I'm as surprised as anyone.

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Young woman looks across mtns and valley, sunrise
Credit: (c) Ascent Xmedia

Let me, first, say this: I never envisioned myself writing something on the internet in praise of any sort of natural deodorant.

It’s not that I’m prejudiced against a chemical-free lifestyle — I've got nothing against washing your hair with honey and brushing your teeth with coconut oil if it makes you feel good — it’s just that this type of hyper-dedication to clean living has never really been a concern for me.

I am vaguely aware that chemicals are bad for you. And I'm sure you've also heard about the studies linking common ingredients in commercial antiperspirants — aluminum chlorohydrate, chloride, zirconium — to a heightened risk for breast cancer and other conditions. But most of those studies are less than conclusive, and the jury is still very much out on the matter. Perhaps it's nihilistic of me, but at this point, it seems exhausting to avoid all chemicals that may or may not kill me in today’s world.

Yet, here we are. Because a few years ago, upon concluding that it can't be bad to put fewer strange substances on my body, I spontaneously ordered a crystal deodorant stone from Amazon. And I'm now a low-key crystal deodorant evangelist — not particularly because I think it’s safer, but because I think it’s better than regular deodorant. It's a product that I've taken with me around the world, and it never lets me down. Here’s why I love it:

There’s only one ingredient.

I know I expressed ambivalence about chemicals earlier, but I have to admit that this is generally a good quality for any item you plan to rub on your body on a daily basis. Especially when this ingredient comes from the literal earth. My deodorant stone of choice is a crystal of potassium alum, a salt drawn from bauxite ore. 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.

Thai Crystal Natural Deodorant
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

I don’t spend money on deodorant anymore.

You can get one crystal stick for $5-8 or a four-pack for as little as $20. That’s already pretty comparable to the drugstore stuff, and these will last a lot longer. To use a deodorant stone, you wet the crystal and rub it on your clean underarms — basically creating a thin layer of dissolved salt which will neutralize bacteria on the surface. It takes a long time to wear down a crystal in this way. This year, I’ve gone through two and still have a lot of life left in the second... And that’s only because I dropped the first one. Maybe that’s the one downside here: if you drop a crystal, it can shatter into several sharp pieces that are a lot less pleasant to rub on your armpits.

If you’re trying to cut down on chemicals, it’s one of the easiest steps you can take.

I know it may sound intimidating to jump right into using a deodorant without any fragrances or moisturizers. For those who are, understandably, hesitant to just rub a wet rock on your armpit and call it a day, I suggest easing into it with what many natural wellness communities on the internet call an “armpit detox” — a transitional period that supposedly is helpful in making the sometimes-tumultuous switch after a post-puberty lifetime of chemical antiperspirant use. The idea here is to draw out the lingering chemicals and restore a healthy underarm environment (pH balance, good bacteria... all of that fun stuff).

Sway Detox Natural Deodorant
Credit: Courtesy of Sway

Start with a detox kit from Sway, the only product on the market that taps into the many beneficial properties of apple cider vinegar — supplemented with ingredients like rosewater, tea tree oil, lemon, and lavender to keep you moisturized and smelling good. The kit also comes with a citrus-scented powder to dust on afterward (my favorite part) which has arrowroot to absorb excess moisture and baking soda to neutralize odor. This can also be a great deodorant routine long-term if you're still not sure about going full-on crystal, but...

It actually works. I’m serious.

Should any doubters remain, let me just say this one more time: I wouldn’t be writing about this if it didn’t work. And I know a lot of people use and rave about natural deodorants that don’t. But crystals do, provided you use them correctly. The most important factor is applying the crystal to a clean canvas (armpit). If you’re already sweaty, this won’t help — but morning and night applications with the occasional deep scrub-down have kept me feeling fresh without fail. Added bonus: no white deodorant marks on black clothing, ever.

That being said, it should be noted that crystal deodorant is not an antiperspirant, nor am I a particularly sweaty person (middle-school me would be happy to know this). If you’re looking to stop sweating, this isn’t the product for you. But I have used this deodorant in very, very sweaty situations — 100-degree heat in rural Uzbekistan, the stifling humidity of the Abu Dhabi summer, transatlantic red-eye flights, camping trips, first dates, job interviews — and it has not failed me. It has my skeptic’s stamp of approval, and I'm willing to bet it will earn yours, too. You can buy a Thai Deodorant Stone for $8 on Amazon. Sway's Underarm Detox Starter Kit is $19.99, also on Amazon.