Anyone else find smelly armpits as annoying as I do? Well, it can be hard to 100% eliminate that issue (while staying clear of toxic compounds like aluminum, that is), but there are definitely a lot of hacks you can employ. Try some of these out and let me know how they work for you!
Of course the first thing I mention is diet. But that’s because it can have a huge impact. I have seen this first hand (both personally and professionally). The most notorious offenders for increasing body odour are:
Try eliminating these for a few weeks and see if you notice a change!
An imbalance of bacteria both internal and external (they cover our skin too!), can absolutely contribute to increased smelliness. To address, make sure you’re taking all the steps to maintain a Healthy Gut, with a focus on lots of fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented carrots, yogurt and kombucha!
Topically, make sure to avoid conventional personal care products (like soap and antiperspirant) that can kill off the good guys. Usually when beneficial microbes are eliminated, the nasty ones grow back faster, creating an even more dramatic imbalance. You can also help encourage the growth of beneficial microbes by utilizing an apple cider vinegar spray (dilute 1:4 with water) or even a topical probiotic!
Deodorant, not Antiperspirant
Antiperspirants use aluminum (amongst other sketchy ingredients) to get into your sweat glands, causing them to swell and preventing sweat from being released. I heard a hilarious analogy, that’s a little off-colour. It goes like this… you know the feeling when you really really have to have a BM, but you’re in a really inconvenient place, like a coffee shop, or the library, so you hold it. That’s what you’re doing with your armpits – holding in something that really needs to get out – but instead of using muscle, you’re using a toxic compound.
Deodorant addresses odour, but depending on the formulation it can often make things worse. So I recommend trying a few different types to find one that works for you. I struggled to find a natural deodorant that didn’t make me smell worse. And then I found Primally Pure – which is so clean you can eat it, and it actually works! Or you can go super simple (which I do sometimes too!) and just use a homemade deodorant of coconut oil, essential oils and baking soda.
Sometimes all that just doesn’t cut it. For example, during the postpartum period. It must have been the excess/different hormones that my body was having to break down, but ugh I totally smelled bad. Finding a good (natural) deodorant was great, but I had to take it one step further and help my armpits detox a bit! I know lots of people who swear by the armpit detoxes and cleanses (The Wellness Mama has a good one!), but considering how little time I have these days, I needed something faster. I started using Beautycounter’s Charcoal Cleansing Bar under my arms when I showered and after only a few uses the odour was completely gone. I was even able to stop using deodorant days that I wasn’t exercising!
When you start down the path of more natural living and trying to detox your home, it can be a bit overwhelming as you realize how insidious toxins are. This can be especially scary for parents, or soon-to-be parents!
Note: as someone with a rigorous science degree, I’m careful of using the word “chemical” as a bad thing. Everything is made up of chemicals! So many scientific terms are misappropriated in common language. For the sake of this article, I am going to use the word “toxin” to describe chemicals that can be harmful to the body.
Pretty much everything we use is full of toxins – make up, perfume, dishwasher detergent, tile cleaner, carpet cleaner, air deodorizers, sunscreens, moisturizer, toothpaste, food containers, food, water… Like I said – overwhelming. I’m not going to get into what these toxins are and how they impact your body, because that’s a HUGE can of worms. Instead, I’m going to share my favourite products that I use on a daily basis, after years of trial and error! If you want to dig deeper, check out The Environmental Working Group, or read Slow Death by Rubber Duck.
I always recommend taking a slow, methodical approach to detoxing your house because it’s less over-whelming and less of a financial impact! So each time you finish a product, make a conscious effort to replace it with a cleaner one (either from the health food store/health section or make your own!) However, according to Gretchen Rubin what’s most important when making change is to know yourself. Are you the complete overhaul, 180 degree turn, all or nothing kind of person? Then go for it. Toss it all and replace accordingly! Once you figure out what works best for you, here are the main areas I recommend addressing.
1. Cleaning Products
Have you ever noticed how many different products you are told you need for your house? It’s all marketing friends. And marketing of some serious toxins. The majority of the ingredients in household cleaning products are hazardous – the warning is right there on the label. And the funny thing is, it’s totally not necessary! There are 3 amazing house-hold products that are just as effective at cleaning (both aesthetically and bacterially-speaking) as toxins, without any of the nasty side effects. These are:
Baking soda. Vinegar. Lemon.
