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There’s nothing wrong with wanting to smell good. Unless you’re particularly lucky and have no body odor, you might rely on deodorant to do so.

The good news: it doesn’t have to be the traditional stick. There are other options out there if you want to be intentional about what you put on your body.

If you want to opt out of some ingredients while still smelling sweet, natural deodorant might be the choice for you.

Why go for a natural way to be smell-free?

Some believe that the ingredients in traditional deodorants, like parabens and aluminum, may have negative health effects.

According to a 2018 study, aluminum may change the body’s response to estrogen, which can be harmful over time. A 2017 study noted that women with breast cancer self-reported using antiperspirants several times a day, while those without breast cancer reported less use.

A 2013 study noted that aluminum found in breast tissue may cause oxidative damage, inflammation, and disruption of iron metabolism.

According to the American Cancer Society, however, there is no clear or direct link between parabens or aluminum and cancer.

Although more research is needed to understand the risks associated with traditional deodorants, there are plenty of natural alternatives that also prevent sweat and body odor.

You might be able to find some of the ingredients below in your kitchen cabinet, and they make great alternatives to deodorant.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a versatile ingredient to keep in your cupboard. It’s a natural astringent and it’s anti-inflammatory, meaning that it removes excess moisture from the skin and kill bacteria.

It’s also a popular deodorant alternative because it doesn’t leave residue on the skin. Plus, it gets rid of odor fast.

The main downside to this method is that it wears off quickly and needs to be reapplied throughout the day.

How to use

Simply place witch hazel on a cotton swab or reusable cotton cloth and rub it on the underarm area.

Baking soda or cornstarch

These typical kitchen ingredients are used for more than just baking or cooking. They also make great natural hygiene products.

How to use

Mix 1/8 teaspoon with a little water and then rub it under your arms.

You can also use a mixture of baking soda and cornstarch to fight odor and perspiration. Mix one part baking soda with six parts cornstarch and dust the powder under your arms.

Warning

For those with sensitive skin, baking soda is known to cause possible irritation due to its high alkalinity and the body’s natural acidity.

Make sure to conduct a patch test before using it as a deodorant.

Lemon juice

When life gives you lemons … use it as deodorant?

You may be surprised to know that applying lemon juice to your armpits is a simple way to eliminate odor. Lemon juice is full of citric acid, which naturally gets rid of odor-causing bacteria.

How to use

Cut a lemon in half and squeeze out 1 teaspoon of juice. Dip a cotton ball and apply straight to your underarms. Keep the lemon in the fridge for an extra soothing effect.

Warning

Do not apply lemon juice directly after shaving. Lemon is highly acidic and will sting.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol kills bacteria, including the odor-causing kind. On top of that, it’s significantly less expensive than mainstream deodorants.

How to use

Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and spritz onto your armpits.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has a number of uses and benefits, such as being an alternative to deodorant.

How to use

Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon of water. Use a cotton pad or reusable cloth to apply the mixture to your underarms.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is incredibly versatile for hair and skin needs. It’s also antibacterial and antiviral, meaning it can eliminate odor-causing bacteria in the underarm area.

How to use

Take 1/4 teaspoon of oil and rub it under your arms with a cotton cloth or your fingers. Let it dry completely before dressing, as oil can easily stain clothes.

Baking soda & coconut oil

Baking soda is one of the easiest ways to replace store-bought deodorants. It’s simple, effective, and inexpensive.

However, if you don’t want to use a straight powder deodorant, you can mix it with coconut oil. This will create a soft bar that can be applied daily.

How to use

Combine 4 tablespoons of baking soda and cornstarch each with 6 tablespoons of coconut oil. Place in the refrigerator to set and apply as needed.

Crystal deodorant

Crystal deodorant has become more popular in recent years. It consists of mineral salts and nothing else. It works by creating a shield that purifies your sweat to prevent odor.

How to use

Apply the crystal deodorant onto wet skin, or dip it in water several times as you apply.

It’s best to apply a few coats and let dry before putting on any clothing. Either way, the deodorant won’t leave any white marks on your clothes.

Deodorant alternatives offer a number of benefits over conventional brands.

Say goodbye to yellow stains

The aluminum in traditional deodorants can create a yellow pigment when mixed with sweat. The good news is these stains can be fixed by swapping a classic antiperspirant for an alternative that doesn’t contain aluminum.

Gentle for sensitive skin

Ingredients like alcohol and aluminum can irritate sensitive skin. Many deodorant alternatives are made from ingredients that are much gentler than conventional options.

Pro tip: “All-natural” doesn’t automatically mean safe. Check the individual ingredients on your deodorant label for irritants. You can also do a patch test to ensure your skin tolerates those ingredients well.

Reduce your chemical load

Typical deodorants contain controversial ingredientss that could lead to health concerns. This includes aluminum, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan.

More and more, these ingredients are met with a skeptical eye.

There’s been a trend of “consumers moving away from ingredients that are less safe or petroleum-based, including silicone dimethicone, dyes, and perfumes,” says Busch.

According to Busch, consumers are thinking more critically about why their deodorants have fillers, fragrances, and other ingredients that don’t need to be there to do the job.

They may also have negative environmental effects. “Several traditional deodorants are petrochemical-based, and include things like silicone dimethicone, perfume, and things that don’t naturally biodegrade in the environment,” says Busch.

Making your own natural deodorant alternatives at home is one option that may be easier than you think.

You can experiment with ingredients and scents until you find what you really like, or you can change it up each time.

Try these quick recipes that require only a few ingredients.

Pro tip: Keep homemade deodorants in a cool, dry place to prevent melting. To use, place on a warm surface or run under warm water to soften.

Recipe #1

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup absorbent powder (like arrowroot powder, charcoal powder, baking soda, or cornstarch)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (if you have sensitive skin, substitute with one of the above powders)
  • 1/3 cup shea butter moisturizer (optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients. Using a mixer, combine the ingredients until smooth. Melt shea butter, and add it in.
  3. Pour the mixture into an airtight glass jar, and let it sit for one hour.
  4. Apply a pea-size amount of mixture to each underarm with a beauty spatula or popsicle stick. Use your fingers to rub in thoroughly.

Recipe # 2

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions

  1. Combine the dry ingredients, mixing well.
  2. Add coconut oil to make a paste.
  3. Store in an airtight container.
  4. Apply under arms when needed.

Recipe #3

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons shea butter
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa butter
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil

Directions

  1. Melt shea butter and cocoa butter.
  2. Combine with dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Add in vitamin E oil.
  4. Place mixture into an airtight container and keep refrigerated.
  5. Apply as needed.

Hand sanitizer

If there’s one thing most of us carry around consistently these days, it’s hand sanitizer. Just squirt some onto each armpit to remove bacteria and get rid of smell.

Essential oils

Maybe you forgot to put on your deodorant before you left the house, but you happen to have some skin-safe essential oils in your bag.

No problem! Blend up your favorites and apply to your underarms. You can keep reapplying throughout the day as it wears off.

Warning

While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils.

It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils. Be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products.

Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Aloe vera

Not only is aloe vera one of the hardest plants to kill, but it’s also incredibly useful.

Aloe has natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which means it can get rid of odor-causing bacteria.

How to use

Break off a small piece of aloe vera from your plant and apply the gel directly to your armpits. You can also use pure aloe vera gel from a prepackaged bottle.

You can buy natural deodorant at most natural food stores, where other natural skin care products are sold, or online. Here are some prodcuts to consider:

Finding the deodorant alternative that works best for you is a personal process. It will also likely take a fair amount of trial and error.

Give it time, and experiment to find what works for you.


Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website wild-hearted.com.