Making the transition towards a more zero waste lifestyle has been a very interesting journey. It’s been challenging, very challenging, I won’t lie. That’s not to say it will be challenging for everyone, so please do not let my challenges deter you. I was thinking about my struggle with zero waste deodorant and I fully know and believe that I’m not alone in that. However, I couldn’t quite find the right info I needed to make my struggle a little easier–maybe I didn’t look hard enough, although I tend to feel quite proud of my googling capabilities–but still, it could be a possibility. So because I’m not alone in the odd struggles a zero waste lifestyle entails, I figured that we could all benefit if I document and publish my very messy and rough journey towards zero waste. Hopefully my journey is one you can use as you launch towards a more sustainable life.
I wanted to begin with zero waste deodorant because its fucking tough, ya know? From the body’s necessary detox period to the trial and error of making your own, its an experience.
To begin my google deep dive:
I initially knew that I needed find an alternative to traditional deodorant because it produces more plastic waste. So finding a DIY recipe was key for me and a lot of those sites were full of info about the harmful effects of traditional deodorant. I went down a rabbit hole and here’s what I learned:
Traditional deodorant is a bitch. It actually causes more harm to our bodies than good. Certain chemicals have been found to be carcinogenic, specifically, aluminum; which causes a disruption in the bodies estrogen production and can lead to breast cancer. Anyone whose taken basic human anatomy knows that we have an underarm lymphatic network that filter various lymph regions. Well that network effectively absorbs anything applied to our underarm, which means not so great things for our body. Read here for more details.
Detox. detox. detox. that is what every zero waste deodorant article, blog post, and company emphasized. I learned that our bodies go through a detox period from the harsh chemicals commonly present in traditional deodorants and antiperspirants. In fact, I paused to really think about how fucked up antiperspirants are. like….. we purposefully use harsh chemicals to BLOCK, block, our bodies natural process of cooling us off. Not to mention sweating also releases toxins, our own personal purifier. like I get it, ok sweating sucks. Take it from me. My body produced so much sweat in the winter, THE WINTER, because anxiety. I would sweat literally all day. It would be a consistent sweat for what felt like 24 hours. I know I’m being dramatic, I get it. But really, I used to sweat A LOT. So you better believe that antiperspirants were my version of a sweat saver. Although, I don’t know if anyone else notices, but the same antiperspirants stopped working after awhile. It’s a cycle, right? We find an antiperspirant + deodorant combo that has been “clinically approved” for “wetness protection”, we use it, we love it, amazing. Except after maybe the third bottle (or rather, the first bottle), its… not doing it’s job? So we move on to the next one and so on and so forth. Does that sound familiar? Ya. so detox all of your blocked up pores that have been the victim of society’s standards of sweating /:
Detoxing, because it inevitably causes MORE sweat, will be more painful psychologically than it will be physiologically. How. ev. er. there is hope. This means no deodorants or antiperspirants at all. Avoid them like the plague because using them means risking the progress of detoxing and then we’re back at the beginning. By this point, I’ve either lost you or horrified you; but my google search led to a little tip to make this process slightly more bearable; wear natural fibers. I learned how much of my clothing is made of synthetic (aka plastic) fibers. Polyester, acrylic, rayon, acetate, triacetate, nylon–all made out of plastic in one form or the other. In fact, this detox period enabled me to learn about the harmful effects the fashion industry has on the environment, a post may or may not be coming soon on this. SO yea. natural fibers, the only one’s I seemed to own were t-shirts, so that became my wardrobe and really has been all I tend to wear. Natural fibers are, naturally, more breathable and thereby produce less sweat. We can all pause to think about how much this makes sense, right? This helps tremendously, I promise.
This detox period is meant to be a reset button for the microbiome of your pits. So that means its gonna be a little stinky /: I can’t guarantee anyone’s pit potency but your diet has a HUGE effect on this. So the more processed unnatural foods you eat, the more unhealthy your sweat, the more stinky unhealthy sweat loving bacteria. Eat more plant based whole foods always.
So this is where google sorta failed me. Obviously I went into my google deep dive with one question in mind: how to make a zero waste deodorant? I was led down a rabbit hole of armpit biology and detox processes and then suddenly the recipe for the ZW deodorant popped up. No site ever mentioned WHEN exactly my detox period would end and I could begin using my homemade deodorant; just that they warned you to detox or else you’ll smell worse. Which is why most people lose faith in natural deodorants because they don’t go through a detox period. Over time, the more you use your natural deodorants, the eventual better (less stinky) bacteria you’ll eventually grow. But for whatever reason, the act of going immediately from tradition deodorant to homemade, sans detox, causes worse than usual smelling perspiration /:
So by week two I’m getting antsy and wanting to use my ZW deodorant, but I’m scared to use it because no information told me when I’d be in the clear of smell free perspiration. And I mean, to be fair, I understand that everyone has a different cycle and there isn’t a definitive “time” you can give, but still, an estimate would be nice. Like, the shit I was reading was SO adamant about detoxing, literally almost any site, yet they never said when it would end. So then, as I usually do, I just googled, “how long will i have to detox before i can use my natural ZW deodorant?” I got nothin’.
