An open pot of natural deodorant made with bicarb and scented with Almond Milk.

Natural Deodorants: What they are and how they work.

Behind the science of under the arm.

I think it’s fair to say that the skincare and beauty market has seen a huge rise in the use of zero-waste and more natural products, as the consumer has demanded a more ethical and sustainable way of living. A personal care item that I have a lot of requests for is an aluminium free deodorant and so I thought I’d carry out a little investigation, while I formulated my own new range of natural deodorant creams
You might have noticed one of the big companies, ‘Wild’ who have been dedicated to educating people on using natural deodorants with huge marketing campaigns. Their hard work and marketing efforts have made it much easier for me, as it probably means that you already have a really good understanding when it comes to using natural deodorants…. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock for a bit (no judgement, rocks are great) I’ll tell you what I’ve learnt and answer all those burning questions you might have about how natural deodorants work and, if they are any good and are they safe to use. 

What are natural deodorants made of?

Once upon a time, the only natural deodorant you could find on the market was a smelly crystal stick that you rubbed into your armpit whilst singing kumbaya. Thankfully, as the demand for a natural, aluminium free and zero waste deodorant has surged, there's so many more types available to try including sticks and creams. 

The main active ingredient you’ll find in most deodorant creams is sodium bicarbonate, aka bicarb, aka bicarbonate of soda, aka baking soda.

Understandably, this sounds odd and you’ll be asking if these types of bicarb natural deodorants actually work because surely, rubbing baking soda into your armpit seems to go against logic, so I’ll go ahead and tell you the science and the logic will follow. 

How do natural deodorants work? 

Bicarb - the odor neutraliser.

Average skin has a pH of 5 whereas your armpit is more likely to be in the region of a 6. This nice dark place with a slightly higher pH gives bacteria a great environment to  grow and cause malodor. Yeah - malodor is BAD odour. This maleficent malodor of the armpit specifically is called thioalcohol.

By using a bicarb deodorant  (sodium bicarbonate has a pH of 8) in this area, we’re able to neutralise the pH to around the 7. This action neutralises the acids in sweat and is able to  reduce the production of bacteria and thwart the smelly thioalcohol enzyme in its efforts to stink you out. 

Great right!... Right? If using a baking soda based deodorant is so effective then why doesn’t everyone use this amazing ingredient to stop the smelly odour? Well, unfortunately sodium bicarbonate deodorant does have its limitations and its issues.

Firstly, it’s used as a deodorant and not an antiperspirant. Basically, it doesn't stop the sweat, it just neutralises odour. 

The most common and effective antiperspirants, ie, the ones that actually block your pores up, contain aluminium based compounds and it’s these compounds which many people believe are unsafe to use and it drives many of us to seek out an alternative.

So, the next set of questions to ask is ‘are natural deodorants safe, are they healthier and are they better for you than aluminium based antiperspirants?’ 

Like many things in life, the answer is not that simple and it just depends. A lot depends on you, what you believe, what your body needs and what it reacts to. 

Yes, natural deodorants are safe.

Although I can only speak with absolute certainty about my own recipes and no one elses. My deodorants have all been assessed by a cosmetics board and have toxicology reports. I also list all allergens and I have 2 completely allergen free deodorants too. There’s plenty of options to choose from out there on the market and please do go out and give your local businesses some love and support by purchasing their products. If you’re unsure if something is safe, politely ask if the product has a CPSR and check the labels for allergens. 

Do natural deodorants give you a rash?

Although using bicarb deodorants is generally safe, unfortunately for some, it can be an irritant on the skin and can even lead to a rash. Personally, using sodium bicarbonate on my underarms for a week or so, makes my armpits a little red and very itchy so I prefer to use a more sensitive option instead. Women are more likely to get skin irritation from using a natural deodorant with bicarbonate of soda because it's more common for women to shave under their armpits which helps aggravate the area. 
So, what IS the alternative? If the bicarb deodorant works by neutralising the pH, is there a substitute that will do the same thing without developing rashes and sore red armpits? 

How do sensitive and bicarb free deodorants work?

Wild Venus as well as other brands offers a sensitive and bicarb free version of their deodorant and If you check the ingredient list, you’ll see that a lot of the time, the sodium bicarbonate has been replaced with zinc oxide. This is exactly what I’ve done here at Wild Venus. 
Not only have I created a zinc oxide, sensitive base for your deodorant, but I’ve only used allergen free fragrances for your deodorant creams so there’s no worries you’ll have a nasty reaction and all you’ll have is lovely fresh smelling armpits.
But, the most important thing to know is, does zinc oxide do the job? Does zinc oxide stop body odour? 

What is zinc oxide and how does it work in deodorants?