There are a few additional ingredients that can be used too, such as borax, castille soap, washing soda and essential oils. But it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The cleaning products I use in my house are:
And that’s it…. honestly. Do you know how much money I’ve saved on products over the last 5 years or so? I wish I had the numbers, but it’s gotta be up there. I haven’t bought laundry detergent, or the ingredients to make it in over 18 months.
If you’re a little more particular and want some specific cleaning products for targeted areas (like hardwood, antiques etc.), check out One Good Thing by Jillee.
But there are lots of clean options if you visit a health food store! Be skeptical though. Green-washing is a major thing these days since “going green” is super trendy. Check the ingredients and make sure there aren’t any wonky ones like parfum, parabens, or sodium lauryl sulphate.
TOP PRIORITY: the strongest smelling product in your arsenal, or the one that makes you a little woozy if you don’t open the windows. Bathroom cleaners and deodorizers (Febreeze, Glade plug ins etc.) are often the worst!
2. Personal Care
First and foremost – stop using perfume/cologne. It is purely synthetic and made of almost exclusively dangerous toxins. Over hundreds of toxic chemicals that the company is not required to disclose – it’s proprietary info. It’s the number one thing you can do to reduce your toxin exposure. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, here are my favourite products (sort of in order of use during the day):
Shampoos & conditioners by Prairie Naturals. They have a variety of types based on hair-type. I personally use the avalanche line in the winter (helps with dry scalp) and the moroccan moon line the rest of the year. Some people have success with the no-poo method, but it didn’t work for me.
Soap by The Soap Works. I use this for my hands and any parts of my body that need a good scrub – like my feet if I’ve been barefoot! But honestly, I usually just use a loofa and water in the shower.
Toner – DIY. I dilute 1 part apple cider vinegar with 4 parts water and store in a little spritzer container in the shower. I use this on my face, neck, chest, shoulders and upper back. It tightens pores, but also helps mitigate blemishes. If my diet has been off a bit and I find some odour emanating from the armpit region, I’ll spray some on there too. I rinse off immediately after spraying!
Moisturizer – argan oil or olive oil (as part of oil cleansing method, see below)
Make up by Pure Anada. I love this brand. It’s Canadian and works so well. I used to buy it at The Big Carrot on the Danforth, but now order it online. It’s mineral make up, so it lasts me years. Other mineral-based make ups are great options as well. Just be careful not to inhale!
Deodorant – DIY. I used to use my DIY deodorant, but a client of mine makes her own and it’s the best I’ve ever tried. I’m working on getting her to sell it!! Before I changed my diet, healed my gut and balanced my hormones, I was a major sweater. It was bad. I never wore t-shirts. Grey was a nightmare colour. Ugh, it was the worst. So this was the last thing I changed. For the longest time I used Tom’s anti-perspirant – which still had the aluminum for reducing sweating, but the rest of the ingredients were pretty darn clean. I still sweat a fair amount, but not anywhere near what I did before balancing my body! I even own a grey t-shirt! That I wear on not very hot days… 😉
Perfume. I’ll be honest, I don’t use any. It was never really my style anyways, they always bothered me. However, I do sometimes use essential oils as perfume (especially blends designed for mood balancing like Peace & Calming if I’m going to an event which I know I’ll find overwhelming, or Valor if I need a confidence boost). Pacifica is an easy to find brand of perfume that is mostly essential oils.
Face-cleansing / moisturizer. I follow the oil-cleansing method which I learned in The Purely Primal Skin Care Guide. It works wonders for my skin (after a few weeks of adjusting) and I can’t imagine going back. It took a little trial and error to determine the right oils (which is complicated by the fact that winter and summer have different requirements – always have for me), but it’s amazing. Another way I save a TON of money.
Toothpaste – Earthpaste is my favourite (it does a great job whitening too), although we sometimes have Jason’s.
UPDATE: I am also including a variety of Beautycounter products as part of my regular routine. Click here to learn more.
TOP PRIORITY: anything that has the word “perfume” or “parfum”, followed by things that stay on your skin. So moisturizer is more important than shampoo.
