I Tested And Rated 8 Natural Deodorants So You Don’t Have To

The cliché queer has three known loves: iced coffee, astrology and natural products. How many times have you had shower sex next to a bottle of Dr. Bronners? How many times have you watched a new lover set the mood by switching on an oil diffuser? And how many times have you peeked inside your crush’s medicine cabinet and found a stick of natural deodorant?

Yes, the cliché queers go wild for natural deodorant. It might be better for our health! It makes us smell like the woods! And it works — well, not always. If your body tends to have bountiful sweat and odor, natural deodorant might not be effective for you. But if you’ve ever wanted to give it a shot, do it now! Do it before you go back to the gym or the packed dance floor or the crowded airplane or wherever you’ll be sweating when it’s finally safe(r) to sweat there. Trust me — when you’re making the somewhat smelly transition to the natural deodorant life, social distancing will be your best friend. If you need a push to get started, I tested and rated natural deodorants to help you make your selection.

But First, Some Facts

Is aluminum-containing antiperspirant actually harmful to your health? The answer isn’t clear. Some experts warn that aluminum-containing antiperspirants cause a high concentration of toxins in our lymph nodes, which could potentially lead to breast cancer, especially in people who also shave their underarms. According to the American Cancer Society, there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim. A 2018 study found that the presence of aluminum might change how the body makes or responds to estrogen, and many antiperspirants also contain parabens, which are known to disrupt hormone function. Any product that messes with our hormones can pose a cancer risk, but the precise link between parabens and cancer is still up for debate.

I prefer to stay on the safe side, so a few years ago, I finished my last stick of Old Spice Swagger (don’t judge) and switched to natural deodorant. My grandmother had (and defeated!) breast cancer, and I want to do everything in my power to reduce my risk. Skin is the largest organ of the human body, and the thought of a bunch of chemicals seeping into my pores gives me the creeps. Plus, natural deodorant comes in scents that are much more appealing than “musk” or “powder fresh.”

The Transition Period

When you’re switching from antiperspirant to natural deodorant, your body needs some time to adjust. Yes, that means you’ll be a little sweatier and a little smellier for one to four weeks. But don’t let your new B.O. scare you — it’s temporary! Your pits are detoxing from the aluminum that was previously plugging up your pores. While you sweat all that aluminum out, the excess moisture fosters bacterial growth, which is where the stench comes from. Once your body has rid itself of your old Lady Speedstick particles, you’ll stink like a normal human instead of seventeen football players.

Some dermatologists recommend using a clay mask on your underarms during this time to speed up the detox process. They also recommend using a natural starch powder like arrowroot or cornstarch after applying your natural deodorant to soak up the excess sweat. Did I do those things? Nope! I just washed my armpits with soap and water whenever I started feeling particularly grimy. I waited patiently with pit stains for a couple of weeks, and my body’s sweat and odor finally leveled out. I’ve been using natural deodorant for several years now, and I’m happy with the results.

I’ve used a variety of natural deodorants, but I’m still looking for “the one.” So I decided to try some of the more popular brands and rate and review them for you! I chose brands that were aluminum-free, under $20, available at major retailers and made of at least 99% “natural” ingredients. I’m rating these products based on: scent, effectiveness, staining, price and “queer factor” (i.e. would I wear this deodorant to a a Tracy Chapman concert in 1991?).

Some Disclaimers About Me, Your Friendly Queer Test Subject

I would guess that I’m an averagely sweaty person with an average amount of body odor. I have lavishly hairy armpits. I have sensitive skin, so some artificial fragrances cause burning and redness.  I typically apply deodorant twice a day.

Onto the ratings!

Schmidt — Cedarwood & Juniper ($8.85)

A white deodorant stick that reads, "Schmidt: Cedarwood & Juniper"
Schmidt is a decently-priced option that comes in several unique fragrances, including “Ylang Ylang & Calendula” and “Rose & Vanilla.” They also have a fragrance-free option. I went with “Cedarwood & Juniper,” which actually smells like cedarwood and juniper! It’s aluminum-free, paraben-free and animal testing-free, but the scent and ingredients are this product’s only strengths. The stick left clumps in my armpit hair and stained the pits of my shirts. It also didn’t last long. Despite its flaws, I’ll give this one a queer factor of 5/5 for its gender-neutral marketing.

Scent: 5/5
Effectiveness: 1/5
Staining: 1/5
Price: 3/5
Queer Factor: 5/5
Total: 15/25

Every Man Jack — Cedarwood ($5.79)

A brown and red deodorant stick reads, "Ever Man Jack: Cedarwood"
Every Man Jack is like Axe for grown-ups. The branding is unreasonably masculine, and the scent is strong enough to let everyone know that JACK HAS ARRIVED. Perhaps the strong aroma is what makes this brand so effective. When I used the “cedarwood” stick, my pits didn’t stink at all. Well, they did stink. They stank of cedar. Fortunately, I like cedar, and I’ll take a strong, woody scent over body odor any day. The deodorant didn’t leave behind residue or stain my shirts, and I liked the wide stick (I guess it’s made for “big, strong man armpits?”). While this deodorant is aluminum-free, paraben-free and not tested on animals, it does have a pretty long list of ingredients, so check the label before you use it if you’re prone to allergic reactions. The price is hard to beat.

