Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dude, what's that smell?

I realize it's me and here I am in a room full of people. Mere seconds before I die of complete mortification, I wake up. Pshew! It was only a dream. But is it?  

Inspired by a recent post from 'Burban Mom at Going Green and prompted by the fact that I was running out of my "regular" commercial deodorant, I decided to try a little experiment. Lots of people swear by many different natural ways to prevent that nasty underarm odor. But what would work for me? Risking divorce, I decided to find out.  Could I keep the odor away?  Here are the four natural solutions I tried...

Day 1: Crystal Body Deodorant

Description: Crystal Body Deodorant is made of 100% Natural Mineral Salts which eliminate odor by leaving an invisible protective barrier against odor-causing bacteria. It is fragrance free, non-sticky, non-staining, leaves no white residue and can be used by both Men and Women. Crystal Body Deodorant can last for up to a year of daily use. 

Directions: Moisten the top of the stone and smooth under arms or soles of feet. It will feel silky smooth when wet. Must be applied to clean skin. 

Ingredients: natural mineral salts, ammonium alum. 

Packaging: Crystal is set in a plastic dish, enclosed in a plastic bag, and then packaged in a glossy cardboard material. Cardboard would be the only thing that is recyclable - well, I suppose I can figure out some way to reuse that little dish.

Price: $6.50 at Brazos Natural Foods (Bryan, TX)

Verdict: I didn't think much of this stuff when I was putting it on. I wasn't sure anything was actually transferring from the stone to my pit, but it seems to have worked. I mean, I'm here in Texas where it was 92 degrees today and the humidity was REALLY high. I was definitely sweating, but I can't smell anything. Just sec... Dave, how much do you love me? (followed by "Oh dear god" look from fearful hubby). Will you smell my pits?  (I'm serious. This how the conversation went. Of course, he grabbed to dog first to see if she would pass out. Hmmm.) Well, in the end it passed the hubby test. No stink! I think I'll try it again on a heavier exercise day and see how it does. 

Day 2: Witch Hazel

Description: For face and body; cleans and refreshens naturally; gently tones skin; temporarily relieves minor skin irritations due to minor cuts, minor scrapes, insect bites.

Directions: Use spray bottle or apply with cotton swab (this I found online - it's not on the bottle)

Ingredients: Witch hazel, alcohol

Packaging: Translucent plastic bottle which can be recycled 

Price: $2

Verdict: This is probably the most convenient of the solutions simply because I keep it in the bathroom anyway (I use it as an astringent on my face). All I did was put a little witch hazel on a cotton ball and wipe underneath each arm. I walked around like a large awkward bird for a few seconds to let it dry and then went on with my day, periodically sniffing my pits (if people didn't think I was weird before, my reputation is surely lost with this one). It wasn't until I got back from a bike ride to and from my grandparents (15 minutes each way) in 92 degree heat (heat index 100) that I noticed the smell of pit, and then only because I specifically sniffed before my shower. Not bad, but not as clean smelling as yesterday. Of course, I only walked yesterday, no biking. So I need to be sure it's not my level of exercise that made the difference today. 

Day 3: Baking Soda

Description: Multi-purpose household helper

Directions: apply dry baking soda to armpits (got this from the web too - you can be sure that of the dozen or so directions for use on the box, it doesn't mention pits once)

Ingredients: sodium bicarbonate

Packaging: little yellow or white (generic) boxes that can be tossed into the compost bin when empty

Price: $0.55

Verdict: Applying it made a little bit of a mess in the bathroom sink, but it really worked. I just poured a little into my hands, rubbed my hands together, and patted in under my arm (which was just barely moist from getting out of a warm shower). I "investigated" several times during the day noticing nothing funky so I decided to really put it to the test - I took a bike ride in the late afternoon (again 92 degrees and high humidity).  By the time I got back 20 minutes later, I was pretty sweaty and I think I might have smelled a bit of funk under the left pit (this is a really classy post, I know), but it was ever so faint. I really like the whole idea of using the baking soda - it's cheap, it's simple, and the box is compostable.  My only issue is that once I get to work and have sweated most of my skin off, let alone the baking soda, I'm going to need to reapply and I don't think splashing baking soda around in my office is such a good idea (just a little bit messy, no?). But this seems like the most economical solution for home.

Day 4: Apple Cider Vinegar

Description: Heinz apple cider vinegar begins with fine quality apples and crystal clear water. With its clean mellow flavor, it's ideal for your favorites salads, marinades, and recipes. And Heinz apple cider vinegar is guaranteed to have the full 5% acidity required for successful canning and pickling. (Ok. Not helpful).

Directions: Obviously none of the directions applied. On-line I read to just apply with a cotton ball or use a spray bottle.

Ingredients: made from the juice of apples diluted with water to a uniform pickling and table strength of 5% acidity (sure, great)

Packaging: Glass jar (totally recyclable)

Price: $2

Verdict: This seemed the most bizarre of all of them. I mean, I totally get the whole baking soda thing and I can even go along with the witch hazel, but apple cider vinegar? Alright. So I did it, and on a day I biked to and from work!  I mean, if it's gonna work, it's gonna have to really work. Let me just cut to the chase. Not only did it do no better than the others (about the same I guess), but I smelled like vinegar for the better part of the morning. Now vinegar is ok - on salad or while making easter eggs, but I don't want to go around smelling like an Easter egg. This was definitely a no-go. Although I have to admit, no one could get close enough to notice my BO because they'd be steering clear of the vinegar. Hmm. Maybe that's the idea. Blah!

