It was a statement I’d heard many times, but one I bullishly refused to give into: Natural deodorant just doesn’t work. For about five years, I’ve ridden the green wave, exploring the world of underarm products made with coconut oil and baking soda and essential oils and more. While there isn’t a medical consensus that the non-natural stuff carries any health risks, I wanted to switch to something with a simpler ingredient list so I would know exactly what I was putting on my body. And let me tell you, I did find plenty of products that worked.
Natural deo is nothing new by now, but it still bears a relatively big stigma, and I get it. People are, understandably, afraid of not smelling their best. After all, the product is tricky to get right. “It’s challenging to find a level of deodorizing that will work for every single person,” says Cat Chen, founder of natural brand Skylar Beauty, which just launched its first natural deodorant. “We need to consider how hot or cold someone’s body runs, the frequency and level of how much they perspire, and the strength of deodorizing they require.”
This is why it’s important to set the record straight. Every body is different, which is why the product that works for your farmers’ market–loving friend might do nothing for you. A little bit of trial and error—and a good dose of patience—can go a long way.
Lucky for you, I’ve put in the time to test a wide range of natural offerings, and I have learned a few things that can help you ease into the change without too much stress. It can take up to 30 days for your underarms to adjust to a new formula, says Chen. But more surprisingly, I’ve found that, even after years of devotion to a product, some simply stopped working for me. It’s not that I’ve grown immune to them (a widespread theory on Reddit that doesn’t really have any scientific basis). It turns out that if your body changes (if your hormones fluctuate from stress, for example), you can expect the way your body reacts to different treatments to change, too.
I’ve tested a lot of natural deodorants, and with a few years still devoted to the cause, I’ve developed some pretty strong opinions. Here are five that I have kept in my arsenal through the years.
The Gateway Cream
This was my first natural deodorant love. The cream is slightly grainy, but it absorbs well and does genuinely keep you feeling fresh all day. The one downside: It’s admittedly not the easiest to apply once you’ve already gotten dressed and realized you forgot to put it on.
The Luxe Stick
Packaged in a shiny, minimalist tube, this one made me feel like the least glamorous part of my hygiene routine was actually luxurious. While no natural deodorant will stop you from sweating (they’re not antiperspirants, after all), this one’s super-subtle honey-lavender fragrance is a very welcome alternative to BO.
The Standard Gem
Schmidt’s is a mainstay in the natural space, but I wasn’t a huge fan of its jar packaging, which added another step to my routine (washing my hands after applying). When it launched a stick version of the formula, I was sold. Its texture feels like a classic cream and it actually lasts, even though a stressful morning meeting.
The Geometric Glider
My gym bag has a new hero: this plant-based lifesaver that comes in refillable packaging. I love it because I’m a sucker for low-waste solutions and because its gel consistency feels extra-refreshing when I reapply after my most intense dance-cardio workouts.
The Best of Both Worlds
Here’s my latest everyday pick. Native is one of the smoothest natural options I’ve used (rivaled only by the aforementioned Myro), and it has serious staying power. Not to mention, its bergamot-pine scent (technically the “men’s” option, but let’s be honest, fragrance has no gender) is so perfectly woodsy that I sometimes even forgo perfume.