Switching to a natural deodorant sounds easy enough, but with new products coming out every day and an uptick in posts related to “armpit detoxing” swarming social media in recent years, you may have a question or two about the process.

What’s with the growing interest in natural deodorant? Well, traditional antiperspirants can contain ingredients like aluminum, which has been shown to cause “gene instability” in breast tissue that may lead to the growth of tumors or cancer cells. Although the National Cancer Institute website states that “no scientific evidence links the use of these products to the development of breast cancer,” even the idea that your deodorant can cause cancer is enough to make anyone nervous (the institute goes on to say that additional research is needed to determine whether a relationship between antiperspirants and cancer exists). Other concerning ingredients to look out for include parabens, triclosan, phthalates and artificial fragrances.

Related: This skincare and natural deodorant is made from apple cider vinegar

These traditional deodorant compounds essentially clog sweat ducts in order to block the sweat and odor from leaching through the skin, which may or may not be healthy, depending on who you ask. Either way, your armpits could always do with a little extra love.

homemade armpit detox mask on marble background

What is an armpit detox, and do you need one?

Enter the armpit detox, the purpose of which is to rid the body of toxins that traditional antiperspirants leave behind over time in the sweat glands. Armpit detoxing can help wean a person off of duct-clogging antiperspirants and prepare them for a more natural approach toward botanical-based, natural deodorants. If you’re concerned about the idea of harmful chemicals like aluminum causing health issues, or if you just like the idea of adding more natural products into your beauty routine, it might be time for an armpit detox.

Rebecca So, an expert in natural deodorant and armpit detoxing, says that while detoxing takes time and diligence, the results are worth it. Her company, Sway, makes natural deodorant with apple cider vinegar to restore the armpit’s natural pH balance, minimizing odor-causing bacteria. “Most natural deodorants are made with heavy baking soda, which is very alkaline. Since our skin is naturally acidic, many people might experience itchiness, irritation, and even rashes from using these natural deodorants,” So told Inhabitat. “That’s why SWAY is gentle on our skin since it is made with organic, raw apple cider vinegar. It works by balancing our skin’s pH.”

The company makes a whole range of products that aid in the armpit detoxification process, including a freshening dusting powder that controls odor as well as a charcoal mask that helps adjust skin pH and removes product build-up to speed up the process.

Other types of armpit detox masks, like ones containing calcium bentonite clay believed to draw out toxic build-ups in the armpits and even improve digestion and clear skin issues, have gained popularity. There are even probiotic-enhanced products that claim to balance your armpit’s skin microbiome.

natural deodorant ingredients on wood table

Ingredients are important

We’ve already covered which ingredients to avoid, but with so many options for natural deodorants on the market, what ingredients should you be looking for? So says your best bet is with a water-based and residue-free option. “Most natural deodorants are heavy with starchy ingredients (tapioca, arrowroot powder), coconut oil, shea butter, which leaves residues or stains on our skin and clothes,” she explains. Look for something with natural, active ingredients like kaolin clay and eucalyptus that can neutralize underarm odor, as well as antibacterial ingredients like tea tree oil.

Resources like EWG can help provide ratings for clean personal care products, too. Users can look up reviews for specific deodorant products as well as toxicity concern levels and animal testing policies.

person holding antiperspirant and natural deodorant

What to expect when transitioning to natural deodorant

The side effects of armpit detoxing can be … well … stinky, and it can take up to a month for the body to regulate itself after coming off conventional antiperspirants. Underarm odor actually isn’t caused by sweat itself, but rather the bacteria that grows on sweat. The idea of detoxing is to remove the aluminum that has been plugging up your sweat glands and releasing waste that has been blocked. It’s a natural process, but it may come with some body odors that you may not be used to.

“When going through the transition process, make sure you drink plenty of water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables,” So recommends. “And stick to one brand and one formula, and not switch around (e.g. don’t use one brand for days you want to go work out and days when you are chilling at home). This won’t help to adjust the pH of your skin.”

Considering the sheer amount of natural deodorant products available today, it is easier than ever to make the switch. Plus, with social distancing in place, there’s never been a better time to spend a few weeks with less-than-ideal armpit smells as you transition to natural deodorant.

Images via Adobe Stock