natural beauty: deodorant.

August 20, 2015

natural beauty: deodorant | reading my tea leavesJudging from the questions that I’m still getting about deodorant, I thought I’d include a definitive deodorant post in this series. And considering we’re just back from a trip where showering required quarters and a drive down the road, I thought it was timely. If you ask me, there’s nothing as beautiful as a sweet smelling armpit. Well, almost nothing.

As you’ve likely gathered, I’m a natural deodorant devotee. But I wasn’t always. In fact, there was a good three to five year period in there when I knew that I should be, and when I bought, with high hopes, natural deodorant after natural deodorant only to return to the drugstore variety that honestly never did much good anyway.

But two years ago, my friend Jessica introduced me to the magic of cream deodorants and I haven’t looked back since. They work better than any single other deodorant—conventional or natural—that I’ve ever tried. And that includes the period in high school when I wore Certain Dri. (Because God forbid a 16-year-old girl sweat.)

To be sure: so much of this comes down to body chemistry. What works for one person might not work for the next. But in case cream deodorant does the trick for you, consider this a public service announcement.
natural beauty: deodorant | reading my tea leaves

Do it yourself:
For awhile last fall I was making my own deodorant. Tea tree oil and lavender got the smell right. Baking soda, arrow root, and coconut oil came close. But I never experimented with adding shea butter to the mix and I think that’s honestly the trick. My mixture eventually started irritating my armpits and I eventually gave it up. Still, experiment away if you’re commited to going the make your own route.

Have someone else do it for you:

Schmidt’s Deodorant: James and I have been using this one for a good six months now and it’s a favorite. It comes in glass containers that I scrub (and they do take some scrubbing to get clean) and reuse. I prefer the Lavender Sage scent over all others. (I find the others smell too sweet.)

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream: This was the first cream deodorant that I used and it’s still a favorite. It’s pricier than the Schmidt’s—and James uses alot of deodorant—so the cost was the main factor in our switch to Schmidt’s (and the fact that our local grocery store carries it). It’s really smooth and creamy, with a consistency like thick frosting. Definitely a little bit easier to spread than the Schmidt’s, which might make it a better gateway brand for newbie cream deo users. I like the original scent best.

Truly’s Natural Deodorant: If you want to smell like a baked good, this is the deodorant for you. My sister turned me on to this one, though I admit that it’s not quite as perfectly effective for me as the other two I’ve used. I think this might be partly psychological—the lavender and tea tree scents of the other ones feel fresher to me. They make a kiddo version, which might be a good route for folks with sensitive skin, but I’ve only used the original.

Notes About Making the Switch:

There’s a little bit of a learning curve with cream deodorant. Here’s what helped me:

It’s a slightly more intimate process than just swiping with a roll-on stick, but I got used to it pretty quickly and the effectiveness far, far outweighed the ick-factor. I use my finger to swipe a pea-sized (or so) amount of deodorant from the pot. If it’s cool and the deodorant is slightly hard, and I rub it into the palm of my hand to warm up before applying. The shea butter leaves a little bit of residue on my fingers, so I typically do a quick handwash after applying.

A fair number of people report some amount of irriation with natural cream deodorants. This has not been the case for me other than an occasional sting after having just shaved. Still, as with anything you put on your body, it’s probably wise to test a small amount before going crazy!

Okay. Your turn. What’s worked? What hasn’t? Fellow cream deodorant lovers? Any crystal deodorant devotees out there?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Charlotte @ The Fox + The Knife August 20, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I'm also a convert to cream deodorant, I use soapwalla's and it works perfectly. It is pricer than conventional deodorant but it lasts wayyy longer as I use a tiny bit every morning.


  • Reply Philharmonie Luxembourg August 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for the follow-up on this hot topic! 🙂 I used Soapwalla's deodorant for a while on your recommandation but made the switch back to drugstores deodorants after discovering the hard way that it doesn't quite cut it for me on intensely stressful days… I might go back to it one day. It's just not that easy to find it in stores in my neck of woods.

