More people are turning to natural deodorants as they’re discovering artificial chemicals aren’t good for the human body.
It can be tough to find a deodorant that is all-natural but still effective, and this problem is compounded by the fact that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.
We scoured the market for the best natural deodorants available, made with high-quality ingredients such as shea butter, arrowroot, coconut oil and avocado that leave you fresh and free from artificial chemicals (like aluminum).
1. Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant
Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant is an all-natural and vegan deodorant that’s got a great scent and long-lasting efficacy. With scents available in cedarwood and juniper, lavender and sage, ylang-ylang and calendula, plus an unscented variety, pretty much everyone will find a scent of Schmidt’s that suits his or her nose.
Coconut, shea butter, and arrowroot make up the bulk of the ingredients, so you don’t have any petroleum byproducts or synthetic chemicals in the mix. Users praise its longevity and its excellent aroma in the scented varieties.
2. North Coast Organics Naked
For the ultra-minimalist, North Coast Organics Naked is the number one natural deodorant. It only has five ingredients: coconut oil, arrowroot powder, carnauba wax, shea butter, and baking soda. All of the plant ingredients are certified organic, and the ingredients are not just safe; they’re actually edible.
Since there are no additional fragrances or perfuming compounds, North Coast Organics Naked is totally unscented, aside from the extremely faint scent that you’ll get from the coconut, shea butter, carnauba, and arrowroot.
If you are hyper-conscious about what you put on your body, there’s no better solution than this natural deodorant. However, perhaps because of the simplicity of the design, some people find that this deodorant does not work for as long as some of its competitors.
On the upside, because it has so few ingredients, it’s the best product for people with very sensitive skin.
3. Sam’s Natural Deo
If you want a large variety of scents to choose from, Sam’s Natural Deo is the best choice when it comes to natural deodorants. It comes in an astounding 17 different scents, including an unscented variety as well as scents ranging from patchouli to tobacco.
The majority of the scent profiles are very masculine, so men who are tired of floral, lavender-scented natural deodorants can look forward to a wide range of manlier aromas from Sam’s Natural Deo.
The ingredients are a familiar blend of baking soda, arrowroot powder, coconut oil, and wax that give it a hard-wearing consistency. This makes applying a thin coating pretty easy, but some people find it difficult to get a thick enough coating down to be effective.
4. Underarmed Active Botanical Luxury Deodorant
Underarmed is a baking soda based deodorant delivered via beeswax, coconut oil, and avocado oil. If you’ve tried other baking soda products (also known as sodium bicarbonate) and they’ve worked for you, Underarmed is also likely to work.
The lavender and eucalyptus scent is very subtle and understated, so if you don’t want to broadcast to the world what scent you’ve got under your arms, or if you have a sensitive nose that can’t handle strong aromas, it’s an excellent choice.
Users with sensitive skin find it very gentle on their skin, so it’s a winner for people skin that has a tendency to develop rashes with other products.
5. Bali Secrets Natural Deodorant
Bali Secrets comes in four different scents, plus an unscented version. Its deodorizing power comes from potassium alum, a natural mineral salt, and its plant-based ingredients are grown in Bali.
All of the ingredients are rated as “safe” by the Environmental Working Group, a consumer watchdog organization for ingredients in cosmetic and personal health products.
Most users find that it’s got long-lasting anti-odor power, even when they’ve been exercising and sweating. If you know mineral-based deodorants don’t work for you, you may need to look elsewhere, but if not, this is one of the best natural deodorants out there.
6. Primal Pit Paste Natural Deodorant
Primal Pit Paste works a little different from other natural deodorants. It’s not a stick that you apply, it’s a paste that you have to rub in to your skin.
Essentially, it’s a baking soda based deodorant that uses shea butter, arrowroot, and coconut oil as a delivery vehicle. The paste form of the deodorant allows for a higher concentration of odor-fighting compounds, albeit at the cost of being a little messy to apply. It doesn’t have the best longevity, but many people still find it effective at fighting odor.
