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Can natural deodorants tackle sweat and odor? Yes, with the right ingredients — 11 to try

Going au naturel never smelled so good.
Millennial girl using roller deodorant after shower near mirror at bathroom
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As the wellness movement gains momentum, so have my anxious sweats. It's hard to ignore the questions experts and influencers are raising about the ingredients in personal care products. And they have a point; what exactly are cyclopentasiloxane and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, and why am I applying them to my underarms?

This is where natural deodorants come in. While there is no official or universal definition of a "natural" product, natural deodorants typically claim to be made from materials that aren’t synthesized in a lab. And opting for a natural deodorant is one way to make more informed decisions about what we put on our bodies.

While there's no official or universal definition of a "natural" product, natural deodorants are those typically made from materials that aren’t synthesized in a lab

“On average, women put over 125 chemicals on their skin a day,” says Dr. Julie Greenberg, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Herbalist at The Center for Integrative & Naturopathic Dermatology. “These are things like emulsifiers and preservatives, phthalates and endocrine disruptors. We really want to limit exposure where possible.”

There’s also a lot of talk about aluminum and the negative effects it might have on the body. While there’s no clear scientific evidence of its effects, we can make a conscious effort to lather ourselves in fewer substances we’re unsure of.

Ready to dig in? Use the links below to jump to the category of your choice.

What to look for | Best budget | Best roll-on | Best during detox | Best stick | Best spray | Best for BO | Best moisturizing | Best for sensitive skin | Honorable mention | Others to consider | How we chose | FAQs | Meet our experts

What to look for in a natural deodorant

Sweating is a natural bodily function that helps regulate body temperature. But it can also happen at less convenient times, like when we're nervous or aroused. “You have no control over it. You sweat because the central nervous system says it’s time for you to sweat,” says Phil Klepak, an antiperspirant and deodorant technology consultant and member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

So, can going natural really help with sweat and odor? Experts say yes; just keep an eye out for these five key qualities when shopping:

  1. Antimicrobial ingredients. Natural deodorants neutralize odors with antimicrobial ingredients, including essential oils, coconut oil and naturally derived baking soda. Sweat doesn’t have an odor — at first. According to Klepak and Greenberg, we have trillions of tiny microbes to blame for our BO. They live on our skin and decompose the organic materials found in sweat, which causes the stench. Natural ingredients with proven antimicrobial properties help eliminate microbes living on the skin of your underarms.
  2. Absorption ability. Natural deodorants absorb excess moisture and reduce humidity with ingredients like activated charcoal, arrowroot powder, clays, tapioca starch and naturally derived baking soda. When it comes to stopping sweat, antiperspirants are the go-to. However, these products contain aluminum, which clogs pores to stop sweat from exiting. Deodorants don't prevent sweating; instead, they neutralize bacteria, mask odors and absorb moisture. Although some antiperspirants also act as deodorants, it's important to note that deodorants are not antiperspirants.
  3. Natural scents. When pharmacist and nontoxic advocate Amy Enos shops for a deodorant, she says it can be easier to look for red-flag ingredients worth avoiding, like “fragrance.” According to Greenberg, "fragrance" can mean that a product may contain over 2,000 undisclosed chemicals that companies claim as proprietary. Rather than fragrance, opt for scents derived from natural ingredients like essential oils, which have scents that range from floral to woodland.
  4. Consider the ease of application. Natural deodorants come in creams, sticks, gels, sprays, rollers and salts. Whichever you choose comes down to personal preference. With the exception of salts, the base of the deodorant is made of ingredients that glide or apply smoothly to the skin. Rather than mineral oil or petrolatum, which are byproducts of the oil industry, Greenberg says to choose deodorant sticks made with beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil or cocoa butter.
  5. Active ingredients, not marketing buzz. While shopping for natural deodorants, we came across ingredients with unfamiliar uses, like probiotics. We asked our experts for their thoughts on these ingredients and reached out to the companies for their insight, too. We requested full transparency from the brands, which we at Shop TODAY take seriously, but couldn’t confirm the legitimate benefit of probiotics in deodorant. Klepak and Greenberg express confusion about their role in minimizing odors, and studies caution that skin care products containing probiotics may not meet beneficial probiotic requirements. Therefore, we’re not considering probiotics as a beneficial or negative ingredient in deodorant for this guide.

