In the winter, wearing natural deodorant seems like a great idea. Just slather on a stick made of essential oils and other non-harmful ingredients, you’ll smell great all day long, and you won't have to worry about the long-term harm your deodorant may be causing your health.
In the thick of summer, though, natural deodorant is another story entirely. During the warmer months, you’re not just sweating in your workout classes. You’re sweating after standing outside in the sun for five minutes, while cooking dinner, while sitting on your couch watching TV, the list goes on. And suddenly, that aluminum-based antiperspirant is sounding a lot more appealing not just to you, but to everyone around you.
If you’re currently struggling through heat and humidity with some sweaty, not-so-great smelling pits, here’s what you need to know.
Try using hand sanitizer.
It might night sound like an odd hack, but Sarah Villafranco, M.D. and CEO and Founder of Osmia Organics, suggests slathering a little on your armpits when temperatures go way up. “An alcohol-based hand sanitizer would do the trick, but might sting if you’ve shaved recently,” she said. “I use a foaming hand sanitizer by Clean Well that has thymol as the active ingredient, and it instantly eliminates odor. It won’t last all day, but it’s perfect in a pinch.”
She adds that if you want to prevent bacteria buildup in your armpits, consider a daily swipe of hand sanitizer. “It’s the bacteria that causes odor, not the sweat itself, so if you do this, a gradual decrease in odor could occur,” she explains. “I would not recommend any product with strong antibiotic ingredients, though, as they carry the risk of creating bacterial resistance.”
Work on reducing your stress.
Stress can lead to sweat, so being stressed out in the summer can mean way more sweat than your natural deodorant can handle. If this is the case for you, Villafranco recommends trying some stress-busting techniques. “If your stress level is high, you’re triggering the hormone cascade that can lead to increased sweat production,” she says. “No time like the present to revisit your meditation practice!”
If you feel like your sweating is out of the ordinary, talk to your doctor. “You want to make sure your thyroid function and other hormone levels are normal,” she says. “If your labs are normal and you’re managing stress but your sweating is making you crazy, you can talk to your doctor about focal botox treatment, which can reduce sweating for up to a year. Also, keeping your armpits hair-free will help decrease odor.”
Watch your diet.
If body odor is the problem, take a look at what you’re eating. “Red meat and dairy consumption can increase unpleasant body odor, so a plant-based diet high in chlorophyll-rich greens might make a positive difference,” Villafranco says. “Spicy food or loads of garlic can enhance your natural body odor in a pungent way, too.”
Two other culprits are alcohol and coffee. “For some people, coffee or red wine can increase sweat gland activity, so if you notice yourself sweating more after your latte, you might switch to a caffeine-free alternative.”
Also, take a look at what you’re wearing: natural fibers like cotton and wool can help mitigate odor, while synthetic fabrics can hold on to odor even after a wash.
Do you really need to wear natural deodorant?
During the super-hot days of summer, it can be tempting to throw in the towel and lather on the antiperspirant. Villafranco says that while wearing aluminum-based deodorants aren’t as bad for you as smoking a cigarette, they’re still not great.
“Aluminum causes the sebaceous glands to become clogged, which can create ingrown hairs and other irritation in addition to blocking sweat,” she explains. “Also, if you’re trying to make the switch to a natural deodorant, you may confuse or lengthen the process by continuing intermittent use of an antiperspirant.”
While the jury is still out on exactly how dangerous aluminum-based antiperspirants are, Villafranco suggests using them as sparingly as possible. “I’d recommend saving the aluminum for the day you’re giving a TED talk,” she says. Noted.