I tried 5 natural deodorants — here’s what stunk (and what didn’t!)

I trained for the Boston Marathon while using a natural deodorant. Here’s how it went.

I’ve been on the clean skincare and makeup train for a while but deodorant is one of those things that took me a while to switch to safer. Why? BECAUSE I SWEAT.

You know how some people just don’t sweat much? That is NOT me. When I was in high school and I was a cheerleader, I was so embarrassed by my sweat that I made my mom take me to the doctor to get a prescription anti-perspirant. Yep.

I always finish a run with soaked hair and clothes. I’m not a person who can skip washing my hair. And don’t even get me started on my CrossFit days. I would drop the wall balls because I was so sweaty. I’m just a heavy sweater and that’s fine.

But, it prevented me from switching to a safer deodorant option. I knew I should but I just wasn’t willing to walk around smelling terribly.

Deodorant vs anti-perspirant

This is where people get confused when they buy a natural deodorant after using an anti-perspirant their whole life and they complain that they’re sweating. That’s how it SHOULD be. Remember, the body’s natural process is to sweat! You should sweat!

Deodorant is a product that will mask or neutralize body odor. Antiperspirant, on the other hand, blocks your sweat glands to reduce sweating. Hence… anti – perspirant. Let’s talk about how those work and what ingredients to avoid — and why.

Ingredients to avoid in conventional antiperspirants

  • Aluminum

Aluminum is the VAST MAJORITY of drugstore anti-perspirants. Why? Because it blocks your pores to prevent sweat and it keeps you dry, BUT there have been studies that show it’s connection to diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Side note: Heavy metals in general are a big issue, particularly in makeup, since federal regulations don’t require testing for heavy metal contamination. Mercury and lead are commonly found in makeup… even the “fancy” brands. Avoiding mercury and lead exposure is another reason I use Beautycounter makeup.

  • Parabens

These ingredients act as stabalizers and preservatives to make your products last for months. But, parabenshave been linked to breast cancer and endocrine disruption.

  • Fragrance

This is a HOT button for me. Here’s the thing about “fragrance” – it’s not necessarily a nice scent added to your skincare products. “Fragrance” is considered a trade secret so companies can put WHATEVER THEY WANT in their products and they don’t have to disclose what’s in it. (That’s why “fragrance” is on Beautycounter’s Never List.)

Over 3,000 ingredients can be used to create a fragrance, and you don’t know the identity of any of them. Ingredients that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors can be hidden under the term “fragrance.”

When you’re reading ANY labels, if you ever see the words “fragrance”, “perfume”, “parfume”, or “scent”, DITCH IT. You have no idea what harmful ingredients might be hiding in it.

  • Phthalates

Phthalates are ingredients that help products become more pliable and help fragrances to stick to your skin and last longer. If you can still smell your body lotion, shampoo, hair spray, etc. at the end of the day, that product likely contains phthalates.

Why should you avoid it? Studies show that phthalates have estrogen-like properties and they act as hormone disruptors. Hormone imbalances can lead to a number of health issues, e.g. thyroid problems, infertility, acne, birth defects, fatigue, and weight gain.

You can read more about drugstore deodorants and antiperspirants here.

The hunt for the best natural deodorant

Okay, so now that you know what to look for, be wary when shopping for natural deodorants (or any “natural” beauty or personal care product really). Even if a brand is labeled “natural” or “organic” or whatever, but they still have those four ingredients on their label, think twice.

I’m especially wary of fragrance since the lack of transparency really bothers me. You really don’t know what chemical they have in there. Seriously. If that doesn’t freak you out…

So, after learning all of that about conventional anti-perspirants, I made a real effort to switch to a safer deodorant option.

But, I run 40-60+ miles a week. And, as I mentioned, I SWEAT. So the idea of switching deodorant was nerve wracking — what if I stunk? Well, I did for a bit.

The “natural” brands that failed me

I tried a lot of brands — Schmidt’s, Toms, Native, DoTerra, Pure Haven — to name a few. Three of them made me smell  worse. I’ve never had that nasty B.O. smell in my life. Sweat, yes. Stink, no. Then, I started using natural deodorant and holy crap, I smelled awful.