7. Green Tidings All Natural Deodorant
Green Tidings is another baking soda based natural deodorant, but it has some rare and unusual ingredients, like tapioca starch and magnesium chloride, that may give it an edge.
It’s a good option if other natural deodorants have failed you, because the unique combination of ingredients might be more effective at fighting your unique bacteria that give you your body odor. Users find it effective, but some people with sensitive skin get a rash when they use it for a long time.
8. Little Seed Farm Activated Charcoal Natural Deodorant Cream
If other natural deodorants aren’t working for you, and you want something completely different, think about giving Little Seed Farm a shot.
This radically different deodorant is based on activated charcoal, which has an incredible ability to absorb organic chemicals (like the ones that create underarm smell). It’s been getting rave reviews for its efficacy and the fact that it’s baking soda free.
9. Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant
Arm & Hammer Essentials is what you might call “natural lite” deodorant. It, like many of its competitors, is free of aluminum, parabens, and antiperspirant ingredients.
However, it’s not all-natural; it does have several synthetic ingredients like dipropylene glycol, octenidine, and ethylhexylglycerin. The upside is that it does work extremely well; many people for whom true natural deodorants fail to stop smells all day end up settling on Arm & Hammer because of its efficacy.
If natural ingredients are important for you, it may not be the best first option, but it’s a good fallback if you can’t find a product that consistently stops smells all day long.
10. Native Deodorant
Native Deodorant takes a simple, all-natural, and innovative approach by using three basic ingredients (coconut oil, baking soda, and shea butter) along with something really unusual: probiotic bacteria.
Could adding bacteria to your underarm actually help reduce smell? It’s a bit of a gamble, but Native Deodorant is bold for taking a shot, as probiotics are one of the most exciting areas of health research right now.
If these probiotic bacteria can crowd out the smell-producing bacteria, it could significantly reduce body odor. But, there’s a need for some real research to see if this strategy actually works.
Who should buy natural deodorant?
If you’re health-conscious and want to exercise care about what goes onto your skin on a daily basis, swapping out a traditional deodorant with a natural deodorant is a great move.
Deodorant sits on your skin all day every day, and many of the chemicals seep into your skin. As such, it makes a lot of sense to choose carefully when it comes to the chemicals you’re exposed to every day.
With worries about the potential health hazards of ingredients like aluminum, triclosan, and artificial coloring agents in a traditional deodorant or antiperspirant, natural deodorants offer a very attractive alternative: they don’t contain any of these ingredients.
Instead, they use natural plant or mineral extracts to cut down on the growth of skin bacteria and to trap odor-causing chemicals, as opposed to killing all bacteria under your arms, or trying to clog sweat glands.
Because everyone’s skin chemistry is a bit different, It can take a bit of effort to find a natural deodorant that works, but our researchers have aggregated the best options on the market.
How we ranked
Our requirements for natural deodorants were pretty strict: to even qualify for our rankings, a product had to contain no aluminum-based antiperspirants and no triclosan or other synthetic antibiotics.
From the remaining products, we further screened out products that included significant amounts of petroleum-based ingredients, instead preferring natural sources of oils, like coconut oil.
We looked for effective natural deodorants, like baking soda, arrowroot powder, and shea butter, that would slow the growth of smell-producing bacteria or trap and mask the smells these bacteria release.
When it came to the scent of the products in our rankings, we divided the field of eligible products into three camps: masculine scents, feminine scents, and unscented products. Within the scented categories, we looked for products that came in a variety of scents, and that used natural ingredients with a low risk of skin irritation.
The unscented products were judged with more stringent standards on purity: because these products were most likely to be used by people with sensitive skin, their ingredient list had to be shorter, simpler, and have fewer potentially irritating ingredients.
We awarded better scores to products that took extra steps to ensure purity, like using organic ingredients or only compounds certified as safe by the Environmental Working Group.
