Thursday, October 28, 2010


My Quiet, Mostly Disgusting Adventures With Natural Deodorant

This is the ridiculously long story of how I exchanged regular deodorant-antiperspirants (Secret, Dove, Degree, etc. —  the ones that make you smell nice) for natural deodorants (Tom’s, Jason’s, the crystals, etc. — the ones that make you disgusted with yourself, your clothes, and the haze of putrescence that surrounds you at all times). Here we go.

Back in 2008 I decided that even though the aluminum in antiperspirants hasn’t been proven to give you cancer — in fact, studies show it doesn't — I was also pretty sure it might give you cancer. I don’t know — rubbing a body-function-altering chemical into a crevice of my body every morning seemed unnecessary. Or, at the very least, seemed like an easy thing to err on the side of caution about. And because antiperspirants never really worked on me anyway (except for freaky Certain Dri, but that's a story for another time), it seemed like it’d be a breeze to switch to regular old aluminum-free deodorant — a.k.a. natural deodorant.

It was not. They are all horrible. But before I knew that, I thought it’d be cool ("cool") to write a story about this quest for the perfect natural deodorant (I never ended up writing it, until now, I guess), so I bought all the natural deodorants I could find (like 25 of them — flashbacks to standing in the aisle of this miserable health-foods store with an armful of the bullshittiest deodorants of all time, people looking at me like maybe she's sick). Anyway, I thought it’d be good to pit (oof) the deodorants against one another tournament-style, one day at a time — each morning I’d wear one on one armpit, another on the other, and then at the end of the day whichever side smelled best would be the winner, and it’d advance to the next “round.” Oh, incidentally, this was during a very strange and lonely period in my life when I had time to do things like make charts for deodorants.

Weeks passed, and I monitored these awful products. Winners were determined not by actually winning but by being the side that smelled less terrible at the end of the day — I smelled bad 100% of the time. And then toward the final rounds of this sad tournament, I realized that the winner was actually just whichever one I’d been wearing on my left side, which probably had to do more with the way I carried my purse than anything else. So, I guess that sucked, but also, obviously, it was fine.

Anyway, once the tournament was over (I don’t even remember which of them “won” — it was completely arbitrary and I never used any of them ever again), I just stopped using deodorant altogether, half believing that if I could just leave myself alone long enough, body odor would somehow work itself out of my system (I'm a scientist!) and I’d be like some natural, scentless tree sprite. Well, it didn’t, and I just smelled like shit all the time.

Sorry, this is gross, I realize.

But then one day I got this gushy email from a silly ladies' newsletter I'd subscribed to — Vital Juice, from which I later unsubscribed, due to the “Yoga for Your Fingernails" and "Tea-Tree Oatmeal for Your Butt”-type emails I’d get from them EVERY DAY (but then also, full disclosure, I once applied for a JOB with Vital Juice, but I didn’t get it, so fuck ‘em. But also this isn’t some takedown of Vital Juice or anything, and also definitely not a paid promotion for anything!). Anyway, this one newsletter was about a natural deodorant they were losing their minds over (although literally every day those goons lose their minds over some garbage they may or may not be being paid to promote), and because deep in my brain was this kernel of hope that somewhere out there was a Perfect Natural Deodorant for Me, I decided to get it.

It's called Lavanila, it's incredibly expensive ($18 per stick), and of course it’s only available at Sephora, but it turns out to be pretty good. THE END. It’s not even that good, honestly, it’s just significantly better than all the others, and the smell is nice and fancy. I’ve gotten it in Lavender/Vanilla and Vanilla/Grapefruit, but it also comes in other scents. So yeah, I just wrote an advertisement, I guess.

OK, so, this is technically the end of this piece, because what follows is some serious down-the-rabbit-hole nonsense about my experience with NATURAL DEODORANT, which if you’re still with me, you’ve almost certainly heard more than enough about. So, it’s perfectly fine to stop here. Recommended, even!

BUT, Lavanila’s also sort of garbage, because the first one I bought, the twisty part at the bottom didn’t work, so I returned it at Sephora for a new one, and then THAT ONE also had a broken twisty part, so I emailed the company. Here's the ass-kissery I sent to support@lavanila.com on June 30, 2009, subject title: “Faulty twist-bottom deodorant”

Hello Lavanila!

As someone who's spent years looking for natural deodorants that actually work, I was thrilled to discover Lavanila. Seriously—like, opening-presents-at-Christmastime-thrilled. At first I was doubtful—none of the dozens (dozens! literally!) of the other natural deodorants I've tried have worked at all, but Lavanila is totally different, totally great. It's like the holy grail of natural deodorants! The $18 price tag is steep, but 100% worth it. (I'd probably pay even more, but I shouldn't be telling you that.) Thank you for making such a terrific product! I'd never thought I'd be writing this kind of fan mail to a product or sounding so much like one of those crazy people quoted on infomercials, but whatever! Here we are! I love it!