Zinc oxide is an antimicrobial compound made up in equal parts of oxygen and zinc. Zinc is a mineral which is an important nutrient that the body needs but doesn't produce. 
It’s especially important for the body to get its intake of zinc through all stages of childhood as well as pregnancy as zinc is used to make DNA. It helps the body to grow and develop and helps you to create a strong bacterial defence against viruses and bacteria. 
All in all, it seems like a good thing to have more of!
You most likely already own one important toiletry with zinc in, and that’s sunscreen, although it’s probably in your foundation and eyeshadow pallet too. 
So now we know what zinc oxide is, we need to ask, how does zinc oxide stop your armpits from smelling? Does zinc oxide change the pH in the same way as the bicarbonate of soda does?
As the function of zinc is to help create defences against bacteria, fight inflammation and support immune functions, which means that it's basically fundamental to skin health, cell growth and development, it works by doing just that - it fights against the growth of unwanted bacteria and prevents malodor from developing in your underarms. Your pH isn't altered at all, but you will have some bad-ass bacteria fighting minerals on your side instead. 

What else is in a Wild Venus natural deodorant?

Now, of course, there’s more to a deodorant cream than some bi-carb or zinc oxide as they’re just dry powders. While I can’t speak for what other brands use in their deodorant bases, I can tell you exactly what you’ll find in the Wild Venus natural underarm creams. 
These are: cocoa butter, coconut oil, mango butter, shea butter, arrowroot powder, soy wax and vitamin e. 
I’ve chosen to incorporate a beautiful blend of nourishing butters to make sure your underarms are caressed and given gentle moisturisation without any excess moisture!

Cocoa Butter: The Nourishing Moisturiser
Cocoa butter, derived from cocoa beans, is a key player in the natural deodorant game. It serves as a rich and nourishing moisturiser. Its emollient properties help soften the skin, providing a smooth and comfortable application experience. Additionally, cocoa butter aids in creating a stable texture for the deodorant, ensuring it stays solid at room temperature.
Coconut Oil: The Multi-Functional Wonder
Coconut oil has become a staple in many of my skincare products, and the deodorants are no exception. Its antimicrobial properties combat bacteria, while its emollient nature helps in the easy spread of the deodorant. 
Mango Butter and Shea Butter: Luxurious Hydration
Mango butter and shea butter contribute to the luxurious feel of natural deodorants. These plant-based butters are rich in fatty acids, providing deep hydration to the skin. Their moisturising properties help prevent dryness, making natural deodorants suitable for daily use without causing discomfort and can especially help nurture your underarms if you shave your pits. 

Fragrance Diversity

After doing lots of research into other scents available on the market, I’ve chosen 5 fragrances to kick off the Wild Venus deodorant collection with. 
My favourite one to use as I think it's nice and subtle, fresh without being masculine or overly strong is the Aloe and Cucumber Sensitive Deodorant. 
Another fresh scent in the collection and my partner's favourite one to use in the Sea Spray scented deodorant. I knew that this one would be a hit as this fragrance is already so popular in our candles and wax melts. This is the best natural deodorant for men in our current collection. 
We also love our best selling Lovely Lavender fragrance so much that there was no way we could not not make this into an option! So far, it's met expectations and been our best selling deodorant scent!
The other allergen free deodorant option I’ve made for you is Sugar Plum. As the name suggests, it's sweet and fruity. It’s got that slight floral and powdery scent to it which I think works great in deodorants. 
Lastly is the sweetest but also most neutral of them all, the Almond Milk fragrance. Made with the same bi-carb base, its got that sweet powdery and jasmine undertone to a strong oaty and sweet almond scent. 

Which one are you going to try first?

CONCLUSION?  Are natural deodorants better for you? The Answer; perhaps.

If you’re really concerned about the effects of using an aluminium deodorant on your skin, then using a natural deodorant would probably be beneficial in reducing your anxiety. Using a Wild Venus deodorant is absolutely healthier and better for the environment as they’re packaged in easily recyclable containers. Other natural type deodorants which come in a stick form might not be as good for the environment. Refillable containers are fantastic but the push up cardboard tubes are unable to be recycled due to the wax residue left inside from the deodorant stick. 
Another thing to consider is how much you sweat. If this is a big concern and you’re self conscious about your sweat being visible, then sticking with an antiperspirant might be the best choice for you. 
The way I do things is in my day to day, at home, in the office, in the workshop I use a natural deodorant cream to keep myself fresh. If I’m at the gym or have a particularly active day ahead then I’ll go ahead with the roll on antiperspirant. 

Let me know what you think after reading this article.

Do you think that antiperspirants are bad for you and do you think natural deodorants are healthier?
Would you like to use a natural deodorant but are worried about sweating too much? 
Do you already use a natural deodorant and what do you think about it? 
Or are you like me, you use a bit of everything depending on your day?
I genuinely would love to know so please do drop your comments below!

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