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One of the first of many green changes I made years ago - long before I was even thinking of getting pregnant - was to replace my conventional antiperspirant with the most natural and effective deodorant I could find. This was wise for several reasons. Conventional products tend to contain a whole host of best-to-avoid substances including hormone disrupters, petrochemicals, lung irritants, and other suspect ingredients. These are not only potentially harmful to the adults who use them, but also to teenagers who are still developing, babies in utero, breastfeeding babies (internally and externally - they're often leaning skin-on-skin up near your armpits) and even to the waterways and aquatic life where traces of the conventional gunk winds up after we shower it off.
But finding an effective natural replacement is no easy task if you're not a dainty fleur. I have plenty of friends and even family members who fall into that category - they can garden and hike and build furniture and do all sorts of heavy lifting wearing certain natural brands that are so ineffective on me. I still feel pity for the yoga teacher who was with me when I wore them as I went through my "transition" phase - searching for the one. It was a lengthy and somewhat stinky search. Oh well. I made it through to the other side.
I'm not someone who normally suggests products by brand, but since I went through at least ten to arrive at my current one, I can't help but admit in print that I'm a Weleda Rose Spray convert. It's pure, contains biodynamic ingredients, and is third-party certified natural. Their Citrus and their Sage sprays aren't as effective on me. It's not inexpensive and during the summer, I sometimes reapply midday. The spray is wet, which, if you're leaving an antiperspirant behind, takes some getting use to. Give it time. My anecdotal opinion is that it gets more effective over time as your body re-habituates itself to more natural ingredients. One of my best friends who did the same research and search I did also wound up with Weleda Rose. She now also swears by Erbaviva. If you happen to have $23ish or so to spend on a bottle of roll on, Martha Stewart's favorite deodorant is the beyond natural, third-party certified, and extremely effective (it's Martha ... it has to be) Dr. Hauschka. I've tried it and it's fabulous.
Keep in mind that what works for me (or her) might not work for you. And vice versa. When in the testing phase, buy the smallest sizes of a product you can find as they might wind up unused, or as your "back up" for if you run out of your main squeeze.
Here are a few other things to consider when searching for a natural deodorant: conventional antiperspirants that contain aluminum have never been effectively linked to Alzheimer's Disease, though many people have researched the link, and others (mainly online) still discuss its safety. Precautionary Principle devotees choose to avoid it just in case, especially as there are effective alternatives that do not contain it. And ones that don't clog your sweat ducts and keep them from doing what they're supposed to do -- sweat. Similarly there is no solid evidence linking conventional antiperspirant use to breast cancer, even though there are a lot of online posts and writers claiming there is. For more on the lack of cancer link, surf here.
With that in mind, here are my shopping no's and yes's:
Deodorant: Chemicals and Claims to Avoid
Unregulated claims like "natural" (most claims aren't regulated)
Antibacterials like triclosan
Synthetic fragrance (which can contain hormone disruptors, usually on labels as "fragrance")
Petrochemicals like propylene glycol(PEG)
Anything containing what The Green Guide refers to as the "Dirty Dozen" chemical cosmetic ingredients (many I've just mentioned above)
Deodorant: What to Look For
Third-party certified organic or natural products
Deodorants that come in recyclable packaging (my Weleda spray is glass), or in packaging with post-consumer content
Leaping Bunny-certified products
Ingredient lists you can read and understand
One caveat with natural products: for some reason some good third-party certified lines persist in listing their truly natural fragrances on their ingredient lists as "fragrance," which means they get low scores on The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. Would that all natural products manufacturers would list their natural fragrances accordingly and end this confusion, or that the EWG would interpret the natural labels for the consumer. Either way it's more work for the consumer, but the good stuff can be found.
If you want to avoid reading labels this carefully, and staying up on the latest research on various ingredients, why not make your own natural deodorant? Annie Berthold Bond lists many DIY versions in her must-own tome, Better Basics For The Home. The powder versions involve some version of baking soda (plain sprinkled on a puff or damp washcloth), plain or mixed with water and/or cornstarch and antibacterial essential oils like cinnamon, rose, birch, or lavender. Liquid sprays can be made with witch hazel extract, aloe vera gel, and mineral water.