The best natural deodorant and how to apply it

October, as you know, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a cause that's very near to my heart—literally and figuratively. I lost a very close aunt to breast cancer three years ago, and it unfortunately runs in both sides of my family. I am at high risk for breast cancer because of this, and while most women don't need to start yearly mammograms until they're 45, I've been getting them for two years already (I'm 39). I take pretty much every precaution my doctor tells me to take, and then I go a step further. Even though the American Cancer Society has found the evidence inconclusive, I've stopped using antiperspirant and switched to a natural deodorant. The theory is that aluminum, which is the active ingredient in antiperspirant, has estrogen-like hormonal effects that stimulate breast cancer cells; my aunt's cancer was concentrated in her lymph nodes which are, you guessed it, in your armpits. So, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

The good news is that there are a lot of natural, non-antiperspirant deodorants out there. The bad news is that a lot of them don't work very well. I have tried many, and while my system is not perfect, I've found a two-step process that keeps me dry and smelling pretty darn good (or so I'm told). Here's how it works.

Step 1: absorb the moisture
Antiperspirants work because they physically prevent you from sweating; when people switch to natural deodorants, this is usually the hardest part to adapt to. I still perspire (which is a good thing—it's your body's natural way of cooling itself down!) but I've found that a dusting of talc-free powder helps keep me as dry as possible. My favorite is Lush Silky Underwear, which has a silly name but a lovely jasmine smell, and is made of mostly natural ingredients with a few safe synthetics. (Surprise, the ACS won't commit to whether or not talc causes cancer, but again, better safe than sorry.) I put a bit on a tissue and dab it under each arm until it's absorbed. Bonus: you can use Silky Underwear as dry shampoo and on your thighs to prevent chafing!

Step 2: neutralize the odor
I've tried both high-end and mass-market natural deodorants in stick, liquid, and spray form—including the natural crystal kind, which made me smell like I dusted myself with cumin—and while there have been a few highly recommended newer brands in the last few years, my favorite remains Aesop spray deodorant. Yes, it's $35, but a bottle lasts me 3–4 months depending on the time of year, and I'd rather splurge than smell like beef stew. (My second-favorite is Weleda sage deodorant, although it doesn't perform quite as well for me.) The Aesop formula has 11 essential oils that all work together to mellow out any kind of sweat-generated odors in your pits; the scent is kind of woodsy but I think it blends well with the jasmine in the Lush powder. You only need one spray in each pit, and only in high summer and/or high humidity do I need a late-afternoon second spritz.

An added bonus of switching to natural deodorant is that I no longer get those gross yellow stains in the underarms of my white shirts (again, a sign that maybe the chemicals in antiperspirants are not so good for you). Your body might perspire a bit more at first when you switch over, but I also find I sweat less than I did when I wore antiperspirant. That's a win-win (and another win) to me.

One last thing: nearly every retailer out there has some sort of product whose proceeds will be donated to breast cancer charities this month. If it's something you'd normally buy, great—now's a good time to treat yourself. But the most effective way to support breast cancer awareness, prevention, treatment, and research is to make a donation directly to an organization. If you need any suggestions, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is consistently evaluated as one of the most trustworthy ones out there.


Unknown said...

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