Natural deodorants: Do they stink? We test four

Shouldn't it be possible to smell fresh through the toughest workout—and avoid some of the questionable ingredients in conventional deodorants?
natural deodorant
Photo via

Not all fitness conscious New Yorkers are able to pull off the “great unwashed” method of going deodorant-free without ending up as the subway-car pariah on the way home from spinning class.

But while you may want to smell fresh even through the toughest workout, you may also want to avoid some of the questionable ingredients in conventional deodorants and antiperspirants, like aluminum, parabens, and the ever-elusive “fragrance.”

We tested four popular all-natural products to see if they could stand up against some seriously sweaty circumstances:

Naturally fresh deodorant crystal Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Roll-on
Price: $3.99 at Duane Reade
Grade: A-
The crystal brands of deodorant always seemed a bit like a gimmick to me, but it actually worked. I used the roll-on kind, so I didn’t have to deal with moistening the actual crystal. This version is pure liquid, so when you apply, you have to hold your arms out and let it dry a bit before getting dressed. After an excruciating Power Yoga class that produced a very sticky mat, I could barely detect an odor.

lavanila deodorant Lavanila ‘The Healthy Deodorant’ Vanilla Grapefruit
Price: $18 at Sephora
Grade: D
I liked how smoothly it went on, like a conventional deodorant, but it had lots of thick white residue. I was willing to live with this, and the high price point, because when I opened this deodorant, it smelled fabulously sweet, citrusy, and fresh. But I had barely finished one chatarunga in a yoga class before I started to smell myself. Not my new-found sweet-citrusy self. My body odor was so bad that I spent the class trying to keep my arms as close to my body as possible, so as not to torture the yogi next to me. I think we both want our money back.

Tom's of Maine deodorant Tom’s of Maine’s Long Lasting Wild Lavender Deodorant
Price: $4.99 at Duane Reade
The fresh lavender scent lasted all of the way through an intense boot camp workout, and the application is smooth, with barely visible residue. The only downside is that it contains propylene glycol, which has been shown to cause skin and immune system irritation or respiratory toxicity in some studies. Since it’s a chemical named on the dirty dozen list of ingredients to avoid (though Tom’s calls propylene glycol a “natural gas from the earth,”), this product is technically disqualified from the natural deodorant category anyway.

soapwalla Soapwalla Deodorant Cream
Price: $10 at Spirit Beauty Lounge
As a small-batch beauty product with roots in a tiny New York kitchen, I was smitten—yet puzzled about the packaging. This creamy deodorant comes in a tub and is applied with your fingertips, so they get sticky, but nothing a quick wash won’t fix. Despite the slightly grainy texture, my pits absorbed it almost immediately, leaving little residue. And it stood the test of a long day at work, then yoga. No B.O. detected. Though oddly, the scent reminded me of Vicks VapoRub rather than the rosehip seed oil it’s actually made of. or
—Lisa Elaine Held

What’s lurking in your sulfate-free shampoo
New York City dermatologists launch natural beauty lines
Cetaphil: Why the popular cleanser isn’t doing your skin any favors
New York Native: 3 artisanal beauty brands born and raised in the city

Loading More Posts...