  • Reply Lindsay Allen August 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    My favorite is Fat and the Moon. It works so well and doesn't leave the white baking soda residue that I found with other natural deodorants. Unfortunately, I've found only one place to buy it in NYC and that is at Grand Street Bakery.

    • Reply christi May 19, 2016 at 12:00 am

      They also sell it at Primary Essentials in Brooklyn, though the last time I was there was probably last year.

  • Reply bryntroll August 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I've had success with both Soapwalla and Schmidt's. I'm sticking with Schmidt's for now because it's easier to find and generally works better for me in the summer. I've used Meow Meow Tweet (baking soda free) and that's pretty great too! It will leave you smelling like a lemon tart, but I don't have a problem with that 🙂

  • Reply Amy August 20, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you for this post! I'm weirdly obsessed with this subject since I find that a natural deodorant will work well for me — and then suddenly STOP working. (I think I know why: odor is caused by bacteria growing on the skin, so a new deo may work great until the bacteria on your skin become resistant to it or a new type shows up.) I find it useful to keep a couple different kinds on hand for that inevitable day when my favorite stops working.

    In addition to cream deodorants, I've had great luck with the milk-of-magnesium based ones. Amazing. And I used the crystal stones for years until I realized what they are made of (alum, or aluminum salts, which are a product of strip-mining and leave behind toxic sludge in the process of manufacturing the crystal. Plus, I was rubbing ionized aluminum on my armpits every day, which seems contrary to the point of natural deodorants.

  • Reply omoriala August 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    My husband and I have also been using Schmidt's deo for several years and loving it. As you mentioned, I like the scent choices, the glass packaging, and the fact that I can buy it at Whole Foods. For those who don't like the idea of applying with your fingers, I just heard that Schmidt's is planning to debut a traditional stick deodorant later this year. Either way, highly recommend!

  • Reply Emily C August 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I've been using the cream deodorants for a little while, and they've been pretty good! The Soapwalla eventually did give me a rash, but the Schmidt's has been great. I got a funny promotional email from them recently that gave me the impression they're going to be making a stick deodorant soon, which I have to admit, I would be excited about. Some mornings I'm less than pumped to get my fingers all up in my armpits!

  • Reply Alex Byer August 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I'm with you on the cream deodorant front! I work at a healthy beauty shop, and I always recommend our new customers leave with the deodorant if they leave with nothing else. I used Soapwalla for a long time, but the baking soda gradually started irritating my armpits (though I did run a marathon wearing it! I tell that to all our customers). I switched to Meow Meow Tweet's cream deodorant and love it; the arrow root powder works much better with my body chemistry, and I've found I sweat less wearing it. It was definitely a tough switch at first though; your body takes some time to purge!

  • Reply ariana August 20, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Oh I'm so glad you wrote another bit on deodorant! How do these ones hold up regarding clothes staining? I made my own deodorant about a year ago, and, feeling ambitious, wanted to make a stick variety. I just melted some beeswax in with my coconut oil, baking soda, tea tree, and lavender oils, poured it all into an old deodorant container and refrigerated until firm (it doesn't need to stay refrigerated, I just wanted it to solidify faster). This deodorant is actually great for me–surprisingly, I find drugstore varieties are just not as effective–but, it stains. Any light clothing and sometimes darker. I'm sure it's because of the beeswax, which was its natural color, but I haven't whipped up a batch of a cream version sans beeswax yet to use. Anyway, all that to say, I'm decidedly team natural deodorant too, and think I'll just have to convert to creamy ones, whether store-bought or homemade :).

    • Reply admin August 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      You know, I'm reallly (really) convinced that staining has to do way more with body chemistry than deodorant. I've stained shirts wearing natural, conventional, and nothing at all!

  • Reply Lisa August 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Ah, I LOVED Soapwalla. But weirdly enough, I develop a crazy rash (TMI) about midway through the jar. My husband and I both use a brand called Deo now that works great AND is in stick form.

