Health & Beauty

Plastic-free Deodorant

Plastic-free deodorant: another green idea from olden days, reimagined in modern ways!! Antique deodorants were plastic-free but also had lots of ingredients we now know aren’t good for us– such as boric acid! Today’s mainstream deodorant is better but still has a long way to go, with artificial ingredients and plastic containers.

Talcum powder can contain asbestos, yikes! Read about talc here from the American Cancer Society

It’s also important to note the difference between deodorant and anti-perspirant: Deodorants neutralize odors but don’t prevent or block sweat. Anti-perspirants actually clog up your pores with yucky stuff that has been linked to various health risks.

Natural deodorants by contrast discourage bacteria and work to neutralize odors without blocking pores using real ingredients instead of chemicals. Powder versions of these modern-day natural deodorants also help to absorb sweat with arrowroot, baking soda, kaolin clay, or corn starch, without being an anti-perspirant. Some folks are too sensitive for baking soda though, which is why there’re also b.s.-free versions.

The better plastic-free, modern deodorant suggestions below are all free from those bad chemicals: Parabens, Aluminum, Triclosan, Talc, Propylene Glycol, Steareths, and TEA/DEA. There are many more organic vegan deodorant options out there but the ones listed here were selected for also being plastic-free. It was quite a feat to find plastic-free + vegan + organic + baking-soda-free products so the list is smaller than others you might see out there.

About beeswax. After finding two well-reviewed brands that are vegan (and one that’s also completely zero-waste), I have decided not to recommend beeswax deodorant options at this time. However, if you are interested in the beeswax versions for their applicability, my recommendation would be to look for a local company in your area that sources the wax locally and sustainably and/or is certified vegan such as this one in New Orleans, Southern Rhoades, carried by our local co-op.

The list is also followed by some fun deodorant backstory so click here if you wanna skip down to the old vintage photos!

**Note: I didn’t sort the suggestions by my usual categories but have sorted by deodorant type instead: vegan and vegan AND baking soda free.

Vegan

Meow Meow Tweet Vegan Sticks

plastic-free deodorant

Eucalyptus Lemon
–Zerowaste biodegradable paper tube + seal
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, Organic, Fair Trade
–Stick form (Read here for tips on using natural stick deodorants )

plastic-free deodorant

Lavender Bergamot
–Zerowaste, biodegradable paper tube + seal
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, Organic, Fair Trade
–Stick form

Meow Meow Tweet Cream

plastic-free deodorant
–Options on Amazon are $14ish & Prime shipping for 2.4 oz.
–Bulk options available on their website here: 9.4 oz for $45

Lavender or Tea Tree
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, Organic, Fair Trade
–Baking soda, arrowroot, and clay based
–Glass Jar & Aluminum Lid: refill, repurpose or recycle 
–Bulk containers can also be returned to Meow Meow Tweet for sterilization and reuse!!

Primal Pit Paste Vegan

Primal Pit Paste: Comes in many different scents + unscented
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, natural & organic
–Arrowroot powder, non-aluminum baking soda, coconut oil & candelilla wax
–Variety of scents (coconut-lime, lavender, lemongrass, patchouli, jasmine+)

*Caveat: this one comes in a glass recyclable jar but has a BPA-free plastic lid. It’s not completely plastic-free but I did want to offer another vegan option for those who are sensitive to fragrances.

Handmade Deodorants on Etsy

There’s also an overwhelming number of natural deodorants on Etsy that are plastic-free and vegan if you want more options. Here’s how I narrowed my search there:
— Search term: plastic-free vegan deodorant
–Narrow results to located in the U.S. for shipping (reduced to 28 results)
–Of those results, the top shops with the most reviews & sales were:

—-AquarianBath (20,835 sales)
—-GreenEarthNaturals (2,958 sales)
—-Arcadia Natural (2,216 sales)
-ApothecaryMuse (1154 sales)

Vegan AND Baking-Soda Free

Primal Pit Paste Sensitive Skin Versions

See options linked on their website above, as well as details in each product listing on how to best apply & store the product.

