I briefly dated a guy who didn't wear deodorant. I was appalled.
He was worried about cancer, so I did a quick Google and discovered the link between aluminum-based antiperspirants and cancer is tenuous at best, but the strongest evidence is in relation to breast cancer, so I told him he was safe.
"Meh, I'm still not going to go out and buy deodorant."
To me this made ZERO sense. You see, for many years, I've been *meticulous* about not having body odor and not having visible pit stains. Perhaps I even went a little overboard.
Probably sometime during my college years, I started thinking that I sweat more than other people. Looking back, I am pretty sure that was also the onset of my social anxiety that went undiagnosed until my mid-20s, but I never made that connection.
Instead, I invested in sticks and sticks of Secret "clinical" antiperspirant. And when that failed me, I asked my dermatologist. He told me to get Certain Dri, which had an even higher percentage of aluminum and also was so extreme that it irritated my skin if I used it every night. So instead I used it every other night and used Secret on alternate nights.
Additionally, I work out a lot, so I also put on deodorant in the mornings and then again after showering post-workout. Basically I LOADED up on my pits with metals and whatever other chemicals go into your standard antiperspirant.
I still believe it is pretty difficult to try to outrun carcinogens altogether in our society. But I also believe women are *particularly* fucked because everything in the products we buy and consume are filled with hormone disrupters (thanks for the insight, Alissa Vitta).
And so I've been methodically getting rid of my old bath, beauty, and household standbys in exchange for all-natural, organic products. The simpler the ingredient list, the better. The FDA does not look at these products, so ladies, you're on your own; get to know which chemicals confuse your body and avoid them.
This means my old armpit-clogging, heavy metal-dousing antiperspirant days were numbered.
I did a very unscientific crowdsourcing Instastory to get some recommendations for all-natural deodorants. I decided to try Primal Pit Paste first, mostly because I was in an organic grocery store and happened to see it.
I liked that, unlike many other natural deodorants, it comes in a stick rather than a jar or a powder. I got the orange creamsicle sent because yum.
For the first week or so, it was going great. While it didn't have quite the antiperspirant power that my old choices had, it was adequate and the scent held up throughout hot yoga. I was very impressed and used it as often as I was used to using deodorant -- which is to say more than once a day.
But after the first week or two, I started to notice what looked like tiny little pimples here and there on my armpits. And they HURT. I did some research and read about pit rash and pit detox. It looked like I had pit rash, but other websites said this was more like a heat rash that comes from sweating more than your body is used to. It was definitely always worse after a workout.
Then I noticed tender lumps in my armpits. I wasn't super concerned because I knew this was part of said pit detox -- for some people, the body goes through a period of "detox" in which it basically purges itself of the aluminum and parabens of the old antiperspirants. This can irritate the lymph nodes which are working harder than normal.
It was painful, so I cut back on my deodorant use. If I wasn't going out that day or seeing anyone, I would go deodorant-free. And when I did smell bad, it wasn't normal BO. Also a symptom of pit detox is particularly bad-smelling body odor. In my case, it smelled almost plasticky, or musty, which is...kind of an unsettling smell coming from your body.
Primal recommended sweating more (get it all out), not putting deodorant on after shaving, or trying different formulas. For some people, the baking soda in natural deodorant can be irritating. For others, the essential oils that give the deodorant its fragrance are the culprit.
So I ordered the pit detox kit which came with a jar of the charcoal deodorant. The charcoal paste didn't have baking soda and would help draw out the bad stuff. It also had a jar of unscented "level 2," which had baking soda and I could "graduate" to after using the charcoal, and an oil-based soothing serum to put on when my pits felt bad or put on before applying the other deodorant.
For a couple weeks of using the soothing serum and the charcoal deodorant, the irritation just got worse. After one hot 7-mile run, I ended up with a puffy, blotchy rash that was extremely painful. Finally, I decided maybe it wasn't the baking soda after all, but the oils. I gave up the soothing serum and the charcoal paste and tried the unscented. My armpits finally started to heal, but my skin was still not holding up during long runs.
So I gaveup on the Primal. Next, I tried Native. A number of trusted friends going through this journey SWORE by Native. I opted for the sensitive skin vanilla coconut scent. The formula includes neither baking soda nor essential oils.
Native comes in a stick, and the vanilla coconut smells like a goddamn cake. Like I genuinely enjoy it when I get a whiff of my armpits. And lo and behold -- after a couple of weeks, my armpits have healed.
It is possible that since the sensitive formula does not include baking powder, it doesn't do as good a job at absorbing sweat, but the scent has held up through every hot yoga class, every long run, every workout, and it's been delightful to not walk around my apartment holding my armpits wondering if I should sit with ice packs on them. I am still limiting myself to only using it once a day (like a sane person), though with two-a-day workouts, I do have to be strategic about that.
This is not to say that Native is good and P3 is bad. I wanted to share my story because when I started talking about it to friends and on Instagram, alllllll these people came out of the woodwork with their own armpit horror stories, and so many people said they just gave up and went back to the old toxic stuff.
I want you to know that the pit detox/rash struggles are real. Not everyone is out there gchatting their friends on a Monday morning and says "My armpits are killing me," so I'm happy to take one for the team and give you some more real body #realtalk.
The other important thing to remember is that every body is different. I have friends who love P3. I have friends who switched to natural deodorant with no problems at all. In fact, my one friend had LESS irritation with natural deodorant than she did with traditional. So figure out what works for you want what doesn't. Different brands offer multiple formulas, but there's a lot out there to see what is compatible for you and your body.
Just don't give up! Get your hormones right (and your pits too)!