When it comes to fighting BO, most of us want the most advanced weaponry we can get. However, after all the recent news about aluminum causing Alzheimer’s disease, or parabens and phthalates messing with reproductive hormones, maybe you’ve considered taming your approach. Maybe you’ve actually bought a natural deodorant. And maybe, like many of us, you really gave it the old college try but stank to high heaven and eventually slunk back to that tried-and-true electric blue stick that could deodorize a dead cow and will probably outlast the apocalypse.
Whether you’re interested in trying natural deo for the first time or looking for a better option, we’ve done the homework for you. Our six testers (five women and one man) tried 17 total brands and scents, all free of aluminum, phthalates, and parabens. Here’s what we found.
Fat and the Moon Deodorant Cream (2 ounces, $12)
Best Overall Natural Deodorant
For once, the packaging is exactly right: “This deodorant is for the full spectrum of stinky,” reads the label on Fat and the Moon deodorant cream. One tester used it to free-solo the Second Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado, and to battle nervous sweats during an ice-climbing competition in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The verdict? “Standout performance—I never smelled myself, even when my armpits were next to my face during big reaches at the end of the day,” she reported. “Plus, I tend to ‘misplace’ my razor for the winter, and this stuff is more than a match for the determination of hairy pits.” Credit a mix of stink-zapping baking soda, moisture-absorbing arrowroot powder, and naturally antimicrobial tea tree oil.
Because this deodorant comes in a jar, you have to spread it on with your finger, which testers actually loved. “It seems like rubbing it in helps it absorb better—I never got any pilling or sticking to my clothes,” one reviewer said.
Testers also loved the subtle scent, which incorporates the warm, woodsy smells of black pepper, clary sage, and bergamot with the brighter scents of coconut oil and grapefruit. “The fragrance is nice without being girly or over-the-top,” noted one tester.
Thinksport Natural Deodorant Aloe and Tea Flowers (2.9 ounces, $7)
“After years of pretending that Tom’s of Maine worked—sorry, everyone around me—Thinksport felt like magic,” said one particularly odiferous tester, who used her Thinksport Natural Deodorant Aloe and Tea Flowers for a full summer of climbing, camping, and backpacking trips until there was nothing left but the plastic nub. “This stuff both makes me smell delicious and totally wipes out underlying odor for up to two days,” she said. That’s thanks to tried-and-true baking soda, wetness-fighting arrowroot powder, and various plant-based oils and extracts that boost moisturization and fragrance.
Testers also loved the price: it’s about half as expensive as many similarly effective deodorants.
Ethique Sans Unscented Solid Deodorant (2.5 ounces, $13)
Most Eco-Friendly and Best for Sensitive Pits
Deodorants from the New Zealand beauty brand Ethique aren’t just paraben-, aluminum-, and phthalate-free—they’re also free of baking soda, which can be an irritant to sensitive skin.
In pit-to-pit tests with other deodorants, Ethique always outlasted competitors. One tester, who swiped it on before ultimate Frisbee games and climbing trips in Colorado’s Front Range, says it was the longest-lasting deodorant she’s tried. Another tester reported similar longevity while climbing and car camping.
The science behind that all-day deodorizing power? Ethique’s Sans Unscented Solid deodorant is packed with the nontoxic, antibacterial agents zinc oxide and magnesium hydroxide. It also contains activated charcoal, which absorbs bacterial waste into its porous surface, and bamboo extract, an ultrafine powder derived from the plant’s stalks, which can absorb up to 200 percent of its own weight. Almond and jojoba oils meant smooth application and moisturized pits, as two sensitive-skinned, bike-commuting testers confirmed.
Another bonus: instead of using plastic, Ethique wraps its square-shaped deodorant pucks in wax paper and cardboard, to keep the product off your hands. (The whole package is compostable.) “I was initially worried about the weird shape and the lack of a plastic applicator, but it was still really easy to apply,” noted one tester.
Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus Deodorant (2.6 ounces, $22)
Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus deodorant had the freshest scent of any product we tried. The fragrance is bright and clean, reminiscent of a backyard garden after a good spring rain.
The deodorant gets its aroma from eucalyptus oil, which also has antiseptic properties, making it a possible cure for some bacterial sources of BO. The other active ingredient, citronellyl methylcrotonate, is a nontoxic odor neutralizer as well.
Testers were impressed with this deodorant’s staying power. “After a run, a sweaty weight-lifting sesh, and two hours of gym climbing, my eucalyptus-scented pits still smelled fresh,” said one. The only issue: this New York City–based cosmetics brand ain’t cheap.
Pretty Frank Charcoal Seaside Deodorant Jar (2 ounces, $10)
“This deodorant seemed to zap the nervous sweat I worked up after a tough client meeting,” said one tester. “And after a four-hour climbing session, I wasn’t able to smell my pits, even when I was soaked in sweat and could smell my feet through my socks.”
In Pretty Frank’s Charcoal Seaside deodorant jar, arrowroot powder and baking soda absorb moisture and odor. As backup, a cocktail of essential oils—like lavender, lemon, and juniper berry—also help inhibit bacterial growth. The organic shea butter and organic coconut oil that make it spreadable also help moisturize.
Native Cucumber and Mint Deodorant (2.7 ounces, $12)
While most testers had strong and differing opinions on their absolute favorite deodorant, most agreed on Native as a pretty solid runner-up. (It’s also one of the easiest to find in stores and one of the better cost-per-ounce values.) The Cucumber and Mint deodorant scored particularly high marks for its fresh scent.
“I still smelled good after a few hours of skiing, 45-minute spin classes, and hourlong runs,” said one tester after a month of use. The formula includes odor-absorbing baking soda as well as magnesium hydroxide, which works by altering the pH of your skin to make it less hospitable to bacterial growth.
Purelygreat Tea Tree Stick Deodorant (2.6 ounces, $12)
Tea tree oil gives this deo both antimicrobial powers and a fresh fragrance that our testers loved. One Colorado-based adventurer reported all-day effectiveness, even after long runs and hardcore climbing sessions in St. Vrain Canyon. For that, you can thank the Purelygreat Tea Tree Stick deodorant formula, which includes baking soda and zinc ricinoleate to help neutralize odor, and corn starch, which reduces wetness.
Another tester praised the consistency, which was easy to apply and never felt slimy—a problem with some natural deodorants.