By now, pretty much everyone I know is on board with clean beauty. They’ve swapped skin-stripping cleansers and chemically packed moisturizers for skin-care products with more nourishing, plant-based ingredients (praise). But, the hardest product to swap out, no doubt, is antiperspirant in lieu of an aluminum-free natural deodorant.
I understand: Finding a natural deodorant is a lot like finding the one. Some are too wet, some are too powdery; some leave pits irritated at the hands of baking soda; and still some, though otherwise perfect, just aren’t antiperspirants. A quick refresher (ahem) on the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant: The former simply helps to wick away armpit sweat and help mask any odor that comes from the area; while the latter actually plugs the sweat glands to keep you from sweating altogether. So why choose one over the other? In recent years, aluminum-laced deodorants have come under scrutiny linking them to breast cancer, and while the American Cancer Society firmly says there’s no connection, many people are opting to replace them anyhow and just sweat it naturally.
And that’s why I’m happy to report that I’ve found a way to start using natural deodorants on pits most days and still prohibit that pesky sweat: It’s called deodorant cycling. To do this, you simply alternate between using natural deodorant for two days in a row and then on the third day, you use an antiperspirant. This works because many antiperspirants prevent sweat in the area for 48 hours, during which time you can simply supplement with a good-smelling stick, while still keeping exposures lower than if you were using it every day. And while it’s a great way to get into natural deodorants, it’s also a solid routine to follow if you find they just leave you wet under the arms and otherwise wouldn’t use them.
When I ask a derm about it, she surprises me with her response: “This is funny, because I actually do this,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. “The ability to reduce sweating is helped with the antiperspirant, and when cycled with the natural—no aluminum chloride—products, it cuts down on your overall exposure to the ingredient.”
The technique of alternating deodorants allows you to prevent the sweat on some days, and stopping just the smell on others (of course, you can plan accordingly). “Cycling gives you both the benefits of stopping the sweating, if only for a day, and then stopping the smell,” says Dr. Patel, who goes on to explain that B.O. is caused by bacteria on the skin rather than sweat. “If the goal is to stop odor then try using anti-bacterial ingredients on your skin, like tea tree oil. Natural deodorants also tend to have ingredients like charcoal that’s odor-absorbing as well.”
It feels kinda like switching up workouts—by changing it up every couple of days, you can trick your body. “The effectiveness of such a method depends on many variables, however,” notes Dr. Patel. “Metabolism, weather, activity, and how much product you put on all matter.” Of course. But now here’s your way to try on a new regimen.
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