We took the top performers in each category and sorted them according to overall quality and efficacy to make our final rankings. These represent the best masculine, feminine, and unscented natural deodorants that you’ll find on the market right now.
Natural deodorants have much fewer ingredients than standard deodorants. With the enormous number of synthetic coloring agents, perfumes, and antiperspirant and antibacterial ingredients in mainstream deodorants, it’s no surprise why people want a simpler, natural alternative.
There’s a swirl of controversy over ingredients like aluminum salts, which some consumer watchdog groups have flagged as unsafe for cosmetic products.
At the same time, you still want to be able to go about your day confident that you don’t have offensive body odor.
The right natural deodorant can enable you to avoid potentially harmful chemicals while still keeping your body odor under control all day long.
Natural deodorants do not include aluminum salts. Many of the concerns about traditional deodorants and antiperspirants are centered around the inclusion of aluminium salt ingredients, which some worry are connected with increased risk for disease as a result of toxic accumulation of aluminum in the body.
Traditional deodorants, and especially antiperspirants, use aluminum salts to block sweat pores from producing sweat, which is one way to reduce body odor.
However, many people are concerned that this same aluminum salt could be absorbed into your body and could start accumulating. Could this be related to the development of disease or health risks?
One legitimate concern regarding aluminum in deodorants, acknowledged even by the Food and Drug Administration, is the potential for aluminum salts to accumulate in the kidneys and cause damage.
Typically this is not a concern in people with healthy, well-functioning kidneys that can remove aluminium salts, but for people with kidney disease, aluminum based deodorants pose a health risk (1).
This raises the question of whether it’s a good idea even for a healthy person to use aluminum based deodorant–it seems like it would put an extra stress on your kidneys, plus who knows what else the aluminum is doing while it’s inside your body after being absorbed and before being excreted?
Indeed, a case report published in 2004 by doctors in the American Journal of Medicine describes exactly such a case. They describe a 43-year-old woman who presented with mysterious symptoms, which the doctors eventually discovered were the result of a condition called hyperaluminemia, which is a buildup of excessive amounts of aluminum in the body (2).
Usually, this is the result of overuse of aluminum containing antacid drugs, but in this case, the doctors discovered that it was caused by the woman’s use of an aluminum containing antiperspirant.
What caused this woman’s body to accumulate so much aluminum is a mystery, but it gives more credence to the idea that avoiding a deodorant that uses aluminum is probably a good idea.
Another even more worrisome aluminum-related risk is Alzheimer’s disease. According to a scientific article in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, there is substantial evidence showing that aluminum accumulates in the gray matter of the brain in conjunction with the development of Alzheimer’s disease (3).
The article provides evidence that this accumulation is causal–as such, this becomes yet another reason to switch to a natural deodorant.
When choosing a natural deodorant, you should expect having to give a few products a try to see what works for you. Everyone’s skin bacteria is different, so what works for one person may not work as well for another.
Many manufacturers recommend giving a product an entire week’s worth of use, claiming that it takes a while for your skin chemistry to adjust to the new deodorant.
Natural deodorants are formulated to fight stress odor as well as bacterial odors. Have you noticed that you get worse body odor on days where you have a tense meeting, have a high-stakes exam at school, or when you have to deal with stressful interpersonal negotiations?
That’s not just your perception—when you are stressed or feeling fear, your body activates different sweat glands that release more odorous chemicals. According to research by environmental microbiology expert Andreas Natsch, this “stress sweat” is thought to be an adaptation that dates to prehistoric times, when smell could signal the presence of danger to others (4).
Moreover, this odor appears very rapidly: unlike normal body odor, which is the result of slow fermentation of proteins on the surface of the skin by bacteria, stress sweat appears almost instantly, which signals that it is likely due to rapid release of hormones or amino acids that are used as a signal of danger.
