About three years ago, I decided to stop smearing aluminum on my lymph nodes and made the shift to natural deodorants. Studies have suggested that high aluminum concentration in the body can increase risk of breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease, and while nothing's been unequivocally proven, I opted to make the change anyway.
It wasn't easy—I'm kind of a sweaty person. Plus, I'm often stressed out, and something about human physiology that I don't understand seems to make stress-related sweat smell even worse than normal. I was apprehensive, but my body adjusted to the new routine after a week or two.
Now, after three years and a few dozen brands, from the stuff you can get at Target to small-batch blends only found in mountain-town galleries in Colorado, I have found a few gems that actually work on this sweaty Slav. Keep in mind, though, that every set of armpits is different, and what works for me may not work for you—or your holy grail may do nothing for me. So just have fun sniffing and experimenting, and maybe start with my five favorite products.
I received no free products for this story; these are my honest opinions of items I purchased myself.
#1 Ambre Blends
$35 at the Santa Fe Salt Cave (1424 Second St., 365-2875)
I know. You looked at that price and cried, "Down with capitalism! Eat the rich! Curses on all who would spend $35 on deodorant!"
And I would usually be right there with you—except regarding this brand. This is the gold standard. I bought it on a whim, thinking any brand with the audacity to be so expensive might have something to brag about … and strangely, I was right. I'd never have the nerve to recommend it otherwise.
This stuff is vegan and organic, glides on smooth, is available locally, and made me smell like an actual forest flower goddess. The Ahnu scent is the best-smelling deodorant ever, and I kind of want to smear it on my neck like perfume too. Even at the end of a long day, my work clothes smell beautiful, not that musky sweat-and-essential-oils smell that most deodorants leave behind.
So when I get sent to the guillotine with the rest of the bourgeoisie, at least my neck will smell good.
#2 BRC Vegan Skin Care
$10 at the Railyard Artisan Market (10 am-4 pm Sundays, Farmers Market Pavilion, 1607 Paseo de Peralta)
Handmade with care and precision right here in Santa Fe by entrepreneur Robin Goddard, BRC does a swift business online as well as in person here in town. Her deodorants, which she's spent years getting just right, come in 10 scents; I decided to try eucalyptus lemongrass, her best seller. It is indeed awesome, and almost smells edible. (Given the high quality of Goddard's ingredients, I probably could eat it, but I'm not going to.) I need to spend 30 seconds or so "melting" it under my arm—a common thing for natural deodorants, you'll find—but it only takes a small amount to last most of the day.
You can usually find Goddard at the Railyard Artisan Market ("probably 90% of the Sundays throughout the year," she says), or shop her online storefront; we found you have to type the www for that site, by the way. She also makes a ton of other products, many of which sell like wildfire, so stock up on all your body care needs from a natural, local, woman-run company.
#3 Meow Meow Tweet
$14 at meowmeowtweet.com
This was the very first natural deodorant I ever tried in 2016, and I still use it regularly. Vegan, cruelty-free and made with organic ingredients by some cool folks in Gardiner, New York, it's packaged in cardboard for that ultra-eco-friendly effect. Plus, the company donates to nonprofits like the ACLU, RAICES Texas, Planned Parenthood and animal welfare organizations, so they wear their great-smelling heart on their sleeve.
I like the lavender bergamot scent (which is supposedly also really good for staying happy and calm, if you believe in the benefits of essential oils—whatever, it can't hurt), but the lemon eucalyptus is nice as well. They also have a baking soda-free grapefruit scent, and many more bath and body products.
#4 Primal Pit Paste
$11.99 at Whole Foods Market (753 Cerrillos Road, 992-1700)
Perhaps the most mainstream brand I'll mention here, Primal is available at bigger stores and on Amazon and whatnot. It comes in a ton of scents; I like jasmine and "Royal & Rogue" (whatever that means), and the smells are very subtle, not overpowering at all.
The reasons it slipped to #4: It's grainy, which is a feature of many natural brands I tried (though not my first three choices), and it simply doesn't work quite as well for me as the ones above. That being said, it's affordable and easy to find, so I still keep a couple sticks in my cabinet. Interspersing my Ambre days with Primal days are how I can afford more expensive brands and not use them up too quickly.
BONUS ROUND: EO Natural Deodorant Wipes
69¢ each at La Montañita Co-op (Solana Center, 913 W Alameda St., 984-2852)
I can't lie: Sometimes natural deodorants wear off before my day is over. Thankfully, there's a fix for that. I keep a handful of individually packaged EO wipes in my purse and travel bags for when I need to run from one place to another and don't have time for a refresh.
On one particularly humid May day in New York City last year, I started smelling like a desert vagabond about midway through a party. I popped into a bathroom, used a wipe, and soldiered on. Shortly thereafter, the friend I was with said, "Hey, do you smell incense?" I said no. Later, on the subway, she said it again: "No, I swear, I smell incense—it's really nice."
I figured at that point that it was probably me (or, rather, the lavender EO wipe) that she was complimenting, and was just thankful she didn't say, "Hey, does it smell like the campground at a Phish show to you?" instead.