Sustainability, Wellness | 24 Aug, 2021

Natural Deodorants vs. Antiperspirants with Aluminum: Should I Make the Switch?

by Christina Almeida

Hi, human. Do you sweat? Are you treating your pits like royalty (with natural deodorant)? Or are you looking to make the switch but want to arm yourself with knowledge? 

If you’re a human that sweats and you’re unhappy with your deodorant, this article was made for you. And if you’re a human that sweats and not necessarily looking to make any deodorant switch — if you just want to know a little bit more about why you sweat and what deodorant (and antiperspirant) is, this article is also for you! 

What’s an antiperspirant? What’s a deodorant? Is there a difference?

You may have seen the words antiperspirant and deodorant used interchangeably. Are antiperspirant and deodorants the same thing? Not quite!

BOTH antiperspirants and deodorants can be bought in the same aisle. MANY deodorants are mislabeled and/or the manufacturers choose to use essentially the same formula for both their antiperspirants and deodorants. Generally-speaking, antiperspirants are more EFFICIENT and FAST-ACTING, making them more desirable for buyers. 

Antiperspirants BLOCK the SWEATING process while deodorants MASK the ODOR of your sweat. To understand the importance of this difference and why you should care, we’ll need to discuss the basics of sweat: what sweat is, why we sweat, why we sweat in the places we sweat, and why our sweat can sometimes smell… really funky. Read on!

What is sweat? 

Sweating, or perspiration, is defined as “the production of fluids secreted by the sweat glands in the skin of mammals.”

…okay, cool, and what are sweat glands? An organ in your body that’s responsible solely for producing (essentially) what sweat is.

While there are many different types of glands in your body, generally only two are recognized. As it happens, it is these two that are also most relevant to sweating.

Eccrine glands are responsible for most of your sweat. Especially the mind that feels like water (and often has a lack of odor to match)!

  1. If you ever had the desire to taste this kind of sweat, you’d find that eccrine perspiration doesn’t taste like water. Why? Because bits of salt, protein urea, and ammonia get mixed in with the water, giving it a distinct un-water-like taste.
  2. The eccrine glands can be found throughout your entire body. However! They are mostly concentrated on the palms, soles, forehead, and armpits.

Apocrine glands are much, much larger. They are also the culprits of most BO or body odor—especially once and after puberty hits.

  1. Apocrine glands are usually found on the armpits, groin, and (yes!) breast area.
  2. Apocrine glands are found near large concentrations of hair follicles—a big part of the reason why they produce a more… pungent aroma than their counterparts, the eccrine glands.

Why do we sweat? 

We sweat for many reasons! But usually, our bodies sweat to maintain homeostasis, or internal balance. Sweat, in particular, is a mechanism our bodies use to maintain a healthy internal (and external) body temperature. That’s why we’re more likely to sweat in hot weather than in tepid weather. This is also why you may find yourself as equally sweaty in freezing temperatures AND sweltering temperatures… when your body is confronted with either extreme heat or chill, it regulates its internal temperature by: sweating! 

Emotional sweat, or sweating from stress, occurs for different reasons than the sweat from extreme heat, chill, or exercise. While sweating during a workout occurs to cool you down then and there, emotional sweat occurs to prepare you for an impending… something. 

Think: fight or flight. Take a trip back in time—thousands of years ago, in the state of nature—and you’d find that the reasons behind emotional stress make a lot more sense than they may seem to today. Understanding these reasons requires an understanding of the stress response:

The stress response developed as a means by which our bodies prepare themselves—quickly, efficiently—to fight or flight. The stress response, much like most of the inherent biological responses in the human body, exist for the sake of survival. If the stress response triggers a state of fight or flight (that is, your body is expecting to either literally fight for your life or run away, again, in the hopes of prolonging your life) then it makes sense that the sweat triggered BY the state of fight or flight or the stress response would likewise exist to support our body’s ability to survive.

In this way, when we emotionally stress, our bodies produce sweat with the understanding that we are about to exert an incredible amount of momentum and energy. And, supposing that our bodies are about to do just that, our glands react preemptively by providing our bodies with the sweat they will need (shortly) to maintain optimal body temperatures. 

Why does my sweat smell… funky?

So what’s up with the smell of sweat and why does it often smell… well, bad? 

Would it surprise you to learn that apocrine sweat—the same type of sweat that makes you grab the deodorant—is actually ODORLESS?

Turns out: while apocrine glands produce sweat that doesn’t have an odor by itself, apocrine glands ALSO produce bacteria that breaks down sweat into scented fatty acids. It is the mixing of this bacteria with the naturally odorless apocrine gland sweat that is responsible for the funky smell of your body odor. 

Am I clean and what does practicing good hygiene even mean? 

