The Bipolar Argument of Deodorant vs Antiperspirant

by Roki Prunali

It is extremely rare to see me reaching for any product that I put on my body that is not organic or natural with two exceptions: antiperspirant and bug spray. The latter is simply for the reason I do not mess with those pesky mosquitoes buzzing in my ear or leaving me with those welts after they have drained my blood. Antiperspirant on the other hand is a conscious battle, that no matter how hard I try, I lose to the conglomerate big boys with every possible chemical imaginable in their ingredients while I have a mountain of indie natural brands collecting dust in my cabinet.

So why all the diss on conventional products? Our pit enemy number one is aluminum chlorohydrate – you have probably heard most about this. There have been health concerns surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and links to breast cancer because it seems that we absorb the aluminum molecules. Though the studies may be a bit inconclusive for aluminum, there are other enemies such as propylene glycol and parabens also lurking around. Most hospitals will tell you to immediately stop using conventional antiperspirant and deodorant if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Before turning a new leaf and switching to all natural, I think it is important to know the difference between a deodorant and antiperspirant.

Antiperspirant’s main goal is to reduce sweating (my number one problem – why is it so embarrassing to have a wet armpit, it is something so natural). The way these antiperspirants work is they temporarily plug the sweat duct, which stops the sweat flowing to the skin’s surface. While you are plugging the sweat ducts, you are also depositing elements such as fragrance, aluminum, parabens, and other synthetic antibacterial agents. Preservatives such as BHT and parabens found in antiperspirants are “environmental estrogens” that mimic the effects fo your body’s own estrogen which in turn disrupts normal hormone function in the body.

A deodorant on the other hand will allow the sweat to travel to the skin’s surface, thus allowing a the body to perform an important, natural function. Its role in all this regulatory function is to neutralize the scent during this process. That odor, where does it come from? When our “scentless” sweat comes into contact with bacteria – hence our brooding armpits filled with bacteria – is where the actual scent originates. The bacteria break the fats and proteins present in sweat, essentially transforming it into b.o. Normally the ingredients in a deodorant will contain an antiseptic and odor neutralizing action against bacteria.  

Natural deodorants affront the situation by using botanical and clay powders to absorb the wetness, antibacterial essential oils to kill odor causing bacteria or even plant ingredients the stop the chemical reaction between sweat and bacteria. Household products such as bicarbonate of soda (it has a neutralizing effect on odor), kaolin clay (can help absorb sweat), and essential oils are the main ingredients you may spot in your natural deodorants. Also anything with coconut oil is great because of its high antibacterial qualities. 

I have tried a many natural deodorant to only be left with the stigma of natural deodorants: they don’t work. One deodorant that may not help as much with the perspiration, but definitely passed the test with odor is Agent Nateur. My cousin raved about it and bought me one to test out. I figured what the heck – I have also seen Tamu use this brand – so I thought I should give it a whirl. I must say that it did help with the odor, but the sweat persisted (just as it claims – it is a deodorant not an antiperspirant).

If you are thinking about making the switch from conventional to clean deodorant, there is a transition period that can scare off the likes of most making them run right back to their conventional comrade. This transition period may have been the reason for my quick to jump back on the conventional band wagon because I did not give my body enough time to adjust.

Rachel Winard from Soapwalla, a line of natural cream deodorant on our radar, gives us a good tip on converting to natural deodorant:

“When you first switch from commercial antiperspirant to a natural deodorant, your body may go through an adjustment period. Some people sweat a bit more than usual, or find their skin smells metallic. Some people experience skin reactions: redness, itching, bumps, and dry/darker skin patches. These are often caused by the ingredients in commercial antiperspirants slowly working their way out of your lymph system and/or by excess dried skin getting caught in the pores.

Three things that speed up the adjustment period include: drinking more water, creating an underarm mask out of clay, and gently exfoliating the underarm area once or twice a week. When I started exfoliating my underarms weekly, I saw a dramatic improvement in skin quality almost immediately! I use a bamboo glove for the underarms.”

To be honest Pretty Birds, I never really delved into the differences of antiperspirants and deodorants before. The further I have gone with my research, I realize how much I have turned a blind eye to all the chemicals I can be potentially absorbing for the simple aesthetic superficiality of not sweating. Take note, that as of this day as I write this article, I will switch to a natural deodorant (I will stick with my Agent Nateur). Even though it may not be the very best time, we are smack right in the middle of an Italian summer, I am invested. I will let you know how my journey goes. And if you smell me around please stop me to tell me I need to switch deodorants.

Thinking of making the switch with me? Here is a clean starter list to try.

Antiperspirant vs Deodorant

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream Original 

Antiperspirant vs Deodorant

Agent Nateur Holistck Deodorant No. 3 

Antiperspirant vs Deodorant

Schmidt’s Ylang-Ylang Calendula Deodorant 

Antiperspirant vs  Deodorant

Ursa Major Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant 

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