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The days of having to suppress your bodies’ odiferous emanations with chemical-laden, spray-on deodorants and sticky, pore-blocking antiperspirants are quickly coming to a close.
And those old-school antiperspirants are usually laden with aluminum-based compounds, which work by blocking sweat glands — effective for reducing the level of moisture available for odor-causing bacteria, but also an effective pore-clogger. (You’ve probably also heard that the aluminum has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, but so far there’s no evidence to support that.)
Still, we can all agree that limiting the harsh chemicals we come into contact with every day — via all the lotions, creams, pastes, sprays, balms, and soaps we apply to our bodies — is a good thing. And thankfully, personal care trends seem to be skewing toward products that are as “natural” as possible.
Unfortunately, for a long time, natural deodorants have been notorious for leaving our B.O. smelling a little too natural. Results can vary among natural deodorants, so I gathered up six of the most readily available drugstore brands and put them to the test in my sweaty man pits, pushing them to their limits while doing a variety of workouts, to find out which of these natural deodorants actually battle body odor. Here’s what I found.
Native Deodorant (Target)
This aluminum-free, paraben-free deodorant stick has natural ingredients like baking soda (for limiting moisture), coconut oil and shea butter (for helping keep bacteria at bay), and L. acidophilus (a beneficial bacteria).
I went with the classic Eucalyptus & Mint scent, which smells clean and refreshing. I wasn’t a fan of the white, chalky formulation — it didn’t go on very smoothly and had a tendency to get caught up in underarm hairs.
During normal business hours, Native seemed to work fine and gave off just a hint of fragrance as I went about my day. But when I put Native through the ringer — applying it before a CrossFit workout on the beach in 75 degree weather — my man musk started to break free after a sweaty warm-up and a few minutes of throwing medicine balls and doing kettlebell swings.
Tom’s of Maine For Men Deodorant (Amazon)
This stick deodorant has natural ingredients — like hops for inhibiting bacteria growth, aloe to moisturize, and organic lemongrass oil for fragrance and odor fighting — and contains no aluminum or artificial fragrances or preservatives. But some ingredients are a bit more refined — for example, it contains propylene glycol, which is on the Whole Foods “unacceptable ingredients” list.
I chose the North Woods scent, which gives off a pungent-yet-pleasant fragrance. I liked the wide, gel-based formulation for being easy to apply and leaving little residue.
This stick performed well throughout the day with no noticeable stench, and it even endured an hour of free weights — plus a half hour of cycling — without breaking down and making me smelly.
Schmidt’s Charcoal + Magnesium Deodorant (Amazon)
This stick deodorant combines charcoal — which has become a buzzy ingredient in natural products because of its moisture-absorbing, detoxifying properties — with baking soda, magnesium, arrowroot powder, coconut oil, jojoba seed oil, and vitamin E. (It’s also aluminum-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and propylene glycol-free.)
The charcoal formula has a mild aroma that’s reminiscent of a fresh load of laundry on a rainy day. They claim that “application requires only a small amount,” but I found the waxy, chalky formula difficult to apply through underarm hair.
Still, I’ve been interested in trying charcoal-based personal care products, and this one worked well — it held up through a 14-minute HIIT session on an elliptical followed by an upper-body strength-training workout. I felt slightly less sweaty during the workout and — more importantly — didn’t stink afterward, despite not showering.
Duke Cannon Trench Warfare Natural Charcoal Deodorant (Duke Cannon)
This stick deodorant does contain propylene glycol, but it also boasts solidly non-toxic ingredients like charcoal, witch hazel, vitamin E, and aloe extract. And it’s alcohol-free and aluminum-free.
Duke Cannon products are definitely at the “cologne-like” end of the scent spectrum. I went with the Sandalwood & Amber scent, a pleasant — but strong — combo of spiced wood, smoke, and leather.
I put this one on before a morning free-weights workout, but it was a bit too strong for my liking — the fragrance was distracting. That said, it did its job well and kept my pits B.O.-free for a good 12 hours. Still, I’d save this one for nights on the town.
Crystal Mineral Deodorant Roll-On (Amazon)
When all things “crunchy” started to become big business, Crystal introduced one of the first natural deodorants — literally a chunk of mineral salt. For the sake of apples-to-apples comparisons, I skipped the deodorant stone and tested the roll-on version, which contains mineral salts (of course), baking soda, and natural fragrance.
I chose the unscented version, because I wanted to see if the mineral salts were up to the task of banishing B.O. — not just masking it with a fragrance.
The roll-on application was smooth and residue-free, and I was impressed with its performance. It kept things neutral throughout an intense morning yoga session in the sun. To double check, I applied it after an early morning shower, before a cross-country flight — and after a full 12-hour travel day, I was still smelling fine.
Every Man Jack Deodorant (Amazon)
This stick deodorant claims to be “99% naturally derived,” with ingredients like cotton extract, witch hazel, lichen extract (to combat bacteria), and aloe extract. Though it does contain alcohol, it’s free from propylene glycol, aluminum, parabens, phthalates, and dyes.
I chose the sandalwood selection since it wasn’t as strong-smelling as some of the other scents. Since it’s a gel-like formulation, it went on smooth and slick with minimal leftover residue.
I put this deodorant through its paces during a beach workout and a mile swim, and it was up to the task — though it did start to wear off around dinner time. But the scent is strong, so (hindsight 20/20!) you may want to opt for the unscented version for a workout.