I went a week without deodorant during a heatwave
It got sticky
I’m usually a big deo fan, regardless of weather. But recently, deep in summer boredom and idly scrolling through Facebook, I discovered your typical health hazard terrifying post which made me pause for thought. According to this post aluminium, the ingredient found in almost every brand of deodorant and antiperspirant which is supposed to clog your pores and stop sweating, is rumoured to cause breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s nothing to prove it was true, but it made me wonder about the amount of chemicals I spray, rub, paste or roll onto my skin every day.
The fancy deodorants and antiperspirants which don’t contain aluminium, found in health stories, are more expensive, and as a student who has to lose weight to fit back into her old clothes because she’s too poor to buy new ones, it’s safe to say I’m on a budget. So instead I decided to have a go at living naturally for a week instead – no deodorant or antiperspirant but allowing myself natural substitutes. Unfortunately my foray into natural and organic living came in the middle of one of the hottest Julys on record.
Day 1-4 using coconut oil
Coconut oil’s having a bit of a moment right now – you might have heard of it because apparently people are using it to bleach their teeth in an “oil pulling” technique – but apparently it can also be used as a natural deodorant. Coconut oil is antibacterial, and apparently it’s the bacteria under your arms which cases the bad smell, not sweat itself.
The first few days went well, despite deciding to do this little experiment in the middle of a heat wave. Although the coconut oil did absolutely nothing for the sweat, it did keep away the B.O. So I smelt like coconuts, but I couldn’t wear t-shirts or anything that went over my armpits for fear of damp patches. Although the coconut oil worked for walking in the park, and making trips to town, I decided to really put it to the test and go to the gym.
But even at the gym the coconut oil still held out well. By the time I was done I was sweating, but there was no stink. Although one guy decided to use the treadmill that was the furthest from mine…
By day four however, the coconut oil started to fail me. I don’t know if it was because the withdrawal from deodorant was catching up to me, or if it was because it was 35 degrees outside, but tragically it just stopped working and I started to smell like my brother. After constantly washing and reapplying coconut oil I decided to use another alternative for the rest of the week.
Day 5-7 using Witch Hazel oil
Witch Hazel oil is known for being a natural toner and cleanser, but I had read online some people used it as a deodorant substitute too. I also find toners and cleansers to be quite drying on the skin so I hoped by that logic Witch Hazel would help solve the sweat and dampness problem my beloved coconut oil couldn’t.
I didn’t need to worry about it not covering the stench of my natural odours – it absolutely stinks when you first open it. It smells like cough medicine but once I put it on I either got used to smelling like a pharmacy or my skin absorbed it.
Despite still being a pariah in public places, I was surprised how well the Witch Hazel worked. After a hot, sweaty day of walking around through a nature reserve it still kept me from smelling bad. Like the coconut oil, it also did me proud at the gym. It didn’t give me the bone-dry feeling under my arms that regular deodorants and antiperspirants do but it held out better than the coconut oil and I could get away with wearing t-shirts as long as it wasn’t too hot and I had some wet wipes handy just in case.
The only downside I had to this was the constant paranoia. After years and years of wearing deodorant or antiperspirant daily, and having it drilled into my brain that “if you don’t wear deodorant, you will stink” I was ridiculously self-conscious. I kept trying to discreetly sniff at my underarms in case I did pong and didn’t realize. The heat wave didn’t help at all either. The heat and constant sweating just made it a thousand times worse. But bizarrely none of my friends or family seem to notice any bad body odor coming from me, one friend even reassured me by saying “if you did stink I’d tell you”.
When telling my friends and family what I was doing most of them gave me odd looks, and almost all of them asked me the same question: “But why though?” But other than that they just left me to it. But apart from one so-called friend who branded me a “dirty hippy”, most people just left me to it.
If you’re worried about how deodorant and antiperspirants are affecting your body (or even if you aren’t) switching to natural alternatives like coconut oil and witch hazel are worth a try. Even if they end up not working for you they are useful for a million other things. Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer, hair mask, make-up remover, and Witch Hazel can also be used as an antiseptic. They’re also a lot cheaper and could save you money in the long run.
I was terrified stepping away from my clinical sprays and branded roll-ons, but the week wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be, and I’d definitely try it again. Except maybe I’ll wait until the weather cools off so I won’t be so paranoid.