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We’ve gone into quite a bit of detail about why you should switch to a free-from deodorant (especially if you’re currently using an antiperspirant, but we realized recently that we haven’t said much about how that process can and should go.

We really do understand the hesitation to change your tried-and-true underarm solution: scent and sweat are sensitive matters, and, unfortunately, “natural” deodorants don’t always have the best reputation for being effective.

If you know you want to avoid the harmful chemicals found in many conventional deodorants, and you’re ready to stop plugging your sweat glands with the aluminum in antiperspirant, below you’ll find a less intense way to transition into free-from deodorant use.

Step 1: Read Labels

Not all of us want to spend time online reviewing products and researching ingredients (although, if you do, we highly recommend the EWG’s Skin Deep Database), so start with this: turn over your chosen free-from or natural deodorant, and make sure these ingredients aren’t on the label:

  • aluminum
  • parabens
  • phthalates
  • propylene glycol

If you avoid these four main offenders, chances are you’ll be purchasing a clean product.

Step 2: Detox (Optional)

We’re big fans of detoxing due to the number of environmental toxins humans are exposed to on a daily basis, and this extends to our underarm situation.

A good detox deodorant will help pull harmful substances from your armpits, sweat glands and lymph nodes, and get your body ready for the switch to a natural deodorant by reducing harmful bacteria and improving natural scent.

That being said, if you switch to a free-from deodorant and continue using it over time, your body will eventually detoxify itself – it’ll just take quite a bit longer.

If you’re interested in the detox process it will take about four weeks, and you can refer to the Nala Guide to Detox for further instructions.

Step 3: Plan a gradual transition

Try an every-other-day tactic for your new free-from deodorant, or apply it first thing in the morning and then “top up” with your conventional product in the afternoon.

Pay attention to how you feel & smell – after two weeks your body chemistry should start to shift, as you get used to the new product.

Step 4: The full switch, or back to the drawing board

After two weeks of alternating, you should be ready to fully commit to your free-from deodorant: your body will be used to the new, cleaner product.

However, if the product you’ve selected isn’t working for you, you’ll know by this point, too.

If this is the case, we implore you: don’t give up! Every body on the planet has a unique chemical make-up, and you may have simply selected a product/scent/brand that isn’t right for yours. We’re spoiled for choice nowadays when it comes to natural and free-from beauty products; why not try out another one?

Other ways to support the transition to free-from deodorant

Like so many health & beauty topics, underarm sweat and scent is a multi-faceted issue that has many causes – and many solutions.

Deodorant is obviously the first line of defense, but there are other ways to ensure you smell pleasant and don’t sweat excessively. Among them:

Wear natural fibres – synthetics tend to trap sweat and breed bacteria due to their lack of breathability, whereas natural fibres like organic cotton and bamboo allow the armpits to air out and breathe.

Drink enough water – your body needs to naturally detox every day, and ensuring your stay hydrated will help you flush the toxins that breed bacteria (and cause that funky BO smell) in your armpits

Eat a clean diet – things like excessive sugar consumption will feed bacteria in the body, causing a less-than-pleasant odor when you sweat.

Let yourself be human – there are certainly some medical conditions that cause excessive sweat and scent, and we understand completely the desire to treat them. Beyond those cases, however, most of us have just been told too often that any natural scent or sweat is ugly, embarrassing, or gross. This truly isn’t the case! Self-care doesn’t mean being perfect, it means loving your whole, human self – sweat and all.

When all’s said and done, good health, clean products and a little more self-love are the components of a successful switch to a free-from deodorant.

Roaming the aisles of your local drugstore, Sephora, or even health food store, you may have noticed a distinction in the world of underarm care: sweat & odour solutions are typically divided into deodorants and antiperspirants.

At Nala we fall firmly into the the deodorant camp for a few reasons we feel passionately about, but realize aren’t necessarily common knowledge.

So, without further ado, we give you: the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants, and the reasons we think you should limit your antiperspirant use as much as you can.

Deodorant, defined

Underarm deodorant is, quite literally, any substance you put on your armpit to improve its smell.