Best budget-friendly natural deodorant

Hey Humans Naturally Derived Deodorant

Hey Humans checks all the right boxes with its affordable, natural formula that is kind to both our skin and the planet. They prove that all-day coverage made possible by quality ingredients doesn’t have to cost a ton. The aluminum-free formula (like all our picks) glides on smoothly. Plus, it keeps odors from creeping up with a mix of sweet orange, lime and bergamot oils.

You can find this formula, as well as other scents, at your local Target and Walgreens, or online.

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, arrowroot powder, rosemary extract, baking soda, tapioca starch, zinc ricinoleate and essential oils | Scent: Varies (the above has notes of lavender, vanilla and rosemary)

SOMETHING TO NOTE: You may need to warm up the stick between your hands for 20 to 30 seconds because of the paper packaging

Dr. Teal's Aluminum-Free Deodorant with Magnesium

Shop TODAY associate editor Fran Sales, an excessive sweater and someone who prefers using natural products, has tried them all. Dr. Teal's aluminum-free, magnesium-infused formula is one of the two products she reaches for time and time again (the other is Native, below, if you must know!).

Arrowroot powder and baking soda work together to absorb excess moisture, while the magnesium and a blend of essential oils in the formula tackle odor for several hours.

"It smells so good, and I like that my pits don't feel unnaturally clogged when wearing it. It doesn't stop all the sweat, but I definitely sweat less!" Sales reports.

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Arrowroot powder, baking soda, magnesium, shea butter, jojoba oil, essential oil, coconut oil | Scent: Varies (the above smells like eucalyptus essential oil)

SOMETHING TO NOTE: This appears to no longer be available at our local drugstore, but you can score this value two-pack on Amazon and Walmart.

Best roll-on natural deodorant

CRYSTAL Mineral Deodorant Roll-On Unscented Body Deodorant

With an impressive show of Amazon ratings (about 12,000), we couldn’t ignore this $5-a-bottle find. The fast-drying formula goes on clear, is vegan, cruelty-free and free of fragrance. If you’re looking for a scent-free option, they have that too, which won the Clean Label Project Purity Award.

Application: Roll-on | Key ingredients: Water, mineral salts, baking soda, zinc and naturally occurring fragrance | Scent: Lavender and white tea

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some reviewers say they would like the formula to be less watery.

Best natural deodorant for your detox period

Piper Wai Natural Deodorant with Activated Charcoal

Because natural deodorants are aluminum-free, you’re going to sweat. And for the next few weeks between transitioning from antiperspirants to natural deodorant, your body is going to start detoxifying from all those chemicals — a deodorant detox period, as Enos says.

She adds that activated charcoal can help speed up the detox by pulling out the built-up aluminum and other chemicals from your pores. BO may be extra-offensive during the transition period, so you’re going to want a long-lasting formula that stops bacteria growth, smells fresh and absorbs moisture, which Piper Wei delivers.

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Activated charcoal, coconut oil, tapioca starch, shea butter, baking soda, witch hazel and essential oils | Scent: A blend of 11 therapeutic-grade essential oils that smell “like a spa”

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Efficacy may not last as long as other options if you're undergoing intense physical activity.

Best natural deodorant stick

Pure Haven Deodorant with Baking Soda

This Rhode Island brand led by women aims to eliminate greenwashing, starting with their own products. According to the brand, more than 95 percent of its products are formulated and manufactured in its own USDA Certified Organic facility, which means greater quality control and fewer emissions. It’s Enos’ go-to because, in addition to solid brand values, the formula provides all-day freshness.

Allergic or sensitive to baking soda? Pure Haven has a non-baking soda formulation, too!

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Beeswax, arrowroot powder, baking soda, organic coconut oil, organic castor seed oil, organic peppermint oil and organic tree tea oil | Scent: Peppermint and tea tree

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Amy Enos is a consultant for Pure Haven, but based on our editorial judgment and independent vetting, we believe this product belongs on our list.