So! I was especially bummed to find out that when it came time to twist up the deodorant stick, it was broken. Hard to explain, but basically the bottom half twists around slightly off-kilter, so that the more you twist it, the more it seems to be coming off the base, sort of like a jam jar that can't close properly because you didn't align it correctly. And it gets progressively stickier to twist until it eventually I can't twist it any more. And none of the product comes up at all. Sad!

Yesterday I brought the broken deodorant back to the Sephora where I purchased it (at 42nd St. and Madison in NYC, near where I work as an editor), and the staff there swapped it out for a new one—no problem. But when I brought it home I discovered that the new one was also broken! In the same way! And I swear I'm not beating them against the wall or anything—I treat them normally!

Instead of going back to Sephora and requesting another exchange, I figured I'd go to you guys first. Is this a common problem? And would it be possible to get a replacement?

This is the one I've got: http://www.lavanila.com/The-Healthy-Deodorant-Vanilla-Lavender_p_51.html

Thanks first of all for making this awesome, life-changing deodorant (seriously), and thanks secondly for your help in this matter—I really appreciate it!

-Edith Zimmerman

Haha. “Near where I work as an editor.” Anyway, they didn’t respond, so nine days later, I follow up with this:

Hi Lavanila,

Just following up on my email from last week... It'd be great to get a replacement deodorant, if at all possible! Thanks again for your time!


NOTHING. So at this point I’m furious with these jerks, but also I love their deodorant so much, and I felt guilty going back to Sephora again. Because surely every single product matters there. Anyway, last-ditch, two weeks after that follow-up email, I send this:


I'm following up again on my email from earlier this month... Maybe this email address isn't the right one I should be writing to, in which case I would be happy to follow up elsewhere if you could point me in the right direction.

Thank you very much!


At which point they FINALLY respond:

Hello Edith,

We are SO SORRY for the delay in getting back to you!! We appreciate your loyalty to our brand, and we are extremely excited to have you as part of our HEALTHY family!!

First off, we are very sorry that you have been experiencing this problem with our Deodorant component. This is not a common problem, but we are aware of this type of issue. Have you tried forcibly turning the bottom wheel fully (360 degrees) at least twice to raise more product up to the top? Sometimes if the unit is dropped or shifts during shipment, the bottom wheel comes out of alignment and needs to "pop" back in to place. Once this happens, the unit will twist up and down with ease.

If this trick does not work for you, we request that you return the product to Sephora for a new Deodorant once more (Sephora is great about returns). If you receive yet another faulty Deodorant component, we will be happy to facilitate another switch for you using our own personal inventory.

Edith — thank again for your patience throughout this process, and we greatly appreciate your loyalty to LAVANILA!! We are looking forward to getting you a new, properly-working deodorant as soon as possible so you can continue with your HEALTHY daily beauty routine.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us at your leisure.


And you know what? Turns out all I had to do to make it work WAS forcibly turn the thing really hard, past the point of seeming like I was breaking it. THE ACTUAL END. To rewrite this entire thing in one normal-sized sentence: Lavanila makes a pretty good natural deodorant, and it costs $18.

UPDATE, March 21, 2012: I found the actual natural deodorant holy grail, and it is Soapwalla. It changed my life, and I'm not even beginning to be kidding.

112 Comments / Post A Comment


Of course, I am on the edge of my seat to hear about Certain Dri! WHAT HAPPENED?! (No sarcasm! my life is sad (twilight).)

Edith Zimmerman

Might as well go all out on this! With Certain Dri you're supposed to roll it onto your armpits the night before and SLEEP with it, and then the next day you don't sweat at all. And it definitely worked! For one day! And then the next night I dutifully rolled it on and laid down to sleep, so happy that my life of sweating constantly & ruining all shirts was finally over, but then my skin just furiously caught on fire and I didn't sleep that night my armpits were so itchy and screamy. "My armpits were so itchy and screamy" -- a sentence I am now saying out loud in public. Anyway. Certain Dri. Do not recommend.

major disaster

I don’t know about Edith, but I use Certain Dri sometimes. It does work (though only as an antiperspirant – it doesn’t make you smell nice), but I still use regular deodorant as well, because if you use Certain Dri too often, it feels like you are being stabbed in the armpit by a million tiny knives. (Which then makes you feel like an insane person, because you realize how crazy it is that it’s worth causing yourself actual pain just so you don’t smell bad.)

ETA: Yeah, basically what Edith said.

sergeant tibbs

I use the prescription version of Certain Dri and the itchy, burning feeling seems to happen if you've recently shaved and then roll it on. If you shave in the morning and then use it at night, you should be better off. But anyway, this article? Speaking to my...armpits.


I'm maybe the only person who read to the end, but in short, I'm glad you tried this and not me! I've been feeling guilt over my aluminum-filled deoderants but haven't wanted to even try the switch. So, GOOD if the aluminum doesn't actually give you Alzheimers (which, possibly, would be worth it for a decently long lifetime of smelling nice). I also write letters to customer service. It's my secret single behavior or something. Oh! And I read manuals that come with appliances. Sorry this turned into a confessional of sorts...