Scent: 3/5
Effectiveness: 5/5
Staining: 5/5
Price: 5/5
Queer Factor: 2/5
Total: 20/25

Native — Charcoal ($11.97)

A white deodorant stick reads, "Native: Charcoal"
I can’t go anywhere on the internet without seeing an advertisement for Native deodorant, and with an $11.97 price point and a very enthusiastic review from Autostraddle writer Meg, I figured that this stuff must be worth it. It’s aluminum-free, paraben-free and animal testing-free. They also make a fragrance-free option. I appreciate that the company has started making plastic-free packaging, too. But this one didn’t work for me. The fragrances I checked out didn’t quite smell like what was on the label (when I was wearing the Charcoal deodorant, my girlfriend asked me why my armpits smelled like bubblegum). The actual deodorant stick is extremely firm, and I had a hard time applying to my pits without rubbing them raw. It was also only effective for a short period of time and left some residue behind. Like Schmidt, this one gets a 5/5 queer factor for the gender-neutral marketing, but I probably wouldn’t buy this one again.

Scent: 3/5
Effectiveness: 3/5
Staining: 3/5
Price: 1/5
Queer Factor: 5/5
Total: 15/25

Ursa Major — Sublime Sage ($18.00)

A white and green spray bottle reads, "Ursa Major: Sublime Sage"
This was my first experience with a spray-on deodorant, and I was pleasantly surprised. Ursa Major’s “Sublime Sage” kept my pits odor-free and dry for most of the day. The formula is paraben-free, aluminum-free and baking soda-free and hasn’t been tested on animals. It didn’t stain my clothes at all. Unfortunately, the name is misleading — the scent is supposed to be “sage geranium,” but I smelled a whole lot of geranium and absolutely no sage. And at $18 for one tiny bottle, the price point feels a little outrageous. At least the brand is named after a constellation. Thanks to the queer astrology obsession, all stars and planets are gay now.

Scent: 2/5
Effectiveness: 5/5
Staining: 5/5
Price: 1/5
Queer Factor: 5/5
Total: 18/25

Tom’s
 — Lavender ($5.09)

A white and purple deodorant stick reads, "Tom's of Maine: Lavender"
Tom’s was the first brand of natural deodorant that I tried, and I keep going back to her the way some of us go back to our exes. I’ve tried multiple fragrances from both their “men’s” and “women’s” lines (they also have a fragrance-free option), and the “women’s” deodorants seem to be much more effective and doesn’t leave behind residue or clumps. This brand is aluminum-free, paraben-free, animal testing-free and one of the more affordable options out there. Despite the gendered marketing, I’ll give this one a solid 3/5 in the queer factor category since I’ve seen a Tom’s product in nearly every queer person’s medicine cabinet.

Scent: 5/5
Effectiveness: 5/5
Staining: 5/5
Price: 5/5
Queer Factor: 3/5
Total: 23/25

Kopari — Driftwood ($14)

A cylindrical white and blue deodorant stick reads, "Kopari: charcoal deodorant"
This deodorant feels so moisturizing! This deodorant is aluminum-free, paraben-free, animal testing-free and baking soda-free (so if you’ve found that baking soda dries out your pits, this one is for you!). It goes on clear, leaving zero residue or clumps behind, and lasts for quite a while. But I have one big complaint here: I don’t know what “driftwood” is supposed to smell like, but this “driftwood” smells like old lady floral perfume. Fortunately, Kopari makes other fragrances and a fragrance-free option, so I would definitely grab this one again and try a different scent. I wouldn’t dare smell like old lady floral perfume at a Tracy Chapman concert, so this one loses queer factor points.

Scent: 1/5
Effectiveness: 4/5
Staining: 5/5
Price: 3/5
Queer Factor: 2/5
Total: 15/25

CRYSTAL — Unscented ($3)

A silver and blue deodorant stick reads, "Crystal Mineral Deodorant Stick"
When Autostraddle writer Sarah told me that some people use ACTUAL CRYSTALS to dry and deodorize their pits, I had to try it. This unscented deodorant has exactly one ingredient — potassium alum, or mineral salts, which kill some of the bacteria that leads to body odor. I did notice some body odor while using this product, so it’s not perfect, but it did keep my pits nice and dry. It doesn’t smell like anything at all, so it’s a great option for folks who are sensitive to fragrances. It didn’t leave any residue or stain my clothes, and it made me feel deeply gay. I mean, it’s a CRYSTAL. At $3, I would happily try this one again, but I would try a scented option to see if it fully kills the odor.

