Ever since I read an article about people who don’t use deodorant and claim to not smell, I’ve wanted to try it. It’s just the sort of free and comfortable with yourself attitude that I strive to embody as much as possible. Except that it’s summer and as much as I’m all about self-acceptance, it’s hot and I’d like to have friends that want to be around me. So, I can’t just let things get funky, know what I’m saying? So I was pretty excited to try Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal and see if it was a natural way to keep me fresh all day. I used Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Roll-On ($3.98, Amazon.com) and the Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Clear Twist-Up Stick with aloe vera ($4.40, Amazon.com).
Why would someone want to use natural deodorant?
Ninety percent of U.S. citizens use deodorant or antiperspirant (McGrath). Everyone’s hot and bothered over parabens — while I’m not opposed to them because the amounts used in beauty products have been deemed safe by the FDA, it’s a personal choice — but they’re not what you should really be worried about. If you’re going to be concerned about anything in your deodorant, be concerned about aluminum — which recent rumors say causes breast cancer.
More than half of all breast cancer cases causal factors are unexplained. Currently, there are no studies to support that women who use these products are likelier to develop breast cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute). While one time use of deodorants and antiperspirants containing aluminum have been shown to not be harmful, but it’s continued use that warrants investigation (Food and Chemical Toxicology). And there are other issues besides cancer that aluminum can cause.
[Deodorant: Parabens Good, Aluminum Bad?]
What does the research say?
Researchers in one study noticed a correlation between deodorant/antiperspirant sales and breast cancer (but, grade school math taught me correlation doesn’t equal causation!). They surveyed 437 breast-cancer survivors to look for a correlation between the age and frequency of shaving and using an aluminum-containing deodorant/antiperspirant (McGrath). They found that women who did both of these things at an earlier age tended to be diagnosed at an earlier age. This demonstrates a correlation in a small sampling of people and further studies need to be done.
A controlled study looking at 813 people who used aluminum-containing antiperspirant versus 793 who did not over a five -year period found that there was no difference in breast cancer occurrence between the groups (Journal of the National Cancer Institute). If these studies demonstrate anything, it’s that more scientific research needs to be done to understand whether there is a link and what effects there might be.
But cancer isn’t the only concern for aluminum deodorant users. Aluminum has been found in the breast fluids of women with cystic breast disease (Journal of Applied Toxicology). Though the condition is benign, it could cause cysts in the breasts and is irreversible.
What makes natural deodorants different?
Naturally Fresh uses potassium or ammonium alum in their deodorant’s mineral salt crystal. Though these are related to aluminum, they contain significantly less, which is why many experts feel they’re safer in regards to aluminum. These minerals have been claimed by companies claim that bacteria cannot survive when these are used — but there are few studies to back these claims (Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology). In a test on distilled water and bacteria, potassium alum was found to limit the growth of organisms and formation of colonies (The Indian Journal of Medical Research).
Alum can still cause irritation though. Some users have reported dermatitis upon usage (Cutis). While this study only encompasses two patients, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence online to show that some people may experience a skin reaction. If this happens, discontinue use.
Personal Use and Opinion
I used two kinds of deodorants, the Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Roll-On and the Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Clear Twist-Up Stick with aloe vera. Both products were pretty easy to apply, though I prefer the roll-on because there’s no need to wet the crystal. Both of the products I tried were unscented — Naturally Fresh does make scented products — and they really didn’t smell like much at all. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t have to do any crafty gymnastics to put my clothes on — the natural deodorant doesn’t leave marks on clothing.
Throughout the day I kept self-consciously checking myself to make sure I didn’t smell bad and I can happily report that I didn’t notice any unpleasant smells. I’m not certain how this deodorant would hold up against a trip to the gym, but if alum really does deter bacteria growth, I would assume it would be fine.
Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystals worked well for me, though that doesn’t mean they’ll work well for everyone. There’s some evidence that aluminum in deodorant can cause issues in the body like cystic breast disease. There is still no conclusive scientific evidence linking breast cancer and aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants. While deodorant crystals do contain potassium alum — which is a relative of aluminum — it’s generally considered safe. Some people suffer from skin rashes while using natural deodorant, if this happens to you discontinue use immediately.
Product Rating: 8/10
- High or optimized concentration of key ingredients: 3/3
- Unique formulation or new technology: 2/3
- Value: 3/3
- Sunscreen or sunscreen-enhancing antioxidants: 0/1