When it comes to my beauty routine, you could say I'm pretty far from au naturel. I highlight my hair, use super-strength whitening toothpaste, and spritz myself with synthetic fragrance every morning. I’m not exactly a warm-water-and-soap type of woman. And until now, I have had little to no interest in "natural" deodorants. My approach to my armpits consists of heading to the drugstore, picking up whichever deodorant is on sale, and going on my way. Sure, I’d heard some mutterings about antiperspirants being linked to breast cancer, but I figured that you can barely visit an amusement park these days without someone telling you that roller coasters give you tumors. When I was asked to give natural deodorant a go, I didn’t have the highest hopes. I opened a jar of The Natural Deodorant Co. Gentle Deodorant Cream (lemon-and-geranium scented) and was greeted with the overwhelmingly earthy scent I had expected. First reaction: How am I even supposed to put it on? It’s just a tub of gritty paste — the consistency is a bit like the frosting on a cupcake…but one that’s been sitting out for a while. Unsure how much to apply, I ended up emailing the company to ask. (Er, how about some on-packet directions, NDC? Surely I can’t have been the first person standing in a towel looking perplexed.) The brand responded by telling me a “pea-sized amount” should do the trick and to just use my fingers. Next observation: You know what’s annoying to do after emerging squeaky-clean from a shower? Dunking your fresh fingers into a greasy tub (its main ingredient is coconut oil) of natural deodorant. And physiology dictates that you need to use both hands in order to put it on. So, after applying, I was straight back in the bathroom to aggressively wash my hands with soap. This might seem like a minor nuisance, but if you pride yourself on keeping your morning routine to under 15 minutes, then this sort of thing can be a real deal-breaker.
So how did it hold up? Every morning, I take 40 minutes to walk to work at a somewhat terrifying pace (or so I’m told). By the time I arrive, I’m definitely sweating more than usual — and in desperate need of some antiperspirant. But I was more concerned about the fragrance, which had really been activated by the moisture. I smelled like a lemon grove. This may sound fairly pleasant, but it was intense. I carried on with it for a week. Through exercise classes and public speaking, it did the job. All day long. I’m kind of sold. But, then, the weather is milder now and I’d still be a bit terrified to get on the subway in mid-summer with only a bit of scented coconut oil to guard me. The Natural Deodorant Co. insists that your regular deodorant comes with health risks. Its press release reads: “Antiperspirants contain chemicals such as zirconium and aluminum that are absorbed through the pores in the skin, where they react with water and swell. This swelling forms a gel that blocks perspiration… Worse still, in lab studies, aluminum and zirconium have been found to enter cells and cause mutations in DNA that could lead to cancerous growth.” But, really, the jury is still out on this. The National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health have no conclusive evidence linking deodorant and cancer, the U.K. National Health Service claims there haven’t been big enough studies to suggest a link between the two, and Cancer Research U.K.’s official line is: “There is no convincing evidence that antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.” We probably do expose ourselves to too many chemicals, so it certainly makes sense to use a natural deodorant. And it stood up to the test way better than I thought it would. But, like faux fur, maybe it's just for the winter months. And I might have to investigate some other fragrances before I fully commit.