Get Well

I (Finally) Switched To Natural Deodorant — And Here’s How It Went

by Susie Benitez

If you want to know the whole truth, this journey actually started about 18 months ago when one of my best friends switched to natural deodorant. She was the first person I knew to make the switch so I had a lot of questions. What was it like? How does it smell? Do you smell? Does it work? What followed next stayed with me much longer than she could have imagined.

She began telling me about her first days using natural deodorant. She was sweating a lot — like a lot, a lot. She’s no stranger to sweat, especially due to her fierce workout habits, but this time it wouldn’t stop. She was sweating through her all of her clothes, even her thick sweaters. Taken aback by this sudden, dramatic change in her body, she began to do some research.

It turns out that aluminum is a major ingredient in most conventional deodorants, specifically antiperspirants, and it works by basically clogging your sweat glands and blocking the sweat from reaching the surface of your skin. Once you take out the aluminum, everything starts to unclog and your body starts to self-regulate. “I was basically going through a detox,” she explained to me. “Everything was coming out.”

Detox. That word really stuck with me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was clogging my pores with aluminum every single day. Aluminum? That sounds awful. Though not conclusive, some research shows that aluminum exposure can also be linked to endocrine disruption, an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, and even an increased risk of breast cancer. Freaked out, I bought the first natural deodorant I could find, but its unfavorable application (it came in a jar so you had to apply with your fingers) meant that I didn’t last in the natural-deo world very long. I switched back, but I couldn’t get that conversation out of my head.

Since then, I’ve become hyper-aware of my armpits and for nearly two years, I was bugged by this, but I lived with it. I knew I wanted to make the change eventually, I just needed the perfect storm.

It wasn’t until I arrived at The Chill Times almost four months ago that the topic of natural deodorant became a fixture in everyday conversation. I’d never been in an environment where a conversation about your armpits was so honest and open! So when Raven, our Editorial Director, introduced me to a brand called, Blume it didn’t take long before we both were completely obsessed. Not only was the aesthetic adorable but the mission of the company was completely unique.

Blume is all about celebrating womanhood — especially the less than favorable aspects like menstruation, acne, and armpits. When creating their products, they have a very specific clientele in mind: girls going through puberty. If they can take that pivotal time in a girl’s life and use it to empower and inform them on what’s going on with their changing bodies, those girls will grow into strong, confident women who “are eager to become the very best version of themselves.” The two creators of Blume, sisters Taran and Bunny, asked themselves a key question: “Is the silent treatment society gives periods and puberty, somehow connected to the shame girls grow up feeling about their bodies?” They quickly realized the answer was a resounding “yes!”

Blume isn’t out to hide anything from you, in fact, they want to make it all as transparent as possible, from their products (100 percent organic, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, BPA chemical free), to the language that surrounds their mission. It’s all approachable, fun, and dare I say, pretty exciting, even as someone who is (thankfully) past puberty.

Perhaps what excited me the most though, were the ingredients in this deodorant. Hug Me (that’s the name — remember what I said about being adorable?) is made with organic ingredients like coconut oil, candelilla wax, and jojoba oil, but its featured ingredient is something I’d never heard before: probiotics. Yes, I said probiotics, like what you find in yogurt and supplement pills. There’s plenty of bacteria that live under our arms, so when that bacteria come into contact with our perspiration, the breakdown of those sweat molecules is what causes that familiar, and unwelcome, odor. Unlike aluminum and other chemicals, probiotics (which basically translates to “good bacteria”) are supposed to work with your body to fight odor, not against it, by helping your body produce more good bacteria. Plus, using natural ingredients means less irritation and no deodorant stains on your clothes. The more I looked into this product and this brand, the more they kept convincing me.

After sitting on the fence for about two weeks, I decided it was time to make the switch. Here’s how it went.

Week One

“Alright, here goes!” I thought to myself as I went to apply my first swipe of Hug Me. I think somewhere in my mind I was expecting instant results, but logically, I knew this was the beginning of what I hoped to be a detox journey. And I have to admit, that journey started out very… slowly. Day one consisted of a lot of sniff-checks but zero results. No smell, no sweat, no bumps, nothing. Maybe there wasn’t an adjustment period after all?

