Sweaty Stinky Sustainable

Current Location: London, UK

I did some traveling to Ireland this past weekend so I thought I would share one of my minimalist/sustainable travel hacks. Ever since I started making my own hair products I’ve been curious about what other personal care products I could make myself. One product that I’ve been super interested in making is deodorant. Last year I forayed into the organic/natural deodorant genre and I bought Green Tidings All Natural Deodorant off of Amazon. I was genuinely surprised by how effective it was and my only issue was the container; it was a lot of plastic for a little product.

Fast forward a few months and I was watching a zero waste bathroom video and the YouTuber mentioned that for deodorant she used a crystal that she picked up in France. It was literally a rock on a rope. I had never in my life heard of using a rock for deodorant and I also was extremely skeptical how this could possibly work. My assumption was this person probably sweats cotton candy and rainbows.

It turns out that crystal/mineral/salt/stone deodorants are a real thing. There are several brands that sell them: Thai Deodorant Stone, Crystal, Green Virgin, and more. From what I’ve gleaned, people are choosing crystal deodorants over regular deodorants in order to avoid the aluminum found in antiperspirants. Most antiperspirants use aluminum chloride compounds to plug up your sweat glands and prevent you from sweating.

Some people are concerned that the aluminum found in these antiperspirants could be harmful if your body is absorbing it through the armpits. The two main concerns are that aluminum is linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s. This is total bullshit. Both the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association refute these claims. There has been research on both counts that suggest that aluminum has an effect on morbidity. Experts in both fields have repeatedly said that there is no credible evidence that there is a causal relationship between aluminum absorption and cancer or Alzheimer’s. Any good social scientist can tell you that correlation ≠ causality. If you need more explaining, I recommend this Jon Oliver clip.

People are also concerned about stopping up sweat glands because it prevents releasing ‘toxins.’ This is also total BS. Your internal organs detoxify your body, not your sweat glands. The main purpose of sweating is to cool down your body. Unless you’re worried that using an antiperspirant is messing up your internal AC system, this is not a great argument to make.

Fallacious health claims aside, I think there is something to be said for a deodorant that lasts longer, costs less, and requires less plastic. Even though most of the brands sell the stones in plastic packaging that mimics the mechanism of a typical stick deodorant, if you’re replacing your deodorant every couple of months the mineral stone is an obvious improvement. The question is, does it actually work as well as traditional brands of deodorant or deodorant you can make at home?

The way it works is fairly simple. The stink in your armpits comes from bacteria that ingest sweat, which produces what we recognize as body odor. The crystals work by preventing the bacteria from growing. The crystals are made of potassium alum, an antimicrobial mineral that is soluble in water. To use the crystals, you dampen them with water, rub the bacteria-killing minerals on your armpits, and presto: all of the sweat with none of the stink.

While I was in NYC in May, I happened to come across a deodorant stone in a random drug store. It cost less than $5 and comes in 100% recyclable plastic packaging so it seemed very worth trying out. I’ve been using the deodorant stone daily for about eight months now and here are my thoughts on the product:

  • PRO: It totally works. I am not a person who sweats delightful butterflies and fruit punch and I swear it totally works. For the first month I was using it I would do a little covert smell-check at work and I was amazed every time that it was never a problem.
  • CON: It only lasts about 12 hours. My previous commercial deodorant would last longer hours without reapplication.
  • PRO: It’s great for travel since it isn’t a liquid.
  • CON: You need a sink or some source of water to apply it.
  • PRO: No deodorant stains on shirts!
  • PRO: I haven’t had to buy deodorant in 8 months. And at the rate it’s deteriorating, I won’t have to buy another one for like 5 more years. So that’s pretty cool.
  • CON: It’s not an anti-perspirant. This is a drawback of any natural deodorant, however.
  • PRO: But, even if you sweat a lot, it will still continue to work as a deodorant.
  • NEITHER(?): It’s not scented. I’ve never used a scented deodorant before anyway, so this was not a con for me, but if you prefer a scented deodorant that is something to keep in mind.

My overall verdict is that I will continue to use my deodorant stone because the $£€ savings alone are worth it. I still have one stick of modern deodorant leftover which I keep for emergencies (first dates, job interviews, meeting Mindy Kaling, etc.), but at the rate I’m using it I’ll never have to buy another one again. I still need to do more research into the sustainability of the different deodorant stone brands, but I’m happy right now with the savings in plastic.



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