Most big-name and conventional deodorants and antiperspirants are very toxic, especially ones of the spray variety.
If you'd like to learn why, read this short blog post on the scary ingredients that can be found in most of the commonly used antiperspirant and deodorant sprays.
In this article, I give you some options for low-toxic deodorants that are eco-friendly, safe & effective for every underarm. A good practice to develop is to ALWAYS READ THE FULL INGREDIENTS LIST and NEVER TRUST THE PRODUCT'S CATCHY DESIGN/LABEL.
Common low-toxic ingredients in natural deodorants
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Ingredients to stay away from
Aluminum - a heavy metal that bio-accumulates and has been linked to multiple health problems such as Alzheimer's disease, decreased sperm motility, and breast cancer
Propane, Butane, Isobutane - are fossil fuel-derived propellants that are often contaminated with benzene - a potent carcinogen that has been linked to Leukemia
Hydrofluorocarbon 152A (HFC 152A) - a propellant that has been linked with ozone layer disruption and decreased air quality
Cyclopentasiloxane - a nonbiodegradable substance that is frequently contaminated with PFAS and leads to an increase in microplastics
Mineral Oil - a petroleum-derived carcinogenic compound
Talc - an endocrine disruptor that is frequently contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos as well as PFAS
Petrolatum/Petroleum - a fossil fuel-derived compound that contributes to climate change and is also carcinogenic
Polypropylene glycol (PPG), Polyethylene glycol (PEG) - are non-biodegradable petroleum-derived compounds that contain chemicals that are carcinogenic, cause endocrine disruption, and can disrupt the skin's natural barrier function.
Fragrance - over 4000 toxic chemicals could be included under fragrances, and they are usually derived from petroleum.
Some Important Points
When choosing low-toxic deodorants, priority should always be given to unscented products. Now, I know you're thinking, surely essential oils are okay. You're partly right; however, essential oils are incredibly concentrated and can cause skin irritation. Additionally, depending on the formulation, essential oils could contain volatile organic compounds.
Therefore, while essential oils are safer than many other synthetic fragrances, they are not completely without risk. But if I had to choose a product with fragrances, I would go for the one fragranced with essential oils first.
Whatever your choice, ensure that the fragrances are disclosed by the manufacturer so that you are aware of what you are putting on your body.
About Spray deodorants
Remember that spraying anything gets inhaled into your lungs. Spray deodorants are therefore not ideal, no matter how low-toxic the ingredients are. Our lungs are not meant to inhale such chemicals.
When choosing deodorant sprays, prioritize sprays made with nitrogen and without HFC152A, Butane, Isobutane, and Propane. These are all propellants that are harmful to the ozone layer, our air quality, and our lungs. Benzene - a potent carcinogen - is often found in products containing these propellants.
Remember: NO PRODUCT IS PERFECT. The best we can do is shoot for a low-toxic product, even if one or two of the ingredients are not perfectly perfect.
Here are a few low-toxic deodorants that are eco-friendly, safe & effective for every underarm
Native Plastic Free Unscented Deodorant $13
This is the number one pick right now because of its plastic-free packaging AND unscented formula. I've been using this deodorant for several months now and while it hasn't kept me as dry as my previously toxic antiperspirants which contained aluminum, it has kept me from smelling like Shrek.
Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Baking Soda, Tapioca Starch, Probiotics (Lactobacillus Acidophilus), Ozokerite, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Magnesium hydroxide, Cyclodextrin, Glucose.
Pros: Aluminum-free, no fragrance, 100% paper packaging, all-natural simple ingredients, non-greasy feeling.
Cons: Baking soda could be irritating for some skin types, it may require re-application during the day, corn-derived glucose may not be sustainably-sourced
Native Plastic Free Scented Deodorants $13
Available scents: Lilac & White Tea, Lavender & Rose, Cucumber & Mint, Cotton & Lily (sensitive), Citrus & Herbal Musk, Charcoal, Aloe & Green Tea (sensitive)
According to their FAQ page: "Yes, our scented products do include fragrance. We use the term fragrance for proprietary reasons. Our goal is to deliver amazing fragrance experiences with perfumes that abide by our high quality & safety standards. To make our unique scents we use a blend of essential oils, synthetic oils, and natural extracts. All of our products are phthalate-free and paraben-free, and we abide by the International Fragrance Regulatory Association (IFRA) guidelines to ensure the safety of our formulations."
Schmidt's Bergamot & Lime Natural Deodorant Jar $13
This deodorant is difficult to come by from the manufacturer's website but I'm including it here because it's still available on Amazon. Hopefully, Schmidt will see the light and make this available on their website once more.
Ingredients: Shea butter, Arrowroot powder, Baking soda, Cocoa butter, Vitamin E, Bergamot fruit oil, Lime oil.
Pros: Recyclable and reusable glass jar, simple, natural ingredients, fragranced with just two essential oils, aluminum-free
Cons: Jar formulation requires finger or stick application, baking soda could be irritating for some skin types, difficult to find
Schmidt's Deodorant Sticks $9.99
This company offers deodorant sticks in 17 different scents, 6 of which are baking soda free. My major issue is that although all their fragrances are plant-derived, none of their products currently feature an 'unscented' version. For people who are highly sensitive to scents, providing an unscented deodorant would be very helpful.
