obsessive tester

13 Natural Deodorants That Actually Work

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

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With our increasing interest in “clean” beauty, natural deodorants are more than just having a moment. So many formidable formulas have come out offering protection without aluminum or parabens (many have cut baking soda from the plan, too) that it’s hard to choose your next BO buster. There’s more to just scent-masking at play with the very best natural deodorants, so here’s how you can go au naturel without wafting around in public like the true rat czar of New York.

FAQs

How exactly does natural deodorant differ from regular deodorant?

To answer that, putrid Padawan, first you must understand what an antiperspirant is. Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains that an antiperspirant contains aluminum, which goes into your pores (literally) to block any sweat from escaping. That sweat has a bunch of bacteria, and that bacteria is rank.

Garshick says a deodorant does not contain any aluminum, so it allows for perspiration and simply attempts to reduce the inevitable odor. This leads us to natural deodorants, which “specifically incorporate ingredients that can be found naturally in the environment, such as plant-based ingredients, essential oils, and fragrances,” says Garshick.

Is natural deodorant any better for your body?

Not necessarily. Jeremy Fenton, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, says, “There’s no legal product-labeling definition of natural deodorant, so there could very easily be ingredients that are irritating or troublesome for the skin in these products.” Both he and Hadley King, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, make clear that there has never been any medical literature to indicate that aluminum from antiperspirants is harmful. (Ahem, it’s not too late to shop guaranteed stench fighters, which we conveniently rounded up here).

What should I look for in a good natural deodorant?

King cautions that the efficacy of a natural deodorant varies from person to person as there are a slew of potential (and trendy) ingredients companies can tinker with to make a product. “Baking soda tends to be used to absorb odor, essential oils or fragrances to mask odors, and other ingredients inhibit the growth of bacteria,” Fenton explains. There are pros and cons to each, and you may find that repeatedly rubbing baking soda, essential oils, or fragrances over your pits is at least as, if not more, irritating than aluminum formulas. Still, many find natural to be the best option, and if that’s the case for you, Fenton recommends searching for products that have the fewest ingredients possible — with no fragrance added if you have extra-sensitive skin.

Ahead, the best natural deodorants for letting your funky flag fly — just a little.

The Best Overall Natural Deodorant

Pros: Reliable and long-lasting, wears comfortably with just enough fragrance
Cons: Doesn’t dry as quickly as some of the brand’s other deodorants (see: Geo Deo)

This is the clean deodorant that spawned an 8,000-person wait list. Reviewers rave about its non-musty, non-patchouli scent (it actually smells good is the consensus). It does go on a bit wet at first, which can freak people out. But they love that it’s nonirritating thanks to its baking-soda-free formula and that it works well to stave off odor. The cute packaging is also a plus.

The One to Use Everywhere

Pros: Specifically formulated for use all over the body (think under boobs, between the legs, on the feet, and more)
Cons: The brand has been reformulated (and has discontinued previously loved versions), causing confusion

Yes, we mean everywhere. Lume is a relative newcomer to the deodorant space that quickly made its way into effusive Reddit threads and, eventually, Target stores across the country. It was founded in 2017 by an OB/GYN who wanted to create a deodorant for your pits and other parts, and its hero ingredients include mandelic acid to counter stench, root powder for absorption, and panthenol to moisturize. One thing to know about Lume is that it’s not going to win over anyone interested in an aromatic experience. In fact, the deodorant can have an unpleasant initial smell that fades after application. It’s all because these sticks are intended to stop bacteria from building up in the first place, rather than cover up any stank that’s already there.

The Best Natural Deodorant for Working Out

Pros: Effective, easily spreads to cover the entire underarm area
Cons: Comes out of the applicator like a cream, which takes getting used to; needs a thorough wash to remove residue and avoid buildup

This sweat-activated cream comes in a tube you can wipe clean after each use. (The brand isn’t called type:A for this reason, but it’s fitting, no?) Amazon reviewers love that it doesn’t create pit stains and actually provides long-lasting protection — not to mention that Ashley Graham is supposedly a fan of the White Floral Linen scent.

The Nicest Natural Deodorant

Pros: Elegant fragrance, zero residue (clear-gel stick), smooth application
Cons: Large packaging doesn’t make it travel friendly

This French deodorant earned high marks in our general roundup of the best deodorants as it doesn’t give you the bad kind of je ne sais quois. Instead, it leaves you feeling (and smelling) like you just walked out of a high-end spa, and you do take cucumbers and lemon in your water, thank you for asking. It has the silkiest application of the bunch (no pulling at your pits), and a little goes a long way.

The Reliable Natural Deodorant

Pros: Nearly 43,000 five-star ratings on Amazon with reviewers praising its effectiveness; the Coconut & Vanilla fragrance is a crowd-pleaser
Cons: Stick can pull at skin while applying; some Native formulas can be irritating to those with sensitive skin

Native isn’t just used by seemingly everyone at your local Target; it’s also a favorite among the experts. Fenton recommends Native, and there are plenty of formulations to choose from depending on how sensitive your skin is. While the brand is best known for its use of baking soda and tapioca starch (boba!), there are also sensitive options if you want to play it extra safe.

