Sweating is a natural process of cooling and detoxifying your body. And it’s an important feature of the body’s most unique organ: your skin. Nontoxic deodorant is one of the things that Allison considers the “last frontier” of natural products – people are reluctant to ditch their favorite conventional deodorants. We understand the reasons people hang on to conventional deodorants and antiperspirants: we don’t want to look sweaty, smell stinky, or feel uncomfortably damp in our armpits.
Unfortunately, your deodorant, and particularly your antiperspirant, could be interfering with your body’s natural attempts to remove toxins and could potentially be causing long term health effects like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.1 Studies show that mothers who have used an antiperspirant containing aluminum salts (a common antiperspirant ingredient) absorb the aluminum transdermally and even pass the aluminum on to their children during pregnancy.2
You can actually change your own body odor!
Did you know that using certain deodorants or an antiperspirant daily can change the bacterial microbiome in your armpits? Consistent use can actually make your sweat smellier (due to overproduction of a bad bacteria) if you briefly discontinue use.3 Just because your sweat may smell strong if you forget to put on your antiperspirant for one day does not mean that you shouldn’t try to ditch your antiperspirant. In fact, that’s a good reason to try to detox your armpits and transition to a nontoxic option!
First, Detox Your Armpits
Once you correct the bacterial imbalances in your armpits, your sweat should not actually smell particularly unpleasant. You can try our suggestions below to detox your armpits and rebalance the bacteria. If you’re considering switching to a nontoxic deodorant, we highly recommend you try these suggestions as you switch so that your overall body odor is reduced at the same time. Your new deodorant will be much more effective if it’s not fighting conditions that foster bad body odor.
Simple, natural ways to detox your armpits & reduce body odor
Wear Natural Fibers
Have you ever noticed that your sweat smells particularly strong when you wear certain shirts? It’s not just your imagination! As we’ve mentioned before in our Healthy Travel Guide, wearing natural fibers (versus synthetics) can make a huge difference in the smell of your sweat! Look for 100% cotton, linen, or bamboo rather than polyester, rayon, or other synthetic blends.
“Natural fibers like cotton are lightweight, which means they’re ideal for layering for warmth or for keeping you cool in the sun. Unlike synthetic fibers (like polyester and blends), cotton doesn’t harbor bad bacteria and trap body odor in the clothing. By wearing natural fibers, you’re more likely to smell fresher longer and get more use out of the same shirt.”
Unfortunately, people tend to wear synthetic fibers when they’re sweating the most, during a workout. Yoga pants made from polyester or spandex or nylon running shorts can be great for stretching and wicking moisture. But wearing them for long periods or every day can contribute to bad bacteria overgrowth and upset your body’s microbiome. Plus, synthetic fibers can be heavily treated with chemicals, including formaldehyde, in production. We love how many options there are now for breathable, stretch-friendly cotton leggings and tanks. Pact is definitely our favorite, since their clothes are made with organic cotton.
Mind What you Eat
Certain foods will actually change the way your body odor smells. If you want to test the way foods can change your body odor, try removing typical offenders like caffeine, alcohol, pork and foods fried in unhealthy oils. In general, a clean and balanced vegetarian diet will help you maintain a neutral body odor, though beware garlic and onions, which may make your sweat smell strong. The best foods for combatting body odor are leafy greens.4
Dry off carefully after a shower or bath
Bacteria loves moist environments, which is why it can thrive so well in your armpits on a hot day (and produce odors). When you step out of the bath or shower, make sure you dry off well, paying particularly close attention to your armpits. Not only will doing so make an inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow, but it will also allow you to apply a deodorant more effectively. In a pinch, you can wipe off excess sweat with a paper towel if you want to keep your armpits dry and are not able to wash with soap and water (for example, while traveling, after exercising, or at your office).
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated helps your body remove everyday toxins in an efficient way and can help prevent body odor. Make sure you’re drinking safe, clean water for the best benefit.
Take chlorophyll or probiotic supplements
The chlorophyll in leafy vegetables is what makes them a good defense against body odor. If you’re looking to add extra support to your diet, taking a daily chlorophyll supplement is a good way to help your body detox properly.5 Probiotics and probiotic-rich foods are another way to ensure your microbiome is balanced and healthy.
Apply apple cider vinegar, lemon, or witch hazel
Healthy acids like apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon help neutralize bad bacteria that may be growing in your armpits, causing a foul odor. After you shower, you can use a cotton ball to apply either of these acidic foods to your armpits. Allow to air-dry and follow with a deodorant (optional). Witch hazel is another liquid you could apply the same way to get similar results.6
Try a bentonite clay mask
If you’re looking to take your armpit detox a step farther, you can try a clay mask. Wellness Mama has the full tutorial for this method of removing bad bacteria and other toxins from your armpits.
Branch Basics Favorite Nontoxic Deodorants
(once you detox your armpits)
+ Deodorants You can Buy
- We love Primal Pit Paste so much, we even interviewed the founder, Amy Cazin, on our blog. She has lots to say about the science of sweat. Read our interview with Amy here. Primal Pit Paste comes in several scents (including unscented) and you can choose whether you want yours in a jar (apply with your fingers) or in a roll-up deodorant stick.
- Fat Face is another company making a great, nontoxic deodorant. They offer options in a jar or in a spray, depending on your preference. While their sprays are vegan, their deodorant in a jar (Stank Stop) is made with tallow from grass-fed cows.
+ Deodorants You Can Make (DIY)
- We love this classic Coconut Oil-Based Deodorant tutorial from The Free Spirited. You can prepare the recipe with or without essential oils (that’s recommended if you want an unscented deodorant). The arrowroot powder and baking soda are effective at neutralizing odors and keeping your underarms dry. You can experiment with the proportions of the powders if you are sensitive to baking soda – it can be irritating to your skin.
- Kelly has this tutorial for a DIY Homemade Deodorant. The bentonite clay supercharges the deodorant’s power to remove toxins from your armpits, which helps neutralize body odor.
- If you’d like to try a homemade deodorant powder, this simple deodorant powder from the Homemade Experiment is an inexpensive, nontoxic solution made from cornstarch and baking soda. You can even use this powder as a follow-up to another deodorant method to ensure your armpits stay dry. Men sometimes prefer this option because it is easy to apply, even on hairy skin. Because this recipe doesn’t have an oil base, you also don’t risk staining your clothes if you apply too much. Be careful when lifting a black shirt or dress over your head – this one may leave a visible white powder!
Tips for using Nontoxic Deodorant
- detox your armpits as you transition to a nontoxic deodorant (see above)
- remind yourself that a little sweat is good for you; if you’re not sweating, you’re not efficiently removing toxins from your body
- tune in to your body odor – if it starts to change, you can take steps to neutralize it again by following our method of detoxing your armpits (see above)
- if you shave your armpits, shave at night and apply deodorant in the morning to avoid irritation (typically caused by slight exfoliation and reaction to baking soda)
- you may need to rub deodorants into your underarm skin to avoid caking or staining your clothes
- if applying a deodorant with your fingers, use a small (pea-sized) amount and warm up with your fingers to soften it so it absorbs well
We think the science of sweat is pretty interesting. Keep reading about how to detox your pits and switch to nontoxic deodorants in our interview with Amy Cazin of Primal Pit Paste.
One of our most popular articles is about Increasing Your Stomach Acid. If you work on your digestion, you will likely have improvements in body odor. Check it out!
Check out our Healthy Travel Guide for our favorite travel snacks and tips for preventing sunburn, jetlag, and more!
There are many synthetic chemicals that are harmful to health. We created a series about five Common Household Chemicals that helps you identify and remove the worst ones from your home.