  • Reply Clio August 20, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I converted to natural cream deodorant almost a year ago and haven't looked back once. I use Fat of the Moon and I adore it. I'm always trying to convert people—it's just the best! There was a transition period right after I switched where things smelled a little funky but after a couple of days it really started working and I haven't worried about smelling bad since. Pretty life changing really!

  • Reply Amanda August 20, 2015 at 2:23 pm


  • Reply Kelsie August 20, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I've been using Soapwalla on your recommendation for about 8 months now, and I love it! I was considering switching to the Schmidt's as an experiment, but wonder which deodorant you used while pregnant? I'm 15 weeks now and recently learned there are some herbs/oils to avoid (ie. sage). Hoping the Soapwalla is safe! It never occurred to me it might not be. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Reply Beck August 20, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I love Soapwalla and Fat and the Moon cream deodorants. I love shopping locally but for this I'm happy to order both online. I've thought about making my own but I don't feel like it is actually time/cost efficient for me to experiment at this point. I don't use a lot though so one jar lasts me 6 – 12 months. Soapwalla can be found on Amazon if Prime free shipping helps!

  • Reply Jennifer Manzano August 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I've been wanting to switch but afraid of the white marks. (I'm using a totally clear semi-natural spray right now). I wear dark colors 90% of the time, and don't want to damage my clothes or increase my cleaning bills! I'm especially wondering about the white factor of these?

    • Reply admin August 20, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Haven't had a problem at all!

  • Reply carlyn greer August 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I love natural deodorant. Any ones with baking soda irritate my armpits. A favourite of mine are the Kiss My Face Liquid Rock Roll-On Deodorant. I've tried others (plus making my own!) and this one is by far my favourite

  • Reply Helen @ Relearning Loveliness August 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Straight-up milk of magnesia is super! Mara wrote about it here:

    And it doesn't stain your clothing!

  • Reply Anonymous August 20, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Love Soapwalla! My husband and I, as well as my best friend and her husband, have been using it for at least a year. I never liked using the drugstore brands and none of them were ever completely effective for me. Soapwalla has not failed me yet. I have used both the original scent as well as the newer, citrus scent. I love both…but slightly prefer the original. I've been wanting to try Schmidt's but my loyalty to Soapwalla has so far stopped me 🙂 Although I would love it more if it were slightly less expensive and easier to find here in southern California.

  • Reply Anna Kristina Scherling August 20, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I have a similar story! I tried so many, until I found Soapwalla, although I always had to apply jojoba oil first, to avoid irritation. Then the natural beauty store I discovered here in Boston (Follain) started carrying Meow Meow Tweet baking soda free cream, and I love it! My husband now uses Soapwalla. I convinced him to try it so I wouldn't have to worry about the antiperspirant stains in clothes anymore (none of the natural deodorants we've used leave any buildup/stains in clothes), but he switched back and forth between that and the drugstore variety because he said he noticed Soapwalla wouldn't work as well after a few days. I asked him to try it for a week or so straight (pushing past those few smelly transition days) and now Soapwalla is all he uses. I've also noticed that now even when I sweat more/don't use it for a day, I don't smell as bad as I did with the drugstore varieties. I know every body is different, but I'm so glad after a lot of trial and error I found a natural option that works so well for me!

  • Reply Rebecca August 20, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I am a fairly new reader, so it's hilarious that this is my first comment! I use Toms, which isn't as natural as I would like, but better than Dove or Secret in the natural department. I have made my own and tried several natural deodorants only to have them irritate my skin after a few weeks. I will give the cream deodorant a try! Thanks for the suggestions……I really like your blog! 🙂

    • Reply admin August 20, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Oh man, Toms makes me stink! So glad it works for you!

  • Reply Kate August 20, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Great post! Thanks! I'm a big Soapwalla fan, but I'm going to give Schmidt's a try if it works just as well and costs less. Please, please do one of these posts about shampoo/conditioner. I really appreciate your commitment to natural products AND your frugality.

