Why your natural deodorant doesn't stop smells and gives you a rash
So called "natural deodorants" have gone through a renaissance as of late as people have found more interest in being environmentally conscious. Generally, there is the view that being natural, means it is better or safer for you. While true in many instances, any deodorant can claim to be "natural" as there is no technical definition or regulation around using this word. That means a lot of nasty stuff can be included in other products, or also, some of them aren't even deodorants, just smelly concoctions. Natural deodorants can actually make you smell worse and can cause chemical burns.
Why natural deodorants typically don't stop body odor?
One problem with "natural" deodorants is that many of them are just random plant products put together: like coffee grounds, cocoa butter, aloe, teatree oil, and whatever else. These smell nice by themselves, but many of these compounds are perfect food for bacteria. And since bacteria cause body odor, you're essentially feeding the problem. Imagine how nice a chocolate cake smells when its freshly baked, but then leave it for a month in the rubbish bin and its going to smell really bad. These nasty odors come from the bacteria digesting all those good things in the cake. So don't be fooled by pleasant smells as they just feed the beast - the goal should be to not smell at all!
What ingredients should you look for in a natural deodorant?
Instead of feeding microbes, you want to kill them and prevent them from growing on your pits, on your masks, in your undies, or wherever else you might smell. Acids and bases are good at killing bacteria, so baking soda (a base) and various acids are potentially useful ingredients to stop microbes. However these chemicals can also cause chemical burns on skins if they are in too high of a concentration. Additionally, people can develop sensitivities to acids and bases, they can discolor clothing and skin, and also they can react with other chemicals to form new toxic compounds. So make sure to test out any deodorants, "natural" or otherwise.
Silver is another antimicrobial compound gaining popularity as it is antimicrobial and so it stops odors at their source, rather than masking them. SWIFF uses ionic silver, but most "natural" deodorants that contain silver use nano- or micro-particles of silver, which have significant downsides as they are not as good at stopping microbes and they contribute roughly 10,000x-10,000,000x more to environmental contamination than ionic silver. Silver nanoparticles are also a gross brown color.
The promise of ionic silver and the peril of nanoparticles and microparticles (this gets science heavy, skip if you don't feel up or it)
Silver nano- and micro-particles are essentially really tiny balls of silver, or in other words they are millions of silver atoms all bound together into a ball. They are in the same state as silver on your silver bracelet, called silver zero (Ag0).
Silver zero isn't that effective against microbes, but colloidal silver is unstable, so it dissolves very slowly and releases silver one (Ag1+). Silver 1, also called ionic silver or silver+, and is a single atom of silver with a positive charge. And this silver is incredible at destroying microbes.
In other words, ionic silver is generally what is getting the job done, but some products use colloidal silver as a sort of reservoir for ionic silver. Unfortunately you then need tens to hundreds of times more silver particles to get the same effect as ionic silver, which is wasteful and harms the environment.
Finally, silver is really safe for people and pets. It's hypoallergenic, it doesn't really interact with the body, and it doesn't lead to any microbial resistance. However, ingesting silver particles can cause it to accumulate in your skin and turn you blue! Normally there won't be many bad medical side-effects other than turning blue, but some would say that's a pretty serious side-effect.
Are "regular" or "natural" deodorants worse for you?
As there is no real definition (or regulation) on what a "natural" deodorant is, we can't really distinguish between regular and natural deodorants. In both cases the ingredients are what matters, and there are ingredients that are good on average, and some that are bad on average. One thing that generally is not good, is synthetic fragrances and essential oils. These can cause issues with allergies, can disrupt various biological pathways (for example causing puberty in toddlers), and don't offer much benefit other than masking smells, rather than stopping them. Essential oils are also really poorly regulated (they're not regulated at all actually) so there's no guarantee that any of the essential oils listed on a deodorant is pure. It'll just be whatever the Chinese essential oil supplier sends to the manufacturer, and they just take the word of the supplier rather than confirming what is actually in the oil.
One of the biggest issues is that any deodorant with more than 4 or 5 ingredients is going to have issues with contamination and un-listed ingredients making its way into the product. This is similar to the issue seen for essential oils. So even if the ingredients listed seem to be safe, there might be other nasty stuff in there. One recent example of this is how a large number of deodorants were found to contain benzene, one of the nastiest common chemicals out there. Benzene wasn't listed on the ingredients of these deodorants, but it was somehow being accidentally introduced during manufacturing. Other deodorants may have PFASs (forever chemicals linked to terrible health and environmental issues) or have who knows what else that gets introduced unintentionally (or intentionally) in different manufacturing and production steps.
Are there any alternatives to natural deodorants?
The only reliable alternative to natural deodorants is to wear no deodorant at all, and instead protect your clothes from smells. Anything on your armpits are going to come off as you sweat, and will need to be re-applied repeatedly. This means more nasty chemicals on you pits and private parts, and more food for the odor-causing bacteria.
The best option is to protect your clothes from odors, that means no more chemicals on your skin. We here at SWIFF have developed the first ever long-lasting deodorant for your clothes. It's all natural and can give you odor protection even after 50 washes. We discovered a special plant extract to stick ionic silver to your clothes, and all it takes is a few sprays from our SWIFF bottle to protect your clean clothes. This keeps you smelling fresh for the whole day without the need of fragrances or nasty chemicals. Save hundreds by ditching your deodorants and switching to SWIFF.