Edith Zimmerman



Definitely read 'til the end. My secret single behavior now is wishing someone would buy me Lavanila. Out loud. To the cats.


I read to the end and I thought it was a really funny piece! I want to send it to a few friends who are hell bent on never again using anything other than "natural" deodorants which, by the way, are NOT working for them.


"Anyway, I thought it’d be good to pit (oof) the deodorants against each other tournament-style, one day at a time — each morning I’d wear one on one armpit, another on the other, and then at the end of the day whichever side smelled best was the winner, and it’d advance to the next “round.” Oh, incidentally, this was during a very strange and lonely period in my life when I had time to do things like make CHARTS FOR DEODORANTS."

Fucking dying.


The CHARTS FOR DEODORANTS made me swoon.
So funny.


Same here! Guffawed loudly. Busted by co-workers. Oh well.


As a former marketing intern at one of the world's largest deodorant manufacturers, I especially appreciate this. More than you know. More than you'll ever know. More than you'll ever want to know. Now you want to know, right?


Hi, thanks for meeting me for drinks, I’m going to be THAT GUY and EXPLAIN STUFF. (Sorry!) If it’s got aluminum, it’s not deodorant, it’s antiperspirant. There’s lots of deodorants that are just deodorants, but aren’t Tom’s of Fucking Tea Juice Hippie Bangor Crap. They still contain strange chemicals that blind rats, but are aluminum-free and work pretty well in producing blandly soapy smells while still letting you sweat (though in summer, you can definitely benefit from a mid-day de-ranking).

Edith Zimmerman

Wait, no! Because I LOOKED for normal, not particularly “natural” deodorants (as in, non-antiperspirants), and did not find any! Seriously. So if what I get from all this is information about normal old non-antiperspirant deodorants, then all is well. So please let me know!

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

Yeah, deodorants are antibacterial stuff, and antiperspirants are antibacterial stuff plus aluminum.


“Sport” in the label is often a good clue. But the brand that immediately jumps to mind is Arm and Hammer, which not only does a pretty good job de-stinking, but doesn\\’t smell like Ocean Rain or Evergreen Mist or Salacious Crumb or whatever. Just kinda powdery.

The other brand I can name off the top of my head is Old Spice, which I’ve been using since before the ads (because I really do like the smell, and Target had a really good sale once and I bought twelve), but for womenfolk, it might demand that you parse what it means to smell like the man you wish your man could be.

Edith Zimmerman

I actually used Old Spice for a while, but then I felt weird about how I smelled like a man. I also think it might’ve given me a rash after a while. But ladies’ deodorants almost always come w/ antiperspirant, too, I’ve found. Arm & Hammer — I feel like I must’ve looked into that at one point and found it lacking somehow, but obviously I should give them another whirl. Thank you!

pissy elliott

Speed Stick! Speed Stick and Lady Speed Stick have non-antiperspirant deodorants. I know this because they're usually the cheapest thing at the Duane Reade near my office and I'm comically broke, all the time!!! I also smell!!!


My guess is that you ran across Arm & Hammer antiperspirant. They make both kinds, and I can't always find the deodorant.

Oh, and same deal with Speed Stick--there's both kinds, so label skim. But (no offense, Pissy) I kinda think Speed Stick smells like dork.

pissy elliott

Dork meaning whale penis or dork meaning nerd? I've gone back to rubbing alumnium in my undercarriages, and I use Old Spice for that purpose. Back when I used Speed Stick deodorant, I was kind of a dork, so it only affirms your hypothesis.


I consider myself relatively fortunate to have kept my whale-wang sniffing to a minimum. But yeah, Speed Stick's scents are both tinny and ostentatiously musky. They're the olfactory equivalent of the wispy tweener Fisher-Price-my-first-moustache.


I’m a lady who just goes out and buys Speed Stick, the regular manly man kind that smells like the good part of musk. The reason I don’t buy ladies’ deodorant is that I find the overpowering smell of baby powder, ocean fresh (that does not small at all like the sea!) and fake floral scent offensive in the way that mass quantities of drug store perfume is offensive and headache causing.

But yeah, I\'m also a dork.


I've been using this for three days and it's actually worked.


The issue for me is my body odor builds up a tolerance until it overpowers things after about a week.

Katie Walsh

Something about my armpit chemistry makes it so that natural deodorants take my own natural musk and then enhance it TIMES A BILLION so that my normal B.O. smells like goddamn roses compared to the tea-tree oil natural deodorant enhanced B.O. How do you think these hippie deodorant makers figured out how to do that?!?!


This is hilarious. So happy about this blog.


I thought my natural deodorant was working, but I must really just be a stinkin' liar (to myself). Thanks, Edith, for this investigative report!

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

Even though they're not made by hippies, Clarins products are pretty natural, but also even more expensive. My girlfriend and I both ended up using their Eau Dynamisante deodorant. It made trouble though, when we'd argue about whose turn it was to buy a new bottle.