Drinking/ice/tea/kombucha etc. This was a very important area for us, since it is a major area of exposure and our water is full of SOOOO much junk. As soon as we bought house, we did some digging into the best water-filtration unit. We were willing to spend thousands on a whole-house system, but after doing some research (made easier by The Wellness Mama) we ended up going with a Berkey. At around $450, it was perfect for our soon to be growing family. Easy to use and gets rid of everything we don’t want, while also remineralizing. Bonus is it’s free-standing so when/if we move, we can take it with us. The best compliment we received was from a friend who said our water tasted like the water on his parents farm (in a very remote area!) – especially cool since the water that goes into the filter smells like a swimming pool. NOTE: previous to the Berkey, we used a Brita which has its downsides but is better than nothing. As soon as the water filtered through I dumped it into a glass juice jug so it wasn’t sitting in plastic all day.
Shower/bath – we also installed filters on our shower heads, and bought a bath ball. This is important because we actually absorb more chlorine through baths and showers than drinking. One of the mechanisms for this is gaseous chlorine in steam gets inhaled and crosses the lung barrier. There are several options available at health food stores – we’ve used both the Santevia and The Original Bath Ball.
TOP PRIORITY: this is a tough one, I’d say both. But from a financial perspective, I’d do what we did – shower filter + basic water filter to start.
First and foremost, stop eating man-made, fake foods. It is a good idea to always avoid the following:
Food dyes / artificial colours (That means sprinkles, candy and common beverages like gatorade. There are dye-free options at health foods stores if you absolutely need it.)
After that, we purchase organic whenever we can. Not because organic foods contain more nutrients (although many do), but because of what they don’t contain – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified DNA. The order in which we prioritize that is as follows:
Meat. This gets the top priority since it concentrates toxins up the food chain. Purchasing quality meat impacts your health, the health of the animals and the health of the environment. This includes animal-fats like lard, tallow, bacon-grease, duck fat etc. The fattier the meat, the more important, since toxins are stored in animal fat.
Dairy. We don’t eat dairy (both have serious allergies), but if we did, it would absolutely be grass-fed or organic for the same reasons as above. This includes butter/ghee.
Dirty Dozen vegetables & fruit. The reason this isn’t at the top, is if our budget is a little tight, we don’t buy these guys. We’ll stick to the veggies on the Clean Fifteen and buy them conventional.
Other produce. If the price isn’t too much different, I”ll buy the organic version of the Clean Fifteen – because it is better for us and the environment. However, if it has been flown across the continent/world, I won’t.
Other foods to consider buying organic include:
Corn. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to secrete it’s own pesticide that damages the intestines of the pests that eat it, which kills them. (sound familiar?)
Soy. If it’s not organic, it has been genetically modified to withstand ridiculously high levels of RoundUp, so everything around it dies, but the soy doesn’t – it just gets covered in it and then we eat it! Keep in mind that RoundUp used to be used on lawns (remember the commercials??) and is now banned in areas like Toronto, because it is so toxic.
TOP PRIORITY:fake foods, followed by fatty cuts of meat.
Even BPA-free plastics. Plastics are toxins. End of story. BPA-free plastics have just had a different plasticizer used, that doesn’t have the drama around it. Same stuff, different day. The most important ways to avoid plastic include:
Temperature. Never heat food in plastic! Even for a few seconds! Don’t put hot food in a plastic container either. This includes leaving your water bottle in the car in the sun.
Acid. Highly acidic foods break down the plastic, which then leaches into your food. Tomatoes and citrus are the most common culprits.
Fat. Foods that are high in fat/oil also leach plastic out of the solid state. So whenever possible buy oils and nut-butters in glass.
Water. With the amount of water we need to drink, our exposure to plastic sky rockets. Recyclable water bottles start to degrade as soon as you open them, so definitely don’t reuse those. But even standard water bottles break down over time. Choose stainless steel or glass instead.
Dry foods are not nearly as much of a concern. So storing things like baking ingredients, grains (if tolerated) and spices in plastic isn’t something to worry about! For kids dishes – silicone is great option! Keep an eye on places like Canadian Tire, which often have sales on glass tupperware. Also start reusing jars instead of recycling! I wash salsa and nut butter jars, and reuse them for freezing food, DIY mayo and broth!
TOP PRIORITY: heating food in plastic.
Reducing your overall exposure to toxins is a process – trust me, I know! It probably took me a good 2 years to fully clear out my house of toxins. You don’t need to change everything all at once (unless that’s your personality type). Just making 1 or 2 small changes can have a huge impact. Do some research. Determine your priorities. Consider speeding up the process a bit if you are / plan to be pregnant or have little ones at home, but don’t stress! To help prevent stressing, at the end of each section above, I highlighted the top priority, to help you start your detoxing journey. Enjoy the process and learn as you go!
