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NATURAL DEODORANT STICKS - The ultimate guide to choosing the best natural deodorant Australia.

by Toby Gibson 25 May 2023 0 Comments
NATURAL DEODORANT STICKS - The ultimate guide to choosing the best natural deodorant Australia.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with using natural deodorants or thinking of making the transition to a healthier and more eco-friendly body care routine. Either way, this blog is for you and definitely worth a read - it may make you think twice about the product you are already using and will certainly help point you in the right direction for your first purchase in a natural cosmetic market where consumers can easily become unwitting victims of greenwashing.
 
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING -
 

NATURAL DEODORANT STICK - WHAT IS IT?

As the name suggests, this type of deodorant “should” be made from Natural ingredients and be free from sweat blockers and harmful chemicals such as aluminium based sweat blockers, synthetic fragrances, artificial colourings, phthalates and toxic preservatives to name a few. I’ve used the word “should”, as many natural deodorants are not as natural as the brand owners would like to make you think. This blog will help you know the difference.
 
Natural deodorant sticks also come in solid form and are a great option if you don’t like the feel of liquid deodorant on your underarms. They are the perfect alternative for those already familiar with the concept of roll-on deodorants but are looking for a more natural, eco-friendly and toxic-free alternative.
 
Natural deodorant sticks are typically formulated with a combination of key naturally sourced ingredients that include natural waxes, natural oils, natural clay powders and/or natural starches, essential oils and active ingredients.

And unlike mainstream deodorants, most of the natural ingredients you'll find in natural stick deodorants actually contain many health benefits for the skin, beyond effective odour control!

NATURAL DEODORANT STICK - WHAT IT ISN’T?

Perhaps obvious, but a natural deodorant stick is not an aerosol spray, liquid roll-on, antiperspirant or gel deodorant. And in our opinion, it is also NOT a solid crystal deodorant stick and should not be confused as one and the same.
 
Unlike natural deodorant sticks, crystal sticks are formulated with mineral salts. More specifically, minerals salts such as ammonium alum, potassium alum, aluminium chlorohydrate, aluminium chlorohydroxide and aluminium zirconium. The potential health risks associated with the presence of aluminium in deodorant is well documented and what do these mineral salts and the word “Alum” all have in common? …… You guessed it, Aluminium.
 
In an effort to address consumer concern associated with aluminium, you will see brands marketing crystal sticks in the form of ammonium alum and potassium alum (both aluminium salts) as the safer option to past formulations given these are said to be larger compounds that are unable to be absorbed by the skin - Now hold that thought…
 
At the same time, the following argument made by scientists in the year 2000 and published in the journal Experimental Dermatology is often cited. It states:
 
“...the molecular weight (MW) of a compound must be under 500 Dalton to allow skin absorption. Larger molecules cannot pass the corneal layer. Arguments for this 500 Dalton rule are; 1) virtually all common contact allergens are under 500 Dalton, larger molecules are not known as contact sensitizers. They cannot penetrate and thus cannot act as allergens in man; 2) the most commonly used pharmacological agents applied in topical dermatotherapy are all under 500 Dalton; 3) all known topical drugs used in transdermal drug-delivery systems are under 500 Dalton…”
 
Now the molecular weight of ammonium alum is ~450 daltons and potassium alum is ~475 daltons . Call me stupid, but aren't these both under 500 daltons?
 
Consideration should also be given for other factors - Have you just shaved your armpits before applying your crystal deodorant for example? In which case, it’s likely that the skin under your arm is covered in tiny cuts and scratches as a result. While barely visible, these -
Shaving cuts and scratches have the potential to present huge entry points at a molecular level for chemicals to penetrate the skin barrier.
But maybe they are right. Maybe these forms of alum crystal deodorants are safe. But I do know one thing for sure -  I’d rather use a natural deodorant stick that I know IS safe and just as effective for odour control.
 

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEODORANT AND ANTIPERSPIRANT.

Many antiperspirants use aluminium derived chemicals to clog the pores of the skin and prevent sweat from leaving the body. In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires the presence of these potentially harmful chemicals in order to be marketed as “antiperspirants” and sold over-the-counter.
 