    • Reply admin August 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Workin' on it!

  • Reply Hannah DeCamp August 20, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I have had some irritation with cream deos, but Pollen & Wax's has worked great for me! Bonus: it smells divine. I also love Living Libations Poetic Pits, but it doesn't cut it for humid southern summers (for me). Both of these are a little pricey but last a looong time.

  • Reply Anonymous August 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I use one called Real Purity and have for years now. It is irreplaceable. I buy it at a store locally in LA for $13 a pop, its slightly pricier on Amazon. Though I do wish it were lower priced, it really doesn't bother me because it lasts few months and WORKS without irritation, I use so few "beauty" products and they are all very affordable so this bit extra seems reasonable. For me the cream ones tend to be inefficient or irritating (I think its the baking soda?). During warmer months I've had people compliment the scent as if it's a fragrance, but nope just good old deodorant.


    • Reply Julie September 10, 2015 at 12:03 am

      Another vote for Real Purity! I've tried a lot of natural deodorants that haven't been strong enough (Aesop, Meow Meow Tweet, Crystal Essence) and a couple that smelled terrible on me by the end of the day (Fat and the Moon and Chagrin Valley). Sadly I haven't found anything that works as well as Certain Dri for me, but Real Purity is the next best thing, and I appreciate that's it's a roll-on.

  • Reply Kate August 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    I smelled terrible when I tried Schmidt's! I've since gone back to using nothing at all, which actually seems to work better.

    • Reply admin August 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Ha! So strange how everyone has a different experience!

  • Reply Catie Eyer August 20, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    i use pure essential oils {the specific oil varies: arborvitae, bergamot, a blend of tangerine/rosemary/geranium/juniper/cilantro} ~
    usually after a swipe of super salve's coconut cream:
    this is my current makeshift diy natural deodorant solution.

    i also use schmidt's ~ i layer that on for particularly sweaty situations…
    fat and the moon AND soapwalla are on my list to try, though.

    this is such an important topic.
    it is still a cultural assumption that chemical deodorants are necessary.
    they need to be exposed for the hazard that they are.
    you are furthering the discussion to challenge the status quo and providing concrete solutions to make a change for the better.

  • Reply Anonymous August 20, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I use the deodorant bar from Lush. It has practically no smell and works great. I even go my boyfriend some and he uses it to. I definitely recommend it.

  • Reply Jessica August 20, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Since last year, my fiance and I have lived on Meow Meow Tweet's awesome cream deodorant and now we buy it two at a time! We both struggled with rashes with Soapwalla, but this brand has worked so well for us. We get to the end of these long heat wave days relatively stink free (a true test of a product's power!

  • Reply infusionfibers August 21, 2015 at 1:51 am

    We mix up a spritzer bottle full of grain alcohol and essential oils (currently lavender and pine – the 2 together create the most amazing, fragrant and spicy scent! Masculine and feminine at once). The alcohol kills odor causing bacteria and the essential oils leave a light, lovely scent.

  • Reply infusionfibers August 21, 2015 at 1:53 am

    We mix up a spritzer bottle full of grain alcohol and essential oils (currently lavender and pine – the 2 together create the most amazing, fragrant and spicy scent! Masculine and feminine at once). The alcohol kills odor causing bacteria and the essential oils leave a light, lovely scent. (couldn't tell if my comment published, so I apologize if this is a repeat!)

