A month ago I switched to a natural deodorant. I was gifted the GoBo natural deodorant and I now have no intention of going back to ‘normal’ antiperspirants. Without going in to icky detail I wanted to share why, and the results so far.
A few years ago a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. With the support of her family and a lot of medication, she made a remarkable recovery. One day in the bathroom I noticed her post surgery recovery plan which included switching to a natural deodorant. Then, other friends started talking to me how they’d also switched to a natural deodorant for ‘health reasons’.
I am not too worried about the chemicals in my skincare; I trust in science. However, I don’t like the idea of applying chemicals which have side effects, if I can easily avoid them.
How do antiperspirants and natural deodorants work?
All antiperspirants contain aluminium. Technically, the only “antiperspirant” ingredients approved by the FDA are aluminum salts. So, by definition, there are no aluminum-free antiperspirants.
Antiperspirants use aluminum to block sweat glands from stimulating sweat. Meanwhile, aluminum-free deodorants contain antibacterial ingredients to kill odour-causing bacteria that live off sweat protein. In short, a natural deodorant prevents the odour, while an antiperspirant blocks the sweat.
Is natural deodorant actually better for you?
Is aluminium even a problem? While I don’t like the idea of wiping my skin with metal, do aluminium based antiperspirants actually do you any harm?
In short, there are no studies to prove aluminium in antiperspirants is harmful. There is no evidence to suggest aluminum deodorants can cause breast cancer.
But I still didn’t like the idea of blocking my sweat glands if there was a gentler, yet effective solution. I just don’t see the point of adding chemicals to my body if there is another way.
Detoxing aluminium from your underarms can also help rid the body of product buildup. It is this buildup which can make the smell worse and deodorants less effective. So all in all, for a longer term solution, a natural deodorant seemed like a good way to go.
My thoughts on GoBo
I trialled a brand called GoBo. It’s the UK’s first AHA based deodorant.
All in all, I’m very happy. After an initial unsuccessful attempt with a crystal stick I’d given up on natural deodorants, but for me at least GoBo seems to work.
I’m currently enjoying spring in the UK, so let’s see how I get on in summer in Uruguay.
For now at least, I have been pleasantly surprised. When I take my shirt off at night it doesn’t smell. It doesn’t smell good or bad… it just doesn’t smell.
How to use
I learned that traditional, aluminium based antiperspirants should actually be applied at night. At night, body temperature drops, which means you sweat less. When sweat glands are less active, the ducts can better absorb the aluminum-based active ingredient in the antiperspirant. Overnight, the product has time to sink in and block sweat ducts. In the morning, sweat glands are more active, and it is harder for the active ingredients to penetrate skin and do their stuff.
Natural deodorants are more versatile. In contrast to anti-perspirants, natural deodorant can be applied whenever you want, including straight after a shower, in the morning and throughout the day.
If you’re on the go, travelling and are feeling a bit pongy, you can top up with GoBo. GoBo instantly neutralises the odour. Meanwhile an antiperspirant shouldn’t be used so regularly, and it wouldn’t be effective. You can even use GoBo under your boobs, behind your knees.. anywhere you need a refresh.
What is the most effective natural deodorant?
As I say, until now the only natural deodorants I’ve tried were crystal sticks that didn’t work for me. There is an adjustment stage, and perhaps I didn’t detox for long enough, but I just couldn’t get on with crystal sticks.
I have been nicely surprised with GoBo. I was wary, but I’d read good stuff so I thought to give it a go.
GoBo is the UK’s first AHA based deodorant. In case you were wondering, AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid. These acids include glycolic which GoBo is based on.
Let me get a bit techie for a moment…
Normal human armpits have a pH of 5.5-6.5, which is the perfect environment for pongy bacteria to flourish. AHAs, meanwhile, usually have a lower pH (around 3-4). So by lowering the pH of your armpits, you can neutralize the pesky bacteria causing the odour in the first place.