We’re all adults here, and can cop to the fact that, sometimes, we a little stinky. Our armpits are home to the majority of our apocrine – or sweat – glands. These glands create body odour because the sweat they secrete is full of protein, which bacteria can break down easily.

(Fun fact? The other concentration of apocrine glands in the body is in our groin area.)

The standard for conventional deodorants is to employ a chemical cocktail to neutralize the odour, while still allowing the armpits to sweat.

Free-from and natural deodorants work a little differently, by using natural ingredients to detox the area and deal directly with the bacteria, but the goal is the same: improve odour while still allowing the body to secrete sweat.

One caveat we should mention: some of the essential oils used in our formulations do actually help control sweat, due to their antibacterial (tea-tree & bergamot) astringent (geranium, cedarwood, rosemary, peppermint, and citrus) and calming (lavender, Ylang Ylang) properties.

These oils don’t prohibit your sweat, however: they just help your body manage and reduce it naturally.

And then there’s antiperspirants.

What’s in an antiperspirant? Good question.

The chief aim of antiperspirants is to prevent your armpit from sweating.

To be clear, we get how amazing this may sound, especially if you’re someone who worries about sweat stains on the regular and has to avoid fabrics like silk. Unless there’s a large body of water and pina colada involved, it can really suck to be sweaty.

Unfortunately, antiperspirants achieve their aims using aluminium. The aluminium salts in antiperspirants form a plug over the sweat glands, preventing sweat from leaving the gland and funneling it back into the body.

This is worrisome for two reasons:

The aluminium in antiperspirants is absorbed into the body’s circulatory system via the sweat gland, and accumulates. In one study, a regular user of an antiperspirant containing aluminium had a toxic level of aluminium in her system after four years of use. Aluminium at those levels has been strongly linked to breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. (The good news? Eight months after switching to a natural deodorant the issue was resolved.)

Your body is meant to sweat! Sweating is the body’s natural form of detoxification, and it helps us flush unwanted and unhealthy substances from our system. Prohibiting that sweat from leaving the body means all of those toxins are still present, and can contribute to countless health issues.

So while it can be inconvenient or even downright embarrassing sometimes, your underarm sweat is a vital function for your health – and plugging it up with aluminium is not the answer.

Another caveat: some people do suffer from serious conditions, such as Hyperhidrosis, that cause them to sweat excessively. Of course we’d never suggest you just “sweat it out” when you’re significantly damper than most, and self-conscious about it. What we do suggest is focussing on finding the root cause, and eliminating the problem systematically, as opposed to plugging up your sweat glands day after day.

Deodorant vs. antiperspirant, and, in all things, moderation

As we’re careful to explain in our detox guide, we’re not about drawing a hard line – nor the stress that comes with being restrictive – here at Nala.

We get that sometimes you have presentations, dates, award ceremonies and weddings to attend, and a go-to option that prevents embarrassing pit stains can feel like your best friend.

You can absolutely use antiperspirant once in awhile and still be a healthy person. We just encourage to let go of the fiction that sweat = ugly, gross, and unlovely, and put down those aluminium-filled antiperspirants.

If you’re a committed user who wants to make a change, try using free-from deodorants at times when you’re going to sweat anyway, like at the gym or the beach. Or keep using the antiperspirant every other day, and try our detox deodorant at night to help flush out the sweat that’s still in your system.

There a million moderate ways to move away from regular antiperspirant use – we hope you find one that works for you!

There’s a lot of fear mongering these days about everything from the food we eat, to the cleaning products we use in our homes, to the cosmetics we put on our bodies. It’s not uncommon to read headlines about “deadly, cancer-causing” products.

The sad truth is that there are a lot of less-than-healthy factors at play when it comes to consumer goods in North America.

That being said, there’s no need to panic: by educating yourself about what you’re putting on, in, and around your body, it’s entirely possible to make smart choices, and avoid unhealthy products.

When it comes to skin care products (our special area of interest) one of the most important topics to learn more about is the nature of carcinogens, and how to avoid them.