The speed at which these odors appear can be used as a way to rapidly test the efficacy of a natural deodorant, though. If you know you’re going to face a stressful situation, you can check soon after to see whether your natural deodorant has successfully neutralized the smell.
Take note that the efficacy of a specific natural deodorant against this rapidly-appearing stress-induced body odor might be different from its efficacy against normal body odor.
Natural deodorants do not contain triclosan, which could generate antibiotic-resistant bacteria and may be associated with cancer. Broadly, deodorants have only a handful of potential strategies for fighting odor: they can mask the scent of body odor, they can block sweat pores, or they can slow the growth or outright kill the skin bacteria that generate body odor.
For a long time, many traditional deodorants used the antimicrobial compound triclosan to kill off bacteria under your arms, which is an effective way to reduce or prevent underarm smell, but some researchers have raised concerns that this practice could eventually lead to bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant.
For example, a paper published in 2006 in the journal Microbial Drug Resistance examined the research published to date and noted that triclosan has been observed to induce resistance in two specific kinds of bacteria exposed to triclosan (5).
Moreover, environmental health researchers have raised concerns that triclosan could be related to cancer risk.
A paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health evaluated the research on triclosan and cancer, and noted that some animal and cell-level research has found an association between triclosan exposure and cancer risk.
However, to date, no research has connected triclosan with cancer in humans. Still, the potential for a risk is enough to get some people to stop using triclosan.
Because of antibiotic resistance risks, the United States Food and Drug Administration has already banned triclosan in soap, so using a natural deodorant (which cannot contain triclosan, by definition) can allow you to avoid any potential hazards associated with this chemical (6).
Since natural deodorants are made with safe, non toxic ingredients, the only side effects that tend to occur are rashes in people with sensitive skin.
It’s very hard to predict who will be susceptible to getting a rash from a particular deodorant; it likely has to do with how your unique skin chemistry interacts with the ingredients in a natural deodorant.
As a general rule, fewer ingredients means a lower likelihood of an adverse interaction, so if you know you have sensitive skin, look for a natural deodorant with as few ingredients as possible.
While lots of plant oils and extracts might be good for a deodorant’s aroma, this increases the likelihood that your body will react badly to one of the chemical compounds contained in the deodorant.
With a traditional deodorant or antiperspirant, you can expect that you’ll only need to apply it once in the morning, unless you exercise later in the day and shower afterwards.
The very best natural deodorants can match this potency, but sometimes, you may find that natural deodorants require reapplication once during the evenings, if you are having a long or particularly active day. If you put natural deodorant on in the morning, you might need to reapply it if you have plans at night.
However, if you find that you need to reapply your deodorant more often than once every eight or twelve hours, you are using the wrong natural deodorant—it’s clearly not having the intended effect on the smell-producing bacteria in your armpits.
If this is the case, try something else from our rankings. Skin chemistry can vary from person to person, so it should not be a huge surprise if you have to try out a couple of products to find something that works.
Q: How does natural deodorant work?
A: Natural deodorants employ two mechanisms to prevent body odor: first, they can inhibit or slow the growth of the bacteria that produce odors, and second, they can trap the chemicals that actually cause smell. A
natural deodorant typically employs multiple different naturally-occurring compounds, such as arrowroot, shea butter, and baking soda, to achieve these goals.
Natural deodorants differ from traditional deodorants or antiperspirants because they do not attempt to completely kill off all bacteria in your underarm, nor do they try to block sweat pores to prevent sweating in the first place.
Q: Is natural deodorant better than regular deodorant?
A: Natural deodorant has a few advantages over regular deodorant. First off, it does not contain aluminium, which you’ll find in antiperspirants.
Research on aluminum in underarm deodorants is very controversial, with some studies claiming there could be long-term health risks associated with aluminum salts, while others arguing the exposure level is insignificant and the risks are nonexistent.
Regardless, using a natural deodorant dodges this issue completely, as they do not contain synthetic aluminum salts in the first place.
