If you’ve ever read the ingredient list on a can of deodorant, you’re aware of the many chemicals contained in these drugstore products. Many of these ingredients are being increasingly scrutinized because of their potential for adverse health effects. For example, triclosan is classified as a pesticide by the FDA and parabens commonly found in deodorants are thought to have estrogenic effects in the human body. These are only two of the chemicals that may potentially cause health problems. For this reason, some people are turning to natural deodorants to stop body odor. These alternative deodorants are found at many health food stores and natural food markets: but do they really work to remedy the problem of body odor?
What causes body odor in the first place? The smell that people try so earnestly to cover up arises from the action of bacteria that reside on the skin and thrive in the moist, warm environment of the armpits. These bacteria produce by-products that have an offensive odor which the chemicals in deodorants help to cover up. Anti-perspirants differ from deodorants in that anti-perspirants contain aluminum which helps to block the skin pores that produce sweat, resulting in less moisture under the arms. In contrast, deodorants contain chemicals that kill the bacteria that produce odor. Deodorants won’t necessarily keep you dry, but they provide an effective way to stop body odors.
How does a natural deodorant differ from a conventional one? Whereas a conventional deodorant uses ingredients such as triclosan to kill bacteria, a natural deodorant uses essential oils and natural plant extracts to reduce the population of underarm bacteria. In addition, the essential oils have a scent of their own which helps to mask any body odor that occurs. Some natural deodorants also contain herbal extracts and baking soda to further stop body odor. While conventional deodorants generally have chemical preservatives, a natural deodorant would use natural preservatives such as bioflavanoids or vitamin E.
Does a natural deodorant work as well as a conventional one? If you compare a natural deodorant to a conventional anti-perspirant, you’re likely to be disappointed. Because of the aluminum which blocks the pores, you’re likely to feel drier with a drugstore anti-perspirant than if you use a natural deodorant. A natural deodorant does help to mask odor and reduce the bacterial count, although probably not as effectively as conventional deodorants. If you sweat lightly and don’t engage in intense exercise in the hot, summer heat, you’ll probably find a natural deodorant to be sufficient to stop body odor. On the other hand, if you sweat profusely, you may not find a natural deodorant to be powerful enough for your purposes.
The best plan if you want to use a natural deodorant to stop body odor is to experiment with some of the many natural formulations available at health food stores and see which one works with your body chemistry. Be sure to read the labels carefully to ensure you’re buying one that’s truly natural.