Best natural deodorant spray

Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant Spray

Schmidt’s natural deodorant spray neutralizes odor with plant-based antimicrobials in a convenient ozone-friendly nitrogen spray. In 2010, Jamie Schmidt cooked up the base formula for her natural deodorant in her own home kitchen. Since then, her natural, vegan and cruelty-free formulas have been raved about by everyone from GQ to Cosmopolitan.

Jamie also shares our core values of transparency, sharing every ingredient and their purpose on the interactive SmartLabel.

Application: Spray | Key ingredients: Naturally occurring fragrance and antimicrobials including citronellol, linalool | Scent: Clean powder

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Some users say nozzle is tricky to use and say it's not as effective in very hot weather.

Best natural deodorant for odor

Circular Living Whipped Deodorant

Offensive body odor can be a major distraction. When your job involves practically airing your pits in a client’s face, you need a tough-on-odor formula. That's why professional stylists like Katie Patterson of Love Salon PDX use Circular Living natural deodorant to keep her smelling fresh and clean all day long.

As she put it, “No one wants to smell my pits at the shampoo bowl!”

Application: Cream | Key ingredients: Shea butter, arrowroot powder, naturally-derived baking soda, magnesium hydroxide, essential oils, vitamin E | Scent: Varies (scents include Magnesium, Sweet Orange/Bergamot and Unscented)

SOMETHING TO NOTE: May take some getting used to if you're used to a stick or rollerball.

Best ultra-moisturizing natural deodorant

Primally Pure Unscented Deodorant

Show your underarms some love with Primally Pure’s fragrance-free natural deodorant. It packs ingredients that are gentle on the skin, but effective. Organic extra virgin coconut oil neutralizes BO-inducing bacteria while natural-derived baking soda and organic arrowroot powder work together to absorb moisture. It also has zinc oxide to soothe minor irritation, and the vitamin A, D, E and K-rich tallow deeply moisturizes and replenishes the skin.

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Organic arrowroot powder, organic extra virgin coconut oil, tallow from grass-fed cows, organic beeswax, baking soda, zinc oxide, white kaolin clay and rosemary extract | Scent: Unscented

SOMETHING TO NOTE: Doesn't "glide" on armpits, and some say it has a slight coconut smell.

Best baking soda-free natural deodorant for sensitive skin

Native Sensitive Unscented Deodorant

While effective at neutralizing odors and absorbing moisture, baking soda can be irritating to sensitive underarm skin. Rather than baking soda, Native’s sensitive deodorant sticks use magnesium oxide.

Native’s sensitive line also includes cyclodextrin, a sugar-based ingredient that encapsulates fragrance for a slow release of freshness throughout the day, according to Darren King, VP of Native’s Research and Development.

“I love Native deodorant. It's now become Target's bestselling natural deodorant — and it's definitely worth the hype,” says Shop TODAY writer Jessica Migala.

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, tapioca starch, magnesium hydroxide and earth wax | Scent: Unscented

SOMETHING TO NOTE: You'll need to warm the stick on your skin for a few seconds so it can go on smoothly; their scented versions may not use natural ingredients.

Honorable mention: Natural deodorant stick

Glossier Deodorant

Glossier uses ultra-smooth coconut oil that is said to melt into the skin, and it promises to fight off odorous bacteria and replenish the skin with vitamin E. There are no harsh scents with this formula, only a refreshing aroma that lasted throughout my rowing and yoga workouts, and I’m a moderately sweaty gal. To back up their all-day freshness packaging claims, Glossier offers a look at trial testing, which is front and center on their product page.

We do have to note, however, that Shop TODAY lifestyle and health writer Breanna Mona also tried this and is not so much a fan, which is why we've moved Glossier's deodorant down to Honorable Mentions.

"After workouts, even light workouts, I could smell BO on myself," she says, saying that her other non-aluminum deodorant works better for deodorizing.

"The scent was so faint, honestly. It didn't strike me as a deodorant scent, more like a Chapstick. ... I would say this deodorant is best for those who are die-hard Glossier fans or natural-only skin care people. Maybe it's good for moisturizing dry pits, sliding on to wear at the office or lounging around at home, but I wouldn't count on it for performance," she reports.