Please share in the comments below, what your favourite clean products are and where you find them!
I promise you I have not gone crazy (well maybe that’s still up for debate depending on where you’re at in your health and wellness journey) – homemade deodorant is not only possible, it’s easy and pretty darn effective! Let me explain.
I began a transition to clean, chemical-free personal care products over 6 years ago and for the most part, it was pretty easy. There are great make up alternatives and oils are fabulous for cleansing/moisturizing. However I always struggled with deodorant.
As a teen I was suuuuper sweaty. Like embarassingly sweaty. I didn’t mind sweating when I played sports, but sweating through a sweatshirt on a cold day sucked big time. Hardcore anti-perspirant was my godsend – and I mean seriously hardcore. I got the over the counter pure-aluminum stuff that I could only apply once a week, otherwise my skin would get really damaged. Every other day I used regular, Dove anti-perspirant, which was filled with aluminum, fragrance (read: phthalates) and other weird ingredients. I’m cringing just thinking about what my toxin exposure used to be!
Once I started learning about the risks associated with anti-perspirant, I immediately stopped the hardcore stuff, but hung on to the Dove. I eventually switched to Tom’s “natural” anti-perspirant, which had way less junk in it, but still contained aluminum so it helped with the sweating. Over the last few years I’ve dabbled in a variety of natural deodorants, but was never satisfied. They would be fine for a few hours, but if I got sweaty, I always noticed a slight odour which I knew was partly my body reacting with the ingredients in the deodorant.
Simultaneous to this anti-perspirant / deodorant adventure, I was also deep in my healing journey and discovering how my body was responding to different foods. About 18 months ago I realized that the amount I was sweating during the day was dramatically less than what it used to be – I can only attribute this to healing my body. That’s when I finally got off the anti-perspirants and really got to start playing around with the natural deodorants. This past winter I often wouldn’t even wear deodorant, except to go to the gym. However as the temperatures have started to climb I knew I needed to finally figure this out. After playing around with a few different “natural options” out there, I still wasn’t having any success. My dear friend and fellow nutritionist Jenn from Jennifer Potter Health recommended a product that she swore by. It was pretty much coconut oil, baking soda and some essential oils. I kept meaning to find out the exact brand, and then I read The Purely Primal Skincare Guide by Liz Wolfe and she mentioned using those ingredients directly, in lieu of any pre-made deodorant. I figured, well it couldn’t hurt to give it a go – since I definitely have coconut oil and baking soda on hand, all the time!
Well lo and behold it freakin worked! Obviously I should have know, since Liz knows everything about natural skin care, but for some reason I was skeptical. I tried simply swiping some coconut oil and then dabbing some baking soda on top and was thrilled with the results. So I took it one (tiny) step further. Here’s my recipe:
2 small jars (mason or other – I got mine from Dollarama)
essential oil of choice (I used lavender)
Warm the coconut oil enough so you can stir it very easily. Make sure it doesn’t get hot, and if it does, let it cool before moving to the next step.
Add 10 drops of your favourite essential oil (I like lavender) per ½ cup oil, and stir it in well.
Pour into a jar and let cool.
Pour some baking soda into another small jar, for ease of use.
When applying, swipe some lavender coconut oil under your arms, followed by a few dabs of baking soda. Voila!
Excessive sweating and body odour are not armpit problems, they indicate problems with nutrition, dehydration, blood sugar dysregulation, digestion and/or stress. Addressing these issues is critical for normalizing sweat function/smell. For example, if I eat too much sugar, or eat goat cheese, I notice a change in odour for a few days.
Sweat itself does not smell, instead it is the bacteria on your skin reacting with the sweat that causes odour. So by supporting the health of our microbiome (starting with gut health) and not applying toxins to our skin that kills off the beneficial bacteria, you will start to make changes that will reduce and eliminate body odour.
Sweating in general, is actually really important. It’s the body’s natural way of cooling itself down, detoxifying and means you have good circulation. Embrace it!
You will always sweat when you exercise. This is normal and desired!
Do not apply deodorant on freshly shaven skin – it can cause irritation.
Have you ever made any personal care products? If yes, share below! Is there a specific product you want me to share my recipe for? Let me know in the comments!