I wasn’t satisfied with my deodorant several years ago, so I decided to shop around to find something that I liked. I started taking notes on what I tried, to keep track of things. I was thinking I’d just eventually post about the winning product, but then I decided to write about everything that I tried, because sometimes a negative review is just as useful as a positive one. I mean, an experiment that gives you a negative result should be published just so that others don’t waste time and money trying it too, right? So in that spirit, I’ve got a whole bunch of deodorant reviews listed alphabetically by brand below (and maybe people will land on this post looking for keywords, so that will help them too); if you’re thinking “TL;DR” then skip right down to Native or Thai Crystal.
[Update, March 2019: See also Lumē!]
First, some vocabulary. A deodorant is meant to prevent bad smells (the B.O. of my title), while an antiperspirant prevents wetness. Antiperspirants tend to be more irritating and should not be used if you have skin abrasions, for example from shaving. Deodorants are considered cosmetics and are not subject to many regulations; antiperspirants are subject to strict regulations only if they are considered medication (if they are meant to last longer than 24 hours or to treat hyperhidrosis).
A note on ingredients... I had a paper article from an old issue of Protégez-Vous (March 2009, available here if you have a subscription) and I figured I’d sum up what they said about various ingredients, because it’s a reliable source.
- Aluminum salts have not been proven to be harmful in topical use in humans (according to the Canadian Cancer Society), though many doctors still urge caution – these are used in some antiperspirants, not deodorants.
- Parabens are suspected of disrupting the endocrine system; Protégez-Vous recommends avoiding them.
- Phthalates can hide in fragrances and are not labelled (however, it seems the harmful ones are mostly in plastic); some doctors recommend caution, especially for pregnant women or for those with sensitive skin.
- Alcohol can be irritating.
Almost 90% of the 10.500 ingredients used in cosmetics in the U.S. have not been evaluated for toxicity, and companies are not required to give toxicology data before selling their products. Moreover, the cocktail effect hasn’t been studied. To be on the safe side, Protégez-Vous recommends using products labelled “Eco-Cert”, which are at least 95% organic, not tested on animals, biodegradable, contain no fragrances or dyes, and have no ingredients derived from petroleum.
In another publication, in an article titled What’s so bad about antiperspirant?, the author says that aluminum was thought to be associated with Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, but the data are inconclusive. And fragrance, which is a proprietary blend of ingredients, can irritate.
A more recent article from Science-Based Medicine concludes that “although it’s possible that there is a link between antiperspirants and cancer, current existing evidence doesn’t support one and doesn’t even suggest potentially-fruitful avenues of research.”
The American Cancer Society also says “there is no convincing evidence that antiperspirant or deodorant increases cancer risk.” This page on WebMD essentially says that while it’s fine to be cautious, you probably shouldn’t worry about the ingredients in your antiperspirant or deodorant.
Based on all that, I acknowledge that I shouldn’t dismiss products that contain aluminum, so there are some below; however, the products I preferred happened not to contain any. Personally, I am looking for an everyday deodorant, because it’s the smell that bothers me, not the wetness. I felt that my criteria were simple, but even with my favorite deodorants, I still had to compromise: 1) I’d rather not have white streaks or stains on my clothes; 2) I do not want irritated skin; and 3) I need protection from B.O. that lasts all day. (For me, this means 12 hours. If it lasts 24 hours, great. I don’t need 48-hour or even 72-hour protection, thank you very much.) To this I’ve had to add: 4) I need something either unscented or with a mild, pleasant-to-me scent, otherwise I’m miserable.
Also, because I know it can make a difference: a) the skin of my armpits is smooth; b) I take a shower in the evening and apply deodorant before putting on my pajamas, and then again in the morning before getting dressed. And yes, I read the instructions, which can be surprisingly different depending on the product.
I currently have a deodorant that I really like (Native, see below), even though it can leave some white residue on dark clothes, but it’s really the best at preventing B.O.! It was actually a last-ditch effort on my part to try one last thing before resorting to homemade deodorants… Here’s a list of what I tried, with notes on each, because my criteria can be different from yours and something else might work for you – or this list might prevent you from wasting money on something useless.
- Bubble & Bee Organic Deodorant Spray in Lemongrass and Rosemary: This smelled absolutely fantastic. There was a slight stinging sensation as I applied it, but it didn’t last. Unfortunately, neither did the deodorant: after applying it in the morning, I didn’t make it to mid-afternoon without odor, and the high that day was only in the low 70s. The instructions do say to reapply as needed, but application isn’t convenient (even just one spray produces enough liquid that it will run down your arm or torso), and anyway, I don’t want to have to reapply during the day. I now think that any instructions that say “reapply as needed” are a dead give-away that one application won’t cut it!
