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Deodorant is one of those things I like to put on and forget about. I want the application to be a breeze (one swipe!), I want it to keep me from sweating, I want it to make me smell clean; and unlike lipstick or mascara, I do mind reapplying. I’ve used Dove’s most basic option in the Fresh Clean scent since high school — it’s nothing fancy, but it does its job.
For those reasons alone I’ve never felt tempted to jump on the very popular natural deodorant boat, along with the fact that I know no matter what any clean beauty expert tells me, my aluminum-filled antiperspirant isn’t going to kill me. The bar has always seemed particularly low for deodorant in particular, with dozens of articles popping up every few months claiming to have “finally” found the ones that “actually” work, each one discrediting the options the other raves about.
But a few months back, I found myself at an all-natural beauty event with a handful of other editors. We were pooled right by a huge display of fancy natural deodorants when our tour of the space ended, and everyone started to point out their favorites. When I was asked which one I loved, I had no answer. The group was collectively (and comically) shocked, but I shouldn’t have been surprised — it’s 2017.
I left the event with a handful of different samples, and because everyone had been so voraciously passionate, I decided to try some out. Maybe I had just been missing something; maybe these were the good ones everyone is always talking about, and I was just holding a grudge for having a roommate in college who, unfortunately for me, swore by Tom’s. (Your own smell, but worse.)
For the next week I tried a different deodorant every day, starting with Lavanila Pure Vanilla Stick. It’s sold at Sephora, Ulta, and Anthropologie, so I thought it would at least not be terrible, but it was! There was no odor protection at all; it just masked my sweat with vanilla. Jason’s Pure Natural Stick went on really wet, took a long time to dry, and smelled more like cleaning products than a fresh body clean. Ursa Major’s No B.S. Deodorant has cute packaging but left my underarms super red and irritated, and I would not call my skin sensitive. Malin + Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant felt like a really, really mean joke: When I put it on I thought we were in for something good, but the scent and hold were gone after maybe 15 minutes. With all four of these products I was pretty self-conscious and embarrassed all day, something I’ve never experienced before. (At least, like, not because of my deodorant.)
The last one I tried, Schmidt’s Bergamot + Lime, I actually liked. I’ve used it before because it’s the kind my boyfriend uses. It did the best job of keeping me sweat-free, dry, and, of course, not smelling like I went running in intense heat by the end of the day. But aside from the fact that you have to scrape it out of a little glass tub, it’s totally discolored my boyfriend’s underarms after a year of use, and I found that that’s actually a common issue with the product.
I don’t like to think about deodorant. I shouldn’t have to! But having to think — overthink, really — was the common thread between every natural option I tried. Thinking about if it was time to reapply, if it was too late and everyone could already smell me, if this test was really worth it. I hated it all, but at least I tried.
I’m a firm believer in not fixing what isn’t broken, and my Dove works just fine, even if it’s not #trendy or cute enough to put on Instagram along with my fancy candles and perfumes. And as long as facts are on my side — with everyone from the American Cancer Society to Cancer Research UK asserting there is no solid evidence that the aluminum in antiperspirants cause breast cancer or have any other rumored health risks — I’m sticking with what I know works.