Are you one of those people who just naturally manage to always smell pleasant? Well, in that case, I hate you.
Once I start moving about, I need an underarm solution.
Last year I did a bit of an investigation into the world of ‘safer’ deodorants (Note: a deodorant is not necessarily an anti-perspirant, as the latter contains aluminium), after hearing a lot of sources reporting on the news that many countries are in the process of banning aluminum in products altogether. This is the ingredient in antiperspirants that blocks the sweat ducts from producing smelly sweat and it’s been linked to breast cancer, an over- production of estrogen in the body and studies have found its overall safety levels to be dubious.
But I was afraid, I was petrified. Would I now henceforth be known as ‘that smelly girl’, the one no one wants to hug or sit next to if I go the non-aluminium route?
Local beauty expert Candice Lee Kannemeyer says, “Tried many (organic deos). None were effective, sadly. Maybe for winter most are okay, but they really don’t stand up to summer's heat.”
So it was December of 2017, and I did just that. I put a few organic deodorant products to the ultimate test, I tried them throughout the course of summer.
I started with Earthsap roll-on. This worked so well that I actually used up an entire deo and repurchased. Yes! I was loving organic deodorants and ever so slightly judged others who still used 'regular'.
Then one sunny afternoon, I found myself inside the holistic confines of the Wellness Warehouse, convincing myself to try another brand. Just for fun. I mean, it's working so well for me.
I bought another natural (and locally made!) deo brand - one some beauty editors recently told me worked for them, and gave it a go. The main appeal for me was the smell, ylang ylang and patchouli. Mmmm. So divine.
This worked (about as much as the Earthsap did) for about 3 weeks. Then I developed a slight underarm rash which turned into blocked pores, which turned into an infection. Yuck, I know.
“From my knowledge most natural deodorants were developed because of concerns about aluminium. Active ingredients in natural deodorants contain either coconut oil, baking soda and/or zinc oxide," says local dermatologist, Dr. Nomphelo Gantsho.
Natural deodorants are free of harsh chemicals, allergens and potential irritants, which is why people tend to opt for them in the first place.
“However, active ingredients like baking soda, which neutralise the bacteria that cause body odour, is a well-known ingredient that causes the irritation on the skin," says Dr. Gantsho.
Now I’m never one to rush to the derm or doctor. So I stopped using the product, even though I still hoped (and sort of believed) in its effectiveness, as it was after all, ‘natural’. I was sure it was something else.
Gantsho says that when it comes to natural or organic deodorants, per definition ‘natural’ means nothing, people misuse the term.
“People who suffer from heavy sweating do not continue to use the natural or organic deodorants because they don’t have aluminium. Also people with sensitive skin do not continue to use the natural or organic deodorants because baking soda irritates their skin,” she says.
She notes that the big issue is that natural isn’t regulated. Natural, just because it’s not synthetic might not work for all skin types or degree of 'sweaters'.
So, I discontinued the use of this product to see whether the rash would clear up. After a few days it was gone. I then reintroduced my old faithful anti-perspirant and I was a-okay both odour-wise and rash-free.
Yet after hearing about a new natural deo in the form of a dusting powder, I was intrigued. Containing ingredients like thyme, rosemary, talc, sodium bicarbonate and lycopodium powder, I decided to give natural another go. (See I still just wanted to believe in the power of the natural)
After using this product, dabbing it underarm every morning, I felt dry and odour-free for most of the day. However, I would re-apply later in the day as I felt it losing its effectiveness.
Then, the same thing happened after about two weeks of using this product. I first started to notice it becoming slightly less effective and then the rash started up again. Now I don’t have overly sensitive skin, yet my pits obviously didn’t like the actives in this formula.
So that's the struggle between dealing with the potential long-term effects of aluminium on the skin vs bad body odour and skin irritation. Whereas I suffered with skin irritation after using natural products for a few weeks, and it wasn’t an immediate effect, others swear by the effectiveness of natural deos like Pure Beginnings and Natural Yogi Deodorant CedarLime.
But despite the hype surrounding organic and all natural, we might not all be ready to go so raw.*
*Consult a dermatologist or GP in cases of skin reaction or any unusual side-effects from any skincare or makeup product.