By week three I ~carefully~ tested the ZW deodorant land. The recipe I followed was a very simple mixture, boil water, with salt, add some baking soda to the warm mixture, and if ya want, some essential oil drops. Easy enough. I chose this one because it was one of the few I found that didn’t use any coconut oil. Like most oils, coconut oil stains natural fabrics and I’d presume other fabrics as well. Also, quite a few recipes called for arrowroot powder and tbh I didn’t feel like buying anything. And a majority of recipes are in jars, they’re a paste like substance. I could get down with that, but I didn’t have any jars or moneys. So a spray bottle, I used an old travel sized plastic bottle (still transitioning to an entirely plastic free life but i’m using up the resources i have). Shit honestly, now that I think about, essential oils usually cause dangerous plastic particles to break down, but don’t worry i just googled if diluted water is safe to house a few drops of oil in a significantly larger quantity of water and we are good. Ok so yes, I had my mixture, eagerly waiting to be used. I finally spritz a little under each arm after showering, making sure to dry my pits completely. Moisture under your arms causes, you guessed it, moldy bad bacteria /: But yeah I was feelin fresh and ready 2 tackle the day, except, it was unsuccessful. It burned and irritated me enough to cause a rash AND more sweat than I had experienced in the three weeks prior. I made sure to follow everything I had been reading, wearing natural fibers, making sure my shit is dry af, fucking detoxing for three weeks, and then the day comes and it made me smell and sweat more. Needless to say I was disappointed, but not defeated!
By week five, I had given up trying to the find the information I needed. I just assumed that I hadn’t waited long enough. On days that I didn’t have any cotton tees clean and I’m forced to wear these barbaric microfiber polluting shirts (dramatic i kno im not being THAT serious) I’d wipe off my pits with my old makeup wipes I’m still working through or with a cotton pad and rubbing alcohol, each seemed to help. Also, throughout this time, I’m not fixating on my smell. It was important for me to realize that because in the past when I would accidentally forget deodorant, I would fuckin reek (which i prolly smelled more than anyone) but it makes sense because I ate wendy’s everyday and regularly used the harmful toxic deodorant, so of course I’d smell. Really, everything about my lifestyle has changed. I’m no longer carelessly putting things into my body nor am I clogging up my bodies natural coolant system.
The following week, I gave my ZW deodorant another go. I was met with the same reaction as my initial use. It burned, made me smell, perspire more, and made me more self-conscious. Come to think of it, I didn’t smell bad per se, but I smelled noticeably different than when I don’t wear any deodorant. So my solution? I don’t wear deodorant. I don’t find that I need it, or that it serves me any purpose and guess what? People in my life, whom I know love me dearly and would tell me differently, have not mentioned a noticeable odor emanating from me. Most people react with shock when I tell them I simplified my getting ready process by forgoing deodorant because I don’t stink. This is why psychologically, it seems more painful. It gets easier, I promise. Here are some things to review and to keep in mind:
- When you think natural, instead of thinking less ingredients in a product or DIY, think “what is my bodies natural process?” or “does my body already do what this product is claiming to do?” maybe even, “how can I be sure I’m allowing my body to function at its most natural instinct?”
- Going deodorant free is, well, freeing. It’s easier, less hassle, and most importantly, healthiest for your body (in my very humble conclusion based on the research i’ve done on this very sophisticated google deep dive). It’s okay to break the rules and it’s okay to take your time doing so. If you’re nervous about the detox, spend the weekend walking around alone outside to speed up your sweat product and get the worst of it over with. AND enjoy nature in the process 🙂
- I know it’s not easy, psychologically and at first, physically. So remember, soap and water every morning, dry completely, natural fibers are your best friend, make up wipes [ a side note: please don’t buy more makeup wipes for this purpose. I am using up the products I have while I transition to zero waste. I won’t be buying more because the goal is to not need these.] Wipes aren’t meant to be a solution but a lil helper during the worst of the detox period. Rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, etc. are always good refreshers.
- Remember what goes in your body must come out your body in any way it can. Your diet controls this process as I assume you’re all primates who depend on food for energy. So be like our herbivorous animal friends and eat your plants to get rid of your body odor.
- Let your body and your mind be.