Read on for a warts and all account of the fateful day that Alysha* decided to ditch her toxic antiperspirant and get clean.
(*name NOT changed for privacy reasons. Alysha is the sister of our founder, Yasmin)
I like to think that I am pretty healthy. I eat well. I exercise when I can. I only eat ice cream every second day (gah). I have switched most of my beauty products from the conventional to the natural.
Nevertheless, there was one last problem to solve. One thing I had decided that I just could not do without. My antiperspirant deodorant.
Now, to know me is to know my deodorant. I have used the same brand for all of my adult life (approx. 25 years), and while I won’t mention its name, suffice to say that it looks like something produced in a 1950’s communist factory with little regard for human consumption. And, while on the label it says that it is strong enough to use every three to five days, I was using it every day. Every single day. For twenty-five years. And, to make matters that much worse, I could not even buy it where I live in Australia - I could only get it from New Zealand. So on trips home I would bulk buy or I would get people to send it to me. Desperate much?
Yep, I had been resisting this one for some time, and every morning as I rolled my industrial-strength deodorant on, I felt guilty. And a bit scared. I knew it was wrong and I knew that I had to do something about it.
But, before making this giant step, I dug deep to really convince myself why I needed to make the switch. It was simple and can be summed up in one word - aluminium. I decided that anything with that many letters and that tricky to spell couldn’t be good for you. And, it’s not.
Did you know that the purpose of an aluminium-based antiperspirant is to prevent you from sweating by plugging your sweat glands, keeping you dry? Sure, it makes sense and who wouldn’t want that as the end-result, but by what means? Plugging your sweat glands with chemicals? That’s a no from me.
I am pretty sure we humans are meant to sweat a little, as it is our body’s way of controlling temperature and detoxifying. While this might be inconvenient for those of us who want to remain bone dry and powder fresh every day, it could be doing serious long-term harm to stop this entirely natural process.
So one morning, armed with this scary information, I made a snap decision while in the shower. Today was the day.
However, I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t pre-purchased any natural deodorant, let alone any of the fancy schmancy clay masks, charcoal exfoliants, or vinegar toners that so many on the Internets say are necessary in detoxifying your underarms. I had no choice and I didn’t want to lose momentum – today was it – so I went cold turkey.
I stepped out of the shower, dried myself off and……nothing.
That day was pretty terrible. I felt dirty. I felt sticky. And I am pretty sure I smelled. It wasn’t even a warm day. What kind of wild ride was I in for?
Day two rolled around and the same thing happened. And day three wasn’t any different. Thankfully, we were in Covid-19 lockdown and not allowed to leave the house, otherwise I would have had to self-quarantine based on my smell alone.
A few days in with no extra help under there and things were not really getting any better. In fact, I had really grown to know my own smell. And, hold your nose, it wasn’t pretty. Actually, I was shocked to realise that I had never actually smelled my own sweat. My body was clearly trying to rid itself of some extra nasties.
I once again turned to Dr Google to understand a bit more about what was going on here. Apparently, it wasn’t my sweat that was the cause of the stinky pong (phew), but the bacteria that was growing on my sweat that was causing the odour. Fricking delightful.
It seems that when you remove the aluminium factor contained in so many conventional antiperspirant deodorants, you begin to release that which had previously been blocked (i.e. waste,) hence the smell. It’s not that you’re naturally smelly, or even that your natural deodorant isn’t doing its job if you have already made the switch; it’s that your body is working hard to eliminate built-up toxins.
This made me feel much better. Sort of.
One week in and there wasn’t much change. I cheated a teensy bit at this stage and wore my old deodorant one day just to mix things up a bit, and I am not going to lie, I instantly felt cleaner and fresher. But, I also felt guilty and that by demonstrating great kindness in not poisoning those around me, like my husband, I was really cheating myself.
Fast forward to the two-week mark and things were a little less smelly and a little less sticky, but I still would not have gone out dancing had I been able to. It was at this point that my order from Biddy + May arrived and True Organic of Sweden’s Undercover Agent entered my life.
Instead of the bottle warning me to stay away, it invited me in with words like, “Free from synthetic aluminium and alcohol” and “neutralises odours, refreshes and calms”. It went even further and explained that it “naturally prevents odour-causing bacteria without inhibiting sweat gland function while Sodium Bicarbonate absorbs odour and moisture”. Stop it. I actually knew what this all meant.
One day of usage and I noticed an immediate effect. Instantaneous. Life changing. Firstly, it slid on like silk. Secondly, it didn’t feel tacky at all. Thirdly, it actually made me feel even fresher than conventional deodorant. This was a real shock.
Throughout that day, I didn’t notice any odour or stickiness. I only needed to apply it once and I was fine. In fact, it felt like I was using the same industrial strength deodorant as always. And things only got better from here.
Maybe I felt the difference that much more profoundly given I had gone deodorant free for two weeks beforehand, but whatever the reason, I wished that I had made the switch years earlier. I felt so much better every day as I reached for my deodorant post-shower and was no longer ashamed to tell people what I was putting under my arms. Gone are the communist bottles – replaced by a sleek, beautiful glass bottle containing a magic little potion that I am proud to use.
One month on and I am still clean under there and loving every minute of it. I have never had a day where I have wanted to use the old stuff. What’s more, I am odour-free and generally dry most days, despite the lack of aluminium. Admittedly, I have stopped training for the New York City marathon (ha!), but Undercover Agent is more than adequate for normal human activity.
The moral of the story? You should not be afraid to get your pits clean. Sure, you might have a few weeks transition where your own mother might avoid seeing you, but beyond that it’s plain sailing all the way to a healthier and happier you.
Bravely investigated by Alysha Farry