Happy to sweat, but not to stink
October 14, 2009 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Is there an effective aluminum-free deodorant?

There have been quite a few deodorant questions on Ask, but none of them are quite what I'm looking for. I need an aluminum-free deodorant because my doctor told me that I should use one, but as a woman they are very difficult to find, at least in my experience. I've been using men's Speed Stick for years (the woman's counterpart contains aluminium) and it's generally fine but sometimes -- especially now that I'm in a high stress environment in a hotter climate than I'm used to -- it doesn't cut it. I don't mind using men's deodorant, I don't care what it smells like, I just want it to work! Tom's of Maine irritated my skin a lot when I used it, so that is out. I also found it to be much less effective than the Speed Stick. The deodorant rocks that people always bring up in deodorant threads appear to basically be solid aluminum (am I wrong about this?) so that is out as well.

I'm not concerned about sweat or wetness; I just don't want to smell like I didn't shower. I do shower, every morning, so that isn't the problem. This doesn't happen all of the time; it seems to be when I'm in a high-pressure situation or when I'm wearing long sleeves.

I've also noticed that my nice sweaters (mostly 100% cashmere) have a smell sort of embedded in them that dry cleaning won't remove. They smell fine until they're on my body for about an hour, and then I think that my body heat, or possibly the new sweat, activates this scent. Is there any hope for wearing these again? I've had them dry cleaned and that didn't do a thing, much to my embarrassment. Are these sweaters ruined, or can they somehow be saved?

Should I be considering perfume or a body spray or something else? I don't really like wearing perfume, and I don't want to smell like anything in particular; I would prefer to smell mild or like nothing at all. I also think that perfume would just be masking the smell and not getting at the root of the problem.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
A radio personality I listen to announced recently that his long search for a good aluminum-free deodorant was over (he too had problems with Tom's) when he found Nature's Gate Spring Fresh deodorant. I believe spring fresh is just the scent, the brand itself has others which you may prefer, but they seem to be all aluminum-free.

I haven't tried personally, but I thought I'd mention it.
posted by sharkfu at 9:12 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's technically "for men" and it's a bit expensive but I've had great luck with the Anthony Logistics deodorant
posted by setanor at 9:20 PM on October 14, 2009

Aluminum-free deodorants are easy to find! Buy just about any deodorant that is not an anti-perspirant. A couple examples are Mennen Speed Stick, Old Spice stick, or Adidas.

The aluminum is only used to inhibit perspiration.
posted by peabody at 9:21 PM on October 14, 2009

There are many, many deodorants that don't contain aluminum. Aluminum is a common ingredient in antiperspirants, though.

You don't say where you are located, but if possible, I'd shove you toward a Lush or other "natural" body products shop.
posted by rokusan at 9:21 PM on October 14, 2009

I think we think we stink more than we actually stink. How's that for Dr. Seuss hygiene? I get what you mean about showering then realizing a few hours later that you're um, rather fragrant. I've never had anyone say anything though, so I think it just seems worse than it is.
posted by ShadePlant at 9:29 PM on October 14, 2009

I can't speak to the deodorant part of your question but an address some of your question related to the sweaters. Cashmere is really better off being hand-washed as opposed to dry cleaned. It's better for the fibers and for you and the environment. Your sweaters will last longer and look better. I find that dry cleaning does almost nothing for body odor either so perhaps a good soak in a mild detergent formulated for delicates would be a good approach.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:46 PM on October 14, 2009

Crystal deodorant is made of potassium alum, which is not the same thing as aluminum. So there's that.

As for your sweaters, my mom who is the Cashmere Sweater Queen of the Western Hemisphere swears by handwashing with regular shampoo (she also suggests using the delicate cycle on a trusted washing machine). She refuses to have any of hers drycleaned because she says that it makes them smell horrible.

I dont' know if the old spritz-the-clothes-with-vodka trick to get the smell out will work on cashmere, but it doesn't seem like it will hurt.
posted by corey flood at 9:52 PM on October 14, 2009

One drop of pure sandalwood oil after the shower.
posted by hortense at 10:38 PM on October 14, 2009

I vote for the crystal deodorant. I live in a country that doesn't sell anti-perspirant, only deodorant, and weak stuff for a smelly guy like me. I found the crystal deodorant and on the first day, at the beginning, I was disappointed. I could definitely smell a funk coming from my pits. But later that night, my wife actually did a sniff test on both my shirt and my armpit (she's a saint) and declared there was very little odor. Which, if you know me, you know that that is amazing.
posted by zardoz at 10:41 PM on October 14, 2009

I use a Burt's Bees natural deodorant that works pretty damn good. I switched from regular deodorant/antiperspirant about a year ago, first going with a spray on kind from Burt's but I found that it didn't work as well as I had hoped. Guess that I just sweat too much. Anyhow, this stuff works good for me so it just might for you as well.
posted by friendlyjuan at 11:31 PM on October 14, 2009

I need an aluminum-free deodorant because my doctor told me that I should use one...