Scent: 5/5
Effectiveness: 3/5
Staining: 5/5
Price: 5/5
Queer Factor: 5/5
Total: 23/25

DIY Deodorant (probably free)

Two bowls containing powder and one jar containing oil are on a table near essentials oils and sprigs of lavender
Zero-waste bloggers and “clean living” influencers love to wax poetic about the joys of natural deodorant. Most will tell you to combine coconut oil, baking soda, arrowroot powder and essential oils of your choice. I made myself a tea tree-scented DIY deodorant paste and loved how it smelled! It left clumps in my armpit hair and made my pits feel greasy, but I was committed to this cheap option. But as soon as I started to sweat, the coconut oil melted, leaving my pits and my shirt an oily mess. I wouldn’t try this specific combo again, but I’m willing to experiment with other ingredients. Making your own deodorant is perhaps the queerest way to care for your pits, so this one gets a 5/5 in the queer factor category.

Scent: 5/5
Effectiveness: 1/5
Staining: 1/5
Price: 5/5
Queer Factor: 5/5
Total: 17/25


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Ro White is a Chicago-based writer and sex educator. Follow Ro on Twitter.

Ro has written 54 articles for us.

29 Comments

  1. Thank you for this testing. Were you able to try the Arm & Hammer natural line? I’ve been using that one as it is like baking soda based with a gender neutral scent & it’s been good enough for the price.

  2. When I was a teenager, I worked at a pharmacy with a pretty extensive natural section. We all had uniform aprons to wear over our clothes s There was another person who worked there who was Very into the *~*natural*~* lifestyle and used a crystal and no other deodorant. When she quit, her apron had to be thrown out because it smelled so intensely of BO- so ymmv with that one.
    That being said, I tried a lot of deodorants during my time there, and my favourite natural one is routine- if it’s available near you I’d suggest giving it a shot! It’s clay based and smells great. I don’t think it could handle my testosterone BO these days, but when I’d only gone through one puberty I could apply it once a shift and be fine.

    • Nuud is a great option (it’s from the Netherlands, available online) – I’m (unfortunately!) a naturally stinky person but it works really well, all the other natural ones I tried didn’t cut it! It is unscented too which is nice, I don’t need my underarms to smell of flowers!

  3. My personal notes on natural deodorant.

    1. kopari deodorant. worked well would recommend. Main negative I can remember is the plastic packaging

    2.fat and the moon. My only jar deodorant. Works well but you do have to hand apply. I also find it more difficult to use when I had armpit hair. Lasted surprisingly long.

    3. Mega babe. Does not hold up in the heat. You don’t smell but you do sweat a lot still. Great for the winter. Bad for summer.

    4. schmidt’s deodorant. The non sensitive stained my shirts. The sensitive did not prevent BO.

    5. wild rose herbs. The newest I’ve used works well at preventing sweat but isn’t effective at preventing BO.

  4. This is EXACTLY the content I need.

    I’ve tried Tom’s a couple times and it always somehow made me smell WORSE but I guess my problem was that I would alternate back and forth with my 2.99 Suave and so my pits never got a chance to adapt? Will use up my existing sticks and give it another go.

  5. These are some good recs. My own ratings so far are as follows.

    1. Native Lavender and Native Citrus Musk. Functions. Not as well as traditional deodorant, but I haven’t found anything that does yet. Smells ok. No complaints.

    2. Native Eucalyptus Mint. Clumpy. Not as much staying power. I hope they didn’t change their formula. Still preferable to…

    3. Love Beauty Planet Lavender and Argan Pil – smells amazing, works ok, except after a month I got a huge rash and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to argan oil

    4. Schmidt’s Unscented – doesn’t work as an antiperspirant.

    4. Tom’s Unscented – doesn’t work as an antiperspirant and smells weirdly like metal. Granted I tried this like 10 years ago and their formula may have changed.

  6. I was so excited to see this article! I keep returning to my clinical strength Dove, but I persist in trying natural deodorants because I’d love to find one that works. Tom’s and homemade deodorants were the worst – Tom’s just smelled like sweat mixed with whatever scent I had (apricot?) and the homemade deodorant gave me the same issue – the coconut oil melted and left grease stains on my shirts. I recently tried Lume, which seemed great at first, and I loved how it doesn’t create clumps in armpit hair. But after about a month and a half, I started smelling like a basket of onions (this was last summer, so I was sweating quite a bit on my frequent long walks). I was so disappointed. The crystal also seemed to work for me for about a month, then stopped working. My armpits seem to have some magical property where the detox period is actually the best part, then it all comes crashing down. I’m going to try the Kopari, though, and I hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  7. I highly recommend the brand Pretty Frank and specifically their unscented deodorant.

