a lot, especially in the summer, but this works for me. It took me years (and a lot of effort and trying) to get to this point. The sharing of my experience was to show people that we need to relax a little about smelling like a human (a taboo in modern society), and that it is possible not to wear anything, with time, effort, and patience. I completely agree that antiperspirants are definitely a no-no! Thanks for sharing your experience and stopping by my blog! 🙂
Kathleen Jones says
My pleasure! And I do think that you are very right and I also hate how we are encouraged to cover up odor as well with so many scented products such as lotions, shampoos, body washes, perfumes, hair products even our laundry detergents. Lets just smell like people. Maybe someday we will start to look like them too and not have to pluck and shave all our hair off;)
Agreed! I’ve changed my views on many of these, mostly because of all the toxic ingredients in many of them. My husband and I stopped using perfume/cologne many years ago, and we use natural organic products for the rest (I plan on writing another post about this). However, I still participate in society, so I wax. haha 😉
I haven’t worn perfume for years, but I still wear deodorant on occasion. Some days I just forget to put it on. I rarely smell – sweat, yes, but it’s not a problem. When i do use deodorant I buy the Crystal rock (spray form) and I believe it only have like 2 or 3 ingredients. It works perfectly at keeping the smell away, but it still lets you sweat. When you take out all the processed foods you just don’t sweat or smell as much because you are consuming less toxins. Just one more reason to eat real food! Great post 🙂
Exactly!! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!
I too have quit the deodorant/antiperspirant cycle, years ago! Nobody in the last 40 years has said anything to me about my “smell”. I do think that some people have a stronger natural odor than others, and it can be offensive, but there is a BIG difference between fresh sweat and old sweat, so frequent showers and like you said, a wet wash cloth to the “pits” should keep it within socially acceptable limits!
Good for you! And thanks for sharing 🙂
I could post a very long message to how I arrived at getting to your article, but I will just cut to the chase: I think that anything under the arm (ANYTHING) blocking the pores is a bad thing, as you mentioned here in your article. Its unnatural and unhealthy. I understand that B.O. smells bad in public places and when you are stuck in an elevator with some Indian guy for 20 flights (I get it). But I can tell you from personal experience (many health issues) that I arrived at wondering what was loading my body up with toxins. My theory is its the deodorant. I even made homemade deodorant with 3 ingredients: coconut oil, baking soda and potassium bicarbonate. Even though it smells great and works great, I still think its bad. I will keep you updated here on how my progress with not wearing anything goes.
PS – if you want to know how to stop sweating and stinking from the inside: take baking soda, seriously. Like 1-2 tsps a day.
Thanks for your comment, it’s always nice to hear from someone else who’s gone through this too! Just a little note though, I wouldn’t recommend eating baking soda on a daily basis. Because it has an alkaline effect in the body, it could seriously endanger your natural pH balance in your body and create health issues later. 😉
I love your article I stumbled across it because I Googled I stopped wearing deodorant and now I don’t stink. My story is one day I had ran out of deodorant and I went to work lucky for me I’m a garbage man so I stink anyways LOL well I went a couple days without deodorant and I started noticing that I’m sweating less and even better than that I didn’t really smell that bad. And now about three months later deodorant free I don’t smell at all I mean I can come home from work and my wife can lift my arm and smell my armpits and nothing no smell. No more deodorant for me also I noticed all around I just sweat less now than I used to.
Hey Roly, thanks so much for sharing your story and dropping by! It’s incredible, isn’t it? It’s so much better for our health too, so good on you for doing it!
I also stopped wearing deodorant several years ago, for all the same reasons as the original poster, unhealthy chemicals. Also humans are designed to sweat heavy from our underarms, it just doesn’t make sense to clog up our sweat glands with toxic goop. Especially when our arm pits are so close to our main lymph nodes right there.
Another reason was that, I built a home sauna years ago (traditional style, with rocks steam 200F) and when I would sit in my sauna after work to relax, I could not sweat out of my arm pits if I wore deodorant that day, it was amazing how long it kept your arms plugged up. I have never wore it since, just shower everyday and don’t worry.
Well said! Why mess up the natural cycle of things!
I’m from the US and am spending the summer in a very small village with only one place to buy deodorant and it smells so bad. I too sweat a lot. I decided to go without and smelled awful the first two days. It has been a week and now I smell nothing! Just came back from a hike and still there’s no stink. Thanks for your post and your confidence. I’m giving up deodorant for good now!