Application: Stick | Key ingredients: Coconut oil, sunflower seed wax, safflower seed oil, potato wax, zinc ricinolate and magnesium hydroxide | Scent: Unscented

Other natural deodorants you may want to consider

Saltair Fragrance-Free Natural Deodorant

Alleyoop Slow Your Roll All-Natural Deodorant

Each & Every Aluminum-Free Deodorant

Nécessaire Deodorant Gel

Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Stick

Kopari Aluminum-Free Natural Deodorant

Thrive Natural Deodorant Spray

Sol de Janeiro Rio Deo Aluminum-Free Deodorant

Just Ingredients Magnesium Deodorant

How we chose the best natural deodorants

First, we spoke to experts from both sides of the industry to gain a comprehensive understanding of deodorants and their effectiveness. Then, we spoke to skin care influencers, combed through product reviews, reached out to brands for clarification, and personally tried out some of the products ourselves.

Questions about natural deodorants, answered

Why do I still sweat with aluminum-free deodorant?

You sweat when using aluminum-free deodorants because aluminum is the ingredient in antiperspirants that blocks pores and prevents sweating.

Aluminum-free deodorants, on the other hand, use other active ingredients that absorb moisture, neutralize odor-causing bacteria, and release fresh scents. So if you're using an aluminum-free deodorant, it's normal (and natural!) to sweat.

Are aluminum-free deodorants actually better for you?

Aluminum works by clogging the pores of sweat glands, which prevents sweat from reaching the surface of the skin. There’s no clear scientific evidence of aluminum’s absorption into the body or its health effects, but we can make a conscious effort to use fewer substances we’re unsure of.

What happens when you stop using deodorants with aluminum?

You’re going to start sweating when you switch from antiperspirant to deodorant. According to our experts and those that have made the switch, there’s going to be a detox period in which your body starts to release built-up aluminum and other chemicals, which can make body odors more offensive. To speed up the deodorant detox period, Enos recommends using activated charcoal on your underarms. This can be done through a 15-minute charcoal mask or by using a natural deodorant containing activated charcoal.

Why do I still sweat and/or smell when using a natural deodorant?

There are no true natural antiperspirants, because the ingredient that stops sweat is aluminum.

“There are certainly natural products that work just as well if not better than conventional ones,” Greenberg says.

Look for natural active ingredients that have antimicrobial properties and absorption abilities. Natural deodorants are not all one-size-fits-all, Enos adds, so you might have to shop around before finding the right one for your body.

To speed up the deodorant detox period, pharmacist Amy Enos recommends using activated charcoal on your underarms.

Is it possible to be allergic to natural deodorants?

Just because a product is natural doesn't mean it's hypoallergenic, Greenberg says. Some essential oils can trigger allergic reactions, so consider a natural deodorant that limits essential oil use.

While effective at neutralizing odors and absorbing moisture, baking soda can also cause irritation to sensitive underarm skin. Rather than baking soda, look for deodorants that use magnesium oxide to neutralize odors.

What are natural alternatives to deodorants?

Body odor is caused by trillions of microbes on your skin. To inhibit the growth of those microbes, you’ll want to use something that naturally fights bacteria, like essential oils, coconut oil or naturally derived baking soda.

To absorb excess moisture, you can reach for natural materials like activated charcoal, arrowroot powder, clays and tapioca starch.

Meet our experts

  • Amy Enos, PharmD, BCGP, is a pharmacist and non-toxic advocate based in Maine. She has been a pharmacist for 15-plus years, and is a partner consultant for Pure Haven.
  • Dr. Julie Greenberg, ND, RH(AHG), MBA, is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Herbalist at The Center for Integrative & Naturopathic Dermatology. She specializes in integrative dermatology and practices functional medicine. Greenberg is based in Los Angeles.
  • Phil Klepak is an antiperspirant and deodorant (APD) technology consultant and member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. His experience in APD development includes: chemistry, physiology of sweating, the mechanics of aluminum/zirconium actives, formulation and process troubleshooting, clinical testing protocols and monitoring of studies, regulatory and label claim considerations, and product safety.
  • Katie Patterson is a professional stylist at Love Salon PDX.