The best toxin-free deodorant: an upfront guide.

I’ve been talking about it a lot, this toxin-free caper. Recently I’ve covered off toxin-free cosmetics, why I use oils in my beauty regime and toxin-free sunscreen. You can catch up on all my toxin-free posts if you’d like.


In terms of deodorants, I’ve used natural, fragrance-free deodorant for five years now. It’s been a long search. I’ve traversed all kinds of stinky cess pits and scaled heights of compromised comfort. But I’ve now found the ultimate deodorant. I share details below.

The difference between deodorant and antiperspirant

Antiperspirants stop you sweating. They do this via ingredients like aluminum and zirconium, which plug the sweat glands. Without sweat the bacteria found in abundance in your underarms don’t have anything to eat, so you smell less.

Deodorants cut down on what makes you stink when you do sweat. They work to counteract the smell that’s produced after the fats and proteins emitted from your cells come to the surface of your skin (in your sweat). Specific chemicals (like triclosan) make the skin in your underarm too salty or acidic to support the bacteria that are meant to thrive there. So without any bacteria to eat the proteins and fats delivered through your sweat, less smell is produced.

What’s the problem with deodorant and antiperspirant?

The list below highlights some of the worst culprits you’ll find inside the average deodorant or antiperspirant. These are the ones to avoid when you’re reading labels.

  • Aluminium: This is the active ingredient in most antiperspirants. It functions by forming a precipitate that physically blocks sweat glands. Most evidence (check out this 2001 study) indicates aluminium is absorbed into the skin and is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Read more here.
  • TEA & DEA: These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects, although not in the rest of the world.
  • Triclosan: Recent studies suggest this chemical may disrupt thyroid function and other critical hormone systems. The American Medical Association recommends that triclosan and other “antibacterial” products not be used in the home. I abhor the stuff.
  • Talc: Hydrous magnesium silicate is a soft mineral used in personal care products as an absorbent and colour additive. It is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer if it contains asbestiform fibers. The quantity of asbestiform fibers in cosmetic grade talc is unregulated. Ergo: big issue.

If you do stick with conventional body odour fighters, at the very least avoid all products containing aluminium. This means avoiding everything labelled as an “antiperspirant”.

Great, I’m ready to switch. Now what?

1. If you’re after a paste, my new favourite is Black Chicken. I use the Axilla Deodorant paste from Black Chicken Remedies. This stuff is freakishly effective. Half the team over at IQS have also switched to this Black Chicken paste (they ordered in bulk) and are loving it.

2. If you want a roll-on, try Miessence fragrance free. If you don’t want deodorant residue on your clothes, Fresca unscented is good, too. To be honest, I don’t find either completely effective.

3. If you’d like a spray-on deodorant try Eco Tan. Yes, they make deodorant. I’m a fan of this one too.

4. If you’re up for it, prepare your pits for a deodorant swap by doing an armpit detox. It’s a natural way to to remove odour, speed up the adjustment to natural deodorant and help remove chemical build-up in armpit skin and tissue. I’ve personally never tried it…have you?

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon bentonite clay (you can order online if you can’t find it in a store)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons of water, to get right consistency

Mix all of the ingredients in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon until about the consistency of sour cream. Spread in an even layer over the armpits and allow to sit for 5-20 minutes. Start slowly and work up to a longer period of time once you see how your body adjust. (This may cause some redness as it increases blood-flow to the area, but it will go away quickly.) Wash off in the shower or with a warm, wet washcloth. Repeat daily or as needed until under-arm odour goes away and natural deodorant is non-irritating.

5. Try these simple DIY home options (thanks to Alexx Stuart over at Low Tox Living):

  • A slice of citrus wiped under the arm. Plain and simple. Again, I’ve never tried it. You?
  • Mix 1 teaspoon bicarb with 5 teaspoons of tapioca flour or organic/non-GMO cornflour and pop the mixture in a jar. Splash a little under your arms after the morning shower. Add a scraped out spent vanilla bean you’ve used for cooking into the jar for vanilla bean deodorant.
  • Coconut oil. So simple. Just scoop some out of the jar and rub it under your arm.

Got any favourite natural, toxin-free deodorants you love? Or any tips for DIY solutions? Feel free to share below and I’ll create a compilation post. 

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