So you have finally become brave enough to face the world without the safety of your trusted conventional antiperspirant! You have dared to read the list of chemicals it contains (eek!) and you’re ready to go natural. You ask your friends if they’ve tried a natural deodorant, and you learn you’re the last one of your pack to venture forth (what?). They tell you natural deodorants have come a long way in effectiveness and you’re gonna LOVE using it!
So you make the purchase. Maybe it’s our brand, or maybe not, but either way you’re damn proud and you know your lymph nodes are going to thank you. You can hardly wait to get home and try it out. But three days in and you find a burning red rash where you’ve faithfully slathered (ouch!). You feel confused, how could something natural be so cruel? And you feel betrayed, how come all your friends can use this deodorant but YOUR armpits are having none of it?
Allow us to bring some soothing understanding to these prickly questions.
The culprit (in most cases) is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). This ingredient is why your natural deodorant works so darn well. It’s a well known product in every household, as a baking ingredient, cleaning agent, or deodorizer. So how can this amazing, reliable mineral cause such drama to your tender skin?
It has to do with pH levels, and it’s quite simple. See the pH scale below. PH stands for the Latin term “pondus hydrogenii” (quantity of hydrogen), or potential hydrogen.
Skin likes to maintain a slightly acidic pH of 5.5. Pure mineral baking soda sits at a more alkaline pH of 9 on the scale. When you apply a deodorant containing baking soda to your armpits, you cannot fool your skin. It realizes the pH level has become more alkaline, and it may attempt to correct it to a more acidic state by releasing…acid (yep). These acids, such as lactic acid, amino acid, and free fatty acid, are always present on the skin. But when your body is trying to counteract the alkaline baking soda applied to underarms, it may release a higher concentration of these acids to that spot, and a prickly red rash may be the result.
We do not know why rashes happen to some people and not to others. There seems to be no correlation between skin types and reactions to natural deodorant. People who consider themselves to have sensitive skin have used it without a hitch. Others who have never had skin sensitivity rash up after just one application. Some find they wake up with a bit of redness after they have used a natural deodorant problem-free for years. Our bodies are always shifting as things like hormones, allergies, inflammation, diet, and lifestyle affect our chemistry. It is understandable that the delicate pH balance may shift and change as well, and skin type is irrelevant in this case.
You may be wondering now if you will ever be able to talk your armpits into peacefully accepting natural deodorant. It seems like Mother Nature is in the drivers seat on this one. Fortunately, in our years of experience, we have discovered some tips to help ease your mind.
- Wash, wash, wash your armpits! Gently please, as you do not want to break the skin before you apply a sodium (salt) based deodorant to it. Remove all deodorant from the previous application and rinse well. This prevents a build up from forming that will encourage your skin’s acid tendencies.
- Shaving. Yes, shaving can cause microscopic cuts in the skin and increase the chance of irritation. But we have also noticed that stubble can cause the skin to feel prickly and sensitive as well. So instead of telling you not to shave immediately before applying your deodorant, we recommend that you always use a new, sharp razor and ample lubrication between skin and blade.
- Apply deodorant as directed, after a bath or shower. This is when your skin will be warm and damp, which allows the product to glide more gently across skins surface.
- Apply SPARINGLY. Applying a thick, pasty layer will only give your sensitive skin more baking soda to deal with. Experiment with how little you have to apply to retain effectiveness against odor. Every body is different.
- Have patience. We know many people who found a happy balance with their natural deodorant through a little perseverance. Sometimes the only solution was to let a little time pass and try again.
- Try an alternative. Baking-soda-free natural deodorants are available, such as one from our Sensitive Skin Formula.