Monday, February 16, 2015

Deodorant Inequality

On Friday, I went to WalMart and had a serious pow-wow with the deodorant aisle. The time had come to determine what to do with my underarms. (I do wish there were a more elegant word for them.) Let me begin at the beginning ....
A few years ago, I read that aluminum was not a good thing to spread on your skin once or twice each day. There've been no definitive studies linking aluminum with cancer or Alzheimer's, but many people are worried that we just haven't found those links yet. For me, that wasn't the point. I began to realize that I really didn't need antiperspirant anymore. I don't sweat. A little deodorant in the morning is adequate now that I'm older. So I don't need aluminum -- the ingredient that makes it an "antiperspirant." If I don't need the aluminum, why slather it on for the rest of my life?
So I looked for alternatives.
Which brings me to these:
Starting on the left: I'd used Suave or Secret antiperspirant/deodorant for years. An aluminum compound is the active ingredient. I went looking for a simple deodorant. They don't make many, but I did find the Arm & Hammer. They make a nice version, not the one in the photo above, which is blue and powerfully scented for men.
That's when I first discovered that my armpits are a bit sensitive. The UltraMax Arm&Hammer seemed to irritate the skin. So I jumped over to Tom's deodorant. See the pleasant one I picked? It was pricey, over $4.00, but scented with lavender.
And within days, my armpits were itchy, red, and unsightly. I showed them to Adam. One of the perks of a good marriage is that you have someone to show your itchy armpits to! He said, "Oh, I've had that before, remember? When you bought me the green deodorant? You're allergic. You'd better stop using that stuff." So I discontinued the Tom's.
And I returned to Suave, which didn't make me happy. But my underarms were content.
Then last year I found a recipe for homemade deodorant, and I joyfully made a batch and began to sell it, receiving good reviews from my customers. And I used it myself.
And my armpits became itchy and irritated ... again! Argh!
I read online and found that a small percentage of people have a skin reaction to the baking soda found in homemade deodorant. Baking soda is highly alkaline, and it can unbalance the pH in the skin. One online writer recommended compensating with an acid like apple cider vinegar. So for about a week I dutifully applied a sponge dampened with water/apple cider vinegar to my armpits 1/2 hour before applying the deodorant. But it didn't seem to work well.
Sigh. Can you believe I'm making a product that I can't use myself? Thankfully I haven't yet had a customer come to me with the same complaint.
This predicament led me to the deodorant aisle at WalMart last Friday. And I discovered an odd fact: there are many more simple deodorants made for men, than for women. Yes, you heard that right. Women (apparently) are more concerned about not sweating than men are. Old Spice alone makes about half its underarm products as simple deodorants, leaving out the aluminum. The Speed Stick product you see above is also aluminum-free deodorant. But women's brands have no such allowances. I was really surprised! Why? Don't we think of men as sweating more? Don't you think men would want all their products to be antiperspirant? I'm bemused.
In the end, I was left with only these options: 1) buy a men's product, 2) buy a product I'm allergic to, or 3) use aluminum. So I bought myself the least-stinky Old Spice deodorant I could find. I apologized to Adam for smelling like a man. It's hard. Why doesn't Old Spice make a ladies deodorant? I wish I knew. It seems a bit discriminatory to me, but I'm sure they've done their studies and worked their demographics, and they know that women want antiperspirant.
Do you, ladies? What say you?


  1. We are LOVING your homemade deodorant. Bill's bar melted in New Zealand, but we are able to keep it firm here at home. I love it and we have no problems. Thanks!

  2. I had some redness under my arms when using my homemade deodorant, but it kind of came and went. I wondered if it had to do with shaving irritation and maybe was compounded by applying deodorant. Most of the time it works great! I don't seem to have a lot of problems with perspiring, so it works for me. Tom's has sunflower seed oil in it, which my chiropractor said I'm sensitive to. (Well, he said sunflower seeds, so I'm thinking the oil would be the same.) Yes, it does seem like they should have an option for women without the aluminum. :-/

    1. Lisa, I also did read that some people had your experience -- some irritation for a few days, and then all was well. So I suppose different people react differently. Glad it is working for you! And I did notice the sunflower seed oil, as you said, on the Tom's ingredient list. I would suppose that the oil might be more concentrated and hard on the skin.

  3. Replies
    1. Haha -- okay, if anybody wonders, that's Adam commenting, and I asked him to do it so I could see what kind of onerous hoops he was asked to jump through, to comment. Just making sure you dear readers are not put through the wringer, in order to say hello!!

  4. At our house it is my husband who gets the red itchies. He uses a product called Henri Berbard pure and clean mineral salts , it's sort of a clear "rock" and available in some drugstores here in Canada anyway. After using it for a week or so he can go back to a regular deodorant again.

    1. That's interesting! Someone else mentioned (on FB maybe?) that salts were an option too. I didn't know this was such a complicated topic, but I appreciate all the great info and responses this post has produced. Thanks!

  5. MK, I have made the same type of deodorant with coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch. I can use it, but my daughter gets itchy red pits. However, I have since made her a deodorant that contains coconut oil and arrowroot powder and she has no itch. I've read that you can use arrowroot for a simple baby powder or body powder too. I sometimes pat a little powder under my arm pits after I apply the homemade deodorant just as an extra absorbent layer when I know I'm going to sweat.

    My DD has had dry arm pits since being pregnant, and the homemade has really helped that dry skin to improve. The other antiperspirants really irritate her skin.

  6. I wonder when people started using this type of product. I have never felt the need and also never covered my daughter with talcum powder when she was a baby. My health visitor was very happy about that as there was adverse publicity about talcum powder at the time. Clean clothes and a good shower every day are enough to keep most people from being anti-social. A tiny spray of perfume adds a touch of luxury on special days.

  7. I have the same issues. So when I use a deodorant, it is one clearly marked "unscented" or "for sensitive skin". There are several available on the market. I haven't tried the Health Food shop deodorants, but there are at least 3 or 4 there as well. Good luck with your search.

  8. I don't know if you've tried Adidas' line of deodorants, but I know they do have at least one for women that is aluminum free. It has a powder scent I believe. I'm pretty sure you can't buy it at Wal-mart, but CVS or Walgreens might have it. I passed on using it because I have to have an antiperspirant because I sweat SO much (it's really annoying) But I've just started using Degree motion sense and it's worked so well for me so far. I hope you find a good alternative soon!

  9. I do not need the antiperspirant anymore either, and I have tried the men's as well. Don't know why they don't make many for women. I don't want to smell like "Swagger"! (yes, that's the name of my husband's Mennan deodorant). I'm using Kiss My Face brand deodorant I found in the health food store.

  10. I didn't have time to read this when I first saw the post, but did want to come back to see what you had to say. Did anyone mention using the Thai Deodorant Stone? I buy it at the health food store, but after a while I also get itchy and have to take a break from it. It has cost me any place from $5-$9, but lasts 1 1/2 - 2 years (if you don't drop it and break it). Danny is using one, too, and we don't have any problem with odor. Patty Fultz


Hello! I hope you leave a word ~ I will get back to it as soon as I can!