6 Deodorant Alternatives to Keep You Smelling Fresh

A swatch of coconut oil beside a coconut on a purple background

Liz DeSousa | Byrdie

When warm weather approaches and the natural inclination to don tank tops or sundresses strikes, we all become much more aware of our armpits—and how they're currently smelling. If you've been considering swapping your deodorant in favor of a more natural approach, you might not know where to start. That's what we're here for. We asked Aanand Geria, MD, FAAD, and Hadley King, MD, to share their top picks for deodorant alternatives. Read on for what they chose.

Meet the Expert

  • Hadley King, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
  • Aanand Geria, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City and the founder of Geria Dermatology.
01 of 06

Coconut Oil

Yes, coconut oil strikes again. This ubiquitous oil used in the kitchen, our hair, and on our skin is an easy option for a natural deodorant. "Coconut oil has natural antibacterial properties that help kill odor-causing bacteria, making it an excellent alternative to commercial deodorants," Geria tells us. It's also unlikely to irritate your skin and works well as a base if you want to add a drop of essential oil for fragrance.

02 of 06

Tea Tree Oil

The smell may take some getting used to, but tea tree oil makes for an effective deodorant. "Tea tree oil is an antifungal agent that helps fight against odor-causing bacteria," says Geria. You can mix tea tree oil with coconut oil, too: Use about 10 drops of tea tree oil for every 1/2 cup of coconut oil and mix thoroughly. You can keep it in a small container for future applications.

03 of 06


Another popular ingredient in skincare, King recommends charcoal as a natural alternative to deodorant. "Charcoal won't block sweat the way that aluminum-based antiperspirants can by blocking eccrine ducts, but it can absorb moisture," making it effective at absorbing underarm wetness, she explains. Plus, "it has antibacterial properties, [meaning] it can also help prevent odor."

To make a charcoal deodorant, add 1/2 teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to 1/4 a cup of base oil, such as coconut.

04 of 06

Baking Soda and Cornstarch

Two ingredients that are probably already in your kitchen, consider putting a mixture of baking soda and cornstarch under your arms to absorb sweat and prevent odor. "Baking soda helps neutralize odors while cornstarch absorbs moisture, making this combination effective for controlling sweat and odor," says Geria.

If you mix one part baking soda with six parts cornstarch, you can apply it dry to your underarms without adding any liquid.

05 of 06

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

King recommends an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) toner to help minimize underarm odor. "AHAs can help get rid of odor-causing bacteria," she says. "This is because these can lower the armpits' pH levels, making the environment less hospitable to bacteria responsible for odor." There is a caveat, however: "A gentle AHA toner can be a nice option for limiting bacterial growth, but be careful because it's also possible to experience dryness or irritation," she adds.

To lower the risk of irritation, she suggests adding aloe vera or rose water. You can try equal amounts of each ingredient and scale back on the AHA if irritation occurs.

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Lemon Juice

"Lemon juice is an acidic substance that helps kill odor-causing bacteria and leaves a fresh scent," says Geria, making it a match for your armpits. If squeezing a lemon and rubbing it under your arms sounds too drippy, you can just rub a lemon wedge instead. Be sure to wipe away any citrus bits left behind, of course.

A natural alternative to deodorant can be fun to try, and you can choose from inexpensive ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice, and coconut oil. Whether or not they'll do the trick as well as commercial deodorants, though, is a different story: "Some natural ingredients may not be as effective as commercial products in controlling sweat or odor, especially for people with excessive sweating or body odor," says Geria. "Overall, whether individual ingredients or DIY mixes work, as well as commercial deodorants, depends on various factors, including the specific ingredients used, the individual's body chemistry, and personal preferences." It's worth trying various ingredients and combos, though: There just may be one that does the trick perfectly for you.

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