  • Reply Erin August 21, 2015 at 2:57 am

    I JUST made the switch to natural DIY deodorant last week! I had been wanting to for awhile, but figured I might as well finish up the stick I had, plus I was pretty skeptical since I sweat easily and often. I knew you had posted on this before so I was reading comments from your last deodorant post and someone praised the recipe from momphotographer ( so I tried that recipe and I'm SO IMPRESSED! I've been using it for a week straight and haven't gotten stinky once! It's super easy – just melt cocoa butter with coconut oil, and mix in arrowroot/cornstarch, baking soda, vitamin E oil and an essential oil of your choice (I used tea tree because it's what I had on hand). I've had just slight irritation but nothing I really mind, and of course it needs regular mixing since coconut oil never solidifies in my no-AC Brooklyn apartment. but otherwise it's amazing! plus it leaves you smelling a little chocolate-y from the cocoa butter 🙂

  • Reply Kathleen August 21, 2015 at 3:56 am

    Crystal deodorant is definitely my go-to. I never have any issues with smell even if I'm sweating a lot. I read somewhere that you really have to get it good and wet and apply it over every inch of your armpit for it to work. Plus, they feel like they basically last forever. A remember a while ago the crystal didn't work for me but now it does. I don't know if that's a change in my body chemistry or what.

  • Reply Schmalexandra August 21, 2015 at 4:18 am

    I love this alcohol-based one. Works for me and feels clean with minimal fuss.

  • Reply Alexis August 21, 2015 at 5:27 am

    I highly recommend Meow Meow Tweet's deodorant creams. About 6 months ago I converted over to their lavender deodorant cream. It took some time for my body to adjust from the super harsh extra strength doe's I had been using in the past but I have to say I've never been happier with any deodorant. They also have a baking soda free version if your skin is a little more sensitive. I like using the baking soda free cream when I've just shaved and my skin needs to be treated a little more gently.

    • Reply Sherrie August 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Oooh, thanks for the suggestion! I think that a baking-soda free one might do the trick for me!

  • Reply Addie August 21, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Loved reading this post! I'm all about natural deodorant. I feel so good every morning I put it on… Like I am really loving my body and doing something extra to take care of myself. My ultimate favorite is "Naturally Betsy's"… On Amazon

  • Reply Megan Garcia August 21, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Two words: Magnesium oil.

    It's stops the smell- not that you have anything of the sort- and gives you a transdermal dose of magnesium. A useful mineral that most of us can use, even on a good day.

    I make my own magnesium oil deodorant with magnesium flakes and a few drops of sandalwood. Easy.

  • Reply Anne Tews August 21, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I've tried Tom's of Maine deodorant and by the end of the day was smelling quite sour/rank. I gave up on natural deodorant after that.

    • Reply admin August 21, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Ah! This might be the trick for you then!

  • Reply Amanda August 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    I tried several natural stick deodorants and started making my own three months ago. The store bought sticks did not hold up in Texas heat at all. Once my body got used to the homemade, I have not had a problem outside of some irritation after shaving. I have even found that I can skip a day applying it and even didn't smell when I forgot to put it on for a day. It does have tea tree oil which is what I noticed the stick deodorants were missing. I went swimming for five hours a few weeks ago and was so worried I was going to be smelly but I was not. Now to get my husband to switch!

  • Reply Claire Lyon August 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    I have heard that applying deodorant after showering in the morning and then running around getting ready is not the right time to apply.

    It should be applied in the evening without a shower when you are relaxed and your body is cool. Anyone tried this??

  • Reply Karen Hayward August 21, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    The crystal stone is what works for me! Never had any luck with homemade stuff

  • Reply Aubrey August 21, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Oh yes! Shea butter is the trick I've found a well, after trying so many recipes, the one that included the creaminess of shea butter worked perfectly.

  • Reply Sherrie August 24, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    I've been enjoying your blog for a little while now, but this is the first time I've felt truly compelled to comment! I am SO appreciative of all of the other readers' comments – it's so helpful! I also get a rash partway through Schmidt's or Soapwalla, or my own recipe. And it's so nice to read that I'm not the only one! Other things I've tried haven't worked (alcohol, clay, crystal), so I'm keen to try the baking soda free options mentioned above, and better yet, make my own. Take care!

  • Reply Sara T August 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Has anyone tried the Milk+Honey cream? I just bought the bay, clove and blood orange blend and it smells AMAZING! Just hoping it works!