The Best Natural Deodorant for People Who Are Exacting About Fragrance

Pros: Refined fragrances, no baking soda, invisible
Cons: Expensive, some scents don’t have as smooth a glide

On the Corpus site, each of the brand’s six vegan-formulated scents is broken down into its top four notes, ranked in intensity from one through four. For example, in the Botanist fragrance, petitgrain’s level is three, while geranium leaf is less present at level one. Anyone who has ever been unpleasantly overwhelmed by the cedar in a deodorant that didn’t even include the word cedar in its name (just me?) will appreciate this.

The Baking-Soda-Free One

Pros: Sensitive-skin-friendly, ecoconscious brand
Cons: The paper packaging gets worn and can potentially unravel entirely; the bar version is often out of stock

It makes sense that baking soda — usually listed as sodium bicarbonate — is a common ingredient in natural deodorants. You leave an open box in your fridge to keep things fresh; why not sprinkle some on your pits? As it happens, baking soda can be pretty abrasive and irritating to the skin, leading many people to opt out entirely. The New Zealand–based brand Ethique relies on zinc oxide and magnesium hydroxide, a.k.a milk of magnesia, as an odor-fighting baking-soda alternative (alongside bamboo powder to soak up sweat). Ethique’s entire line is also plastic free; you can recycle the packaging and compost the stick when you’re through.

The One Trusted by O.G. Crunchy Folks

$13 for 3

Pros: Friendly to sensitive skin, effective, long-lasting
Cons: Wetter, sometimes stickier feel before it dries down, roller-ball applicator is generous

The people who shopped Whole Foods long before it entered its Bezos era swear by this stick. King does too. She appreciates that it’s nonsticky and nonstaining owing to its clear gel-like formula. “I like the lavender and white-tea fragrance, and the brand offers a satisfaction guarantee,” she says. Anyone who has hastily applied a freshly opened natural deo only to be dripping in their own slop minutes later knows the benefit of this last point.

The Dermatologist-Recommended One

Pros: Works well, unique minty smell  
Cons: Stick doesn’t glide as well as other deodorants’

This recommendation comes from King. She likes that Ursa Major’s deodorant has a nice, smooth texture and contains kaolin clay and baking soda to absorb moisture and prevent odor. She also likes the addition of eucalyptus for its antibacterial properties; saccharomyces ferment, a probiotic enzyme to further prevent stank; and aloe to soothe the skin. Shopping writer Brooke LaMantia also swears by this brand’s deodorants. They hold up in the heat and leave her smelling fresh.

The Best Affordable Natural Deodorant

Pros: Top-rated at multiple retailers, widely available online and in store
Cons: Leaves a residue you need to thoroughly wash off between wears

King is a fan of Dove’s regular anti-perspirants but also likes this more gentle, aluminum-free option since it packs in hydrating, moisturizing (there is a difference, friends), and soothing ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, and aloe. Skin is skin, so why not treat your pits as you would your face? And, yes, this one is from Dove “Big Anti-perspirant” Beauty, but brands, like people, can change!

The Best Luxury Natural Deodorant

Pros: Formulated for sensitive skin, has a fully customizable option if you want to create your own stick
Cons: Not widely available, can get clumpy

It’s hard to truly shock an obsessive tester, but we were shook by Nala’s effectiveness. The Canadian brand is owned by a mother-daughter team that specializes in what they call “free from” beauty (as in “free from the worst offenders in the cosmetics world”). There are plenty of options to choose from depending on your skin’s preferences (no baking soda, no fragrance, a truly personalized option, etc.), but our favorite has to be the peppermint-and-charcoal deodorant, which leaves a fresh-smelling and -feeling sensation long after you apply. Plus, King says charcoal can absorb moisture to alleviate underarm wetness and has antibacterial properties, which means it can also help prevent odor.

The Punctual One

Pros: Convenient (buy one time or subscribe), smooth application, dries quickly
Cons: You can’t buy these in person

You know when you’re overdue for a fresh deodorant stick: You’re down to that linty, touch-of-gray nub that crumbles closer to bits with every swipe. Athena Club, best known for its subscription-based razors, will ensure you’re sent a fresh stick of deo every two, three, or four months. Like the brand’s shaving cream, the sticks have a pleasant fragrance and a little goes a long way; you won’t feel as though your underarms are a Slip ’N Slide of essential oils. Above all, if you have foregone fresh pits purely because you were too lazy to run to the store, give yourself one less thing to, er, sweat about.

The Unisex(y) One

Pro: Good looking, enough fragrance to mask BO without overpowering you
Con: Stick depletes quickly, can leave residue on clothing

As utilitarian personal-care products go, deodorant is up there with toothpaste. It simply needs to work, yes, but why not do so with a little panache? Agent Nateur makes deodorant that won’t just look good on your counter; the sticks glide on smooth and clear, have a strong (but not too strong) scent, and are long-lasting. You could go for the brand’s rose deodorant, but this sultry blend of vetiver, sandalwood, and citrus will have you looking forward to every application.

Our Experts:

  • Jeremy Fenton, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City
  • Marisa Garshick, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City
  • Hadley King, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City
13 Natural Deodorants That Actually Work