The next day, those thoughts were cleared right up. I actually spent the next three days feeling very (warning: please excuse this word) moist. Sure, I was back home in Miami so the heat could’ve had something to do with it, but I felt myself sweating a lot, which is something I have not had to deal with in my adult life (middle school is a different story). Thankfully, it was never to the point where I became uncomfortable or the sweat became visible. In fact, the thought of all the toxins leaving my body was enough for me to actually kind of enjoy these days. Although I was sweating a lot more than usual, I felt cleaner.

Days five and six were uneventful — so much so that I actually forgot I had switched to natural deodorant altogether! The adjustment period was over, I guess. Not too much to report but, I had succeeded! I couldn’t wait to explain my relatively easy transition to the team.

Week Two

I’m just going to be totally honest here: week one Susie was naive. I look back at her and laugh. This, my friends, is where the fun really began.

On the flight back to NYC, I smelled it. “But my adjustment period is over!” Although it had been a while since I’d smelled it, the scent was familiar and triggered a long-forgotten type of anxiety, the kind I hadn’t felt since I was a pre-teen. “It must be all this turbulence,” I told myself, blaming it literally on anything else. “Nervous sweat smells different, right?”

Monday marked the first time I wore Hug Me to work. I was heading to a concert afterward, so I knew I wasn’t going to change out of my outfit. I decided to be comfortable (read: warm) and wear a sweatshirt and jeans, which is what I wear on most days during the winter. It was a normal day at the office, but it didn’t even cross my mind to sniff-check until it was almost time to head out. At about 5:30 pm I took a whiff and — woah. An hour into the show, in all honesty, I cannot recall a time where I smelled this bad. Right then and there, I threw off my sweatshirt and switched it for the t-shirt I had just bought at the merch table. I tied the sweatshirt around my waist and kept dancing, although this time with my arms a lot closer to my body.

For the next few days, I smelled bad. Just plain bad. Determined to see this through until the bitter end, I did not reach for my old antiperspirant– freeing my body of aluminum and other toxins were worth a few days of funk.

However, by the third day, I was hitting peak levels of self-consciousness. The sniff-checks were growing more and more frequent — and I grew more and more nervous. The worries of, “Is it really bad? Can they smell me?” were in full force and starting to consume my thoughts. I finally had to bring it up to my coworkers. “Guys,” I started tentatively, “so I switched to natural deodorant and…” I told them everything. “Is this… normal?

The response was overwhelmingly positive and understanding (which I can’t say was completely unexpected! I <3 my team). After the initial, “wait, how long ago did you start?” I was comforted by a slew of, “oh honey, that happens to everyone. It can take a looong time.” They all had their stories — how long it took, what they did to cope, which deodorants worked for them (and which didn’t). And on top of it all, they assured me: they could not smell me one bit.

This prompted a deep examination of my feelings on the topic of sweat, smell, and armpits in general. Everything I had been feeling this week was so painfully familiar. This was not the first time I struggled with underarm-related anxiety. As I briefly mentioned earlier, I was a middle schooler (and high schooler, to be honest) who struggled with sweat and all the other armpit-related woes that come with a changing body. Picking outfits based on how much it could show sweat stains (my friend Sofia and I often joke that we haven’t worn light grey in YEARS), how much it could trap odor — it all came rushing back to me.* I viscerally remembered how it felt to worry about what other people have to say, and worse, what they’re not telling me.

I wished I had not only a community like my coworkers around me during that time, but the confidence to talk about it openly and honestly. I also wish I had a brand like Blume working to normalize something so, well, normal —especially to an age group that’s so impressionable. If there was a brand spreading such a positive message about my body when I was going through such “weird” changes, I’d have greatly appreciated it. That acceptance was missing, and it led to a whole lot of anxiety and shame surrounding what were, of course, completely normal changes. Even now as a young woman who is a lot less self-conscious than she was as a pre-teen, I still greatly appreciate this positive presence.

Week Three

The end of week two was uneventful. The smell started to get weaker, but it was definitely still there. My friends and coworkers all knew what I was doing and by now it had just become a joke. The loud proclamation of, “I SMELL!” always got a laugh, and while that took a lot of the pressure off, I was just getting tired of it all! I wanted to smell good! Was that too much to ask?!

On day 18, I was particularly driven. This had to end now.

