The Anti In Antiperspirants
Why We're Not Against Sweating
Sweat. It’s our body’s way of cooling us down and preventing us from overheating. It’s natural for us humans—dogs and cats, too—so why does sweat get such a bad rep?
Sweat isn’t what makes us stinky. As we discuss in our Natural Deodorant 101 blog, body odor is the result of skin microbes feasting on the proteins and fats in our sweat. It’s the byproduct (or bacteria poo) that causes the smell.
Just like our skin, our scent can depend on genetics, age, diet, and what’s going on in our lives. Sweat from exercise or walking around on a hot day results in a different smell than the sweat we produce when we are stressed. One study has hypothesized that “stress sweat” contains an additional chemical that’s particularly off-putting to others.
We get it. Sweat can be stressful! But the thing is, sweating is a necessary bodily process. In fact, sweat and BO were viewed as a totally acceptable thing up until the early 1900s. When one company couldn’t sell enough of its new invention, an antiperspirant called “Odor-oh-no,” they decided to employ a copywriter to help get the word out about their product. That marketing initiative launched a campaign shaming women into thinking their stench was making them unpopular, implying that in order to “keep a man,” you had better wear an antiperspirant. The financial success of this marketing strategy was quickly adopted by competitors and continues to be employed by the beauty industry today.
As we’ve discussed in our blog posts about aging gratefully, sex, and representation in natural beauty, we don’t think shame has any place in advertising or the beauty industry (or anywhere for that matter). Rather than make you feel bad so you’ll buy something from us, we provide an array of deodorant options and the information to help you decide what works best for you. So if you DO want to wear deodorant, you can use something made from plants and minerals that works WITH your body chemistry and won’t disrupt its innate physiology.
NATURAL DEODORANT AND “DETOX”
Speaking of innate physiology, the human body employs a number of different organs and systems to keep free from toxins—but sweating isn’t one of them. In an article published by Harvard Medical School, the myth of “detoxing” through sweat lodges, trendy diets, and cleanses is debunked. Beyond maintaining “a healthful diet, adequate fluid intake, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and all recommended medical check-ups,” they recommend relying on nothing more than the body’s natural systems to effectively process and expel any toxins.
We get a lot of questions about whether or not people need to “detox” their armpits when they switch from conventional to natural deodorants. The short answer is “no.” If you find something that is a good fit for you, it should work right away. You might notice some changes—this is more about an “adjustment” phase than it is about “detoxing.” Sweating might feel new and take some getting used to. You may also have to reapply deodorant on certain days, as you’ll notice fluctuations in your sweat and body odor due to life stress, diet, hormonal shifts, etc. (like we said, our deo will not mask or prevent bodily functions). You may need to moisturize your pits if they feel irritated. Think of it this way: Now you’ll be able to experience what’s going on with your body, which is a boon for overall health. (Me to myself: I’m extra stinky… have I been stressed? I should take a walk.)
In Natural Deodorant 101, we take you through some steps (besides applying deodorant) to help reduce underarm odor and address other armpit issues that may arise, like irritation and dryness.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL DEODORANT AND ANTIPERSPIRANT
The main difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is the presence of aluminum compounds. These prevent sweat by plugging up your sweat glands, and prevent the flow of moisture to your skin’s surface. This is how antiperspirants prevent sweating and odor. Deodorant helps prevent stinkiness, but it doesn’t stop you from sweating because it doesn’t contain aluminum compounds.
MMT’s natural deodorants use starches and clays to absorb moisture, but they won’t stop sweat like an antiperspirant might. Our deodorants inhibit odor with ingredients like baking soda and magnesium that make your skin too alkaline for bacteria to feed on the stuff in your sweat. We also include essential oils like lemon, bergamot, lavender and eucalyptus that are antibacterial and aid in creating a temporarily hostile environment for the bacteria that eats your sweat. They smell good AND are sourced directly from plants (unlike conventional “fragrance,” which has undisclosed ingredients, so we literally have no idea what we’re putting on our skin).
There is no solid evidence showing that antiperspirants with aluminum compounds in them lead to cancer, but we still don’t believe in disrupting our bodily functions in the way that antiperspirants do. After all, we would never put a plug in our anus because we don’t like farting!
We don’t make natural deodorants because we think antiperspirants or conventional deodorants will cause you harm. We make them because we like how identifiable ingredients from the earth can effectively fight body odor. We love the way that essential oils smell like real plants (because they are from plants), and we love that we can make our deodorants out of unrefined, whole ingredients that support organic farming.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR PITS
If you are interested in trying out natural deodorants or just learning more about them, check out this guide for getting started and troubleshooting some common natural deo pitfalls (eh-hem).
When it comes to your armpits, there is no definitive right or wrong, though of course we have our preferences. We always tell our friends and workshop participants: If you want to use natural deodorant, but need the added protection of an antiperspirant periodically (say, because you have a work presentation or a first date) just... use it! They’re your pits!
The Meow Meow Tweet blog is a collaborative thought project between the founders of Meow Meow Tweet and our editorial team. This post was written by Faye Lesser.