Natural deodorants also do not include triclosan, another controversial deodorant ingredient. Triclosan is a powerful compound for killing off bacteria, and was historically used in antibacterial soap.
It was recently banned in soap out of concerns about inducing antibiotic resistance, but it is still found in some deodorants.
Moreover, some researchers have pointed to circumstantial evidence linking triclosan to cancer in cell and animal model studies. Again, while the research is controversial, natural deodorants allow you to not worry about it.
Q: What should you do if a natural deodorant gives you a rash?
A: Rashes from a natural deodorant are probably due to an allergic reaction to a compound included in the product.
If you get a rash, you should stop using that product and check the label to see what ingredients it includes.
Often, the ingredient responsible for rashes and skin irritation in natural deodorant is not one of the main anti-odor ingredients, but rather is one of the essential oils or plant extracts used for aroma.
You should try a different natural deodorant, possibly one that is unscented. Keep track of the ingredients and use them to inform your next option.
Q: What is the most effective natural deodorant?
A: Simply based on commonality of ingredients, baking soda is one of the most popular and is arguably the most effective natural deodorant.
Baking soda is used to deodorize everything from shoes to the inside of your refrigerator, thanks to its ability to establish a mildly alkaline environment that is inhospitable to odor-causing bacteria.
Baking soda can also absorb otherwise-volatile compounds that cause smells, trapping them in solid form and preventing them from being released into the air.
Q: How long does it take for your body to get used to natural deodorant?
A: After you start using a natural deodorant, you may notice that it takes your body several days to get accustomed to it.
You might notice that your skin is a bit more tender, or that your body odor takes a few days to adjust, but in most cases, you should not be struggling with adapting to a natural deodorant. If you do find that you are getting a lot of skin irritation, redness, or a rash, that probably means you are allergic to one of the ingredients in your natural deodorant, and that you should scrap it and try a different product.
Typically the problem-causing ingredients are plant extracts or essential oils used as fragrances—try an unscented, minimalist natural deodorant instead.
Q: Can you make your own natural deodorant?
A: Making your own natural deodorant is possible; recipes are often based on baking soda and coconut oil as a carrier base (and as a mild deodorant in its own right).
The real problem with homemade deodorant is that making and using it gets very messy, and it does not keep as well as a commercially prepared natural deodorant.
Without binders and stabilizers, homemade deodorant can get unworkable hard in cold temperatures and can completely liquify on a hot day. For all but the most hardcore do-it-yourselfers, a commercially prepared natural deodorant is probably a better choice.
Q: Why does my natural deodorant not work?
A: Natural deodorants tend not to have the brute force efficacy of a traditional deodorant or antiperspirant, and as such, you can have a harder time finding one that works.
Skin chemistry varies from person to person (researchers have even identified genetic traits associated with different body odors), so it should not be too surprising that ingredients that are effective deodorants in some people may not work as well in others.
The failure of a natural deodorant to prevent body odor means that it is either not slowing the growth of bacteria under your arms, or it is not capturing the odorous chemicals that they produce. Either way, it’s bad news.
You should give a natural deodorant a trial period of a week or so, because it can take several days for your skin bacteria populations to return to normal after ceasing use of your old deodorant. If it’s been at least a week and your natural deodorant is still not working, it’s time to try a new one.
Try to use a product with substantively different ingredients to give yourself the best shot at keeping body odor at bay.
There are a whole host of health-related reasons to steer clear of traditional deodorants and antiperspirants. Natural deodorants offer a safe, effective way to keep your body odor under control without exposing your body to toxic compounds with the potential to cause adverse health effects, like aluminum salts.
If you have sensitive skin, try a natural deodorant with as few ingredients as possible, and remember that your own skin chemistry may interact with a specific product differently than other people.
If you get a rash, or if you find that a certain natural deodorant isn’t effective at controlling odor, it’s worth trying another product before going back to a standard mainstream deodorant.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 natural deodorant recommendation, click here.