IYAM Review: How to Choose A Natural Deodorant that Doesn’t Suck

Choosing a natural deodorant? Brace yourself for trial and error. What works well for one person will probably work like shit for you. I’ve tried about a dozen natural, aluminum-free deodorants and finding the right one is all about decoding your personal chemistry and managing your unrealistic, speedstick-biased expectations. 

Let’s break down the deodorant checklist:

Long-Lasting: Clinical, chemical-laden antiperspirants gave us the dream of 24-hour stink protection. Wake up to the cold reality that even the best naturals can’t last forever without a refresher. However if you can’t find a moment in your day to reapply, you have some other shit to figure out.

Irritant-free: Naturals often use baking soda (to provide an inhospitable environment for your pit bacteria) as a main ingredient. You’re either in one of two camps on this: baking soda is god’s gift or it causes a 3-alarm fire in your pits. Cruise through reviews on any baking soda-based deodorant and you will see WebMD-level pics of rashy, irritated armpits. Fun. No way of knowing if this is a problem for you until you try it! But for real, if you know you have sensitive skin, just head straight for baking soda-free and alcohol-free deodorants. Try to get samples so you’re not throwing money at a full-size that’s only going to be tossed.

Dry Enough: Aluminum plugs your sweat glands to make antiperspirants effective, and you’re giving up a degree of dryness by going au natural. Most days this is something I never notice but you must accept the occasional wet pit.

Stink-Management: There’s a concept out there called “pit detox” that supposedly we all go through when we cut off the antiperspirants. Your body pushes out years of aluminum build up (and god knows what else) which leads to a stinky week or so. Many natural deodorants have probably been unfairly tossed during detox for not being effective. You gotta hang in there and give your natural deo at least a few weeks before abandoning it (unless you get the aforementioned rash, then you should stop IMMEDIATELY). Also the scent and essential oil combo needs to work for you. Don’t be surprised if that delicately-scented deo creates a mutant stink when you use it.

Not Too Terrible to Apply: Another luxury you often give up with naturals is easy application. Until now you’ve probably never thought about how it goes on because it’s so damn smooth. With naturals you choose from creams and pastes, sticks, sprays and roll-ons. The pastes are applied with your fingers and tend to be more effective but you have to be ok with rubbing goop directly into your pits. Sticks are drier and harder than their chemical counterparts, and often they need to be warmed up before they’ll roll on. Good luck if you have winter where you’re from.

Does Not Cause Embarrassment: Little white deodorant balls are the perfect way to accessorize a black sleeveless dress.

Level of Compromise: Like a faulty pair of lululemon pants, there’s a degree of user error that can malign even the best natural deodorants. They just require a little more work – the warming up, the careful rubbing in of a pea-sized amount and ONLY a pea-sized amount, the mid-day reapplication. But here’s where I call bullshit.

Based on my chemistry and unwillingness to compromise, I demand my deodorant of choice to meet this final criteria: Baking soda-free, alcohol-free, rolls-on fast, doesn’t stain clothes, doesn’t leave visible white stuff, lasts for at least 10 hours, and a pleasing-but-not-overwhelming scent.

Is this unicorn out there? Here are a few I’ve tried that didn’t meet all my criteria.

Tom’s of Maine: Has this worked for anybody? Seriously. I want to know. I’m “of” Maine too and I would love to toss the OGs of natural deodorant a reco, but this actually makes me smell worse than wearing nothing, somehow. And my armpits are sticky all day and look stained. Attractive.

Primal Pit Paste: CrossFit approved! Must be paleo because the name is sort of paleo! I was excited to try this one but the full strength version took me straight to rash town and their “light” version still had enough baking soda to keep things lit in the most horrible of ways. They’ve introduced a baking soda-free version that I’ve yet to try, but at this point I’ve dumped enough money on this brand to want to keep on trying.

Assorted Natural Brands: Too many and too niche to name. These came in stick-form and were chalky, dry and miserable to apply. All used baking soda and caused instant irritation. (Would I ever learn????)

Meow Meow Tweet:  Formerly Brooklyn-based vegan handcrafted deodorant HAS to work, right? I tried the baking soda-free paste and was pleased enough with the results. My armpits would occasionally flare up but it was all very manageable and the scents were great. This did need reapplication anywhere between 5 and 8 hours, and if I rushed application I could get the dreaded white-caked armpits. If I went sleeveless it would definitely be on my mind.

These options could work like a dream for you. Seriously you won’t know until you try. However, I will reveal the one deodorant I finally found that checks EVERY SINGLE DEODORANT BOX.

I figured Europeans prob have the minimally-engineered thing locked up and a few keyword searches later I came up with Le Couvent Des Minimes.

Le Couvent Des Minimes

At $13.50 it’s a little pricey but not as expensive as the designer brands, which can set you back $25. It rolls on wet so you never have to worry about white stuff or ruining your clothes, smells citrusy and herbal in a good way, and lasts for 10 hours or more. I even do Crossfit workouts in it and still it holds up really well. Best part? My armpits are no longer irritated, like zero.

So the quest for a great natural deodorant has been paused for now. Curious to hear what works for you!