I’m going to come out and say it, I’m a pretty sweaty gal. Not for no reason, but you know, a quick walk to the shops or ten minutes into a yoga class, I understand why those towelling headbands were so popular in the ‘80s.
For this reason, I’ve always used industrial strength deodorant brands – usually, the ones made for men, because #pinktax. Since I’ve been working with the Aurora team, I’ve been inspired to look towards more natural solutions for many things in my life, so I’ve been thinking about natural deodorant for a while now. When I started working from home, the perfect opportunity presented itself: make the switch to natural deodorant.
I had tried this experiment before, with no luck. My pre-lockdown life had me leaving home at 8 am and coming back at 9 pm or later, usually either teaching or practising a yoga class in between. So, I never felt comfortable enough to take the risk of maybe smelling gross in public.
Once I started working from home, I saw the opportunity. There’s nobody here to smell me except my long-suffering boyfriend (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry) and I’m never more than 5 steps away from my shower (city living at its finest).
Like any diligent writer, I began with the research phase. First, I came across the differences between deodorant and antiperspirant, which can be summed up like this: antiperspirants contain aluminium which blocks your sweat glands, so you smell good because you’re not sweating under your arms. Or boobs, I won’t judge where you put your antiperspirant. Deodorants don’t stop you from sweating, but sweat actually doesn’t smell at all, it’s the bacteria on the skin that reacts with sweat to smell bad. So they just work to cover that smell. I know, it’s even grosser than we thought.
Since I was using antiperspirant before, this was going to be a bigger change for me than for those who spray on vanilla-scented Impulse in the mornings.
I kept researching. And then I came across something that thrilled me even less than the thought of stinky bacteria living in my nooks and crannies. There were many, many, many articles about how your body takes 10 days or so to ‘detox’. Being a woman of science, I cringe at that word. Medical professionals and scientists have long held that there are a few organs in your body responsible for detoxing. Angela Ballard from the International Hyperhidrosis Society says “Sweat glands reside in your skin and aren’t connected to the waste-elimination systems in your body — you have your kidneys, liver, lungs, and digestive system for that.”
So what’s the story with detoxing my underarms? Well, New York-based dermatologist Dr Joshua Zeichnersays, “If you stop using aluminium, salt-based antiperspirants, your skin will naturally shed the aluminium from the sweat glands over time.” Less of a detox and more of a… shedding?
Either way, I was expecting things to get worse before they got better. And boy, did they get worse.
For the first few days, I used the Crystal Fresh deodorant stick and when I felt I needed a bit more heavy-duty protection, I added Lush’s Greeench deodorant powder. But since I wasn’t used to feeling moisture under my arms, it felt weird. The idea of a tight shirt touching my wet armpits was too scary to think about, but luckily it was still warm enough to wear sleeveless tops or baggy tees. The smell was definitely worse than I’ve experienced on my own body before, so I hopped in the shower at least twice a day
About 10 days later – hey, maybe those detox people we onto something – I started to feel less smelly and normal again. Or maybe my sense of smell stopped working and I just got used to it… Either way, I stopped thinking about my armpits every minute of the day, which freed me up to do a lot of other things, like cutting my own hair and baking sticky toffee pudding.
Now, I can get through a whole work (from home) day and a yoga class before I start feeling uncomfortable, and even then, probably no more than I would have felt before.
It’s been nine weeks now and I haven’t gone back to my industrial-strength stuff. I still mostly use the crystal, which I’m not convinced does anything at all, except make me feel better by putting something under my arms in the morning. I’ll use the Lush powder when I need to head out for a big shop or some other sweat-inducing activity, thanks to its tea tree scent and physical absorbent properties.
Will I stick to natural deodorant in future? Definitely. While researchers have found no link between breast cancer and aluminium antiperspirants, considering how many chemicals we are already exposed to every day, it can’t hurt to play it safe, right?
The benefits to the planet are much more obvious. Since they’re natural products no harmful chemicals are making their way into our eco-systems, both in production and use. Then there’s the packaging: the Lush powder lasts several months and comes in a recycled container you return to the store. The crystal says it lasts up to a year, so imagine the massive reduction in transport from factory to store to home on that one.
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Mimi has lived in Cape Town long enough to pick up every cliche possible. She works in advertising by day and has three side hustles: teaching yoga (to help people be less kak towards themselves), volunteering for a women’s organisation (less kak towards each other), and Aurora (less kak to the environment).