The Guide to Nontoxic Deodorant—Plus Our 7 Favorites
We are there: Cracking the code for a nontoxic deodorant that really, truly works wasn’t easy, but it has been cracked—and not just by a single company, but by several. While the potential health problems associated with conventional antiperspirants and deodorants have been common knowledge for decades, the alternatives were less than reliable and often so weak as to not really have an effect beyond the momentary scent of a few essential oils or herbs. If you had a really important presentation or a big date, even the most health-conscious person could not be faulted for keeping a backup conventional product somewhere in the back of the closet.
Studies connecting antiperspirants and deodorants to breast cancer and Alzheimers have been inconclusive, though receive a breast cancer diagnosis at most major medical centers, and you will be told to stop using conventional antiperspirants and deodorants. Parabens from antiperspirant and deodorant formulas have been found in breast cancer tumors, but because these diseases are complex, it is nearly impossible to draw definitive conclusions about causality.
That said, depositing elements like synthetic fragrance (an ingredient that can legally be used to mask hundreds of other ingredients) and aluminum onto the thin skin of the underarms seems a risk not worth taking, especially because clean-beauty companies have developed deodorants that do none of the above and still work. They’re pretty incredible—and have to be tried to be believed. Clean deodorants come at the problem from several different angles: Some employ botanical and clay powders to absorb wetness; others use essential oils and plant ingredients to target odor.
“Formulas based in aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens, triclosan, silica, and more have been on the market for over a century now,” says Jamie Schmidt, founder of Portland-based Schmidt’s, who began her business after getting pregnant and undergoing a detoxifying “paradigm shift” on her household and personal care products. “But it isn’t that these ingredients are actually better performing than natural ones. By prioritizing a formula that is condensed and fast-absorbing to provide immediate results, you only need to apply a very small amount to get long-lasting effects compared to conventional deodorants.”
The deodorant formula Schmidt developed immediately started selling out at local farmers’ markets. “It was an instant hit—it works. Local markets and sales reps started asking for it in huge quantities, and before I knew it, the business took on a life of its own as word of mouth spread.” Now, Schmidt’s is nationally distributed and growing by leaps and bounds (the Ylang Ylang scent is a softly floral goop favorite).
Rachel Winard, the founder of Soapwalla, which makes a cream deodorant with a devoted following, says it took her some 2,000 tries to get her cream formula—beloved among goop staffers, not to mention ER nurses, professional athletes, and politicians—perfect. “It functions under high-stress conditions,” says Winard, who started Soapwalla because she “needed a natural deodorant that would last throughout the day, smell good, and not upset my super-sensitive skin.” Because it’s a clean formula, there’s nothing gross left on your fingers after you use it: “I rub the rest into my hands or run it through my hair —it’s a great hair texturizer.”
Getting the efficacy right is the hardest, agrees Emily Doyle, founder of Ursa Major. “After that, it’s about dialing in the experience and then making it consistently. A deodorant stick is a ‘hot pour’ product and that creates a lot of challenges in terms of ingredient stability and consistency.” Finally hitting on the perfect wetness-obliterating, silky feeling, beautifully scented combination was satisfying, she says: “People love the whole experience. And they love the peace of mind from using a clean, safe product.”
Raynor notes that the switch from chemical deodorant to clean one can involve a transition period: “The body adjusts and it can scare people right back to their chemical deodorant. While this adjustment can be rough, it’s totally worth it in the end.”
Our Seven All Time Favorite Nontoxic Deodorants:
This will blow your mind in terms of odor and even wetness control (though it is not technically an antiperspirant). Made with plantbased powder instead of aluminum (arrowroot, baking soda) it absorbs quickly and glides on like silk (thanks to coconut oil, candellia wax, vitamin E, and shea butter). Essential oils stop odors from forming in the first place, rather than trying to mask odor with fragrance; it’s completely vegan, deeply skin-soothing and wildly effective—the faint scent of ylang ylang and calendula is gorgeous.
Traces of raw organic honey, lavender, and eucalyptus inflect the subtly sexy scent of this long lasting “holi” formula made with amazing ingredients—organic coconut oil, beeswax, sodium bicarbonate, avocado butter, sunflower butter, castor oil, honey, and essential oils—to work hard on days when you need it most.
We couldn’t believe how well this brilliantly smooth cream deodorant in an easy-to-use tube held up against hot yoga, cardio workouts, and stressful workdays. Organic vegetable-derived glycerin and arrowroot powder absorb sweat, aloe hydrates and soothes, while zeolite (a mineral compound) and baking soda help neutralize odor. We love the unscented version, The Minimalist, as much as the faintly citrusy flavor, The Visionary.
Eucalyptus, ginger, rosemary, grapefruit, chamomile, and lemon combine in this crisp, incredibly refreshing formula that neutralizes underarm odor while absorbing excess moisture, and soothing sensitive skin. Free of toxic chemicals (including aluminum), the formula is perfect for women or men.
We couldn’t believe how well this brilliantly smooth cream-deodorant in an easy-to-use tube held up against hot yoga, cardio workouts, and stressful work days. Organic vegetable-derived glycerin and arrowroot powder absorb sweat, aloe hydrates and soothes, while zeolite (a mineral compound) and baking soda help neutralize odor. We love the unscented version, The Minimalist, as much as the faintly citrusy flavor, The Visionary.
It’s made for men, but many (female) goop staffers also love the new, sexy, vetiver, rose, and sandalwood scent infused into Agent Nateur’s winning deodorant formula. Ingredients like organic coconut oil, beeswax, sodium bicarbonate, and essential oils make it brilliantly effective and long lasting.
Made with superfine vegetable powders and clays plus lavender, peppermint, and tea tree essential oils to absorb moisture, this light, vegan formula feels a little like cake frosting to the touch. It’s so clean you can use it as a moisturizer and even as a (pretty fantastic) hair texturizer, too. The highest quality organic, foodgrade ingredients combine to create something wildly effective yet so gentle even the most sensitive skin can use it.