Day 5: Crystal Body Deodorant Revisited

So I wanted to take another crack at the Crystal Body Deodorant to make sure it wasn't my level of exercise that day that saved me from the stink. So I waited for my next bike to work day. It was in the mid 70's and I had a solid 50 minute bike ride to work. I didn't work up my normal I'm-going-to-die-of-heatstroke sweat that I get on the way home when it's 20 degrees warmer, but I managed to work up a sweat nonetheless. Arriving at the office, I toweled off just a bit and as I was changing into more appropriate work attire, I dove in for a whiff. Blah! Ok, so it definitely was the level of exercise that day. It seems the Crystal Body Deodorant works great for my normal to light exercise days, but as far as getting me to work and through the day without an extra application - not a chance. But none of them (not even the commercial deodorant) can get me through a bike ride to work in floral loveliness. Oh well.

Overall Assessment: 

Pshew! I made it through this experiment without my husband leaving me. And speaking of relief, in addition to the four products I tried, I also saw a couple of recommendations for using Milk of Magnesia as a deodorant (???). Yeah. I didn't go there. There were also concoctions that used many of these same ingredients along with essential oils, scents, etc. I didn't feel like doing the whole chemistry-lab bit so I kept it simple. Fine. I'm lazy. I know, I know. But it seems like some of these lazy (I mean simple) solutions worked, at least for low sweat days, just as well as a commercial product!  I liked the crystal for non-bike-to-work days, but there is so much packaging that can't be recycled and it is also the most expensive option on the table at this point. I probably won't buy another one. I think I'm going to go with either the baking soda or the witch hazel at home. I like that in both of these options, the packaging is recycleable or compostable. 

As for "refreshing" myself from my nastiness once I pedal my butt to work, I haven't yet decided. I suppose if I start changing clothes in the restroom instead of my office I could still use baking soda or I could keep a small bottle of witch hazel in my office to help wipe down as I'm changing clothes. I'll just have to give it a try. 


arduous said...

I'll have to try the baking soda or the crystal some time. But I swear I think it take me way over a year to use up one commercial deodorant. So who knows when the hell I'll ever get around to this!

Theresa said...

I've almost fully converted to baking soda. I use an old makeup brush and when I get out of the shower with damp pits I dab the brush in the dampness, then into my little tub of baking soda, then back onto the pits. Most of the soda sticks to my pits, and the stuff that falls, well, I just use it to clean the sink and counter it fell on later! It works really well for smell, but doesn't help for wetness. The crystal with teh alum(inum) in it would be better for that. Maybe you could combine them?

Beany said...

The only thing that works for me from your list is baking soda. I used it straight for a while and then experienced severe pit-itches. Organic Needle suggested mixing it with corn starch. I still have occasional itches, but I don't use anything on my pits on the weekends. So I consider it a success.

I suspect that the other options don't work on me because of my diet (which includes many stinky foods).

Glenda said...

found your blog via a comment you left on crunchy chicken's post about the crystal.

Thanks for posting your reviews. I, too, live in Texas and we're seriously in some hot temps about now. Will try baking soda and maybe witch hazel. Don't really want to invest in a crystal.

Looking forward to reading your archives =)

Heather @ SGF said...

Glenda - Welcome! I understand not wanting to mess with the crystal. It was fairly expensive and there was a bunch of packaging that comes along with it that I'd rather just not deal with. And honestly, I don't think it worked any better than the other options.

I hope you have luck with the witch hazel and baking soda. I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Glenda said...

Heather, I linked to this post on my blog. The baking soda has been a pretty good option for me. http://glendacraftsandcooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/new-category-bath-beauty.html

What have you ended up doing on the days you cycle to work?

Heather @ SGF said...

Glenda - since I'm only physically at the office 2-3 days, I still haven't run out of that little bit of commercial deodorant I was using. I'll probably keep using the crystal at home until it runs out and the commercial at work until it runs out (I keep supplies in both locations so that I'm not lugging extra stuff back and forth). Once I run out of each of those, however, I'm planning on going with the baking soda. In the end, I liked it the best. I'll just have to go to the office restroom to apply.

Heather said...

Hi There!

I know it's a bit late, but I just found your blog today. I have never had success with commercial deodorants/antiperspirants and find they actually can make me smell worse. Then I came across a blog that described a deodorant concoction of equal parts baking soda and cornstarch (about 1/4 cup each) to 5-6 Tbs of coconut oil.

It's amazing!! I smell nothing except the slightest hint of nutty coconut! I have even embarrassed my poor boyfriend by smelling my pits in public because I just can't believe that I don't stink!

I mix it in a big old teacup I had lying around and keep it in my bathroom. Normally coconut oil is solid at room temperature but we live in the desert in 100° weather, so it's pretty liquidy. Even so, it's easy to apply, just stick your fingers in it and wipe on your pits. Absorbs really quickly. I've used it when I'm working out and I still don't smell afterward!

Heather @ SGF said...

Heather - thanks for the recipe. I'll give it a try!

Susan said...

Hi from another Texan :)

I've been using my own homemade deodorant now for a while and it's working GREAT! My husband is even using it as well, and he usually comes home stinking big time! He's a welder and works in an unairconditioned barn. He sweats like crazy. While I can't say that since he's been using the homemade version that he's "fresh as a daisy" when he gets home, but it's a BIG improvement over commercial deodorant (I can actually bear to stand next to him now...lol!). It's so easy to make too! Here's the link if you're interested!


By the way, my brother-in-law owns Sand Creek Farm raw milk dairy over in Cameron. We use to live in College Station until we bought our own farm down near Waco. It's a small world :-)

Heather @ SGF said...

Susan - thanks for the link! What a small world! We get all our milk and cheese from Sand Creek :)