Aluminum-free and Natural Deodorants Even Skeptics Will Love
Natural deodorant. It's a polarizing topic, so often the butt of hippie jokes and fodder for Instagram multi-level marketing schemes.
But, chances are, you're curious. Perhaps you've heard the (to be fair, mostly unsubstantiated) claims about the dangers of aluminum. Maybe you're interested in a greener approach to beauty and body care (organic ingredients, recyclable packaging, less mining and synthesizing, more plants) and are growing weary of "big deodorant."
I'm a convert to the natural deodorant lifestyle — despite my better judgment — and I'm here to help.
Before we get into it, it should be noted: weaning yourself off of the traditional drugstore stuff is not a seamless process. Many people will find that there is an uncomfortable, if temporary, "detox" period as your body adjusts to the new, natural normal. This will be a smelly time in your life. But it doesn't last forever — usually about two to four weeks — and there are things you can do to combat the funk, including exfoliating regularly or using one of the several detox kits on the market (we're a fan of Sway).
And once all that is over, dear reader, I'd venture a guess that there is a natural deodorant out there for you — one that will make you feel a little better about your choices, whatever your reasoning may be. And, most importantly, one that will keep you smelling fresh. To save you some time in finding your perfect match, I tested many, many different types of natural deodorant: big brands, young gun startups, and longtime independent producers, by the tube, by the stick, by the jar, spray bottle, and wipe.
Here are my rather unscientific findings. Read on for some natural and aluminum-free deodorants that might — gasp! — actually work.
Aesop Herbal Deodorant Roll-on
I mean, it's Aesop. As with everything this company makes, the new roll-on — a follow-up to their herbal spray deodorant — is super sexy. The scent is dominated by patchouli (insert natural deodorant joke here) but adds nuance with lavender, sandalwood, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, coriander, thyme, ginger, and more. It's the only roll-on I tried and loved, and I found that a little bit of the milky, water-based liquid goes a long way. Something to note: compared to products that contain arrowroot, clay, or other moisture-absorbing ingredients, this doesn't do much in the way of fighting perspiration. But the dark, musky, sophisticated scent is strong enough (in a good way!) to mask any unsavory odors.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $35
Captain Blankenship Cream Deodorant
I love this one — and not just because it makes me smell like a citronella candle. I admit that I was skeptical of a cream deodorant; this was the only one I tested where you have to truly scoop it out and apply it with your hands. I gotta say, though: I'm sold. The base of this cream deodorant is coconut oil, and rubbing it into your pits feels so much more nourishing and less irritating than anything you apply with a stick. There's hops extract for fighting bacteria, and arrowroot powder for soaking up sweat. Plus, the powder here is less grainy than in other products, and doesn't show up on your clothes. The citrus-y combo of lime and vetiver handily masks whatever funk might remain. In general, this line of plant-based, organic beauty products hits it out of the park.
To buy: dermstore.com, $16
Corpus Naturals Deodorant
You can tell it's high-quality just from the scent — no matter which version you choose, this deodorant just smells expensive. Like, people who know their olive oil producer and have regular dermatologist appointments expensive. I'm partial to the Santalum, a smoky sandalwood enhanced with notes of cedar and amber. This is not for people who feel like they need the industrial strength stuff. The deodorant itself is delicate — it goes on "thin," if that makes sense, and on smelly days, my musk will break through it fairly quickly — but it's generally fine, because it's such a joy to reapply and makes you feel good about yourself. Plus, it's vegan, water-based, and free of not just aluminum, but other things people vaguely worry about, like parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances. Be warned: organic deodorant that smells like an eclectic baroness's lavish, mysterious estate does not come cheap.
To buy: corpusnaturals.com, $22
Crystal Solid Deodorant
As the brand name might indicate, this company got its start manufacturing those mysterious deodorizing stones — which I love, by the way. Their origin story is as intriguing as you want it to be: back in the '80s, the founder discovered the magical salt crystal on a trip to France, where the locals used it as a water purifier. He started importing it and sold it as a deodorant, each one chiseled by hand out of a large rock. The company's deodorant sticks are also worth a try, with a variety of essential oils and baking soda for additional wetness protection. They've also recently introduced a stronger Mineral Enriched Deodorant.