Right, so can you just use any old glycolic acid on your bathroom shelf? Not so fast – some acid concentrations can irritate skin and some formulas can be sticky. Non active ingredients could also contain “food” for bacteria, making them counterproductive.
What happens when you stop using aluminum deodorant?
Apparently for people like me who have used an antiperspirant for years, it can take two 2-4 weeks to get rid of all of the aluminum in your armpits. During this time, you might be a little stinkier than normal.
I had heard about this adjustment phase, where your armpits get used to the aluminium-free detox. In my case, unlike my trial with a crystal rock which was a smelly no go, when I used GoBO I didn’t notice I was smelling more than usual (I asked my mum just to double check it wasn’t just me!)
I didn’t go through any lengthy smelly phase that some people talk about. I did sometimes feel I was sweating more though. Natural deodorant doesn’t block the sweat; it prevents the smell.
The only change I really felt was that my skin no longer felt itchy like it would sometimes after using a traditional anti-perspirant.
What is the healthiest deodorant?
Some would say that the healthiest deodorant is no deodorant, but for someone who is moving to sunny South America soon, this is a step too far.
GoBo is aluminium, paraben, alcohol and essential oil free. So it’s a great choice for anyone worried about the side effects of chemicals in their system. While you’d need to check with your doctor, anyone recovering from breast surgery might want to check it out too.
For me, the biggest benefit of switching to a natural deodorant has been the end of ingrown hairs. I use an epilator to remove hair, and I often get itchy lumps where hairs would grow inwards on themselves. I always put it down to the epilator, and I’d dig around with a tweezer to remove coiled hairs (sorry, too much information?), but now I don’t have that problem any more.
GoBo also claims to fade dark pigmentation caused by shaving, but as I don’t shave I can’t comment.
Do I need to detox my armpits?
I made the switch to a natural deodorant without any detox. However online you’ll hear people extolling the benefits of a bentonite clay + apple cider vinegar clay mask beforehand. This mask is said to draw out toxins, giving a cleaner slate upon which to switch to a natural deodorant.
If you do try a detox mask, do let me know how you get on in the comments below. I haven’t seen the point personally – the switch to a natural deodorant seems to be enough, but I’m curious to hear from others.
Do you smell worse with natural deodorant?
Not necessarily. I think (hope!) I don’t smell any different. The only difference is that you will sweat more, but it won’t smell.
We have been conditioned into thinking that sweating is wrong, unladylike or gross, when sweat is totally natural. Sweating is normal, ladies!
Anything else I can do to prevent body odour?
I’ve lived in Angola, Syria and Lebanon. In the height of summer without aircon I probably wasn’t the freshest person to be around. For me the following helped:
- Wearing a base layer. It sounds daft to recommend wearing a vest in hot weather, but a cotton vest acts as a second skin, absorbing the sweat and allowing it to evaporate naturally.
- Wearing natural fibres. Yes to linen and cotton (preferably loose mesh), no to polyester and other synthetics. Sleeping on natural cotton sheets helps, too. Unless I’m working out, I really try to avoid synthetics in hot countries.
- Wearing lighter colours. Dark colours absorb the heat, while light colours reflect it.
- Washing really smelly clothes inside out. This way you / your machine can get to where the stench is.
- Drinking more water. Water is the best way to flush out toxins and dilutes the smell.
Just to underline though, sweating is natural! It’s your body’s way of lowering your temperature and flushing out toxins. There is a difference to how we smell naturally and stinking of BO.
GoBo natural deodorant ingredients
For anyone curious, here is a list of GoBo’s ingredients (all vegan):
- Aqua – water
- Glycolic acid – AHA (kills off smell causing bacteria, see above)
- Sodium bicarbonate – baking soda, wards off bad smells
- Arrowroot – absorbs moisture
- Guar Gum – acts as a thickener and prebiotic (promotes the growth of friendly, non smell causing bacteria)
- Vegetable Glycerine – keeps skin hydrated
My version also contains:
- rosewater – soothing and healing
- sorbic acid – a natural preservative