Thank you for sharing your experience! I completely understand how it’s a little strange at first, but once we get over the initial smelliness, it gets better and better! Depending on what you eat, the heat, if you’re sick, etc., the body will produce different smells, so that can change often, but it generally doesn’t last long and goes back to not smelling or not much. I use fresh lemon juice in those times. Thanks again for your courage to share your experience! Have a great summer!
It doesn’t work like that for me bcus I didn’t monitor my food. I’m planning to do so, so that I can quit using deodorant. Thanks for the tips.
Glad to help and best of luck! Remember it takes time 😉
Thank you for your post! I’m on this “no deodorant” journey as well. I have one concern though. For everyone who says “I stunk at first, but now I don’t,” how can you be sure you haven’t just gone “ nose blind” to your own smell? I would hate to stink and not know it because I don’t smell what others smell!
haha that’s a good point, but typically you do know because you never smell the exact same way every day, but just to be sure, I asked friends once in a while 😉 Good for you for embarking on this journey!
Timothy Spangenberg says
I’m 29 years old, male, and just ran out of deodorant 3 days ago(commercial brand that rhymes with rolled ice). I didn’t think of the health benefits of NOT wearing any deodorant but can’t imagine that not wearing any can hurt my health. I sweat like the next guy but I’m also very active(when not sitting at a computer at work). I live in Florida which means I get plenty of sweat-inducing days. I kicked meat all-together out of my life randomly one day(just shortly before I got married and much to my wife’s dismay as our catering was already planned and I was supposed to eat chicken Madeira). I shower every day or every other day but can only slightly smell myself after a long day. Honestly though I don’t really care…my health is way more important to me than someone’s opinion of me. If we can’t be friends because of a little body odor, then we weren’t really friends to begin with~ Babies stink(but we still love them!) Just my 2 cents~
haha completely agree. I’d rather smell someone smell like a human than chemicals!
Computers are unnatural, yet you use them. Cancer is very natural as well. So is water, which is a chemical.
Have to consider other people. I was stuck on an airplane with someone who chose not to wear deodorant. I wanted to vomit the entire time.
Shit is natural, but it doesn’t mean you should roll around in it.
I think you completely misunderstood what I was sharing. I don’t wear antiperspirant or deodorant, but I don’t stink, which is what comes with eating a healthy diet of real whole food. I stink a lot more if I use deodorant regularly. But I do apply some sort of smell-controlling product, such as lemon or lavender oil, if I am in close proximity to others, such as public transportation as an added protection. I would never allow myself to stink like that. It’s all about hygiene, and diet. My article was to educate people that antiperspirant and deodorants are not the miracle cure-all solutions, and they do have potential consequences. Cancer is a natural process when we are in a very unnatural state, caused by an imbalance in our body. When I refer to chemicals, I refer to synthetic chemicals. Thanks for reading and for sharing. I wish you a great day!
Miranda M Groth says
Thank you so much for this post, I am just starting my no deo for my b.o. campaign (not a real thing) But I am on week two and a half. I am going to use these tips, lemon under the arms, it makes scents (see what i did there). Again, thank you for writing this article. You are a positive entity in the world.
Thanks so much for sharing and best wishes on your own journey. I love the punch lines 😉
I just started not wearing deodorant/anti-perspirant Saturday (12-15) lol. So far, so good. For the past couple of weeks I would sweat and still smell even wearing my deodorant (the one that’s suppose to work when your body heat goes up!
So I starting researching and people said you have to detox your pits. I went to the local health food store and got bentonite clay and activated charcoal soap. So since Saturday I put clay paste on the pits for 5 minutes and wash it off, then wash with the charcoal soap. Then I rubbed apple cider vinegar. I still sweat a teeny bit I noticed, but mostly in the daytime. Even though my journey is still relatively new, I have noticed a difference. This morning I put ACV, along with corn starch, and it works.
I am still not sure if I should wear a natural deodorant after this detox is done, but I may buy that EO spray you mentioned.
I really believe that the deodorant/anti-perspirants actually make you sweat and stink more; or maybe it isn’t effective anymore? Who knows?
Thanks for your post. Glad I’m not alone, but we just don’t talk about it for fear of being misunderstood by our peers. Lol
haha so happy you had the guts to comment 😉 As far as sweating is concerned, the thing is it’s completely natural and even necessary for our bodies. If we wouldn’t sweat, we could get seriously sick because that is one way that the body uses to eliminate toxins. The smell is more of a concern in our modern society, but eating healthy definitely helps. ACV works well because it has natural enzymes in it. Bentonite clay and charcoal is good too. Did you know you can use these to brush your teeth as well? It helps to whiten your teeth naturally. You can add a bit of coconut oil too. I hope your journey without deodorant is going well! 🙂