The Mindful Merchant

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Something Stinks – the Natural Deodorant Experiment January 18, 2010

Filed under: all natural,greenwashing,health,health warning,non-toxic,shopping — MindfulMerchant @ 3:53 pm


Jakes 001 What is a gal gotta do to find an all-natural, healthy, effective deodorant? Seven years I have been experimenting and still no luck. (Isn’t that ridiculous?) Friends and family have suggested brands that they like but I have not had the same results. I think it is a body chemistry thing, what works for one person does not mean it will work for another. Either that or I am a freakish sweaty mess.

Yes, I have reframed my expectations. I expect using natural deodorant means I will continue to sweat (and that is healthy) but it should keep me adequately fresh throughout the day.  I do not expect it to work after a long hike or a game of hockey.  Am I asking too much?

My husband isn’t happy with the experiment because (a) I complain a lot (b) I try to pawn the rejects off on him and (c) he does not say it…but sometimes I stink with the “pits”.  The more I research the product the crustier I become. It is more than just the expense involved. I naively thought companies that market as organic, environmentally friendly and natural would make products that are low hazards for our health. This is where I first learned about greenwashing.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database reports, two of the deodorants I used (one during pregnancy with my daughter) and the other for the last year both received higher health hazard scores (6/10) and (4/10) than the popular generic brand (3/10) I was eager to replace.   What’s up with that?!

I wrote both companies to inquire about their troubling hazard scores. Both responded and both questioned techniques the Environmental Working Group used to analyze fragrance in products. One company said that if the EWG really investigated, they would likely change the hazardous rating to a lower score. (?) I was pleased they took the time to write me but their answers did not satisfy.

This forced a closer look at the ingredients. When shopping for deodorants, here are the deal breakers for me. I want to avoid products with formaldehyde a volatile organic compound (VOC). According to The Green Guide, it might pose the greatest health risk in roll on deodorants. Health Canada is not concerned about aluminum (and/or zirconian) but I am. The jury is out on studies that suggest this mineral contributes to Alzheimer’s. I figure, if we coat our cooking pans to protect our food from coming in contact with aluminum, I am not going to slap it under my armpits. I also want to avoid any ingredients ending in paraben (possible hormone disrupters) and fragrances other than essential oils.

So…the experiment continues. In the meantime, I alternate a few natural deodorants switching and combining trying to outwit bacteria. I realize now I have to do some homework before I shop for any green, organic or environmentally friendly products.

My next step is to try making my own deodorant from a recipe I recently found during my “investigation”. That takes cooking in my kitchen to a completely new level.  Wish me luck.

Have you had success with natural deodorants?  Do tell…

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24 Responses to “Something Stinks – the Natural Deodorant Experiment”

  1. schmutzie Says:

    That’s good info about the Tom’s of Maine deodorant. I never would have suspected!

  2. saviabella Says:

    I’ve been testing out deodorants because I didn’t want to use aluminum-based antipersperants anymore, and found that the majority of natural deodorants don’t work for me. You can read about my escapades here: and here:

    The only one I found that worked for me was Kibio – there’s a link in my first article.

    • Thanks for sharing your posts/research. Phew! I am happy to hear I am not the only person who had stink problems with many of the products you mentioned. I have never seen Kibio but will keep an eye out for it in the store. Helpful review 🙂

  3. XUP Says:

    This is the 3rd blog I’ve read today that discusses underarm deodorant. I don’t have a big stink problem, but my daughter started to as soon as she hit puberty. None of the ones I liked worked for her, but she’s happy with Jason brand. Maybe it’s evil, too? I haven’t checked. It was enough of a battle to convince her not to use the ones advertised on TV.

