13 Feb Best Natural Deodorant for Travel in Hot Sweaty Climates
This may seem like a strange topic for a travel blog, but once I learned the potential dangers of using anti-perspirants, I embarked on a personal quest to find the most effective, all-natural deodorant for our trip to Southeast Asia. I know our fellow travelers care about their wellness and might find my research useful, so I decided to publish my findings.
The problem with anti-perspirants
It was thanks to living abroad in hot climates that I first realized there might be an issue with the anti-perspirants I was using. I spent two summers in college as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic, a country in the tropical Caribbean. Both times, I developed sore bumps in my armpits. It was strange and uncomfortable, but they eventually went away.
More recently, we lived for two years in Jamaica during our Peace Corps service. The sore, swollen bumps in my armpits came back again!
I mentioned my sore armpits during a check in with our Peace Corps nurse, a native of Jamaica. She knew the issue right away and explained that the chemicals in the anti-perspirant I was using were causing blockages and swelling in my sweat glands.
The nurse advised that I stop using anti-perspirants and switch to deodorant-only, or else go all-natural like the local Rastafarians do. I found some new deodorant and, sure enough, the swollen glands went away shortly after.
The only problem was I suddenly had body odor issues.
At the time, I thought clogged sweat glands were the only issue. It was a minor but temporary annoyance that could be remedied by reducing my anti-perspirant use. But it seemed that I really still needed anti-perspirants to keep body odor at bay.
As I did more research later on, I realized that there are a number of concerns when it comes to anti-perspirant products. Parabens, aluminum, and other chemicals common in anti-perspirants can affect our armpit’s natural bacteria and may increase risk of damaging developmental and reproductive hormones when they enter our bloodstream. Aluminum alone is linked to a number of health issues, from seizures and alzheimer’s, to bone formation disorders and kidney problems. There’s also concern that using these toxic compounds could increase risk of certain cancers, as they can enter the bloodstream through the skin.
I determined that a little more sweat wasn’t worth the risk. (And I learned that sweat itself isn’t the cause of underarm odor anyway.)
Unfortunately, my first few attempts with all-natural deodorants fell short. I found that the under-arms of my shirt sleeves weren’t smelling too pleasant, even when I wasn’t sweating that much. I was constantly reapplying.
I knew there must be a better solution out there.
Finding a safe deodorant that works for our travels
Because we’re digital nomads, we tend to spend several months of the year in warmer climates. It seemed worthwhile to find a natural, non toxic deodorant that actually works for me.
My plan of action was:
1. Research the top brands of natural deodorants and get samples of each
2. Test out each deodorant for one week while in Hawaii (we were house-sitting and visiting family for a month)
3. Pack the strongest, most effective deodorant(s) for our 3 month trip to Southeast Asia for final evaluations
Here are my criteria for choosing deodorants to try:
– Aluminum free
– Paraben free
– Cruelty free (no animal testing)
– Available in fragrances that don’t smell like cologne
– Preference for a stick-type applicator so I don’t get my hands messy
– Gets high reviews online from customers
I reached out to some of the top natural deodorant companies about my research project and Bali Secrets was kind enough to send me several samples. I want say a big thank you to them, but rest assured, all the opinions in this article are my own and are not swayed by this fact.
Deodorants that didn’t work
Long before my research project, back when I first quit anti-perspirants while living in tropical Jamaica, I was using a Tom’s of Maine anti-perspirant.
Tom’s is a household name in our hometown of Portland, where people are really into sustainability and natural products. They sell “all natural” deodorants and anti-perspirants, but of course, the anti-perspirant contains aluminum and was clogging up my glands.
I first tried sticking with the Tom’s brand. Unfortunately, the deodorants for women weren’t effective on me. I’ll admit that in desperate times, I would sometimes use my husband’s deodorant – Tom’s of Maine for men – and that did seem to be more effective. (I understand now that there can be a transition period after switching from anti-perspirants, depending on your body chemistry. The underarm bacteria may need to “detox,”so that in itself can cause changes in sweat and smell for a while. Hard to say if this affected my experience with Tom’s.)
My second attempt was to grab the most affordable, natural-looking deodorant off the grocery store shelf. I walked out with Herbal Clear (Naturally!) Sport Deodorant. This one had a similar texture to Tom’s of Maine for men but a less cologne-like fragrance. It listed primary ingredients of tea tree oil and vitamin and advertised benefits like: hypoallergenic; aluminum free; and no parabens, alcohol, dyes, or artificial bactericides. “Utilizes botanical Lichen to prevent odor before it starts.”