If you really loved each other, you'd each anoint one armpit and then rub pits together, affirming your love even as you mask the Tanqueray still seeping from your pores from last night.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

Alas, it was Seagrams, owing to the deodorant budget.


My husband nagged me about switching to a natural deodorant for a while and i finally gave in because like a good wife and woman, i do whatever my husbands says. the first one i tried was tom's natural apricot "flavor". that was ok for the first week and then my ARMPITS started BURNING. apparently this happened to other people too so i was all "naw brah, tom". then i found the trader joe's deodorant and that seems to be working pretty good. i don't think i smell. guys, do i smell?

Edith Zimmerman

The number of times I've asked people over the past three years "Do I smell?" is STAGGERING. Probably at least five or sixth months total if you put it all together.

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

Ha, that's funny, I have the Apricot on right now - been using it for about a year - and no side effects. Which is odd, since I get rashes from everything now. Maybe it will give me a rash so I can justify tossing it out, since the smell is driving me batty. And no, you don't smell.


Tom's made my pits burn too, especially if they were still a little wet from the shower when I put it on. And I would still always smell! Desert Essence Tea Tree worked pretty well for me, but it's kind of expensive (no lavanila, but still). Now I'm also using Trader Joe's, and I think it's working?


HAHA. "WHERE I WORK AS AN EDITOR". Can't believe that didn't work the first time. This story makes me so happy. The husband I own wears Tom's, when he wears anything, and Tom's sucks, and now I know I can make him smell like vanilla and lavendar, muaha.


Oh man, flasback to my freshman year summer job working at a natural foods store in the vitamins and beauty “department” (aka “aisle). The people who SWORE by the crystal were always particularly…ripe.

snipe ツ

@PBandJ, @Kathy - that's too funny. My husband used to use the crystal. It never worked, but somehow he believed it did. (Maybe it's a magical crystal, and it only works when you really really believe.) Then he switched to Toms, when he wears anything, and he's still stinky. Meh.

Liz Colville

I am very keen on buying the product that was gently puffed in this piece!


Oh Edith. We are like arm pit soul mates. Sweat sisters? (Ew.) Anyways, I have always suffered from a sweating problem. And I grew up living in a hot and humid climate, so feel very sorry for me. The worst part about being a kid with a sweating problem is making sure you never at any point raise your arms to be called out on your huge pit stains (happend to me a couple of times, mortifying, obviously) but then the pits never get a chance to cool off, so it's a disgusting vicious cycle.

Anyways! I recently made the switch to natural deodorant and considered getting the Lanvanila but instead went for the Anthony Logistics mint-flavored deodorant which was a few dollars cheaper, with no hint of vanilla whatsoever. It's worked pretty well for me. It's no Certain Dri - which totally got me through college. But then it won't poison my lymph nodes, so there's that.


is anyone else curious to SEE the actual chart for deodorants???

Edith Zimmerman

Haha, I can show it to you if you want. Got it on a back-up hard drive somewhere. LIFE. Live it.


This is my favorite post about natural deodorant EVER!

Legs Battaglia

I can't believe they didn't send you one for free! When I was about 13, I wrote to Noxema to tell them that I didn't like their new package design (it made it so you couldn't easily slide-scoop out a serving), and they sent me a coupon for 1 free Noxema and then I felt such product loyalty, I continued to sear my face dry with that goop well after everyone else I knew moved on to the Clinique 3-step system.

Edith Zimmerman

One time in college I got a single-serving box of Special K, but when I opened it up I discovered there were literally 25 flakes of Special K in it, so I wrote a really angry letter to Kelloggs, and they sent me a $5 gift certificate! WOW!


When I was little I wrote a letter to whoever makes "Blueberry morning" cereal to give them a free idea to make their product better and they just sent me a bunch of coupons without acknowledging my great idea. I still cringe a little when I see it in the cereal aisle.

forget it i quit

You know, in re "half believing that if I could just leave myself alone long enough, body odor would just work itself out of my system," I have an ex who swore she never ever started using deodorant post-puberty and thus never smelled.

And in two years of living together, she never used deodorant and honestly? Never really smelled. Since this is probably the only true thing she told me, maybe the secret is never starting!

Edith Zimmerman

MY OLD ROOMMATE SAID/EXPERIENCED THE SAME THING! That'll be my one main child-rearing tenet.


I wonder though if these people just don't have bad B.O. It's just that there is a point when some kids start smelling kind of oniony.


Disagree. I was late to the deodorant game and I smelled until I started using it. What it comes down to is some people stink and some don't.


I recently tried to rope my roommate into a quest for the perfect toilet paper. She was happy with Scott, because it lasts forever, but I wanted to find out what all the different types were like. I made a spreadsheet. I was mostly interested because I get sort of paralyzed by the variety of toilet papers. There are so many brands! I ended up taking a different strategy after trying 6 or 7 brands: I limit myself to the ones that claim to by good for the environment and just buy what's cheapest.

