Although some people think that the aluminum-based active ingredients used in antiperspirants are linked to Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer, both the American Cancer Society and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say there is little evidence that this is true. In fact, the American Cancer Society notes that one study showed that the amount of aluminum the body absorbs from antiperspirant (0.012 percent) is actually less than you'd expect to absorb from the food you eat each day.
Regardless, some people prefer to use aluminum-free natural deodorants because they generally opt for natural and organic products over mass-produced products that contain ingredients they consider potentially harmful. Others turn to natural deodorants after finding that they're sensitive or allergic to ingredients commonly used in traditional deodorants and antiperspirants, and others go natural to avoid the yellow underarm stains that can ruin white shirts that can occur when aluminum residue reacts with sweat.
In any case, going 100 percent natural means living with sweat. Because natural deodorants don't contain any aluminum-based compounds, they won't stop sweat (at least, not effectively as antiperspirants). Still, the best natural deodorants contain ingredients that can effectively neutralize odors.
While some natural deodorant comes in a stick applicator-style, we found many more cream and paste formulations among natural deodorants than among traditional grocery-store brands. Soapwalla Deodorant Cream (Est. $20), for instance, is a cream that comes in a small tub rather than a stick or roll-on-style applicator. It takes second in a test by Jennifer Velez for InStyle.com, who says she had only a hint of perspiration after a full day's events, including a long walk in humid weather. Velez notes that it absorbs quickly into the skin and reports being stink-free at the end of the day.
In a test of natural deodorants conducted by for the Tumblr blog Byrdie Beauty, Soapwalla Deodorant Cream earns an A grade. Author Deven Hopp says she wore this deodorant in sweltering New York City summer temperatures, and it left her feeling and smelling fresh at the end of the day. One downside, she notes, is that this cream deodorant must be applied with your fingers, which can be a turnoff for some consumers.
In an older review of natural deodorants at NYMag.com, author Kat Stoeffel concurs, explaining, "Cream deodorant is a pain. You can't get it under your arm with that same hand, so you end up digging both hands into tiny pots of gunk (good luck closing it afterward), getting pungent essential oils under your nails and assuming a very unsexy, Mary Katherine Gallagher pose." Still, Soapwalla is one of just three natural deodorants earning a recommendation in this roundup. On the plus side, Stoeffel says that Soapwalla's consistency (which she describes as "a waxy balm with a fine grit") is ideal for the task, and, she points out, "a little went a long way."
Soapwalla Deodorant Cream contains vegetable powders and clays, in addition to essential oils like lavender, tea tree and peppermint for absorbing moisture and inhibiting odor-causing bacteria. It's vegan, made with organic and food-grade ingredients, with no parabens, aluminum or other additives. It's also never tested on animals, a plus for many consumers. Soapwalla's website does point out that because this cream deodorant doesn't contain aluminum zirconium, it's not an antiperspirant.
Users are mostly pleased with Soapwalla Deodorant Cream, and we spotted hundreds of positive reviews of this natural deodorant. Several users say they turned to Soapwalla due to allergies or sensitivities to aluminum, chemicals and fragrance ingredients found in many traditional deodorants and antiperspirants. A few users do report having skin irritation after using this product, which some point out may be caused by applying it immediately after shaving. However, most say Soapwalla offers lasting freshness throughout the day, with the primary downside being that it doesn't prevent sweating. It's also more expensive than most traditional deodorants at $9 per ounce. However, for people who are sensitive to standard deodorants and antiperspirants, or those who just prefer natural products whenever possible, the cost is a worthwhile tradeoff for a natural deodorant that works.
The only deodorant beating Soapwalla in InStyle.com's test is Schmidt's Natural Deodorant (Est. $9). Like Soapwalla, Schmidt's Natural Deodorant comes in a tub and is applied with the fingers, although it also comes in a stick applicator-style for those who can't get past the idea of applying deodorant to their pits with their fingertips. Velez says, "I skeptically rubbed it on before braving New York City's first summer heat wave and not once did I feel even an inkling of sweat the entire day," calling Schmidt's a "game-changer" that left her without even a hint of odor after a full day.
WellandGood.com also recommends Schmidt's Natural Deodorant, with one caveat: Schmidt's contains baking soda, which may cause irritation for those with sensitivities. However, in addition to seven scents (and a fragrance-free option) there are three additional formulations available without baking soda, Schmidt's Natural Deodorant (Sensitive Skin) (Est. $13), although they're available only in stick applicators. All formulations are certified vegan-, cruelty- and gluten-free and contain no aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens or phthalates. Ingredients include arrowroot powder, coconut oil, shea butter, essential oils and Vitamin E, among others.
We spotted hundreds of user reviews for Schmidt's Natural Deodorant at Amazon.com, and most are pleased, giving it above average ratings overall. Like all deodorants, some users have sensitivities to certain ingredients (such as essential oils) and experience irritation after using this product. Most users are pleasantly surprised by how well this deodorant works to combat wetness and body odor and say most scents are pleasant without being overpowering. Some reviewers who have had a reaction to the standard formulation find that the Sensitive Skin formulations are less irritating.