A conversation with friends about something completely different led me to my solution. A dear friend confessed to us how she was desperate to rid herself of a recent slew of chin breakouts. Our group chat was set aflame with both support and recommendations (shoutout, ladies!). Although I had never used it myself, I recommended the famous “Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask” after I had seen a former roommate completely transform her complexion. Another friend heartily agreed — and added something else. “I also use it to detox my armpits,” she divulged. Wait, wait, wait, could this be… it?

Within seconds, I typed “armpit detox” into Google and lo and behold, a treasure trove of information on the subject. How had I never heard of this?!

Detoxing your armpits basically helps speed up the detox process that happens when making the switch to natural deodorant. The directions are incredibly simple: mix one part Bentonite clay (the Aztec mask’s main ingredient) with one part apple cider vinegar, add a few drops of water to improve the texture and apply under your arms for about 5-20 minutes like you would a regular clay face mask. The clay helps unclog pores and tissues on a deeper level than just soap and water, and the antibacterial properties in the ACV help remove odor-causing bacteria. Doing this could alleviate so many of the issues that spring up when switching to natural deodorants, like excessive sweat, irritation, and odor. I was shocked. It sounded exactly like what I needed.

After warning my roommates about what I was going to do and explaining it to them in great detail (we’re close, alright?!) I made my mix, spread it on, and after about 10 minutes, hopped in the shower to rinse off. Afterward, I felt a little dry and irritated, but I knew that was part of the process as the mask can cause redness due to increased blood-flow and is particularly drying. I put a little lotion under my arms, threw on a sweatshirt, and fell asleep. None of that sounds very out of the ordinary except for the fact that I never sleep in sweatshirts, but I was extremely cold and decided to just keep it on. When I woke up, I was amazed.

I didn’t sweat. The whole night, I didn’t sweat one bit. I was astounded. As someone who sometimes sweats in their sleep without wearing a sweatshirt, this was huge. I continued my day as normal, albeit very hopeful, and by the end of the day, not only was there no moisture but oh baby, THERE WAS NO STINK. I showed up to the office the next day absolutely raving about armpit detoxing. I didn’t smell anymore! Hallelujah!

I did the mask one more time just to be sure, but by day 20, everything seemed to finally balance out. I was not 100 percent perfect (at the very end of the day, I caught the faintest whiff but after a long day, that’s totally normal!), but I’d take the solid 90 percent that I felt I had reached The sense of accomplishment I felt was incredible, but what really felt great was knowing that I was officially a natural-deo gal.

The Takeaway

Overall, I would say my experience was a positive one, especially after learning how common this experience is. This week marks my first month using Hug Me and I’m not going to stop any time soon. A major plus? No stains on my shirts! There is no smell to the product, which I also don’t mind because many natural deodorants are scented like rose and lavender (let’s just say they’re not my fave). The application wasn’t as smooth as many conventional deodorants, but in a way, I almost felt better about that because it wasn’t building up on my skin nearly as much, if at all.

For someone who’s already into the natural-deo lifestyle, I would say Hug Me is a great choice. No irritation, completely natural, and it simply just works. If you haven’t yet made the switch to natural deodorant, I honestly still recommend it for the very same reasons — as long as you’re aware that there is an adjustment period if you do decide to make the switch. Another huge bonus: the price point. Alternatives to conventional deodorant can be expensive, and at $12, this one is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum.

More than anything though, I would say that the fact that I’m using a product that is better for my body, and sold by a company that genuinely cares about my body, outweighs any of the possible negatives. You can’t really put a price on feeling supported, understood, and informed by a very welcoming community — no matter what age you are.

Bye-bye, aluminum! I won’t miss you.

*This would have been the perfect time to mention armpit hair, but I underwent laser treatments to have it, as well as my lower legs, upper lip, and other parts of my body, permanently removed when I was 18. I had my own reasons for doing so and I think that’s a different story on its own. However, while it’s not something I deal with on a day-to-day basis anymore, that type of anxiety is so similar to what I was feeling during this time. I think body hair is a topic of its own. If you’re interested in learning more about that, you can read our story “Diary of a Hairy Girl” here.

This post was sponsored by Blume. However, we believe in providing authentic opinions and thoughts about all products or services.  

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