Unfortunately, the Herbal Clear wasn’t totally effective for me either. After several weeks, I gave it up. I will say that when I examined the stick again for this article, I noticed these instructions: “recommend 6-8 circular swipes for maximum effectiveness.” I was probably doing closer to 4 swipes, so perhaps I just needed to lay it on thicker?
What is the best deodorant for travel to hot climates?
So which all natural, non toxic deodorant won a spot in my travel backpack?
Actually, it was a tie.
Two deodorants rose to the top and worked well enough for me to bring along on our 3+ month trip to Southeast Asia. To be honest, neither one was 100% perfect, so the jury is still out when it comes to finding a truly perfect deodorant for travel. Below are the pros and cons of the two finalists.
Schmidt’s Naturals: Charcoal + Magnesium Deodorant
I was curious to try a charcoal based deodorant. I ended up liking Schmidt’s Charcoal + Magnesium formula it because it feels like the traditional deodorants I’m used to. It comes in a stick, and the powder has an absorptive quality. The fragrance is unisex and doesn’t make my shirt sleeves smell funky. It could just be in my head, but I don’t get the sense that I need to reapply this deodorant as often as I do with the other natural products.
The main down side is that it’s a bit more rough in texture than traditional deodorants, so it’s not the most pleasant thing to apply. The directions specify that you should “hold product momentarily on skin to soften on contact with body heat.” I’m not sure if this helps, but some days it does seem to go on smoother than others. Either way, I found it a small price to pay for effective odor control.
Ingredients list for Schmidt’s Charcoal + Magnesium:
– Maranta arundinacea (arrowroot) powder
– Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
– Cocos Nucifera (coconut) Oil
– Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)
– Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (fractionated coconut oil)
– Euphorbia Cerifera (candelilla) Wax
– Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil
– Magnesium hydroxide
– Carbo activatus (activated charcoal)
– Natural fragrance
– Tocopherol (vitamin E; sunflower-derived)
Schmidt’s Naturals also has other deodorant fragrances, but I believe this is the only one with charcoal, and it’s listed as their top seller.
– Schmidt’s ticks all the boxes in terms of being safe and natural
– I’ve found it effective at preventing underarm body odor in hot climates
– It keeps underarms a bit more dry by absorbing sweat instead of blocking the glands
– I typically don’t need to reapply in the course of the day
– The texture is more rough than other deodorants and application can be somewhat uncomfortable
– This product contains baking soda to help absorb moisture, which some people may be sensitive to. Directions specify that it should not be applied directly after shaving.
Bali Secrets Natural Deodorant: Delicate Rose
Bali Secrets touts organic, top quality ingredients. Whereas Schmidt’s deodorant uses charcoal and baking soda for a solid, powdery texture, the Bali Secrets deodorant is liquid based with essential oils and a little bit of alcohol. It’s applied by giving the bottle a quick shake to dampen the ball-in-socket applicator and then rolling onto your underarm. Directions specify that “a little goes a long way” and each 2.4oz bottle is supposed to last about 3 months. I was able to sample a couple different fragrances from Bali Secrets and decided I liked the delicate rose scent. It’s a bit perfume-y but the scent is not overpowering once you put it on.
Perhaps it’s my unfair bias toward the powdery deodorant stick I’m used to, but I sometimes didn’t trust the all-day protection that Bali Secrets promised and would end up reapplying at one point or another in the course of a day. It is definitely more effective than previous products I had tried, but there were a couple occasions where I thought I might be starting to get some unwanted odors.
Ingredients List for Bali Secrets Delicate Rose:
– Seaweed extract (Gracilaria Verrucosa)
– Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
– Natural mineral salt (Potassium alum)
– Distilled water
– Alcohol (Ethanol 70%)
– Essential oils from five different plants
– Coconut oil
-Rose (Rosa rubiginosa)
– Bali Secrets also ticks all the boxes in terms of being safe and natural, including no baking soda
– I’ve found it to be about 95% effective at preventing underarm body odor in hot climates
– It’s packaged in 2.4oz containers so no worries if you bring it in carry on luggage for travel
– The application is easy, comfortable, and a little goes a long way
– I did find that the liquid had somehow leaked through the cap after one flight (but it’s been fine through every other transport)
So in conclusion, I chose to pack both the Schmidt’s Naturals Charcoal and Magnesium deodorant as well as the Bali Secrets Natural Deodorant in Delicate Rose. Neither one is totally perfect, but I’m using them both and they’re serving me well here in Southeast Asia where I tend to sweat a lot more than usual!
I hope my review of natural deodorants for travel has been helpful to you. Granted, everyone’s body chemistry is different, so what works for me may not necessarily work for everyone, but it’s somewhere to start if you’re on your own quest for the most effective non toxic deodorant solution to prevent body odor.
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