There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for the best natural deodorant. Most importantly of course, it has to actually work. A great natural deodorant needs to effectively mask and neutralize body odor without causing any irritation on your sensitive pits. Bonus points for nixing sweat, too. But all of that is much easier said than done.
What is natural deodorant?
For starters, know that the term “natural” is not FDA-regulated, so a brand could really slap it on any product (womp, womp). In the world of deodorants, though, it generally means that, at the very least, a product is aluminum-free or doesn’t contain any other antiperspirant ingredients. Why? Because products with those ingredients are regulated as drugs rather than cosmetics. Normally, those ingredients work by actually plugging your sweat glands and preventing sweating, thereby also preventing the bacteria that cause B.O. from accumulating in your pits.
There is no definitive research proving that aluminum in antiperspirants is harmful, as SELF explained previously, but the ingredient has still fallen out of favor with some consumers.
What makes natural deodorant effective?
Without those ingredients, deodorants rely on fragrances—often from essential oils—to mask the smell of body odors rather than to prevent them from appearing. Some products might also contain ingredients that soak up oil and neutralize the smell, like kaolin clay, charcoal, or sodium chloride (salt). Others contain ingredients like tea tree oil, which has some antibacterial properties, according to recent research. Ultimately, there’s nothing inherently better or worse about this approach than that of an antiperspirant, so really, your choice comes down to personal preference.
It’s also important to remember, though, that “natural” does not automatically mean safe—especially for those with sensitive skin. In fact, botanical extracts and essential oils are some of the most common skin irritants out there, SELF explained previously. Baking soda, another common deodorant ingredient used to neutralize body odor, is also a common irritant. So know that choosing a deodorant over an antiperspirant isn’t a guarantee that you won’t have a bad reaction.
And, of course, just take one look at the reviews for any deodorant and you’ll realize how individual people’s preferences are. Finding the best natural deodorant for your skin will probably take some trial and error. But, in general, take a look at the ingredients, especially keeping an eye out for potential irritants, ingredients that can neutralize odor or bacteria (like kaolin clay, charcoal, or tea tree oil), moisturizing ingredients, and a fragrance you’ll actually enjoy wearing (or none at all, if that’s your thing).
To help you narrow down your options, here are our picks that range from pastes to sticks to sprays. Some come recommended by current and former SELF staffers, and the rest are highly rated, outstanding deodorants we’ve covered before.
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.