But as the entire universe of non-toxic skin-care products has expanded, lots of brands have been introducing better options. All are made with plant-based ingredients like shea butter and essential oils (instead of aluminum, parabens, and fragrance), smell great, and come with pretty packaging.
And some of them even (gasp) work!
Before you make the switch, you should know that none of these products include antiperspirant ingredients, so you’ll still sweat. (Maybe save a conventional stick for big business presentations and your wedding day?) But they do reduce odor.
To help you choose, we took a bag full of new, natural deodorants for a test spin (class), sweating through intense workout sessions and crowded subway rides. Here are nine (listed in alphabetical order) that passed our sniff test—and others’, too.
Originally posted January 27, 2015, updated March 24, 2016.
Superlative alert: This is the chicest natural deodorant on the market to date. But it’s not just pretty packaging. This simple, doesn’t-crumble stick is a perfect swap for something traditional like Dove—it has a super clean ingredient list (including coconut oil, baking soda, and honey), barely has a scent, and doesn’t leave a ghosty white streak on your skin. It’s hands down (and arms up) the new natural gold standard. —MG
Blissoma makes a suite of scented spray-on deodorants, but the Scentless Stick—made with ingredients like baking soda, sunflower oil, mango butter, and absorbent diatomaceous earth—is a perfect option for the fragrance-averse. Despite its grey-brown color, it goes on clear, without residue, so you won’t see or smell it. I used it on several sweaty occasions, and it was super effective at preventing body odor for me every time. One note: The texture is a little rough, so if your skin is sensitive, you may not love the scratchy sensation as you roll it on.
This creative approach to deodorant—made with just aluminum-free sodium bicarbonate, tea tree oil, and either lavender or cedarwood oil—comes in a powder you sprinkle into your hand and pat into your pits. And it’s eco-friendly, since you can purchase refills for the stainless steel container. It didn’t work for me nearly as well as the others (even with the addition of the optional Stinkstick), but the founder of wellness lifestyle site Lila Mae swears by it, and I’ve found that natural deodorants can sometimes respond differently to individual bodies. (Lavanila’s, for example, does nothing to stop me from smelling horrible, but for many others, it works like a dream.)
Honest Deodorant, $8.95
While Jessica Alba’s non-toxic home and skin-care company may be under-fire for mislabeled detergent, their deodorant is filled with a blend of certified organic essential oils like bergamot and eucalyptus along with wonder-herb witch hazel. It comes in a convenient spray form, so no one looks askance at you getting dressed after hot yoga. It comes with a light, citrusy scent that smells super fresh as you spray it on, and then keeps you smelling fresh all day.
Of all the deodorants I’ve sweat-tested over the years, this one from Vermont-based Ursa Major definitely tops the list. It goes on just like a traditional deodorant (AKA no digging your fingers into a pot resulting in an extra hand-washing step), has little to no residue, and comes with a clean, woodsy (but not too masculine) scent. And while it won’t stop you from sweating and isn’t made for an Ironman or wedding day (no naturals are, sorry), it really works in terms of keeping you fresh on a daily basis—from spin class to dinner date.
In terms of packaging and scents, this natural one feels familiar, like any deodorant you’d pluck off the shelf at Walgreens. The Baby Powder scent didn’t differ much from a Secret, for instance, and it also comes in Floral Fields and Herbaceous Woods. It kept me smelling fabulous through multiple sweaty situations, thanks to ingredients like arrowroot powder and bentonite clay. But it’s messy going on, leaving a slick residue, so you’ll have to hold your arms up and let it dry for a bit before getting dressed.
Indie Brooklyn brand Meow Meow Tweet recently debuted this alternate version of its popular natural deodorant for people with underarm skin that’s sensitive to baking soda. (I’m one of those people, and I sometimes get little red bumps/irritation that stings from products that contain it.) It works incredibly well, thanks to the power of arrowroot, and feels creamy and nourishing on your skin because of its shea butter and anti-bacterial coconut oil. Just keep in mind you have to be okay with using your fingers to apply it instead of a stick.
PiperWai Natural Deodorant, $11.99
PiperWai’s ingredient list (including of-the-moment beauty ingredient, activated charcoal) is carefully formulated to create a “pH-balanced environment” in your armpit, which means bacteria will not be able to survive or make you smelly. I wore it for a full day and then through an incredibly intense, sweaty boot camp class, and I was still fresh after. It also keeps you drier than other natural options because of ingredients that form an “absorbent shield,” despite the lack of antiperspirant. And gentle, nourishing shea and cocoa butter plus coconut oil make it perfect for sensitive skin. Good news for the cream-adverse: After a super successful appearance on Shark Tank (they sold 10,000 jars before the episode was over) and some outside investment, the brand is developing a stick applicator version.
Portland-based Schmidt’s makes this artisanal stink-preventer in scents like Lavender+Sage and Cedarwood+Juniper. I loved the Bergamot+Lime, which kind of resembled a refreshing, lemon ice in both smell and texture. All scents come in both stick and jar versions (with packaging so sweet, Anthropologie sells it)—if you opt for the tub, you rub the creamy substance on with your fingers or the tiny stick it comes with. It was beyond effective for me, but it does contain baking soda, so if you’re sensitive, you may get a little bit of irritation.
Ready to trade in all of your products for all-natural alternatives? Here are 11 exfoliators that are microbead-free and 12 super-clean face masks to unveil your best skin yet.