Everyone is switching to this 'natural' deodorant—but does it actually work?
My underarms and body have thanked me.
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Two of my greatest fears are smelling and having pit stains in public. In fact, I’m so nervous about getting sweat stains that it probably makes me stress sweat anyway. This fear has me using extra strength antiperspirant and even trying “stronger” men’s deodorant in hopes of avoiding embarrassing wet blobs around my underarms.
But I’ve been trying to incorporate more natural and sustainable products into my life, so switching from regular deodorant to a natural one seemed like my next transition. Native, a natural deodorant company, popped on my radar for its minimalistic design, rave reviews, and its unique-sounding fragrance selection.
Not only had I seen ads for this natural deodorant basically everywhere, but after reading reviews claiming "it's the best natural deodorant out there" and hearing from friends and coworkers that they were glad they switched, I had to try it for myself and see what all the hype was about.
Back in my middle school, I attempted using Tom’s of Maine natural deodorant, but, alas, it was no match for my strong, pubescent pits and turned me off these sort of products. Just like Tom's, Native deodorant is aluminum-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free and cruelty-free, and I was bent on finding out if it was smell-free and sweat-free, too.
After procuring a few samples from Native, I wore it for a month to see if it worked as well as my go-to Dove maximum strength antiperspirant. The box I got came with three scents: Cucumber & Mint, Coconut & Vanilla, and Lavender & Rose. For the sake of testing, I stuck with their most popular scent—Coconut & Vanilla—for a month, but they all smell amazing. This, like all Native deodorants, uses ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter to moisturize, tapioca starch to keep your armpits dry, and baking soda and magnesium hydroxide to neutralize odor.
Natural deodorant vs. antiperspirant
Native gives their new customers a fair warning that it can take up to 14 days to get the maximum effectiveness out of Native when making the switch. Needless to say, I was worried about sweating and smelling for the first two weeks of my test.
But Meng Li, VP of Marketing at Native, explained to me that the transition period is natural, especially for someone who used antiperspirant prior to the switch to natural deodorant. Antiperspirant uses aluminum to block sweat ducts, which can take time (as long as two weeks) to leave the body after you stop using it.
“When people are using antiperspirant and making the switch to a natural deodorant, what we'll often hear from them is that they'll feel extra wetness or it feels very different because of that process of not using aluminum,” Li said. “It can take time for those ducts to get unplugged and adjust to a natural deodorant.”
Although research on whether aluminum is harmful to our health isn’t definitive, there’s something about putting natural products on my body that feels more, well, natural. Li explained that although there are studies out there that link aluminum to cancer, Native has not done these studies themselves, and therefore cannot and does not make these claims. However, they are a proponent of using more natural products.
“In general, there's this concept of using this synthetic material to prevent your body from doing what it's meant to do naturally,” she said. “It's something in general that isn't great.”
Li also told me that baking soda—an ingredient in Native used to block order and absorb wetness—can irritate some skin, but any redness should go away as your body adjusts to the baking soda. Although I never experienced this during my test, it's something to keep in mind if you have sensitive skin.
What it's like to use a natural deodorant
With these warnings in mind, I began my own transition to Native. My first thought upon opening my first stick was that the formula applied just like a “normal” deodorant, though it felt a little harder and less smooth. Bonus: I didn’t find any streaks or white marks on my clothing either. The coconut scent was also less overwhelming than the typical drugstore deodorant I use.
Throughout my trial run, I used Native every day. For the sake of testing, I only applied Native once in the morning on regular days, and one additional time before my workouts. It stood up to long days in the office, workouts, a particularly stressful flight, and even a two and a half hour hike in Los Angeles. Before I entered a room, I warned everyone and their mother that I was testing a deodorant and to please tell me if I smelled. No one mentioned anything to me about my odor, which means either they were too polite or my smell wasn’t that noticeable or unpleasant.
The sweet smell of the deodorant unfortunately went away within two hours—but I was thankfully left with a neutral scent rather than pit stank—a major win in my book.
In terms of sweat, I did feel like my underarms were wetter than usual, but not enough to create massive pit stains. I suppose that’s what our bodies were “naturally” meant to do, and I never felt overly sweaty during my testing period.
“Ultimately what we tell people is that you will sweat,” Li said. “When you use natural deodorant, you're not blocking the sweat ducts, so you will sweat.”
What I liked about Native deodorant
- Feels more natural and "wholesome"
- Applies like typical deodorant
- Holds up to my daily life
- Incredible scents to choose from
- Available in stores and online
What I found lacking about Native deodorant
- The nice smell goes away after about two hours
- My pits felt very wet after switching (initially)
- More expensive than drugstore deodorant
How I felt after using Native deodorant for a month
After the two-week transition process was over, I did notice that my armpits were a little less wet, but there really wasn’t anything particularly life-changing about using Native. It worked just like any normal deodorant would—which I would consider a success.
Although the wetness never fully went away, you do get used to the feeling and it does seem to lessen over time. In fact, I think that because my sweat ducts weren’t clogged with aluminum, I was actually less susceptible to massive sweat stains as I did while using antiperspirant. It’s as if, because my pits were freer, they didn’t overflow with stress sweat when the time came.
Native is a little more expensive compared to drugstore deodorant (around $12 a stick), but I'll stick with it in my daily life. To me, the use of natural products and the sweet smell of coconut is completely worth it. Plus, they have new scents every season, like Vanilla & Rose or Aloe & Eucalyptus, and they make other natural products too, like toothpaste, soap, and body wash.
Where to buy Native deodorant
You can order Native deodorant directly from their site and purchase individual sticks or sample packs. And if you really love it, you can save 17% with their subscribe-and-save program and never worry about running out. Shipping can take up to seven days (but it's free!). The scent options include seasonal selections and "classic" scents that are more robust than what you'll find in stores. They even offer custom scents where you take a quick quiz and they make you your own bar based on your answers.
What I really loved about Native, though, is how easy it is to buy in stores, which is rare for direct-to-consumer online brands like this. You can find it while on a Target run for $11.99, or you can get it at Walmart for $11.97. You can also order it from Amazon in select scents for $11.99. Although the scent selection may be smaller at these stores, it's really convenient when you're in a pinch and don't want to be a smelly mess while you wait for your seasonal or custom scents.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.