How Cancer Cells Work

At its most basic level, cancer is caused when the DNA – or blueprint – of a cell is changed. These newly-created cancer cells aren’t recognized by our immune system because they’ve been altered, and our white blood cells (our immune system’s soldiers) attack the cancer cells, destroying our body’s otherwise-healthy cells in the process.

These changes to our healthy cells can be the result of hereditary factors – the genetics you inherit from your family, and have little control over.

Our cells can also be mutated by carcinogens.

What are Carcinogens?

The American Cancer Society has a simple-but-effective description of carcinogens: they’re substances and exposures that can lead to cancer.

These substances and exposures have the ability to change the DNA of our normal, healthy cells, creating the mutated cancer cells described above.

Think of excess sun exposure, or smoking: it’s now well known that they can cause cancer. That’s because ultraviolet sun rays and tobacco smoke are two of the most well-known carcinogens.

Other carcinogens include harmful chemicals, medical treatments like radiation and hormone treatment, and pollution. All have the ability to change our cells, and trigger the cancer response.

Not all Carcinogens are Created Equal

To be clear, not all carcinogens are equally powerful, nor do they have the same potential to affect the DNA of your cells. Some don’t even directly affect the DNA of your cells – they simply split your healthy cells and make them more susceptible to DNA changes.

There are many scales for rating the strength of a carcinogen, and they can range from known to be carcinogenic to humans, to probably not carcinogenic to humans.

Obviously, avoiding known carcinogens is a priority.

This doesn’t, however, mean it’s easy to do.

Unfortunately, many of the chemicals and ingredients used in mass-produced products – especially skin care products – fall somewhere on the carcinogen scale. These chemicals provide easy solutions to cosmetic-related issues, like making a shampoo lather, a face cream feel silky, or a deodorant prevent body odour.

They also, however, negatively affect us at the cellular level.

Avoiding Carcinogens in Skin Care Products

With the prevalence of carcinogens in your products, you might feel a little overwhelmed on your next visit to Sephora.

What’s more, when you actually review lists of known carcinogens, it can read like Greek. Comparing various lists to the ingredients list on your products isn’t the easiest option for most of us.

To reduce some of the stress but still stay healthy, we suggest you use your newfound knowledge of carcinogens in a few different ways.

1. Find a non-profit group to do the research for you.

Organizations like The Environmental Working Group and CertClean provide great, unbiased, scientific reviews of cosmetic products and companies, and provide no-nonsense lists of what products to trust.

2. Start with one product

You don’t have to throw out everything in your makeup bag at once: try going product by product, and replacing mass-produced products for natural ones you find on lists of healthy cosmetics. You can start by switching up something you use every day, like moving to a natural deodorant or body wash.

3. Live a healthy lifestyle, generally.

Cancer prevention isn’t limited to your cosmetics. Eating an organic, whole foods diet, getting 8 hours of sleep, exercising 4 times a week, and reducing stress have a massive impact on your body’s ability to stay healthy.

Watch your products while paying attention to your lifestyle to reduce the risks of carcinogens.

Why Detox?

If you’re interested in health & wellness trends (or, let’s be honest, if you’re on Instagram), you’ve probably noticed that “detoxing” is all the rage. There seems to be no end to what you can detox – your diet, your home, your clothing, your pet food, your pet’s clothing… it’s thisclose to officially being out of hand.

Unlike some health trends, however, the concept of detoxing originates in actual medical science: we are exposed to dozens of different environmental toxins on any given day, thanks to things like industrial pollution, the tragic state of our food system, the cleaning products we use in our homes, and, yes, the beauty products we apply to our bodies.

These toxins are stored in the tissues and cells of our body (including our brains!), sometimes for years, and can have a devastating effect on our metabolism, behavior, and immune system, (leading to diseases like cancer).

The act of “detoxing”, then – when done properly – can help us flush toxins from our bodies, and can drastically improve our health.

Why Detox your Armpits?

Traditional deodorants and antiperspirants contain a whole smorgasbord of chemicals (including aluminum, phthalates, propylene glycol, formaldehyde, and parabens, to name a few) in order to halt our natural sweating function.