Anyway, it was something that was (and probably still is) only interesting to me. It felt like a really stupid science fair project. I was actually surprised that everyone wasn't dying to know my results, but they weren't.

Anyway, I use Tom's, most of the scents are ineffective, but the Calendula is stronger than the others, I think.


We are the same person – I’ve endured the burn of Certain Dri and I tried to switch to natural stuff (at the height of this hot, disgusting summer, bad idea) and stunk so much I showered twice a day for fear that I was the bad smell on the subway. I am back to Secret Clinical because it’s all or nothing for me, apparently. BUT I did use Fresh deodorant (lemon verbena), also available at Sephora, also for $18, a couple years ago and really liked it. I guess that’s the magical price point at which this stuff starts to sort of work.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

Also, more mansplaining: if you get a rash consistently when you don't use antiperspirants in hot weather, you might have tinea versicolor.

One way to treat that is to wash your pits with a dandruff shampoo containing selenium sulfide (it never works for me though).

Elisabeth Donnelly

I've been dealing with this very issue this week, in fact; New York has been so humid and swampy and the natural Aubrey's stuff I've been using has just, essentially given up. The rosewater/coconut oil combination of whatever makes me smell like, doused in terrible Rose perfume has been failing me and making me smell-paranoid! Which is the worst feeling. Like you're emanating rays of funk into the air.


i use the tom's of maine lemongrass deodorant and it is fantastic. the only problem is that i often get tricked into thinking somebody nearby is eating delicious vietnamese food when i raise my arms above my head.

Legs Battaglia

Also! I started using that deoderant that claims to slow down the growth of your underarm hair (I think it's Dove), but, in fact, I believe it SPEEDED UP hair growth. I don't have a chart to back up these results.


My 10 year old daughter is getting hormonal and starting to stink so coincidentally this morning (!) I was telling her she should put on some deodorant so she doesn't become THAT kid and she told me one of her friends says she likes to smell her mom's deodorant, Dove with the green cucumber on it. Little girls are already pitching antiperspirants to each other, they KNOW.

I actually have that same deodorant but made her use the natural bullshit.

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

You know, I was always paranoid about whether I smelled, and would start sweating nervously whenever I even thought about sweating. Then I switched to a less-stressful job, and I, uh, only put on deodorant/antiperspirant a couple of times a week. It's the nervous sweating what gives you the nasty BO, or at least for me. (FYI, I do shower once a day...mostly.) If only this approach would work with brushing my teeth...

But yeah! I am starting to really love the Hairpin. Keep it up, you guys!


Sweaty. Smelly. I don't care. I still love you, Edith. This was hilarious. (And, yes, kinda gross.)


I wouldn’t have been able to conduct your experiment because one of my armpits smells more than the other! For a while, I was dating a crazyish person with hippie tendencies, and got into the habit of eschewing deodorant for essential oils. Anyone interested, choose “Redwood”, available at Whole Foods, if interested in smelling like me in my dirty hippie phase.

Charlotte Montgomery

this was a fun read at work - thanks:) You may have already tried it, but if not, maybe give Alvera Aloe & Almonds All Natural Deodorant a try? I have used it for years and it is the only natural deodorant that didn't leave me smelly and repugnant after an hour. And it's only $4 a bottle! And no residue! And I really like the way it smells! And!


Hey, I use the Aloe&Almonds too--the only natural deo I've found that really works for me. Holla!


Definitely need to see the charts. Loved this article by the way (no way I was not reading to the end). There is nothing wrong with smelling like a MAN, as long as it is a man doesn't stink and smells like some vague fragrance. What exactly is the Fresh scent? Been wearing it for years and have no idea.

I'm also wondering what the best response you ever got to, "Do I smell?" It's so ripe for a quip of some sort, but then, if someone is asking it, you have to consider their vulnerability. How do people respond to that question?


I like imagining that LAVANILA is the name of the actual woman who responded to the email

Edith Zimmerman

Or that a giant deodorant was sitting at the keyboard, chatting away.

Amie Steffen

My problem with Tom's is that I am having to reapply three times a day because I start stinking, but my problem with Dove et al is that enough prolonged time with them and my underarm skin starts drying and flaking. So I've started this sort of switcheroo, where I use one on one day and the other on another, and now I'm in a sort of no-man's-land on which one is actually doing the trick.

This is the part where you tell me to go buy Lavanila because it will solve all of my problems.


So excited about that link that aluminum doesn’t cause cancer. If you ever go back, I had the same problem as you, deodorants not working on me, thus hating myself for being disgusting, but I found this via Makeup Alley:
You have to let it dry and it’s expensive, but it’s amazing. It also has no ingredients listed, being French, so you can feel all reckless or tell yourself that it is actually all natural, you\'ll never know. But you won’t sweat or smell. And I read to the end, totally.


Oh though you wanted to smell pretty and I like "fragrance-free" meaning I like to smell like nothing. All those added smells make me want to gag gag gag. But maybe that's enticing to you, a deodorant that keeps the stink away, has no added perfume, and you won't sweat. I sure as hell can't live without my Vichy.