  • Reply Miss Gingerbread August 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    I was so happy to finally find Soapwalla in Germany, but I got a severe rash after using it. My armpits felt like exploding for days and I have never had any skin irritations with any deodorant before. Does anyone know which ingredient might cause the rash?

    • Reply Caty December 29, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Hi, could you please tell me where did you find Soapwalla in Germany? Thank you.

  • Reply Jenni August 26, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    I have found that after using liquid castille soap as body wash for several months, my need for deodorant has been greatly reduced. It took about 3-4 months before I really noticed a difference, and after over a year I sweat MUCH less (hardly at all, and I used to sweat A LOT), and it's not nearly as stinky. My hubby has noticed a similar effect too. 🙂

  • Reply Heidi August 27, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    I used Soapwalla for a while. I love it as it worked perfectly (and I sweat a lot) but eventually my skin wasn't happy. My armpits turned black and the skin extremely rough and dry, so unfortunately had to stop using it.

  • Reply Rebecca Kinney September 21, 2015 at 1:20 am

    I took a very deep breath today and made the switch to Shmidt's! I've tried Tom's and a few others of the sort-of-natural types with very yucky results. And sadly I stink, usually within a few hours of application, mainstream deodorant usually gets me through the day, but even that smells a little off by this time. Today I spend an entire day out of doors, cooking over a campfire, etc (usually a smell inducing activity) and yay! No stink. I am going to road test it at work tomorrow (safely with a regular stick in my bag, just in case). I really hope this is going to work. I don't know if this figures into it in any way, but I also recently started using a shaving oil there first which keeps things pretty well moisturized. Fingers crossed!

  • Reply Andrea November 23, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Lavilin is a safe and all-natural product. Highly recommended.

  • Reply Lizeth January 14, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I’ve been using Le Couvent Des Minimes Everyday Deodorant for a little less than a year and so far so good! The scent is really refreshing. It comes in a glass roller bottle and the price is not bad at all.

  • Reply Hannah February 11, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    For anyone dealing with irritation, a toner made from natural apple cider vinegar (with the “mother” — Braggs is good) and witch hazel, should soothe and heal irritation and discoloration! I have super sensitive pits and this always works for me.

  • Reply Alice December 7, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Interesting read, it’s good to know your husband is happy with these too, I’ve been trying to persuade my husband to make the switch as the smell of his man spray in our windowless apartment bathroom makes me struggle to breathe! After trying Toms and several other alternative ‘natural’ deodorants including the crystal stick things, I’ve settled on a brand called Jason. Interestingly I find that the plain one and the lavender one don’t work for my body chemistry but that the apricot one does – so I just buy that one. I wish I could find a suitable product for men over here in the UK. Anything to remove those bloody spray cans from our bathroom! p.s I’ve just recently found your blog and have been binge reading your posts! It’s so good to find a new-to-me blog written by someone with a similar take on life.

  • Reply Tawni March 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Just found your blog and I adore it! I am having the most difficult time finding a good natural deodorant. I have tried Tom’s – made me smell weird- Primal pit paste – better smell but not awesome. The french one – didn’t love the smell- too perfumey. Lavanilla – too sweet so it also made me smell weird. I am using the crystal deodorant right now, but I don’t think it works for me. I haven’t smelled so great for a while, so I am excited to try Schmidt’s. The problem I have with cream deodorants though, is that they seem to leave a yellow mark under my clothes. I am not sure if that is just what sweat does or if it is a oils in the deodorant that leave that stain.

  • Reply Kitty August 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I clean with rubbing alcohol to kill the bacteria and then a dab of cornstarch powder.

  • Reply Briony December 16, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Erin!
    In Adelaide, Australia we have a little brand, but with a website, called Mindful Skincare.
    I discovered the maker’s paste deoderant at a local craft market.
    Lasts a long time, no irritating baking soda in the sensitive version, and smells really beautiful.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated.