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It's been two years since I started my tour around the world. Over three years since I started shedding life "extras". And one year since I've moved on from conventional toiletries -- even harmful deodorants.
It all started during my trip to Southeast Asia. I'd been traveling with my boyfriend, Alex for a few months in Europe and completely ran out of deodorant.
Too cheap to buy more (hello, backpacking budget), I decided to share the remainder of Alex's deodorant until it ran out. We tried our best to stretch the product's use for as long as possible, skipping deodorant days and taking short, cool showers instead.
Then we got to Asia: hot, humid Thailand was our first stop. With the dramatic increase in curry consumption, our pores began to dispel an abundance of strong body odor infused with curry remnants, leaving us buckling over in laughter as we caught whiffs of each other's scents (especially Alex: he wouldn't slow down on that delicious curry one bit -- I don't blame him).
My Decision to Switch to Natural Deodorant
When we finally ran out of deodorant, I stopped by the local 7-eleven to restock. While there, I decided to pick up other toiletries in an attempt to kill a few birds with one stone.
That's when I noticed it: bleach -- in EVERYTHING. I couldn't buy lotion because there was skin whitener in it. I couldn't even buy local sunscreen brands! I wondered: "Is there skin whitener in everything here? What about the deodorant? I wonder what's in that... now that I think about it: I have no idea what was in my own deodorant!"
It was the first time I realized that as eco/health-conscious as I considered myself, there still are ingredients I couldn't even pronounce let alone define, in some of my personal care products.
I didn't like that.
I wanted to be more conscious about what my body and skin absorbed. I'd already begun making moves with removing chemicals and harmful ingredients from my hair products and body soap, but never with my deodorant.
I left the 7-eleven empty-handed (unsure of what was in the deodorants) and returned to my hotel to think about what personal care products I can do away with when I returned home.
I realized backpacking helped me cut much of the harmful toiletries out of my life (due to space restrictions), but I could do more. I did not want to use products with artificial fragrances, petrochemicals, or aluminum.
Instead of buying another deodorant from the store, I wondered, "Can I go deodorant-free, for real?"
So I tried it.
My Experience Going Natural
It took a while to get used to not wearing deodorant. I didn't think I could do it. A few years ago, I tried Tom's of Maine deodorant and disliked it (I thought it made me smell WORSE) so I wasn't looking forward to finding a natural alternative to conventional deodorants.
"I'll just use nothing at all, for now," I thought.
I tried going without deodorant all together, using live bacteria refreshers during hikes, and even showering more often (if you know me, you know how much I hate daily showers). But sometimes I just couldn't fight the funk. Going completely au naturale wasn't a full-time solution.
So, I decided to try it one more time; this time using Tom's of Maine's new and improved deodorant formula in different situations (as opposed to only ever applying it before I hit the club and wondering why I smelled like a dirty sock filled with wild lavender).
When I received my deodorants, I read a note recommending I use the deodorant for AT LEAST seven days. I thought, "Oh no, this is going to be bad. I don't know if I can hold on for seven days!"
But I did. And I tracked my feelings about it.
Read my diary-style experience giving natural deodorant a second chance:
Well, I'm giving Tom's of Maine another go. Apologies to anyone within three feet of my armpits. I've just tried the wild lavender scent (I tried this one the last time) and it's everything I remembered it to be. Which means it's awful. Maybe lavender is just not for me?
Holy Tom's of Maine. This lavender is definitely not for me. I took the dogs for a brisk walk and it smells like I've sprayed on perfume after a trip to the gym. I think I'm going to try another scent tomorrow: maybe tea tree.
I have to admit, tea tree might be my thing. I know tea tree oil has "germ-fighting properties" so I feel good about these ingredients. I've confirmed there is no aluminum in the deodorant, and mineral zinc is used to trap odor. I had no idea that it is bacteria that makes us smell, not sweat. Our issue with sweat is purely cosmetic. Anyway, today is a chill day so perhaps the lack of physical activity is a plus.
It's the fourth day using Tom's of Maine natural deodorant, and the second day using a scent I actually like. I applied the deodorant immediately after my shower and plan on being out all day so we'll see what happens.
Yesterday I stayed out for a while running errands. It was quite warm but I didn't feel too funky. Toward the end of the day I could smell faint body odor but by that time I was ready to head to bed.
I can't believe I am saying this but I think my underarms are getting used to this natural deodorant. I am not sweating as much and even when I do, the sweat isn't as smelly. I didn't realize that my sweat production would change too, since it is not an antiperspirant. I wonder why it's changed?
Deodorant focuses on the bacteria that causes odor, not our sweat glands. Yet some brands still use harmful ingredients. If I can completely switch to natural deodorant, will my body regulate its own sweat while mineral zinc fights the funk? Will I even have as much funk? Hmmm...
It makes me recall the time I tried one of those clinical antiperspirants when I was a teen and ended up getting a cyst in my armpit within two days of use. My sweat glands were freaking out; it was horrifying. The minute I stopped using the product, it went away within 24 hours.
I promised to try this deodorant for seven days. I really thought I'd have the same results as the time I tried it, years before. And I was right -- to an extent.
It starts off pretty bad. In fact, I smelled almost worse than when I had no deodorant on at all. When I realized wild lavender wasn't working for me, I changed it up and tried a new scent (FYI friends, lavender deodorant ain't my thing if you're looking to buy me gifts. Sincerely, Olivia's body chemistry). I really liked the tea tree scent and stuck to it for more than a week. It's now week #2 and I am actually still using it!
It is true: if your body is used to conventional products you have to give yourself at least a week or two to adjust to natural deodorant. It's like a detox.
My Overall Impression:
I am glad I gave it another go. I've had conversations with people in the past about my indecision with using natural deodorant and now I can recommend people try this new formula, for a longer period of time, as an alternative to conventional products.
You have to commit to at least seven days and understand that certain fragrances just might not work for you (like wild lavender, for me). Additionally, if you suffer from extreme perspiration, you'll initially notice how much you really sweat but if your body chemistry is anything like mine, your sweat glands might positively adjust and your sweat might actually reduce.
Everyone is unique. I think I finally found my natural solution and can't wait to see how my body reacts six months from now.
Would You Make the Switch to Natural Deodorant?
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