To buy: target.com, $4
Farmacy Freshen Up All-natural Deodorant
It's right there in the name — this deodorant is perfect for the times you need a bit of freshening up. The main thing is the peppermint oil: not only does it smell cool, it actually feels cool, which has a surprisingly significant effect on your overall mental feeling of "hot-and-sweaty-ness." While effective in any context, it's my go to for when I'm feeling gross but still have things to do or places to be before I can shower. Subway ride after my workout? Dinner plans after a long walk on a hot day? Swipety-swipe-swipe. It glides on easy, and the kaolin clay — the main moisture absorbing ingredient — doesn't really clump or show up on clothes, which is great.
To buy: sephora.com, $15
Even before I started researching natural deodorant brands, I'd heard praise for Kai from a variety of sources (including, but not limited to, about half of the T+L team). It's no surprise that it smells lovely — Kai is known for its signature gardenia-driven fragrance, a trademark since the company was founded 20 years ago (the deodorant is also available in the brand's rose scent, introduced in 2017). The deodorant itself feels luxurious: it goes on smooth, moisturizes effectively, leaves no marks, and is at once delicate and sturdier than many of its competitors. You don't have to take it from me, though; the list of brand "devotees" on the Kai website runs the gamut from Usher to Amy Adams to Oprah.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $24
Kopari Coconut Deodorant
This one's for my friends who think coconut oil can replace all personal care products! Kopari is about all coconut, all the time — and their best-selling product is no different. Manufactured in California with coconut oil sustainably farmed in the Philippines, this vegan deodorant harnesses its purported antimicrobial qualities and complements them with sage oil (which also helps kill bacteria) and coconut water (because, why not?). An unscented version is available, as are a few lightly perfumed fragrances, but I recommend the classic so you can smell like a lil' macaroon. The ultra-moisturized armpits are just a bonus.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $24
Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda–free Deodorant Stick
In a world of single-use plastics, this product stands out for walking the walk in terms of natural ingredients — not just in the deodorant itself, but also in its packaging. Everything involved is biodegradable. The ingredients list reads like a text from your hippie friend who's trying to recommend natural beauty products: coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, sunflower seed wax, all sorts of yummy essential oils. The stick itself is a bit crumbly, I suppose due to the raw ingredients used, but the convenient push-pop design of the container means minimal mess when used carefully. There may be some clumping and some white streaks on your clothes, but you'll feel good about your choices. Meow Meow Tweet's deodorant is available in a variety of scents; I tried the Cedar Spruce, a refreshing, woody combo that stands up to smelly pits.
To buy: target.com, $14
This product comes from San Francisco–based Native, a line of personal care products formulated using only ingredients known to be safe. Their deodorant (which has almost 10,000 reviews on the Native site, by the way) skips aluminum in favor of baking soda (an odor neutralizer), tapioca starch (for absorbency), coconut oil and shea butter (to keep your skin smooth), and other ingredients you've actually heard of. There are a million scents to choose from — I'm partial to the coconut and vanilla, but you can also get a sample pack to try a bunch of them — and a dedicated fan following. I noticed a bit of buildup around my pits and residue on dark clothes, but it's undeniably effective (at a price point that can't be matched).
To buy: target.com, $12
Pacifica Underarm Deodorant Wipes
Applying deodorant is never really an inconspicuous act, no matter how sneaky you think you are. This project had me applying deodorant at my desk fairly frequently — as our associate editor Siobhan Reid, who sits across from me (hi Siobhan!), can attest — and the only product that didn't make me feel supremely weird about it was a deodorant wipe from Pacifica. They're not a permanent solution, but rather, a touch-up or stopgap for hikes, plane rides, sink showers, post-gym commutes, and yes, minor desk emergencies. Plus, they contain witch hazel, which calms hot or irritated skin. Pacifica's deodorant water is also worth a shout out.