  4. How odd there are multiple posts on deoderant…I wonder which phase the Moon is in? Funny you mention your daughter uses a natural deoderant, I figure I have four years to find a good one ’till my daughter hits puberty. Tick tick tick…

  5. I’m really impressed at your perseverence – it’s so easy to get bogged down in it all. Trying to find green products is very tricky, and if you start factoring in any number of other ethical considerations it can seem nigh impossible. It always seems to me that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know:)

    As for greenwashing, it’s rampant and confusing and difficult to navigate. Even from the point of view of a company, it’s tough I’m the green officer for my company and trying to keep on top of changing requirements and priorities, revised definitions of what green means, and shifts in green consumer thinking is very complex.

    • I agree Denise, the more I read, the less I know. I am not confident about what and who to believe. It sounds like you have an interesting and challenging job…but all the misinformation out there would make it extremely difficult. From your perspective I am interested to how do you know whom to trust?

    • Danny Ducat Says:

      Hey Denise!

      I’ve also had a lot of trouble dealing with green-washing… Both in products like cleaners and in foods that are labeled organic/free-range/local or what have you. I know that there are some neat mobile aps now for some products/stores, but was wondering if you know of anything in the works that is geared towards the green community. Something like “Yelp” for us Greenies, or a modification to add on top of another social media outlet that helps a harried consumer to find out a little bit more about a product or company on the fly. Say, while standing in the chemical cleaners isle of the local grocery store.

      Do you happen to know if there are things like this out there, or in the works?

      Thanks a ton! Keep up the good work!

  6. saviabella Says:

    If you’re Canadian, you can find the Kibio line in some of the larger Shoppers Drug Marts (the ones with beauty boutiques in them.)

  7. saviabella Says:

    They have great skin care products, too.

  8. Yup, I’m Canadian – that’s good to know. Thanks 🙂

  9. saviabella Says:

    In case you want to research the ingredients before buying the Kibio deodorant, this is what’s listed on the bottle:

    Alcohol, Rose Damascena Flower Water, Polyglyceryl-2 Caprate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Bisabolol, Lavandul Hybrida Oil, Benzyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Water, Behydroacetic Acid, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Seed Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Limonene, Linalool, Citral. The bottle also says that 99.8% of the ingredients are of natural origin and a number of the ingredients are organic.

    And it ain’t cheap – $20 per bottle.

  10. K.B. Says:

    deodorizers made of bamboo -> bamboo charcoal. check out [sustainable + reusable + recyclable] purify by nature!

  11. brainedx Says:

    We use Alba Botanica Tea Tree Deodorant Stick. No complaints from friends or colleagues yet. It rated a 2 on the Skin Deep database. (Thanks for the link to that!) I write the green blog for London Drugs, ( and definitely agree with the poster who said it’s hard to keep up with what’s greener than what.
    Keep up the fight!
    Lorne Craig

  12. I haven’t tried Alba Botanica, and #2 hazard score is impressive…I appreciate the suggestion. What a cool job you have! Thanks for including your blog link – it’s nice to meet you Lorne. 🙂

  13. Phyllis Says:

    Thanks for this post. I have used Tom’s for years. The product I use actually is rated 2 which I suppose is reasonable but what I missed some how is that Tom’s is now under Colgate. I wanted to invest in Tom’s back in 2003 or 2004 and they were then privately owned. I’m not shocked but not thrilled.

  14. A hazard score of 2 sounds pretty good to me. I was also surprised to discover Colgate owns Tom’s. More and more big corporations buying up little eco-friendly, organic businesses…it is another surprising discovery (for me). I will write a post on that in the future. Thanks for your comments Phyllis.

  15. Pauline Says:

    I’ve been considering switching to a ‘natural/non aluminum’ deodorant, but have read that its almost impossible to find a brand that actually works! But I’d like to switch because the regular stuff stains my clothes, makes my skin itch and aluminum has been linked to breast cancer!

    Best of luck finding a better alternative to mainstream brands! Keep us in the loop!:)

  16. I had the same reactions/reasons for starting the search too Pauline. Will keep you posted. 🙂

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