This is worrisome for two reasons:

  1. Our skin is our body’s largest organ, and what touches the skin can easily enter our bloodstream – and send these endocrine-disrupting chemicals on an all-expenses-paid tour of our body.
    Our armpits house our lymph nodes, an essential part of our immune system. Layering harmful chemicals directly on top of them suppresses the immune function, leaving us much more vulnerable to illness and disease.
  2. Switching to a free-from deodorant is a great way to stop introducing toxic chemicals into your body.

However, there’s still the matter of those toxins lodged in the tissues of your under arm. This is where a detox deodorant full of ingredients (like charcoal) that naturally draw toxins out of the skin comes in.

The stages of Detox (aka what to expect)

Detox deodorant is meant to be used in a very specific way: it can ease the transition to a natural or free-from deodorant, and/or help you detox if you’ve used an antiperspirant (more about that below), but it’s not designed to be used all day, every day.

Consider the use of detox deodorant a short-term process, with the following stages.

Stage 1: Detoxification

What’s happening:
Your pores are opening up and pulling out toxins that have accumulated in your armpit.

What to expect:
Your body may sweat more than usual, and it’s even normal to smell a bit during this stage.

How long it lasts:
1-2 weeks

How to ride it out:
Drink lots of water, to assist with flushing out the toxins.
Use the detox deodorant at night to help remove toxins while you sleep, or right before you work out (when you’ll be sweating a lot, anyway).

Important to remember:
The sweat and the smell mean that it’s working, so keeping using it! Your body is flushing out toxic particles that have embedded themselves, and the heavier sweats and odour won’t last forever.

Stage 2: Adjustment

What’s happening:
Your armpit has shed ~50% of the toxic particles stored there, and is starting to function more naturally again.

What to expect:
Sweating and odour will start to subside (yay!).

How long it lasts:
1-2 weeks

It’s important to remember:
This is just the beginning of the regulation process, so keep using the detox deodorant every night, while using a free-from deodorant during the day.

Stage 3: Acclimatization

What’s happening:
Your armpits are well on their way to being toxin-free, and your body is acclimating to a new pattern of self-regulating sweat.

What to expect:
Odour will subside because the worst offenders (the conglomerated toxins that have been accumulating in your lymph nodes) will have been flushed out. You will sweat less – but you will still sweat. Sweat is a daily detoxification process that our body naturally regulates.

How long it lasts:
Forever, as long as you don’t introduce the top offenders back into your pits.

It’s important to remember:
At this point you can stop using the detox deodorant, and simply use your free-from deodorant during the day.

NOTE: if you need to use an antiperspirant or traditional deodorant for any reason, see the Detox When you Retox section below.

How to Make the Best of a Sweaty Situation

Detox fundamentally means that toxins are leaving your body, which can have some uncomfortable side effects. You will sweat more than usual, and some people may notice more or a different body odour during the process.

Things you can do to support the detoxification and mitigate the side-effects include:

  • Drink lots of water – get your 8 cups, minimum, per day to help flush out toxins
  • Cut out refined foods & alcohol – the fewer toxins you introduce during the detox process, the less work the detox deodorant has to do.
  • Choose your sweatiest times – We recommend using the detox deodorant before bed and before a workout, because these are times when it’s socially acceptable to sweat a little more than usual. Extra sweat is a-okay during the stages of detox, so embrace it!
  • Let your body sweat! Even post-detox, a little sweat is important: one of most dangerous things you can do is clog your pores when they are trying to keep you cool and regulate your body’s temperature and natural pH balance.

Detox When you Retox

Listen, we get it: sometimes you can’t risk the natural sweat that comes with being human. We wouldn’t expect you to accept an academy award in a silk dress while wearing detox deodorant.

We know there will be days when you have client meetings, a big presentation, or a bigger date and reach for your antiperspirant, and we don’t blame you.

This is where ongoing use of the detox free-from deodorant comes in: if you need to use a more chemically-laden underarm solution during the day, layer on some detox deodorant at night, for 3-5 days after the event, and go back to using your free-from deodorant during the day. You’ll unclog your pores and flush your system of the harmful chemicals in traditional deodorants.