Jim Demintia

I, too, have smelled like lightly mango-scented funk because of an irrational (but probably well-founded) fear of industrial chemicals. But my solution is to combine my cheap Nature's Gate Autumn with whatever cologne my mother in law bought me for Christmas last year (note that the fragrance must be sprayed directly into one's armpits after the deodorant has been applied). For some reason, this works really well, and I actually smell better than I did when I used regular deodorant. But, then, I'm also probably putting back into my system whatever chemicals I tried to avoid by buying natural deodorant in the first place. So, maybe you should just stick with lavanila.

Patrick Jiro Lee

I’m deathly allergic to any deodorant that includes "fragrance" (whatever that is), including the "masking fragrance" used in almost all "unscented" flavors of regular deodorants.

Sorry if I went overboard with the punctuation just now.

Anyhoo, I’ve made do for most of my life with really inadequate natural deodorants. I’ve been smelling pretty good lately and maybe it’s because of that yellow one on the left in your photo.

On the other hand, there’s this girl who writes vegan raw-food cookbooks that my neighbor is really into, and in one of them there’s a big photo of her out for a run and a passage about how sweating is awesome because it detoxes your body naturally, and if you eat nothing but raw vegetables and sweat excessively then you don’t need deodorant because you already smell like a goddess. I’m paraphrasing.

I’ve been running a lot lately because of my crippling body image problems. I’ll bet that’s why I’m so fresh.


Not that you're not allergic, but you know there's a difference between "unscented" which has masking scent and smells gross and "fragrance-free" which smells like nothing? The latter is hard to find, but I know Mitchum makes it (my husband use to use the female Mitchum because they didn't make men's without fragrance. He used to use Lush but god, just too ripe for us to tolerate).

But wow, raw-vegan.


I, too, have tried a million non-antiperspirant deodorants, because antiperspirant gives me a rash. The only one I've found that I like, and I actually love it, is made by Lush, the Canadian natural bath products people. It doesn't stain my clothes and mostly keeps me smelling good, though I don't mind smelling a tiny bit ripe.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

Oh yeah, now that I remember, Tom's had coriander in it, that I think I'm a little allergic to. At least enough to give me a slight headache on smelling it. Artificial and maybe Bourbon vanillas do that too; I try to stick with the Tahitian.

The crystal seemed to work for me, but it still has (a less absorbable form(?) of) aluminum in it.

Tussy cream is awesome and smells like my grandmother's medicine cabinet. Even though it's only labeled as a deodorant, it still has aluminum in it?

That's my deodorant story,

Notanderson Cooper

You know what fragrance I'm beginning to despise? Elevator Purell.


There are a lot of comments here, so someone may have already mentioned it, but the German company Sebamed makes a very nice roll-on deodorant that does not contain aluminum. It works *pretty* well (not on really hot days, though - blegh) and costs about $11 in US dollars. I bought one several months ago and use it on weekends, just to give my pits a break from harsher chemicals every once in a while. It has a really nice smell and doesn't feel sticky or anything. And thankfully, unlike ClearDri, it won't make you feel like you're being stabbed in the armpits.

George Krzewski

I want to eat this deodorant! SO GOOD!


I don't know if it's all natural but Kiehl's makes a pretty great deodorant that I'd still be using if I hadn't just gone back to grad school and realized that I needed to stop spending $15 on deodorant every three months.


I realise this is sort of embarrassingly hippie like, but do you know what works really well and bonus! is also super cheap? a mixture of baking soda, cut with a little cornstarch so it doesn't burn, and a few drops of essential oil of whatever flavour you choose. Just dab it on with a powder puff. Careful on the cornstarch though, you don't want doughy pits!


I like the Tom's of Maine, actually, but I do have to keep some in my purse 'cause it wears off. On the other hand, the weird yellow stains on my shirts have disappeared. It was like the heavens opened and a lemongrass-scented laser zapped them all away. So to Tom's I will be loyal, I suppose, until white clothing goes out of fashion. Sigh.

Liz Hanzel

HiLARious!! I can relate, i too have gross-out stories of the body odor/deodorant genre, including a series of experiments with "natural" brands that my mom sent me in college when she noticed I had rejected cultural norms of basic hygiene. Anyway, MY end result was an undying devotion to The Crystal, which at first did not seem to work and I scoffed at its all natural anti-odor claims. Luckily, I learned that the crystal requires moisture when applying, and for some body chemical reaction reason (I am also a scientist), you need to use it a few days in a row before it becomes effective!! For reals, try it! Five years running, odor-FREE!


This story is amazing. CHARTS!
Also, because let’s all over share, I use Tom’s. It’s the only one that doesn’t cause uncontrollable itching and turn me into that woman who scratches her pits on public transportation. NO ONE likes that lady and I just don’t like being her, either. It’s true, though, that Tom’s has some shitty longevity and by the end of the day I smell pretty rank… but at the same time, I’ve pretty much quit caring about that since the only person who has to smell me at the end of the day is my boyfriend and he smells by then, too.


