In spite of claims that underarm antiperspirant is harmful to health, it is still used because we think we need it. Of course, no one wants to stink, but there are natural alternatives to deodorant that work for most people.
Regular alcohol works!
I had periodically used plain alcohol under my arms over the last twenty years, but I didn’t do it regularly because I was worried about it drying out my skin. I also felt guilty about tossing a cotton ball in the garbage with every application.
Two years ago I decided that I shouldn’t make a decision based on assumptions, and I started using alcohol daily to see what would happen. To eliminate the waste factor, I put the alcohol in a spray bottle and put a squirt under my arms every morning.
It worked perfectly well as a deodorant where it hit the skin, but I wasn’t getting full coverage with a single squirt, so I cut the alcohol by 50 percent and started using two squirts. If I feel like I missed a spot, I will do a third squirt. After a couple of months I also added a few drops of lavender essential oil simply because I like the way it smells.
I also realized that I didn’t need to use my deodorant spray on days when I’d showered first thing in the morning. Bacteria cause underarm odor, so if you do a good job of washing under your arms, there won’t be any bacteria there until you have been sweating for a few hours.
The other thing I’ve learned is that if you sweat a lot—as in sweat pouring off your body as you work outside in the middle of the summer—you don’t stink. When the sweat is pouring off your body, it doesn’t sit under your arms, where the bacteria can grow. Your clothes, however, are a different story.
Once they’re soaked in sweat, bacteria starts to grow, and by the next morning your clothes can be quite smelly. Since most of us are able to shower on a regular basis and have clean clothes to wear daily, deodorant is not as necessary as advertisers would like us to believe.
The alcohol alternative: Baking soda
If you don’t like the idea of using alcohol, try using baking soda or apple cider vinegar. Alcohol works because it kills bacteria, but you can also create an unfriendly environment for bacteria by using baking soda or vinegar, which each work by pushing the pH either too high or too low for the bacteria to thrive.
There are also a multitude of online recipes to create natural alternatives to deodorant that make a paste out of baking soda and coconut oil or one of the other oils discussed earlier. People who use these say that a tiny amount is all that is needed to avoid odor. I have tried using a variety of other oils under my arms and discovered that they also eliminate odor, even without the baking soda.
What about antiperspirants?
Trying to stop your body from performing a natural function falls into the category of messing with Mother Nature and usually doesn’t have a positive result. Although research results have been mixed on whether antiperspirants cause breast cancer, it seems prudent to avoid using something that really isn’t needed.
Regardless of whether they use an antiperspirant, most people who work in an office don’t sweat much. And people who work outside have sweat pouring off the entire body, so there does not seem to be much point in stopping one small area from sweating.
Dress shields, also known as clothes shields, can be used to deal with a serious problem of sweating under the arms. There are disposable and washable varieties available, but of course, disposable products are not eco-thrifty. The washable varieties either pin to the clothing or strap onto your arm and shoulder with an elastic band.
You can also buy undershirts or camisoles with the shields already sewn into place, and you can find them with various levels of absorbency.
Natural alternatives to deodorant are inexpensive
Savings: Commercial deodorant costs $3 to $9 per container, and an equal amount of baking soda, alcohol, or oil will cost you less than $1. The alternatives to deodorants and antiperspirants are so inexpensive that by switching to a natural one, you almost completely eliminate the cost from your budget.
This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.
Subscribe to my weekly newsletter!
My weekly newsletter includes recipes and articles on homesteading, raising livestock, health, and gardening.