Zinc, Magnesium or Activated Charcoal Versions
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, natural & organic
–Arrowroot powder & candelilla wax-based with either zinc, magnesium, or activated charcoal instead of baking soda
* Again, this one isn’t entirely plastic-free but for those who want baking-soda-free and vegan options, this one of the most widely recommended, in addition to Meow Meow Tweet, below.


Meow Meow Tweet Vegan and Baking-Soda Free Versions

See their website for bulk sizes and tips on how to use & store the cream!

Grapefruit Cream
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, Organic, Fair Trade
–Magnesium, arrowroot, and clay based instead of baking soda
–Glass Jar & Aluminum Lid: refill, repurpose or recycle 
–Bulk containers can also be returned to Meow Meow Tweet for sterilization and reuse!!

This version also comes in cedar spruce variety- different from the fruit or flower flavors!

Grapefruit, Cedar Spruce, or Rose Geranium Sticks
–Zerowaste biodegradable paper tube + seal
–Cruelty-free, vegan
–Gluten-free, Organic, Fair Trade
–Arrowroot powder & magnesium-based instead of baking soda
–Stick form (Read here for tips on using natural stick deodorants )

Odor-Oh-No! Plastic-free Deodorant of Olden Days

The earliest attempts at controlling body odor was to mask it using perfumes and oils derived from flowers and herbs. And for much of human history when our species lived outside in rural areas far from one another, body odor didn’t trouble folks so much.

plastic-free deodorant
Early advertisement for Mum, the first branded deodorant.

However, once urbanization took hold and city life began to boom in the 1900s, working next to someone with raging body odor in a factory or office setting became more and more undesirable.

In addition to growing social pressure to smell better, the advertising industry began to persuade consumers that odor was a health issue. While hygiene and sanitation were major concerns in early urban life, they stoked fears about social ostracism and poor health while convincing people they needed these cosmetic and beauty products for their wellbeing.

plastic-free deodorant
Mum came in a plastic-free container and paper cardboard box.

Health, hygiene, and physical beauty now became intertwined. Today, these ideas are so conflated we don’t even notice: does shampoo really improve the health of hair or does it most just improve its appearance? Beauty and personal health products began to be marketed as making our bodies healthier AND more attractive, blurring the line between cosmetics and medicines.

Advertisement in Children: The Magazine for Parents, Feb. 1929. We now know boric acid is pretty dangerous, and talc can contain asbestos!

So where does deodorant fall, cosmetic or medicine? By the late 1800s, sweat and body odors were increasingly perceived as socially unacceptable and indicators of poor hygiene to be solved through the use of various products necessary to one’s overall wellbeing AND social success.

Before 1900, talcum powder—made of the mineral talc—was the main product advertised for armpits and perspiration. Talcum powder was sold as a general body freshener and deodorant because it absorbed perspiration and moisture from skin and clothes. Advertisers focused on women, claiming they were most at risk for offensive body odors and should live up to a “dainty” feminine ideal that was not expected of men.

Deodorants and antiperspirants for B.O. were introduced later, in the late 1800s. Mum was the first branded deodorant released in America and patented in 1888. It was initially sold as a waxy cream to be rubbed into the armpits.

The first antiperspirant was Everdry, though Odo-ro-no is generally known to have popularized the use of antiperspirants and deodorants. They persuaded consumers that “profuse perspiration of any one part of the body is not healthy” while reassuring women that they could stay “sweet and dainty.”

Originally, this plastic-free deodorant came in metal tins or white milk-glass jars, sometimes in a cardboard/paper box. It wasn’t until the rise of the plastics industry in the mid 20th century that everything became plastic.

Advertisers gradually began to target men, too, in a different way. They created social fear and insecurity in women, exploiting their desire for love and friendship; for men, they warned of the professional cost of body odor, such as being passed over for a promotion.

By 1952, the first roll-on application was introduced, followed by solid sticks, lotions, aerosol sprays, pump sprays, and other gels and creams. And the rest is history!!

The dangers of Body Odor, by Lifebuoy soap, NMAH Archives.
The End

Sources:
— https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2014/09/why-i-smell-like-its-1903.html
— https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/health-hygiene-and-beauty/introduction
— https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/health-hygiene-and-beauty/alleviating-body-odors

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