- Bubble & Bee Pit Putty Organic Deodorant in Almond Coconut, meant for sensitive skin. I tried the stick form. This seemed promising, because in addition to the coconut oil, there’s arrowroot powder for wetness protection, and baking soda as an odor-blocker and pH-raiser. The smell was a bit strong, but pleasant. It might leave a bit of white residue on clothes, but I found that this disappeared in the wash without a problem. It was weird to apply, though, as the crumbly consistency means that you can’t just swipe it on, you actually have to rub it in and wait for your body heat to melt it a bit Moreover, it didn’t cut it on a day when the weather was in the low 80s, so in South Texas, this just isn’t going to work.
- Byly Fresh deodorant: This does not irritate my skin and mostly works against the smell. It’s aluminum-free and does not leave any white streaks. The odd thing is, though, that it’s like rubbing a bar of Irish Spring against my armpits – the fragrance is identical! I’m not crazy about it for that reason (and the fact that it’s not 100% effective against smell).
- Clean deodorant in Warm Cotton sounded like a neat idea in theory – cotton to absorb moisture! But the smell is a bit strong, the deodorant itself streaks and leaves white pills in armpits, and it doesn’t prevent the smell or moisture adequately. So that’s out.
- The most mainstream deodorant I tried was Degree Expert Protection with Motionsense, in Cotton Fresh and Active Clean scents. Only $4! It’s an antiperspirant and deodorant stick, which is supposed to kick in when you move, before moisture appears. I have to say, it works on that front, I had no B.O. My main issue with it is its fragrance – it’s horribly artificial and smells to me like cheap perfume, to the point where I can’t stand wearing it. Also, it claims 48-hour protection, which is more than I’d need, but does not even deliver 24 hours. I’m too turned off to buy more sticks in different scents on the off-chance there’s one I’d like. Despite its claim to be invisible, it does leaves a white perfumed residue on clothes, and the only way to get rid of it is by hand-washing and paying extra attention to the pit area (just washing your top in the laundry as usual won’t do it). Because of the strong fragrance and white residue, I don’t like this one.
- Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Deodorant (with Lavender Oil; Aluminum-Free) smells fantastic, goes on clear, and has a pleasant consistency, but is just not strong enough. The last time I wore it, I was indoors all day going about my business (i.e., nothing strenuous), and the air conditioning was set in the upper 70s. The deodorant failed before lunch. Enough said.
- Dove Advanced Care Cool Essentials Antiperspirant: Well, on the bright side, it goes on without white streaks and is gentle on skin (it contains 25% moisturizers). That being said, I’ll never know how long protection really lasts, because I couldn’t stand the smell of the fragrance (which smells nothing like the cucumber OR green tea they promise) for more than a few hours.
- Dr. Hauschka Roll-On Deodorant: I tried both Rose and Sage Mint, and I really love both scents. These are gentle and non-irritating, and I like the natural ingredients. They mostly work on B.O. – I’d say 80% of the time, I’m fine. The thing is, though, that they’re $25 each in Canada (a jar lasts about 3 months). If they worked 100% of the time against B.O., that would meet all my criteria and I’d gladly pay the price, but I feel like it’s a bit steep for something that may not work against the smell when I need it.
- Druide roll-on deodorant: Sadly, this really irritated my skin and I had to stop using it.
- Earth Science Natural Deodorant in Mint Rosemary: It smells good, and it mostly works, but it’s a little hard and chalky. I ended up not liking it.
- Jāsön Soothing Aloe Vera Deodorant Stick: Another one of those natural and organic brands. This one was stiff and hard to apply, and the smell that emanated from me on hot days was more reminiscent of old clothes that have been in a drawer for a while than of actual body odor. Still, I’m not crazy about it.
- Kai deodorant was my favorite for a short while. It contains vitamin E and chamomile extracts and is great on sensitive skin. It comes in a clear stick, so it doesn’t pill in armpits and doesn’t streak clothing. Plus, I really like the gardenia scent, even though I usually prefer something less sweet. However, it costs $24.00 (though it should last a long time), and it doesn’t always take care of the smell. To tell you the truth, it’s about on par with Dr. Hauschka, but I was enjoying the latter more.
[Update: I stopped using it a while, and it’s like the stick started to sweat and a bunch of liquid came out of the bottom, making a mess. Out it goes. (See Origins No Offense below for a similar deodorant that doesn’t liquefy.)]
- Kiehl’s Superbly Efficient Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant is something I really wanted to love, even though it’s an antiperspirant. It’s an unscented cream and, FYI, specifically says it’s fine to use on hairy armpits. I feel like I had to use it several days in a row before it kicked in, but even then, it didn’t offer the 24-hour protection it claimed, and my skin started itching after roughly two weeks.
- Kiss My Face Active Life, Aluminum-Free, in Lavender: It has a clean, pleasant lavender scent and does not irritate, but despite the “Clinically proven all-day protection” promise, it stops working in mid-afternoon. This is not because I’m in South Texas, because the same things happened on several consecutive days of 50s in the am and highs of 70s in the pm. So it’s not a keeper.
