As the formulator of a nontoxic deodorant, you could say I'm something of a natural deodorant evangelist. The reasons for switching are many, and if you're reading this - you're probably already familiar.
My favorite reason, though, is that using low pH skincare products like PRIMARY Mineral Deodorant can help balance the delicate underarm ecosystem and keep it functioning properly - so that over time, you might not need to wear deodorant at all - natural or otherwise.
Still, I'll be the first to admit that the transition isn't always as smooth as we might hope. The truth is, when making the shift from antiperspirant to a natural deodorant, you may go through what is commonly referred to as a 'detox' period, where you smell, well, worse for just a little while, before you smell better. What better a time to transition than now? Nobody can smell you from six feet away or over a Zoom call.
To appreciate why this transitional period happens, it’s helpful to understand a little bit about sweating, what causes body odor, and how antiperspirants work. Sweat itself is virtually odorless. It's only when naturally-occurring bacteria start to break down the sweat that we may find ourselves getting stinky.
Why do we smell?
How do antiperspirants work?
The way antiperspirants confront this issue is by stopping sweat from ever making it to the skin. No sweat, nothing for the bacteria to feed on. But in order to block sweat from flowing to the surface of the skin, antiperspirants use aluminum to create a superficial plug in the sweat glands. The sweat is still in there, the antiperspirant just restricts access to the upper part of the sweat gland so it can't come to the surface. Those plugs can stay in place for days - even through showers.
Effects on antiperspirant use on the microbiome
Let's say you want to stop using an antiperspirant. Good idea! Your body’s sweat glands are likely to try and overcompensate from being clogged up, potentially making you sweat more than you typically would. Add to that any of the particles that may have been trapped inside your bod also finally making an exit. While that purge is happening, the normal collection of bacteria that lives on the skin’s surface starts to shift back into balance. This is a good thing!
Restoring natural armpit flora
Depending on factors like how long you've been using antiperspirants, stress levels, hormones, and diet, the process of reestablishing the skin's natural microbiome can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. But don't worry, the stinky-est part of the process will likely be within the first week.
Tips for making the switch
Bacteria love dead skin cells. Exfoliation promotes cell turnover. This allows dead skin cells clogging the skin to shed, uncovering new healthy skin cells below. When sudsing up, use a washcloth to help exfoliate dead skin cells. This is especially key for those of us who choose not to shave or wax. Don't overdo it. No harsh scrubs are needed - a washcloth should do the trick. Just make sure to use a clean washcloth everyday. Washcloths left to air dry in the shower create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
With the understanding that you will likely be sweating more than you’re accustomed to, it helps to choose natural linen or 100% cotton tops that breathe, rather than polyester or other synthetic blends which can harbor bacteria and trap body odor in the fibers.
And of course lots of water, exercise, good sleep hygiene and avoiding overdoing it on caffeine and alcohol will help. You know the drill.
My hope is that the comfort of knowing you are transitioning into a healthier life choice every day will make the transition feel a little less daunting. You've got this - just stay the course and trust that your underarms (and body) will definitely appreciate your efforts.
- Jessica Olsen, Primary Elements. Shop her Mineral Deodorant below.