Available scents: Jasmine Tea, Clean Powder, Lavender & Sage, Rose & Vanilla, Vanilla & Oatmilk, Coconut & Kaolin Clay, Fresh Fir & Spice, Charcoal & Magnesium, Hemp & Sage, Fresh Rain & Birch, Fresh Cucumber, Bergamot & Lime, Hemp & Patchouli, Grapefruit & Apricot, Avocado & Lemongrass, Clean Coconut
Ingredients: Magnesium, Coconut oil, Arrowroot powder, Fractionated coconut oil, Shea butter, Baking soda, Candelilla wax, Jojoba esters, Natural fragrance (plant derived), Vitamin E
Pros: Highly effective formula according to reviews, aluminum-free, Ecocert certified, vegan, no artificial fragrance
Cons: no unscented product, plastic packaging, baking soda (not all could be irritating for some skin types, products contain Limonene and Coumarin - both of which may cause skin irritation and sensitization and could be allergenic.
According to Schmidt's FAQ: We only use essential oils and/or blends of plant isolates (sometimes denoted as "natural fragrance" on our labels) in our products.
Public Goods Plastic-Free Deodorant $8.25
This company makes some great products that I've used multiple times. However, access to their products requires a $79 annual subscription which might be worth it if you're purchasing multiple options. However, there is a 14-day membership trial so it might be worth checking out.
Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Arrowroot Powder, Candelilla Wax, Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Shea Butter, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Jojoba Seed Oil, Cymbopogon Martini Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Witch Hazel Leaf Extract, Tangerine Peel Oil, Lemon Peel Oil, Tocopherol, Soybean Oil, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil Glycerides.
Pros: aluminum-free, vegan formula, 100% paper tube, simple natural ingredients
Cons: requires an annual subscription to Public Goods, baking soda could be irritating to some skin types, lack of unscented formula
Ecoroots Plastic-Free Deodorant $16
This company offers deodorant tubes packaged without plastic in tubes and jars. While their tube formulations don't have an unscented formula, the deodorant jars do come in an unscented formula. Their deodorant stick is sold in a paper tube that is 100% biodegradable and compostable while the glass jar comes with a metal cover.
Available scents: Unscented, Coconut, Lavender, & Eucalyptus Mint, Citrus, Rose Geranium
Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Arrowroot Powder, Wildcrafted Candelilla Wax, Magnesium Hydroxide, Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, Jojoba Oil, Essential oils (Coconut, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Peppermint)
Pros: aluminum-free, baking-soda-free, vegan formula, 100% paper tube or glass jar, natural organic ingredients
Cons: may prove difficult to push the tube up and application of the cream formulation might require the use of your nimble fingers
Meow Meow Tweet Plastic Free Deodorant Sticks & Creams $14
This deodorant comes in a regular size and a mini size for those who enjoy taking their favorite products on the road. While their deodorant sticks don't have an unscented formula, they offer one deodorant cream that is baking soda-free and unscented. Another bonus is that their creams come packaged in a glass jar with a metal cap, making them fully reusable and recyclable.
Their available scents are Unscented, Coconut, Tea Tree, Lavender, Lavender Bergamot, Vanilla Bean, Grapefruit, Eucalyptus Lemon, Cedar Spruce, Rose Geranium
Ingredients: Arrowroot powder, Magnesium hydroxide, Coconut oil, Shea butter, Jojoba seed oil, essential oils
Pros: multiple organic ingredients, no synthetic fragrance, aluminum-free, baking soda-free formulations, plastic-free packaging, affordable pricing
Cons: creams require the use of hands for application
A word about Native Deodorant Spray: it contains dipropylene glycol which as previously mentioned, is a petroleum-derived compound that is a carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.
DIY Spray Deodorant
You can make your own deodorant spray and stick with a few simple ingredients and an airtight glass spray container
3 tablespoons of witch hazel
2 tsp magnesium
15 drops of essential oils - OPTIONAL
Combine all ingredients in a glass spray bottle and shake well.
Schmidts Deodorant Spray $11.49
At this moment, this is the only spray I can recommend with a few reservations. The propellant in this product is nitrogen, rather than the previously discussed problematic ones. The main concerns with some of its plant-derived ingredients are that they could cause skin microbiome disruption and therefore skin sensitivity and irritation. These are not deal breakers because we don't live in a perfect world.
If you must have a deodorant spray (that isn't DIY), this might be the spray for you.
Ingredients: Alcohol, Glycerin, Natural Fragrance (see ingredients below), Citronellol, Geraniol, Linalool, Amyl Cinnamal, Coumarin, Limonene, Nitrogen.
Fragrance ingredients: Coumarin, Linalool, Triethyl Citrate, Phenethyl Alcohol, Limonene, Amyl Cinnamal, Geraniol, Citronellol, Alcohol, Alpha Ionone
Pros: naturally derived ingredients, affordable,
Cons: potentially skin sensitizing & allergenic ingredients, spray formulation could be inhaled
Choosing low-toxic and sustainable personal products helps you stay safe, while also reducing the massive amounts of pollution that the personal care industry inflicts on the planet every day.
Remember, the goal is not perfection, just little changes that will later snowball into big changes. Do the very best that you can, whenever you can, and encourage others to do the same; that's how we make positive changes for our bodies and for our planet.