To buy: amazon.com, $9
Schmidt's Deodorant Stick
Since starting out in PDX as an indie producer, this plant-based deodorant has gained a devoted following (and an acquisition by Unilever). And for good reason — in addition to offering a solid product, Schmidt's is committed to maintaining accessible price points, sourcing ingredients ethically, and making sure their containers and applicators are 100 percent recyclable. You can ship back empties of their jarred products back for a free refill, or contribute to conservation research by buying their Lily of the Valley line, a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. Some of our staffers swear by their Charcoal + Magnesium blend, finding that it neutralizes odor even during a long run or gym session. I'm a fan of their savory scents (is that a weird word to use when it comes to deodorant?) like Cedarwood + Juniper.
To buy: amazon.com, $6
Secret Aluminum-free Deodorant
While it isn't exactly "natural," this new product is notable as Secret's first foray into the aluminum-free sphere. Billed as a lighter product for your less sweaty days, its ingredient list has significant overlap with a drugstore body lotion, and it goes on clear. It is less effective than most of the plant- and mineral-based products — this is not any sort of political point, as I have nothing against synthetic ingredients! — but it is a great option for those who are trying natural deodorant for the first time, since the scent, consistency, and texture are familiar. Think of it as a gateway deodorant.
To buy: target.com, $5
Thai Deodorant Stone
I'm kind of biased: this was my introduction to the world of natural deodorants, and it remains my first love, my OG, my absolute go-to. It might not appeal to those for whom aluminum is a dirty word — it's made from potassium alum, which is a natural salt, but is nonetheless aluminum-adjacent. My personal opinion: it's totally safe, and it works. To quote myself, from a love letter I wrote to the Thai Deodorant Stone: "There isn’t a ton of scientific research on how this alum behaves differently from the other dreaded aluminum compounds — some claim alum isn’t absorbed into the bloodstream at all; others say there’s almost no difference — but net-net, I prefer this to the laundry list of chemicals that go into a typical antiperspirant. Plus, I find it genuinely cool that my deodorant is a rock."
To buy: amazon.com, $5
Tom's of Maine Natural Deodorant Stick
You really think I'd write about natural deodorants without shouting out my boy Tom? This legendary company is has been in the natural beauty and skincare game for nearly 50 years, and it's come a long way during that time, while maintaining its commitment to eliminating the yucky stuff. (In sixth grade, my mom gave me my first deodorant. It was Tom's. It kind of looked like soap, and it did not help.) Now, though, they make a great, effective product, and they're proving that point especially well with their latest release, the new Natural Strength Deodorant, which comes in many lovely scents (powder, coconut, sage) and purports to offer 48-hour protection.
To buy: amazon.com, $5
This just-launched brand — it's less than a year old — is already a cult-favorite among those who care a lot about natural deodorant (they recently dropped two new scents, and sold out all 5,000 units in less than two weeks). This is one of two cream deodorants I tried, but it barely feels like one — the nifty tube design allows you to squeeze out just as much as you need, applying just as you would a normal stick, rather than getting your hands dirty. My one complaint: it goes on thick, and can sometimes build up in the underarms of your clothes or show on darker tank tops. There are definitely synthetic ingredients involved, so it's not for those aiming to go chemical-free — but you won't find any aluminum, parabens, phthalates, artificial colors and fragrances, or other common things that people may be trying to avoid. And it works. This is probably the product that best mimics the effects of "normal" deodorant, and is a great place to start for those looking to take the leap.
To buy: amazon.com, $14
Ursa Major Hoppin' Fresh Deodorant
If you, like me, have seen this deodorant all over your Instagram, I have some great news for you: I dig it. It's packed with an almost absurd amount of good things; the ingredients list is long, but almost everything is recognizable, from tapioca starch, silica, and kaolin clay for absorbency, to yummy extracts of hops, lemon peel, ginseng, calendula, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, and more. It's got probiotics. It's got shea butter. The first ingredient — the first — is aloe vera juice, for crying out loud! There's even royal jelly extract, and — well, I'm not sure what it is, but people are obsessed with that stuff. I realize this is less a review than a list, but it speaks for itself.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $18