I Tried The New 30-Day Deodorant Cleanse — & It Was Worth The Stink

Photographed by Brayden Olson.
I may live in New York City — home to SoulCycle, ModelFit, and Juice Generation — but I’m no health or fitness buff. In fact, I’m envious of the athleisure-clad apostles of Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow, who routinely attend boutique exercise classes and sip freshly pressed juices. As for me? I prefer to chew my calories, imbibe with near reckless abandon, and hope for the best. So, when I heard about a detox that didn't require any food or drink restriction, I thought, Finally — a cleanse for unmotivated mortals with decent intentions like me.

The one item I'd have to ditch: deodorant. The Kaia Takesumi Deodorant Detox is a four-week process that uses bamboo charcoal (a.k.a. “Takesumi”) to reset your sweat glands and expel toxins right from your armpits — something the brand told me is crucial, since the underarm area consists of lymph nodes that act like filters for your body. While it doesn't include drinking six liquid antiperspirants a day, the Takesumi Detox has the same basic principles of a juice cleanse: Embrace the all-natural, suffer through an adjustment period, and emerge refreshed and refined. And since charcoal is one of the buzziest ingredients in beauty right now — known for its potent detoxifying properties — the thought made me feel extra on-trend, which I find extra satisfying.

But there’s a catch: The team at Kaia says that by week two — as your body acclimates to the change going on down under — the purge of built-up toxins, bacteria, and chemicals begins, thus emitting a foul odor. This doesn’t scare me nearly as much as drinking my food does, and what better time than the holidays to reek for weeks? As I head into my detox, I envision my future armpits as a pristine picture of purity, a City Upon A Hill for other underarms, and that pleases me.
Week 1
I receive a kit with the three varieties of essential oil-scented Takesumi deodorants: Cold-Pressed Rose, Lime Mint, and Juicy Bamboo. The zesty Lime Mint reminds me of a mojito; the Cold-Pressed Rose, of course, feels like the Veuve Clicquot of scents, in that it's fancy, sumptuous, and nothing at all like me. I want to be a Cold-Pressed Rose woman, but I know that out of the three, I’m definitely a Juicy Bamboo: pedestrian and fruity. There’s a slight slimy texture to it, but it rolls on nicely and leaves little residue behind. As the week progresses, I begin to feel holier-than-thou, pitying the chemical-laden pits of the peasants around me. In the bathroom at work, a random colleague catches me reapplying Juicy Bamboo in the mirror. "This deodorant ousts toxins from my body," I say smugly.

Week 2
Time to get serious: I may start offending people this week, and in an effort to fairly report this experience, I’ve decided to outsource my scent checks to others. Febreze commercials have convinced me that you can go nose-blind to odors in your own home, and I won’t allow myself to go nose-blind to my body. A rep for the brand told me that your diet plays a major role, so this entire week I was expecting to smell like hot Chinatown garbage, but the reality was much less fragrant. When I stay out late playing Heads Up at a bar uptown, however, I’m a tad self-conscious when I hold the phone against my forehead. At this point, I may not be wilting flowers, but my underarms feel extremely slick — and not in the Casanova way. I remember that there’s a difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant, which actually keeps you dry, and I dream fondly of the latter.

Week 3
The cleanse is working out well for me. I have always swiped on regular stick deodorant gingerly, since I’m aware of the murky scientific associations between aluminum and breast cancer, and parabens and endocrine disruption. I apply Takesumi like it’s Benefit They’re Real! Mascara: without restraint. By now, I’m halfway through the process, and since I'm on the hunt for New Year's Eve plans, I’m going on a date. We arrive at a festive bar, order a few rounds of drinks, and engage in the customary first-date small talk. Since I’m committed to seeking the truth of my tincture, after we’re well and sauced, I tell him about the detox and ask for a review. He replies that I smell great from the neck up, and even though I protest — he should be attracted to my pheromones! See: science — he will not adjust his assessment. I tell him it’s just the fried-egg sandwich I ate that morning.

Week 4
I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer, which may explain the beginning of this week. Toxins, oxen, by the way I smell now, it’s anyone's guess what is going on south of my shoulders. The armpit areas of my tight-fitting sweaters boast a standalone musk — even when I’m not wearing one. That doesn’t stop me from slipping one on for my second date with the aforementioned honest citizen. He takes me ice-skating in Bryant Park, where we hold each other’s sweaty hands for around 40 minutes, and I can only imagine the funk that is brewing around my pits. Later, I ask him again to become acquainted with my aroma; he again tells me I stink.

But a few days later, I arrive to the true test of any scent-catcher: Texas. It’s a balmy 77 degrees on Christmas day, and I am glad to have persevered through the days prior. I play outdoor tennis, construct play tables for my nephews, and generally sweat with reasonable moisture — only now with relatively little stench. Near-perfect pits: The holiday present you give yourself.

The Verdict
In the end, I enjoyed getting natural with my skin care. Even at my most pungent, the innate smell my body produced was more like a refreshing reminder of my womanity than anything else. Did my armpits actually jettison toxins? Perhaps not, as my friend and dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, says only the liver and kidney can truly filter nasties from the body. But I felt like I was doing something good for myself, and only now do I fully understand how addicting that feeling — and the superiority of being a health buff — can be. My recommendation: Don’t turn up your nose at this detox.

Kaia Naturals
Takesumi Detox Bamboo Charcoal Deodorant, $21, available at Kaia Naturals.
Advertisement