Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to live that #healthyish life, getting rid of all the unnecessarily harsh products in my world. Swapping in natural cleaning products and detergents? Simple and, ultimately, relaxing—now I’m not freaked out if I accidentally get some bathroom cleaning spray on my skin. But finding a natural deodorant that actually works (and continues to work after a few hours or a tough workout) was not nearly as stress free.
The process involves a lot of trial and error, which means trying out ineffective product after slightly less ineffective product, until you slowly wear away that unspoken reputation you have among your friends and colleagues as a generally nice-smelling person. That is, of course, unless you’ve got a handy guide like this.
I put 11 of the most popular natural deodorants to the sweat test then rated them from zero to five stars. Check out my thoughts below (you’re welcome).
Rating: 0 starsYou can’t ignore the wacky stuff if you’re going natural. Crystal is basically an extremely nice piece of salt in a plastic dish. You’re supposed to use it right out of the shower, and you’re instructed to run the rock itself under some water to get it to “release its powers” or whatever. Before my review, I should note that I once dated a guy for six months who used this thing every. single. day, and I can attest that he really did smell very good and not at all like BO, so maybe it does work for some people or maybe he was just a naturally scentless person? Unclear. But my own body did not respond positively to rubbing a wet rock on my armpits in the morning. After one day, I smelled very strongly of BO and ended up taking a second shower that night. After the gym, I smelled decidedly sour and gross, like someone who had just done an intense workout without using any kind of deodorant at all, which I’m pretty sure is exactly what happened.($6.21, amazon.com)
Rating: 2 starsThis looks like a classic stick deodorant, but it goes on really wet and takes a long time to dry, a sensation I did not enjoy. While I like the smell of fresh aloe, this product only kind of hints at aloe-ness and instead smells more chemical clean, like the stuff you’d use to scrub a locker room rather than to soothe a sunburn. After a day of walking around, I smelled a little ick, but some of the deo scent still remained. After an intense workout, the BO was pushing through.($5.11, amazon.com)
Rating: 2 starsThis comes in a solid square, like a bar of soap, packaged in a cute, environmentally friendly paper box. I love the idea of using a deodorant bar, but I found that if it gets exposed to too much heat (a.k.a. my sauna of an apartment in the summer), the bar starts to sweat and gets oily, which makes it gross to touch and hard to use—you definitely have to wash your hands immediately after. Before it got overheated, however, this deodorant was great: It glides on clean and without residue, and it smells lovely—heavy on vanilla and light on lavender, a nice combo. After a day of wear, I didn’t notice any smell, but my partner said I smelled a little rough. After an hour at the gym, the BO smell was stronger.($17.50, amazon.com)
Rating: 2 starsBonus points to the brand for designing packaging that isn’t so ugly I need to shove it under my sink when guests come over. At first appearance, this looks like a deodorant you’d happily display on your vanity or shelf. It smells good in the tube, but for some reason, it ended up smelling “kind of medical,” as my partner put it, on my skin—sweet but also a little like camphor. It glides on thick but doesn’t leave a residue. After a day of running around town, my underarms smelled like an oddly equal mix of sweetness and stink. After a workout, I’d say that this was better than nothing but still not great.($10.14, amazon.com)
Rating: 3 starsThis one comes in a rollerball and smells nice, but in no way does it smell like green tea. There’s a very faint hint of chamomile, but it pretty much smells like one of those Bath & Body Works soaps that were popular with the girls in middle school. Anyway, after wearing this all day, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my armpits smelled like not much of anything at all—just faintly sweet. After a sweaty workout, however, I could smell my own odor for sure, just barely concealed by the light perfume.($6.40, amazon.com)
Rating: 3 starsThis is a product intended for people who typically like masculine scents. It’s a gel stick that smells minty, fresh, and manly, but doesn’t give off that creepy body-spray vibe. I liked it (I’ve gone through phases of wearing men’s cologne), but my partner was confused by my smelling like a man, which I guess was to be expected, as I normally smell like Coco Mademoiselle. It takes a few minutes for it to dry fully, so you need to plan ahead before putting on clothes. After a full day of running around doing work and errands, I didn’t end up smelling like much of anything at all, which was nice. Post-workout, I did not smell repulsive, but I also wasn’t at peak freshness.($17.10, amazon.com)
Rating: 4 starsOne sniff and I was immediately reminded of fresh rose petals. In my opinion, this is a gorgeous scent, but my partner thought it smelled “old-fashioned… kind of old ladyish.” (TBH, I think that’s just a hazard of all single floral note scents.) After testing, the initially intense rose smell faded some but was still fairly fragrant and sweet, with maybe the tiniest bit of odor peeking through. Remarkably, when used immediately before an intense workout, my underarms still smelled mostly like a bouquet of flowers.($25, amazon.com)
Rating: 4 starsTea tree oil is one of those scents you either really like or really don’t. Personally, I love it and think it smells clean and woodsy. This stuff glides on slick but dries quickly and doesn’t leave a residue. After a day of wear, I didn’t think I smelled like much, and my partner confirmed it—not my personal stink but not like tea trees either. After the gym, it was about the same.($4.78, amazon.com)
Rating: 4 starsAt first sniff, this product smells a little bit like bug spray, but not in an entirely bad way. It goes on dry, feels clean, and doesn’t leave an icky residue. The spray cap is pretty resistant and difficult to work (I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone with arthritis, carpal tunnel, or a short temper), and it leaves a distinct (although not unpleasant) scent in the air, which hangs around for a while—like Febreze for your body. Twelve hours later there was no discernible smell in my pits, neither BO nor cucumber, which I think means this stuff did its job. When I wore it to the gym the next day, I did smell kind of musty afterward but not bad.($7.39, amazon.com)
Rating: 5 starsMuch like its pure vanilla sister, this comes as a solid, round stick in lovely packaging. According to my partner, it smells “fresher, more like baby powder. I like it more than the other one. Do I have to keep doing this?” To me, it smells a little bit like swim practice in a nice way—bright and clean. What makes this formula different from the regular version is a “proprietary technology” that utilizes a blend of all-natural antibacterial and antimicrobial ingredients. It glides on residue free, or in other words, my black tops were safe from problematic white streaks. After a full day of doing stuff, that very clean scent remained, and after a trip to the gym, I smelled decidedly not bad at all—kind of like wet laundry, the fresh kind.($13.96, amazon.com)
Rating: 5 starsThis one smells fresh and sweet—not oversweet or syrupy, just like a bowl of jasmine green tea ice cream (if that’s even a thing?). After wearing this all day, my exact note was, “My underarms smell like fresh jasmine and no BO, and I want to lick them.” Seriously, after an entire 12 hours of wear, this stuff made me want to taste my own armpits, which is… both disgusting and a pretty good recommendation, I think. After the gym, the scent remained strong. (If you prefer a more neutral scent, the charcoal magnesium is another great option.) My only complaint is that it leaves a bit of a residue, which you need to be careful of when dressing or wipe off. But frankly, it’s worth it: I’m a total fan.($10.99, amazon.com)