Crystal deodorants DO WORK!! Trust me... I'm a sweaty guy and it is, ummm, "very obvious" when my deodorant fails. Heck, I can't even stand myself when my deodorant fails.

I have been using Crystal Stick for over a year now and it is the best deodorant I have found that lasts all day and DOES NOT IRRITATE MY SKIN. As another poster pointed out, crystal deodorants do require the application of water in order to be applied correctly. I also found that I have to store it without the cap on so it dries out completely between uses. I originally left the cap on and the crystal itself started to smell a bit like my unprotected armpit and became less effective.

I cannot use ANY antiperspirants for more than two or three consecutive days. Apparently, I have an allergy to the aluminum salts that make them effective. After two or three days of use I experience contact dermatitis (burning and itching).

Tom's of Maine (original recipe) was the best thing (the ONLY thing) I had before I discovered crystal deodorants. It did not last all day but it didn't bother my skin. I was originally psyched when they released their new "long lasting" formula but I soon discovered that it too caused contact dermatitis. The likely culprit is Zinc Ricinoleate.

So... long story short... crystal deodorants work very well and I use antiperspirants for a day or two when REALLY necessary.

I'm usually the first to knock "magic crystals" but this stuff really works.

Carla Fran

I have been down this road, and also am a notable sweater. Cold outside? I will sweat through my sweater! That’s how much of a sweater I am. But the one deodorant answer I have found is homemade…equal parts corn starch, baking soda, and olive oil with a pinch of whatever oil you like the smell of (I favor lavendar). I keep it in an old Rishi tea tin in my fridge, and while I still sweat through everything, I do smell really good post-sweat. The only detriment, which I happily accept since it does everything else so well, is the occasional white ring in the armpit.
I also really want those armpit stick-on guards they used in the 1960\'s to stick on your dress. I\'ve only seen them now in drugstores in Denmark.


Interesting story about your experience with natural deodorants. I'm actually the "idiot" who responded to your email to lavanila online support about exchanging your product. Unfortunately we can only exchange products purchased on lavanila.com...surely that makes sense, no?

Either way, it seems like you did have to wait too long for a response to your original inquiry. We'll be sure to address this with customer service going forward. Nice to see that you are still endorsing LAVANILA's deodorant in spite of idiot support members like me though ;)

Keep up the great blog!!

Edith Zimmerman

Ha, yes! Wow! I still love Lavanila, clearly.


And for the record -- my name is not "LAVANILA" and I'm not a giant deodorant (hee hee). I forwarded your article to our marketing department -- they will definitely be interested in your experience with our brand (there will probably be some goodies in it for you!!).

snipe ツ

Actually, @lovelav, since you did respond, I'm pretty sure Edith was calling your co-workers idiots, not you - and even then, that moniker was only valid until someone responded. So, you saved the day for the whole department! Another tragedy thwarted! Yay!

Shelley Mullins

It makes me sad to say that Lavanila gives me a rash and sore, itchy armpits. I was thinking I'd found the holy grail of natural deodorants, and then, bam, rashy pits, which are uncomfortable to say the least. Not sure what I will try next.....

Erin Morgan

I can relate -- I used Certain Dri for a while even though it made my pits hurt and gave me a perpetual rash. I thought it was worth it to not sweat until I realized that you probably shouldn't block your sweat glands. And I still smelled bad. I tried a bunch of natural deodorants and still stank until I discovered Pit Putty from Bubble & Bee (bubbleandbee.com). I LOVE IT. I never stink. I use the spearmint and tee tree one with baking soda (any of the ones with baking soda are extra effective against stink) and it smells delicious, is completely natural and organic, and is only $9.85. I suggest everyone who finds natural deodorants to be ineffective should give Pit Putty a try.
(p.s. I haven't been paid to say this or anything, I just really love their products)


Haha your hilarious. Sounds like my experience in the search for the holy grail of natural deo's. Why in gods earth is it so hard to find one that actually works?? I sent away for one that I heard really great things about called Rocky Mountain Botanicals All Natural Deodorant. Its aluminum free which is key. I am not getting excited tho because I have been disappointed so many times. Anybody heard if it? There seems to be a lot of positive feedback about it on the web site and on the web in general and would love to know more....??


@Everly I finally did get the Rocky Mountain Botanical All Natural Deodorant and I LOVE IT! Two years and haven't looked back. I buy 6 at a time and they lasts me I would say probably 5 or 6 months. Highy Recommend!