Natural deodorants on the other hand, do not block your pores - allowing your skin to breathe and your body to purge toxins in sweat while being just as effective at neutralising bad odour -
So not only are you preventing your body from expelling toxins when using conventional deodorants and antiperspirants, you're loading on more!

IS SODIUM BICARBONATE BAD IN DEODORANT?

Sodium bicarbonate (aka bicarb, baking soda or bicarbonate of soda) is found in many natural deodorants. It is a base with a pH of ~9 and used as an active ingredient for odour control as it raises the natural pH of your armpit, which is typically ~5 (slightly acidic), to create an alkaline environment that inhibits the growth of odour causing bacteria. 
 
Sounds good. So what’s the problem? Well, while bicarb is considered a weak base, it reacts strongly (dissociates readily) in water (hmmm, sweat is water) leading to a rapid acidic to alkaline pH shift, exposing your sensitive armpit skin to potential chemical burn as a result - there’s a reason why bicarb is used as a household cleaning agent.

Sodium bicarbonate in natural deodorant australia


Not surprisingly, this harsh pH shift can often cause skin irritation and -

There have even been reports of darkening of the skin under the armpits for some consumers believed to be attributed to prolonged exposure to sodium bicarbonate.
Sodium bicarbonate is also a white crystalline solid often appearing as a fine powder. Because it is crystalline by nature, it has the potential to over exfoliate your skin as a result of the rubbing motion required when using a natural deodorant stick. Using an abrasive ingredient such as Baking Soda daily on your skin, can amplify its potential to cause irritation and discomfort.
 
So why do brands use it in their natural deodorant products? Simply answer - Because it’s cheap!
 
If you’ve tried a baking soda deodorant, developed a rash or noticed it’s like rubbing fine sandpaper on your pits, a premium magnesium-based deodorant may be best for you. Read on and I’ll explain why.
 

GREENWASHING IN AUSTRALIA. CAN GREENWASHING BE GOOD?

Greenwashing in Australian Natural Body Care industry

What is greenwashing? Put simply, greenwashing is the act of conveying a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally conscious or friendly in an attempt to capitalise on the growing demand for environmentally sound products.
 
This is going to sound crazy but there’s an upside to seeing an unprecedented rise in greenwashing. It tells us that consumers are fed up with business as usual and are looking for healthier, more sustainable and eco-friendly products. Consumers are using their wallets to tell manufacturers and brands what they want and it’s people like you that will be the driving force in the cosmetic industry’s necessary transition to a greener, healthier and more sustainable future.
 
What’s not good, is when you become an unwitting victim of greenwashing. Despite your best intentions to purchase a natural deodorant or similar product you’ve been told is eco-friendly and safe -

You may be buying a product that is still harmful to the planet, your health and inadvertently still becoming part of the problem. 
More often than not, it’s not what the brand tells you, it’s what they choose not to tell you. Knowing this, is very important when it comes to deciding what natural deodorant stick to buy.
 
Interestingly, many of the big e-retailers (not mentioning names) are in the process (right now) of either responding to lost credibility or proactively vetting all their existing suppliers and the products they stock to ensure any health, environmental and sustainability claims made, are accurate and true. Expect to see some positive changes where you may normally shop online with some old brands or products no longer stocked along with new responsible brands and products taking their place.
 

HOW TO AVOID PALM OIL HIDING IN YOUR NATURAL DEODORANT STICK.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees, the scientific name is Elaeis guineensis. It is found in close to 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, everything from pizza, doughnuts and chocolate, to shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant - even some natural deodorants. To meet this demand, a huge industry has developed. Oil palms are grown in many tropical countries, although Indonesia is the largest producer in the world.
 
Problem is, almost all palm oil plantations come at the cost of rainforests as the vast majority of companies cut down rainforests to replace them with hectares upon hectares of monoculture oil palm plantations. This is accelerating climate change, forces people from their traditional lands and is pushing species like the Indonesian orangutans to the edge of extinction.