Let’s talk good hygiene… but before we do that, let’s talk about the things that can make us stink (even if we’re squeaky clean). 

  1. Spicy foods. Spicy foods can make the body think it’s a lot hotter than it is… therefore, producing more sweat!
  2. Alcohol. Alcohol, like spicy foods, can fool the body into confusing the temperature outside the body for much hotter than it actually is.
  3. Foods like garlic, onions, cabbage. We secrete the byproducts of the foods we eat—and these byproducts often interact with our skin’s bacteria, mixing to produce a body odor smell and sweat that we consider particularly foul. Onions and garlic both have high levels of sulfur—sulfur, says science, could be at fault for producing a foul-smelling odor (if you’re prone to onions and garlic in your diet, especially). 

Practicing good hygiene should be common sense—let’s make it common sense again! 

  1. If you smell, shower
  2. If you just worked out, shower
  3. If you exerted yourself a lot, shower
  4. If you were sweating a lot, shower
  5. As a rule of thumb, take a quick rinse daily

Really — it is that simple! 

What’s aluminum?

Aluminum is the second most widely used metal. It’s lightweight, non-toxic, and use in the production of too many products (everything from kitchen utensils to cans and machine parts).

In personal care products and in cosmetics, aluminum is strictly regulated and used in the form aluminum chlorohydrate, or “aluminum salts”. 

Why is aluminum in most antiperspirants and deodorants?

With topical application, aluminum salts temporarily clog the sweat glands (not the lymph nodes). That’s how deodorants with aluminum (actually, antiperspirants) help many control the sweating process. It’s easy to see why aluminum deodorants are effective and efficient—and why so many have relied upon deodorants with aluminum for so long to maintain a dry appearance under their pits throughout the day.

Why should I make the switch to aluminum-free or natural deodorant?

While aluminum in deodorants is regulated and considered safe in personal care products, no studies exist on lifelong use of deodorant with aluminum. And while only 0.01% of aluminum is absorbed by the skin, DAMAGED or broken skin can absorb up to 0.06% of aluminum. 

  1. Aluminum CAN build up and accumulate in the blood, especially in those of us who have kidney issues. Kidneys are responsible for filtering out a lot of toxins. If your kidneys aren’t functioning optimally for any reason, your doctor may suggest you stay away from deodorants with aluminum for this reason.
  2. Aluminum blocks the sweat glandsbut it DOES NOT stop the process of sweat! What does that mean? That means while you may not actually BE sweating, your body is still MAKING sweat… and this sweat is getting trapped beneath the surface, underneath the skin. Extra liquid trapped under the skin can lead to a host of issues: ingrown hairs; pimples in tough places; etc.
  3. The sweat also does resume once the antiperspirant wears off… which can mean sweat that’s stinkier and heavier than normal.
  4. It should also be noted that those who use deodorant with aluminum in it will, 9/10, experience withdrawal from the aluminum. This entails a period of time when sweat may swell worse than ever thought possible. 

Making the Switch to Natural Deodorant: What to Expect

  1. Withdrawal from aluminum. Depending on a number of factors (your body, how much your sweat, your environment, your level of physical activity, and so on) this period of withdrawal can last anywhere from 3 days to 1 month.

But what does withdrawal from aluminum look like? 

It usually looks like: a lot of frustration, a lot of stink, and a lot of “this deodorant doesn’t work for me”. When making the switch from aluminum antiperspirants and deodorants to natural deodorant, it’s important to remember that your body is, in fact, going through a detoxification process—much like it would if you cut out anything bad (from artificial sugars or processed foods to sitting on your butt 24/7).

As with any positive change, sometimes it takes a while for our bodies to catch up with our minds and see the change as positive. That’s why it’s important to practice patience and be prepared to run to the bathroom 2-3x daily when first making switch. Run to the bathroom for what, you ask? To wash your pits, of course! 

We promise though that with time, alternative methods of odor control—like Ursa Major’s Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant—are worth the 3 days to 1 month of sweaty discomfort.

Why do natural deodorants like Ursa Major’s Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant work?

Let’s take a quick look at how a deodorant like Ursa Major’s Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant uses completely natural, body-safe ingredients to help manage body odor—without trapping your sweat or leading to an accumulation of a metal in your blood!

  1. Hops neutralizes bad odors.
  2. Kaolin is a soft, mild clay that absorbs moisture (aka sweat)!
  3. Aloe soothes sensitive skin and imparts a nice, “fresh” scent.
  4. Eucalyptus comes with its own divine minty aroma AND fights odor-causing bacteria!
  5. Saccharomyces ferment is a probiotic that’s known for being a super hero at absorbing bad odors. 
  6. Baking soda inhibits odors and fights odor-causing bacteria. 

So, the jury wants to know: are you ready to make the switch? If you are, Ursa Major’s Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant is the perfect place to start.