    I also beg everyone to please stop using scented products. And Autostraddle, please stop including them in gift guides & articles like this. The chemicals that make up these kinds of products (including “natural” ones and essential oils!!) are toxic as h*ll and disable people. One way to show commitment to ending ableism on your site would be to stop including ads for products that disable people, or at the very least include a disclaimer every time you link to them.

    Here’s an article about it:
    https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/being-scent-free/

    As a personal example, I have been in isolation for 4 years due to chemical injuries from the scented products people use. And I know others who have been in isolation for decades. I am chronically ill from this, and there is no vaccine or treatment in sight other than avoidance. So there is no “when this is all over” for people like me. If/whenever the day comes that COVID is under control enough that a lot people will get to see people again safely, people like me will still be stuck inside and have to watch others be social while we die of isolation and touch starvation (:

    Thank you for reading and considering.

  8. For people based in Germany I can recommend the german indie brand “Wolkenseifen” – they have deodorants as cream and roll-on, offer vegan and unscented options and the scents are generally pretty light, so you’ll only smell them if you get really close to someone (I’m sensitive to strong scents).
    I use their deodorant cream and it lasts forever and helped me to completely let go of my anxieties around being smelly :D

    They also ship to lots of European countries, but they have no english website, unfortunately…

  9. My favorite natural deodorant (I can’t use baking soda- after years of making DIY deodorant with it it suddenly started giving me a rash) is hands down Little Seed Farm’s deodorant. The lavender scent is my favorite but you can get samples. It’s a little pricey but the tubs last a long time, and the glass jars are reusable/recyclable. It’s super effective and their packaging is the best I’ve found.

  10. as mentioned in the piece, native has been the only natural deodorant that’s worked for me – but i will clarify that the charcoal one listed gave me a rash and smelled terrible. i use the cypress & ginger and it’s got a lovely texture, smells great, and has been my fav for the last few years.

  11. This is so helpful, thank you! I’ve always hated how anti-persperant felt, and find that if I do wear it, I am still able to sweat through it if I’m nervous, and if I sweat through it I smell worse than normal sweating! I’m using Native sensitive because after using baking soda products previously, I had an extreme contact dermititis reaction that took months to recover from when I tried Schmidts! I used to use men’s deodorant without anti-persperant (Old Spice Pure Sport usually, and an Arm and Hammer gender neutral one when it was in stock) and just started trying the natural stuff because my family was using it. I’ll probably go back to men’s deodorant because unlike the natural stuff I’ve tried, it did eliminate odor for me completely all day, but I don’t like that the scents are SO strong! I’d love to find something fragrance free or lightly scented, and have been eying lume for when my current deodorant runs out.

  12. barging in with my DIY 2 cents:
    milk of magnesia (as in the stuff that makes you poop) costs 3 or 4 dollars for a huge bottle and works pretty damn well. same active ingredient (magnesium hydroxide) as a lot of the pricier/more effective crunchy deodorants, you can slop it straight on or put it in a little spray bottle/ad essential oils to make it smell nice/whatever.

    picked this one up because a co-op near me was selling “milk of magnesia deodorant” for like 12 dollars and i thought ‘surely you can just go straight to the source’ and the internet told me i was right. works pretty well for me and doesnt irritate my skin or bleach my clothes.

  13. Yayyy love this content. Like some of the other commenters I’m baking soda/bi-carb sensitive. My fav “sensitive” deo (after trying many!) is the unscented bar by ethique. It’s on the spendier side, but one bar lasts me about 9 months (application 1-2 times / day).

  14. Hmm, there’s really no need to avoid the aluminium, it’s been fairly well researched and there’s no evidence at all for any relation with breast cancer. But to each their own.

    Also detoxing (as a wellness thing) is not needed. Like ever. We have kidney’s and livers who do all of the work for us and they don’t need any weird juices or clay or supplements. It’s usually ableistic and problemetic as a whole concept and will just cost you money.

    ps: please be careful with essential oils. They can cause serious irritation and should always be diluted before use on the skin.

    pps: there are many types of parabens and most are considered safe to use. They function to conserve the product. Without them your product can be quickly colonized with funghi and bacteria which can certainly be harmful.

    • Thank you! I came here to comment on this as well. I come from a science background, so checked all of the sources linked… and was surprised that the armpit detox link literally led to an article about how armpit detoxes don’t work and just washing your skin will get rid of the smell!

      To each their own though, I definitely prefer a deodorant to an antiperspirant and enjoyed making the switch. Do it if it feels good… just maybe not because an advocacy group’s scare tactics have you worried.

  15. the first deodorant I ever purchased at age 15 was toms of maine lavender scent and the texture was so upsetting to my fingers that I never applied it and only started thinking about maybe wearing deodorant a couple of months ago (I’m 21)

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