- [Update, March 2019. Kopari: I loved it at first. It’s very much like Origins and Kai, in that it’s a clear stick that goes on smooth and smells great. That being said, it let me down several hours into a day when I had two flights, so I soured on it.]
- Lafes Deodorant Roll-On, Unscented: I wanted to like this, because it’s natural and organic and unscented and all, but it irritated my skin badly and I had to throw it out.
- LaVanila – The Healthy Deodorant in Vanilla Grapefruit: This was highly recommended in two publications, so I tried it. Unfortunately, just the process of applying it gave me a rash, and it didn’t protect from odor beyond a few hours, so this isn’t for me.
- [Update, March 2019. Lumē: This is my current deodorant. It’s a creamy lotion which is dispensed from a stick – you have to rub it into your skin, and a little goes a really long way. It didn’t irritate my skin, I haven’t noticed any stains on my clothes (though I let it dry a bit before putting on a shirt) and so far, I haven’t had any unpleasant smells! I bought the lavender and clary sage product, which actually has a very subtle smell, but there’s also an unscented option. It’s aluminum-free, baking soda-free, and vegan. Apparently it’s also safe for other body parts, but I haven’t tested that!]
- NANI Naturals’ Unscented Natural Deodorant: This self-proclaimed unisex product is pretty good. It is solid and needs to warm up a bit before you can apply it properly, but I just hold it against my skin for a few second before swiping. It contains things like coconut oil, red palm oil, baking soda, and Kaolin clay. So far, it’s working relatively well – though nothing to write home about – with highs in the 90s. It does, however, leave a residue on clothes. (This deodorant is slightly cheaper on Amazon than on its own website.)
[Update: I think I have coconut oil stains on a pajama t-shirt and yellowish clay or a wax-like substance on two other tops of different colors; none of it goes away in the laundry, I have to treat the stains separately. I don’t have time for this, especially oil stains.]
- Native Deodorant in Coconut and Vanilla (their most popular scent). This is my current go-to! The fragrance is pleasant and it’s completely kept odors at bay so far (though, to be fair, I haven’t worn it in Texas yet, but we did have some very hot days here in Montreal with the humidex factor, close to 100 °F). It leaves a bit of a white residue on dark clothes, but doesn’t irritate my skin at all. (It’s aluminum-free, for those who care.)
[Update, Nov. 2017: I’ve now had a rash with this, so I laid off deodorant at night for a while and used Thai Crystal, and things went back to normal. I’m now alternating between Thai Crystal and Native Deodorant.]
- Nature’s Gate Deodorant Stick (Clear Formula) in Spring Fresh Scent is natural, gentle, and doesn’t leave any white streaks. However, two caveats: 1) I smelled something like 10 fragrances in the store display and it is the only one I could even stand; 2) it doesn’t always fight odor all day.
- Origins No Offense: This reminds me of Kai in that it’s also a stiff, round stick that goes on clear and smells good. But like Kai, it’s also not quite sufficient to prevent odor for me. That being said, it never liquefied like Kai did, and it’s slightly cheaper, so I’d recommend it instead.
- Queen Helene Aloe Vera Deodorant: This claimed “all-day strength”, but it only worked about 90% of the time and it gave me a rash. (The label also said “new & improved”, “natural odor protection”, and “clinical results”, if that is any help finding it or making up your mind.) It’s possible the rash was from the fragrance instead of the active ingredients, and it did get better with time, but still wasn’t making me happy.
- Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant in Rose + Vanilla: I *really* wanted to like this, because it has “good” ingredients, claims to fight both odor and wetness, and smells fantastic. Sadly, within 24 hours, I had a rash, so it’s not for me.
- Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant and Deodorant (Smooth Solid), Hypoallergenic: This is what I wore on my wedding day, and it did not last past dinner. Is it fair to judge an antiperspirant on that day, though? I eventually used up the whole thing, but was never truly satisfied with it. I mean, if you’re going to be calling it “clinical strength”, you’d better deliver, and I feel like it didn’t.
- Thai Crystal Deodorant Stone is unscented and hypoallergenic (and also comes in a spray). This worked really well for a few years, and I thought I had found something with which I would stick (no pun intended). It’s inexpensive and the stone lasts a really long time, too! Unfortunately, it eventually started irritating my skin (after 2 or 3 stones), and doesn’t work all the time against B.O. The Engineer had the same issue with the spray form. I wonder if this is just a normal issue with any product, that one’s body eventually gets too used to it and it stops working… (To get ahead of any questions, I read that crystal deodorants work by tightening pores and prevent the formation of bacteria which, in turn, cause unpleasant smells).
[Correction: The Engineer says that his skin irritation had nothing to do with the deodorant after all and has gone away completely. He’s fully satisfied with it.]
- Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant in Unscented: This gave me a rash very quickly, so I stopped using it.