Rebecca Skirpan

So I know this has been up for a while but I noticed you live in NYC and there is a company I really want to get over there. They are called "In Love With Elite Body Care" and they are from Walla Walla, Washington. Not sure if you know much about Walla Walla, but it is basically a huge hippy town. The deo works fairly well actually. You might have to reapply, but I've had a good experience.
You can order their products and if you ever feel the need to comment on them, the company is run by 6 sisters who will personally reply to your e-mails and are super cool. Check out: https://inlovewithbodycare.com/index.php. I basically complained about the price per oz and they literally sent me a free one of their newer bigger formula. Just like that -there wasn't even a defect!
I don't know how to get them over here without having them negotiate with some chain who will sell their souls and reduce the quality of their products (or increase the price!) so if you have any ideas, let them know. My only thought is a vender at the farmer's market would keep the company small but accessible to NYC...


Something in anti-perspirants reacts with my pits and makes me smell rank within an hour of applying. If you are still reading this thread, try Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant in Fresh Scent. It has a vaguely minty-herbal scent.


Thank you so much for updating this! I'm on the hunt for an aluminum free deodorant and I think I'll have to try out Soapwalla.


@Michsal I was on a hunt too but I have been extremely happy with this one


Kris Renfro@facebook

Try our vintage all natural deodorant made with Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Beeswax and Melaleuca Oil. PitStik – Changing the way you stik your pit **It WORKS!!!**
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Our all natural milder deodorant for your junior or tween - twit-Stik!!


OK I can finally rest easy. The search is over "sigh". About time. I don't know its taken me years to find one that actually bloody works! Do we really have to subject ourselves to chemicals and god knows what just to smell nice?? Anywho, I am in love with Rocky Mountain Botanicals Deodorant and I have gone on to purchase also their Problem Skin Creme as well for my eczema and their Healthy Aging Creme Moisturizer which is the bomb! Keep Healthy Folks!


I recently purchased Lavanila randomly when I was in Sephora because I had a feeling I had heard that it worked and I had wanted to buy it online once and felt too poor. (Regs deodorant gives me rashes and ingrown hairs like nobody's business, natural deodorant makes me smell like the drunk old Irishman I am, somewhere deep inside.) Maybe it'll malfunction one day and I'll move on to Soapwalla or back to Almay in the drugstore that only comes in gross gel form. Either way, way to slip into my subconscious, Jesus fuck.


I've been trying to switch to natural deodorants after learning that it is the aluminum in the deodorant I buy that causes dark underarm stains. I just recently switched from Lady Speed Stick Stainguard (thinking I was finally nipping this problem in the bud... nope!) and I'm currently using Tom's of Maine apricot-scented deodorant. While it has done just fine preventing odor in the few weeks I've had it, my underarms are SO itchy and they hurt now. It's been a long time since I've had this itching problem but I was so psyched when it didn't make me smell, now I have to start searching again...

After reading this and the comments I feel like it's going to come down to either burning armpits or tossing my good clothes after a few months of use.


so this deodorant wheel you speak of.... ?!


I've tried tons of natural deodorants and have terribly sensitive skin. Most of them sucked, specifically the crystals. I stumbled across this brand called Jungleman All-Natural Deodorant when I was Googling natural deodorant, and surprisingly, it was very effective (in spite of its somewhat manly name). It's aluminum free, odorless (I can't stand obnoxious fragrances), and kept me stink free and underarm happy! No irritation at all. It only cost me 6 bucks, unlike Lavanila, which cost me 18 smackers. Their website is www.junglemannaturals.com


Tried a lot of the natural brands discussed here - I also found them to be quite ineffective.

Did you ever come across Lavilin? It's an all-natural deodorant that I am obsessed with!


I found keeping your deodorant in the fridge made a difference; I would use all the product till the end; where before I would have to throw away half of it away cause it made my pits stink instead!


Okay, I must share. I like most have tried every natural deodorant on the shelves and some online. The only one that I have found is by purebodyscent. My entire family now uses this brand. It is free of aluminum but also free of hydrogenated oils, and other toxic ingredients. Funny thing is... the more you sweat the better you smell. Truly Amazing!!!


U may already know -- but I recently found out that any deodorants w/aluminum are not only hazardous to u but they are the ones that cause your underarms in your clothes to turn yellow. Natural deo's w/o aluminum will not yellow your clothes.
Just wanted to share this with everyone.

Jo Reding@facebook

that Soapwalla goo set my pits on fire. something in the ingredients literally made them angry.


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I came across this article when I googled searched switching from antiperspirants to deodorants. I literally laughed until I cried…I have been trying the same thing switching and trying different ones and I am really running out of options from ones that irritate sooo bad I want to cry to they just flat AS* don't work. My tournament so far has been determined by my poor mother who has been helping me with the sniff test…and I too wonder if using one under one arm and another on the other arm really helps the judging process. I wonder if any of them gave you a rash or friction burn like me. I am currently not wearing any now because my poor pits are so inflamed. HELP ME someone!!!

Reid McEwen@facebook

The best deodorant that I have ever used is Ozone Layer Deodorant, it also happens to be all natural. It's just shea butter and beeswax infused with oxygen, which eliminates the anaerobic bacteria that cause body odor. Its so effective that you can put it on after you already experience body odor, its unbelievable. Check it out at www.OzoneDeodorant.com

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