Eight-one percent of Australians “usually use” deodorant, according to a Roy Morgan survey. So what about the other 19? They aren’t all necessarily the smelly guy next to you on the train – a growing number of Aussies have been making the switch from heavy-duty antiperspirants to natural deodorants. I decided to join them… for a week.
So, why go natural? First, a couple of my colleagues made the shift ages ago and are perfectly scented. Both swear using natural deodorant and skipping the sweat-gland-blocking antiperspirant has reduced the amount they sweat. I’m definitely curious about this effect. Another bonus: if you’re looking for an ethical antiperspirant in your local supermarket, you won’t have a lot of choice. But the majority of natural deodorants I find online are made in Australia (so have a smaller carbon footprint than those made overseas) and are cruelty free.
There’s another reason people I chat to have skipped the sweat-blocker. You may have heard the rumour, born of the early-2000s chain email: aluminium salts, an active ingredient in many antiperspirants, can cause breast cancer. But before you throw your roll-ons in the bin, know this: the Cancer Council NSW (along with European and American cancer authorities) says there is currently no research that links using antiperspirants with breast cancer. Their advice is it is perfectly safe to use – according to the American Cancer Society, you consume much more aluminium in your daily diet than the amount your skin absorbs from your deodorant. If you’re worried about breast cancer, your best course of action is to get a mammogram, not quit your antiperspirant.
With that knowledge, I’m trying natural deodorant mostly for curiosity’s sake rather than any health fears. So, let’s test it out.
The deodorant is a thick, sandy grey paste that comes in a little pot. I’m instructed to take a pea-sized amount, warm it between clean fingers, and carefully rub into my underarms. I do this in the mirror to make sure I don’t miss a spot. It’s quite strange – not my usual hasty swipe with a plastic roller – but I don’t find it unpleasant. I do get bits stuck underneath my nails and have to scrub my hands well with a lot of soap to get it all off after applying – so it’s not easy to top up halfway through the day. If rubbing your armpits is not your vibe, though, some brands come with applicators or you can buy spray-on versions.
2. The smell
The scent is… strong. I get very vivid green curry vibes, I think it’s the lemongrass. Not overly keen on the smell, I overcompensate with at least five spritzes of perfume. That being said, there are plenty of options online if green curry isn’t your desired fragrance; I find rose, vanilla, lavender, citrus and also scent-free.
3. My smell
I’m able to get to about 2pm each day without getting too pongy – a desk job in an overly airconditioned office probably helps – but things really start to go downhill from there. What was earthy in the AM becomes quite sour by the arvo. But what’s really upsetting for me is that the synthetic materials of my faux leather jacket seem to have imbibed the curry-BO smell. Not getting that out without a trip to the dry cleaner.
4. The sweat factor
This is my deal-breaker. The online FAQs assure me that my body will adjust to the lack of antiperspirant within a week or two and go back to sweating at a normal rate. But having swamp-like armpits after just walking to the station in the morning (in winter!) is too uncomfortable for me. And I feel like a human sprinkler during my evening run.
I really wanted to love natural deodorant but this one wasn’t my thing. Should you give it a go? Sure! I think if you find a scent that you love and are up for a couple of weeks’ discomfort as your body adjusts, it could really work for you.