While there were two brands that didn’t make me me reek, they still felt awful. Some felt like I was rubbing oatmeal under my arms. Others left me feeling sticky all day.

Now, keep in mind, everyone’s body is different and I know plenty of people who like these brands. But for me, they were a DISASTER. And, I haven’t heard of anyone who has had issues with Primally Pure, if they knew what to expect, i.e. a little sweat.

Plus, not all of them are free from ingredients I avoid, including aluminum and fragrance. I mean, it’s a shame these products use fragrance. Again, just because something is labeled “natural” or “organic” does NOT mean they are transparent with their ingredients.

natural deodorant for women

The one that actually works

While stinking up a storm trying other brands, I saw a few of my friends rave about Primally Pure (friends who work out HARD). I decided to try it. GAME CHANGER. Yes, I still sweat since it’s not an anti-perspirant, but I don’t sweat much. And I do not smell.

I actually like the scent. I always hated the icky fake smell of the conventional anti-perspirants I used, but Primally Pure deodorant smells clean and fresh. First, I started with the Lemongrass and then I switched to the Charcoal since I was jealous of Tommy’s deodorant (more on that below).

natural deodorant

Primally Pure has an entire blog post about why their deodorants actually work, but in short, the ratio of ingredients they use is key to the efficacy. And the essential oils they select work with your body to neutralize B.O. vs trying to mask something.

The best natural deodorant for working out & marathon training

I started using Primally Pure last December, right about when I started training for the Boston Marathon. My weekly mileage averaged anywhere from 45-63 miles and I used only Primally Pure deodorant during all of my training. And I never had B.O. issues. I even asked my husband, Tommy, to confirm after many runs. 😉

I even used the charcoal deodorant the day I ran the Boston Marathon and had no concerns raising my arms or hugging people post-race. 🙂

Boston Marathon


My husband even uses it

I originally bought the charcoal deodorant in attempt to get my husband to use it. Why charcoal? Because the black packaging looked a bit more manly. Seriously. But, after I smelled that deodorant, I wanted one for myself. Plus, charcoal has detoxifying benefits that also help deodorize and disinfecting. It looks dark gray, but it goes on clear.

all natural deodorant

I use the Beautycounter charcoal bar to wash my pits in the shower (more charcoal to pull out impurities!) and then use the charcoal deodorant and I feel so clean. It’s a weird way to put it but that’s the bet way I know how. I feel clean and fresh.

Primally Pure Promo Code

Use this link & promo code TERI to save 10% off your entire first order!

And if spend $100 from April 26-May 1, you’ll get a free spa kit with your order (and free shipping). Woot!

Other Primally Pure products I love that I’d suggest adding to your cart:

NOTE: This post is NOT sponsored – they did NOT pay me to write this post. All of this is my honest opinion on their products.  I do have an affiliate relationship with Primally Pure since I reached out to them after falling in love with the brand, so I make a very small percentage off any purchase you make. (But that doesn’t cost you any more.) It also allows me to get you a promo code!

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  • Mina

    I just bought the charcoal deodorant and really just need to give it time. I sweat big time – especially when running. I need to keep reminding myself that sweating is good…..

  • Jennifer

    Let me start by saying, I don’t sweat a ton. Never really have. But no one likes to smell. When switching to something more natural I started with Native. I didn’t love the texture but I was willing to stick with it. But I noticed at the end of the day I had BO. No one likes cuddling up to their significant other worried about BO. I almost gave up on natural deodorant. But you posted about Primally Pure and after thinking about it a lot, I gave it a shot. Love it. I don’t stink at all! I’m using the charcoal and I’m so glad you shared it. Thank you!

  • Irina

    OMG, SO true – some of the natural deodorants made me smell terrible. Lume was a total fail… and a horror story. I have resigned to using Schmidt’s because at least it does not make anything worse… I am excited to try Primally Pure, so thank you so much!