 

Palm oil plantation

Many natural deodorant sticks may not list palm oil in their ingredients but may still contain ingredients derived from palm oil such as cetearyl alcohol (aka Cetyl Stearyl Alcohol), cetyl alcohol or brassica alcohol as three common examples. Cetearyl Alcohol is one of the most widely used emulsifiers in skincare, and also found as a blend within other emulsifiers. Manufacturers of cetearyl and cetyl alcohol often state that it is made from coconut oil and may use palm oil, but we have yet to find palm-free cetearyl or cetyl alcohol. And while we have found palm free brassica alcohol, it’s understood there is now a supply shortage and this product has largely reverted back to its palm derived alternative. And the fact is, non palm oil alternatives are substantially more expensive and -

If a natural deodorant stick is already using bicarb to cut costs, my guess is they’re also using the cheaper palm oil based ingredients.
There’s only one way to know for sure, and that’s to email the company to confirm that these ingredients are truly palm free.

Our premium range of natural deodorant sticks are a good example. Like a number of other brands, we use Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (also known fractionated coconut or MCT oil) in our formulations to leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. Unfortunately,  this oil can be derived from palm oil but we only use Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride derived from 100% coconut oil by taking the whole coconut oil and separating out the light-weight, liquid triglycerides. Next time you see this oil or any of the other ingredients mentioned above, listed in the ingredients of your next purchase, first ask the company if these ingredients are palm oil free.
 
And beware of the term “sustainable palm oil” being used to market many palm oil based ingredients and products. The self-regulating body that oversees sustainable palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), uses a complex certification scheme (founded in 2004) that allows sustainable and non-sustainable producers to mix product, trade up to sustainable status with a payment, or even be classified sustainable based on a joining fee. Bottom line is - sustainable palm oil is STILL PALM OIL and it’s production is still likely to be having a significant negative impact on the environment. This is inexcusable when companies are more concerned about their profit margins rather than exploring alternative and more sustainable ingredients.
 
The moral of this story is simple -
Avoid any product that contains palm oil, regardless of whether it’s “sustainable palm oil.

NATURAL DEODORANT THAT WORKS. WHAT TO LOOK FOR.

A Natural Deodorant Stick MUST control body odour. If not, brands shouldn’t be labelling their products with the word “De-odor”-ant. Instead, they should be marketing their products as Natural “Ant” Sticks (although that wouldn’t be good for ants) or rather, “Natural Sticks” - because that’s all they really are.
 
Not surprisingly, some people have the impression that natural deodorants don’t work. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it’s simply because they’ve been sold an inferior product that promised the world, but under-delivered. Make sure to look closely at the ingredient label when making your next purchase. You may find a natural deodorant that appears amazing as it’s jam packed with nourishing oils, botanical extracts, pre-pro-post-biotics, essentials oils or even anti-aging fairy dust - but if there isn’t an active ingredient that will actually control body odour -
You’ll just be making a potentially expensive and ultimately disappointing purchase.
natural deodorant that doesn't work

 

It may be assumed as common knowledge, but if you didn’t already know, all product ingredients must also be listed in descending order by weight, including added water. Remember, the first ingredient listed is present in the largest amount by weight. The last ingredient listed is present in the least amount by weight. If you see an active ingredient listed last or near the end of the ingredient list, it’s likely that only a small amount of this active ingredient is present in the product and its ability to control bad odour is likely to be just as ineffective as other products without it.
 
You may ask why some natural deodorants don’t contain active ingredients for odour control? Again, the answer is simple - they’re cheaper to make. These products avoid adding cheap bicarb (an active ingredient) due to its poor reputation while disguising the absence of alternate and more expensive active ingredients, by bedazzling you with everything else in the product.

HOW NATURAL DEODORANT WORKS - THE POWER OF MAGNESIUM HYDROXIDE.

What you should be looking for, is a premium active ingredient to control body odour such as magnesium hydroxide. But don’t just look for it in the ingredient list, make sure it’s listed high up in the descending order of ingredients to ensure it’s not just for show, and that there’s an adequate amount present (by weight) to do the job properly.
 
