lab rat

My Wild Month Using Natural Deodorant

Kaia natural deodorant.

Experts predict 2016 is on track to become the hottest year on record. I know this because every day or so I read a headline that reiterates as much, and halfway through July I began to prioritize my favorite summertime haunts (and friends) by access to AC. Nonetheless, I decided to try something new. I dumped my usual (and very effective) aluminum-based deodorant and replaced it with a natural, vegan one. I rubbed the natural version under my arms for a month. What a time to be alive, I say.

Most deodorants (specifically antiperspirants) on the market contain aluminum. It’s the ingredient that prevents sweating and makes your armpits smell less like a linebacker’s shoe. In recent decades, aluminum has fallen under scrutiny. Some theorize that the element may lead to breast cancer and/or Alzheimer’s disease. The medical community is largely unified in disputing these theories, citing a wealth of studies in direct conflict with aluminum-derived health fears, but that hasn’t stopped the natural deodorant industry from thriving. The Cut reviewed a host of natural deodorants in the past, but I tried out a new one: Kaia’s charcoal-based detox deodorant, Takesumi.

Takesumi is a sweet rose-scented solid gel that works in stages. According to the brand, during the first week of use the deodorant should shield underarm odor swimmingly. The second week is the “detox” stage, and you’ll stink real bad because your body will be expelling “toxins” and “toxins” smell a lot like b.o. The third week is the sweating week because those damn “toxins” are at work again, only this time they’re forcing your body to sweat more than normal in an effort to purge even more bacteria. By the fourth week you should start to feel normal again and odor-free.

Kaia claims that takesumi, or bamboo charcoal, charges the deodorant to attract and eliminate odor-causing bacteria, and the use of takesumi to this end is a time-honored Japanese tradition. (Not mentioned is that most East Asians lack the gene that incites body odor.) Kaia’s Takesumi is a gelatinous gray solid that sweeps clearly on skin. While wearing the deodorant I never had to worry about chalky marks on dark shirts, which was a welcome change of pace.

As predicted, the first week I wore Takesumi I smelled quite nice. Occasionally a tinge of b.o. marked the end of a long day, but it wasn’t horribly offensive. The second week was a doozy. My underarms raged with a rank garbage odor, but a few additional swatches of Takesumi portioned throughout the day helped combat the smell. It was more of the same the third week, though I can’t say I observed the excess sweating that Kaia warned of. By the time the fourth week rolled around, I was excited to no longer smell like dog breath. Unfortunately my underarms didn’t give two damns about how I felt and still continued to smell unless I reapplied Takesumi every few hours or so. I gave Takesumi another week, and then another. The same.

At the end of August I attended MTV’s VMAs and couldn’t fit Takesumi into my tiny pouch. Well, that was it. I knew what would happen if I couldn’t reapply the deodorant throughout the show. I switched back to my aluminum-based deodorant that I’d been longingly gazing at for several weeks. Conclusion? Takesumi works at fighting underarm odor, as long as you make it your constant companion.

Kaia The Takesumi Detox Deodorant, $21 at Kaia.

My Wild Month Using Natural Deodorant