Are you sure that your doctor's advice is correct? Many of the popular ideas about aluminum health risks appear to be overblown, or outright incorrect. You may wish to reassess your doctor's suggestion regarding aluminum antiperspirant. (Or, of course, you might not.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:09 AM on October 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

Old Spice men's deodorants are fantastic: no aluminum, so nothing there to clog your sweat glands. I'm a woman, and I've used antiperspirants in the past but nothing keeps me as fresh-smelling and clean-feeling as whatever Old Spice deodorant I can find in the house. With their deodorants, I have a hard time telling whether I've worn a shirt or it's just been washed. They make several scents that don't smell particularly manly (Swagger is the latest scent that my boyfriend and I could agree on; I bought something Arctic that I keep at work because I usually neglect to put on deodorant in the morning): just go to your local drugstore and see if you like any (you can smell them through the protective transparent cap).

If you'd like to just give it a try, pharmacies typically carry Old Spice in travel sizes at about $1 each (assuming you're in the U.S.A.), but they often have sales during which the 3.25oz full size is about the same price as the tiny sample.

You shouldn't have a stinky sweater problem with the right deodorant (with antiperspirants I certainly noticed the scent of my sweat). Furthermore, I wash my nice 100% cashmere sweaters in a delicate cold cycle with cold water detergent, making sure to never put them in the dryer, and I've never had the issue you described.
posted by halogen at 12:19 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dunno where you are located but Natio here in Australia do a lovely aluminium free deodorant with lemon, rosemary, clary sage and such-like.

Poster may be concerned more about aluminium clogging her pores than alzheimer issues. If she is getting ingrown hairs et al it makes sense to avoid it.
posted by smoke at 2:19 AM on October 15, 2009

Have you considered going without deodorant? I know it sounds crazy, and I know you smell now, but if you abstain for a week you will probably stop smelling. I haven't worn deoderant regularly for years, and I very rarely smell of body odor. I do find, however, that if I put on deodorant one day, I smell horribly of bo the next. I'm not sure what this reaction is, and I'm not claiming that deoderant causes bo, but I do know that I don't smell if I don't wear deodorant.
posted by OmieWise at 4:51 AM on October 15, 2009

Herbal Clear works for me. Yeah, it sounds like something sold to help you pass a drug test, but it's a deodorant. Tom's of Maine irritated me as well but the Herbal Clear works great. Bonus is it costs approximately $2 or less per stick, so it's cheap enough to try. Trader Joe's had a cotton-based aluminum free that I also liked, but like so much of what they sell it seems to come and go.

Both varieties have the added bonus of being clear, so they don't leave white smears on clothes.

My wife loved the Adidas aluminum-free deodorant, but we couldn't find it anywhere around here so I simply bought her a bunch of it online.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:25 AM on October 15, 2009

Not exactly the answer, but you might try this: when I start to get that not so fresh feeling, like my deodorant has ceased to be effective, I give myself a good dousing with rubbing alcohol after toweling off in the shower. And then let myself air dry. The alcohol doesn't dry me out if I let it air dry.

My theory is that after a few months, the pit bacteria start to become less annoyed by the deodorant and multiply. Killing them with the alcohol works as sort of a reset.

(For the non deodorant people- that may work for you, but some people just stink more than others.)
posted by gjc at 6:00 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree Tom's of Maine isn't very effective. What is, though, is Burt's Bees! It's the spray-on that friendlyjuan mentioned above It works fantastically for me, a woman, and doesn't leave the stains on the pits of my clothes that anti-antiperspirants did. And even though it's $8, one can of it has lasted me way longer than a normal stick of $2 deodorant.
posted by lagreen at 6:45 AM on October 15, 2009

Desert Essence tea tree oil deodorant

it's the only non-aluminum deodorant that really works for me ... i've tried burt's bees, nature's gate, and tom's, all of which leave me stinky by the end of the day.

desert essence tea tree works for at least 2 days.
posted by beukeboom at 7:03 AM on October 15, 2009

(For the non deodorant people- that may work for you, but some people just stink more than others.)

This is undoubtedly true. My point, however, is that I have been appalled at my personal reek whenever I use deodorant but do not apply it. I would not know that I could do without it if I only waited a day or two before deciding that I was too smelly. It's only after some time (a week?) that it becomes clear that part of what I'm reacting to is some reaction with the deodorant.
posted by OmieWise at 7:18 AM on October 15, 2009

I'm with OmieWise on this one, as is Mrs Jones. And we both run (as does OmieWise I believe). Shower daily and no problem. We also don't eat a whole lot of meat, and that makes a serious difference.

