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Can we find a natural deodorant that really works?

TextAlex Peters

Deodorant is going through a chic, eco rebrand, thanks to a new wave of aluminium-free formulas with stylish packaging – but do they actually keep you dry and smelling fresh?

For the last few years, my deodorant “routine” has consisted of daily application of a neon green stick anti-perspirant that you get from Spanish supermarkets and which my dad buys in bulk (shout out Tulipan Negro). Clearly I am behind on the trend of chic natural and aluminium-free deodorants that is currently taking over the beauty industry. 

Before we go any further, let’s just state for the record – there is no conclusive evidence that aluminium, the ingredient in traditional antiperspirants which stops you from sweating, is harmful. There’s a lot of fear-mongering going on in the beauty industry at the moment around certain “non-natural” ingredients and chemicals, so it feels important to say explicitly: natural isn’t always better, chemicals aren’t all bad, and, despite the rumours, aluminum appears to be perfectly safe

The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, FDA, Alzheimer's Association, Cancer Research UK, and even the EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (which has banned thousands of personal care ingredients) all confirm there is no conclusive evidence that antiperspirants cause cancer. “To date, there’s absolutely no evidence that breast cancer is caused by exposure to anything in antiperspirants or deodorants, full stop,” Dr Harold Burstein, a breast oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the New York Times last month.

Despite this, natural and aluminium-free deodorants have become increasingly popular and increasingly chic. While deodorant used to be a wholly unglamorous part of the personal care arsenal; like the oral care category, a new batch of brands have cropped up in the last few years in an effort to shift this image. With fragrance combinations that rival perfumes – think the likes of sandalwood, bergamot, and eucalyptus – and tasteful, minimalist packaging fit for the most elegant top shelves, these brands are reimagining the role deodorant plays in our routines.

So if you are thinking about making the switch to a natural or aluminium-free deodorant – for whatever reason – but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. I tested out some of the most popular and beloved options and here are my verdicts.


To test each deodorant, I applied them in the morning and then went about my day as usual. Since my days at the moment are fairly sedentary, I added an end of the day, light yoga session as an extra test to see how the deodorants held up. 

If yoga doesn’t seem that rigorous a test to you, let me say that I am someone who holds an almost Lebowitzian aversion to exercise. Like Fran (a person who once described herself as someone who “wishes that cigarettes came already lit”), the majority of my physical exertion involves going downstairs for the mail and meeting for drinks. That’s all to say a light yoga session is enough to get me sweating and if your workout is more rigorous, I’m afraid you will just have to shower afterwards. 

A while ago I made the decision to ditch the razor so my underarm hair is (neatly) present and accounted for. Factor that into your purchasing decision making process. Also keep in mind that everyone has different levels of sensitivity and sweats different amounts, so what might work for one person, may not work for another. 

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