Unlike baking soda, magnesium hydroxide (a natural mineral salt) has not been found to cause skin irritation, dryness, or skin discoloration. Magnesium hydroxide has a greater, more stable and prolonged buffering capacity than sodium bicarbonate to balance the body’s natural pH and kill odour-causing bacteria without reducing skin moisture or causing skin damage. Compared to bicarb, magnesium hydroxide is less soluble in water and takes longer to fully dissolve in sweat -
This results in a more balanced and gentler approach to adjusting the pH of your armpit to inhibit sweat loving bacteria and control unwanted body odour only when you need it.
Take a look and you’ll find only the very best premium natural ingredients supercharged with pharmaceutical grade (USP) Magnesium Hydroxide in our lux range of natural deodorants.
 

THE TRUTH LIES IN THE PACKAGING - PLASTIC FREE OR IS BIOPLASTIC OK?

Plastic packaging in cosmetic industry australia
If a natural deodorant claims to be “natural”, you’d assume the brand cares not only about the health of the consumer but also the health of our planet. Often you don’t need to look much further than the material of the packaging to realise that a product is not all that it claims to be. If the product is sold in plastic, then we suggest you look at the product’s “natural” and/or other claims with greater scrutiny. Given the range and availability of good quality eco-friendly packaging that is available to manufacturers these days, it could be a safe assumption that if they are choosing the cheaper and less responsible option to present their product in, then chances are what’s inside is reflected by this choice.
 
Not so fun fact - Globally, ~36% of all plastics produced are used in packaging, of which ~85% ends up in landfill (Source – UN environment programme).
 
And while brands may have best intentions using bioplastic to package their products, the infrastructure to deal with them in Australia just isn’t there right now. As a result, bio degradable plastics can contaminate existing plastic recycling (separate recycling streams are necessary) and in landfill, can release the greenhouse gas methane (23 times more potent than carbon dioxide) if deprived of oxygen and the right conditions to biodegrade. The land required for bioplastics can compete with food production.
Our eco-friendly natural deodorant sticks are packaged in plastic free, recyclable and fully compostable push-up tubes made with recycled paper.
 

OTHER BENEFITS OF USING A NATURAL DEODORANT STICK - THE CHERRY ON TOP!

cherry

Unlike conventional antiperspirants and deodorants that have zero health benefits and are likely to be causing your body harm -

Natural deodorants have the added benefit of containing skin loving ingredients.
If you want the cherry on the top, look for a natural deodorant stick that will effectively control body odour AND nourish your body at the same time. Our premium natural deodorant sticks for example, are packed full of amazing skin loving ingredients including, Kakadu plum extract rich in vitamin c, vitamin e and a luxurious organic blend of Australian Macadamia oil, Shea Butter and Jojoba.

THE BEST NATURAL DEODORANT AUSTRALIA

The wrap up -
 
  • A natural deodorant must be effective at odour control.
  • A natural deodorant must not be harmful to your health.
  • Avoid aluminium salts found in conventional antiperspirants and crystal deodorants.
  • Steer clear of natural deodorants containing sodium bicarbonate.
  • Beware of greenwashing.
  • Avoid palm oil, sustainable palm oil or any palm oil derived ingredients (more difficult to identify)
  • A natural deodorant's packaging can tell you a lot
  • Make sure you get the cherry on top!
Regardless of what natural deodorant stick you decide on for your next purchase, one thing’s for certain… you’ll be using it everyday….so take the time to make an educated and conscious purchase for the betterment of your health and the planet. If you’ve read this far, then I believe you will and thanks for reading. 💛
 
If you found this interesting, you may also be interested in our other blog posts -
 
MY PERSONAL PATH TO LOW TOX LIVING - what motivated me to make the switch.
 
WHY I MADE THE SWITCH TO NATURAL DEODORANT PASTE
 
Don't forget to subscribe to our site as we’ll have more blogs to come on this and other exciting subjects from your friends at Totem Eco
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