Failing that - have you tried crystal rock salt?
posted by IndigoJones at 7:24 AM on October 15, 2009

nthing the crystal. however, i've found it doesn't work super well if you prefer the hairy ways.
posted by bellbellbell at 7:35 AM on October 15, 2009

Seconding Nature's Gate Spring Fresh deodorant (the other scents might work well too, but that's the one I've always used). It's the only kind I've found that is absolutely reliable. I'm currently using the Desert Essence tea tree oil deodorant (mentioned above) because I couldn't easily replace my Nature's Gate, and it is working fairly well, but not as well as the NG.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:04 AM on October 15, 2009

When I was on this very quest, I switched to Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant , which is aluminum and paraben free and works wonderfully for me. As a bonus, b.o. no longer takes up residence in sweater and shirt armpits so I can wear them more often between washings.
posted by jenmakes at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2009

I tried a bunch of different deodorants over the years - ones with aluminum, ones without, the crystal kind, and using nothing at all. Eventually I came to what I'm using now, which has always worked extremely well:

Mix 1 part baking soda to 1 part cornstarch. Put in a few drops of essential oil (if you like - I use lavender).

I rub a pinch of this mixture on my underarms, and I'm good for at least a day - more, if I'm not stressed. It's worked better than anything else I've ever used.
posted by amanzi at 9:05 AM on October 15, 2009


The way it works is you don't use any anti-perspirant/deodorant for 48 hours. This allows your skin to refresh and sweat glands to clear out all the accumulated gunk your previous underarm treatments deposited.

A small dollop of the cream spread under the arm before bed is all it takes. FOR UP TO A WEEK.

What Lavilin does is kill the odor-causing bacteria while not interfering with your sweat glands function. Personally, I shave my underarms as well. But this stuff is the goods. It also works like gangbusters on stinky feets.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:46 AM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant. I too got lot's of skin irratation/peeling from the tom's natural and several other alum free sticks. I tried problay 10 natural/organic sticks before I found Arma nd Hammer. Arm & Hammer works great, smells neutral and stops sweat. (sorry to sound like a commercial!)
posted by ShootTheMoon at 10:45 AM on October 15, 2009

Nthing Arm & Hammer Essentials… it has similar consistency/application properties to regular deodorant, and seems to 'adapt' more to your body's natural smell rather than attempt to overpower it like some others— which is to say when my lady friend and i both use it, we still smells like ourselves.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:48 AM on October 15, 2009

I hate to be the bearer of possibly bad news, but I conducted a similar search when I moved to Florida--deodorant had been perfectly good at masking smells in New Jersey, but when I moved south, it did next to nothing. I just sweat too much, and I tried many different brands. And I washed my pits frequently with antibacterial soap and used powder, too. I've come to believe that for some people, in some environments, antiperspirant is just necessary if you want a level of non-smelliness acceptable to American germophobic noses. Luckily, as Guy Smiley points out, the "dangers" of antiperspirant are overblown. Unless you've, say, had an allergic reaction to it, it's likely no more dangerous for you than it is for anyone else--which is to say, not very.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:23 PM on October 15, 2009

Just agreeing with those who are saying Tom's of Maine irritated them. I used it for a while and it wasn't even very effective, and then I started getting itchy red rashes from it. Their toothpaste doesn't seem to work well for me either, even the fluoridated stuff. Oh well.

Arm & Hammer Essentials is the best I've found, and Herbal Clear is decent but won't hold up if you sweat much.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:02 PM on October 15, 2009

flameworks on Etsy!
posted by sucre at 10:01 PM on October 15, 2009

Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (a.k.a. Mr. Big Stinky Guy) has already recommended Lavilin, so I'll just say yes indeed. I have a lower general level of body odor than he does, so it lasts longer between applications for me, but we both find it very effective.
posted by Lexica at 9:32 PM on October 16, 2009

I would urge you to try the T'eo deodorant bar from Lush. I'm pretty girly but I still like the fresh, good-on-men-or-women fragrance. It does absorb some of the sweat, but even when I sweat A LOT (think long-distance running, 100-mile bike rides, and sweltering humid midwest summers) I don't smell AT ALL. It's incredible. Sure, by the second day of sweating I need to shower or wash my pits. But if I didn't have to, frankly, I'd be pretty freaked out about what I was putting under my arms.

Other things I like about this deodorant:
- It washes off, so you never get that residue in your pits or on your clothes.
- I don't get that funky sweat-plus-antiperspirant stink (on myself or my clothes)
- No stains on shirts and sweaters. Sometimes shirts will show sweat when they're dirty, but that washes out with no special treatment.

To make my nice sweaters last forever, I often wear a thin, comfy t-shirt underneath. That way the sweater stays basically clean and you can wear it multiple times between washes.
posted by TrixieRamble at 7:11 PM on October 21, 2009

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