a blog by J.M. Cottle
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Things my deodorant taught me

I’ll tell you a story:

Once upon a time in college, I ran out of deodorant. Having money in my campus account but no cash, I went to the school bookstore and found two options. I chose Speed Stick over something unpleasant that claimed to smell like “powder.”

After a couple days I realized that the Speed Stick didn’t work. I was sweating like crazy. Wondering what was up, I Googled it and learned something.

#1: Deodorant and anti-perspirant are not the same thing.

I was used to anti-perspirant, which blocks sweat, and I had just bought deodorant, which only blocks smell. I also discovered that anti-perspirants contained some dangerous, potentially carcinogenic ingredients, and a broke college student can’t afford to waste a whole stick of deodorant, so I resigned myself to having wet patches on my shirts.

After a couple of weeks using the Speed Stick, something very interesting happened: the sweating stopped. It didn’t stop completely, of course; sweating is a natural thing that happens when your body needs to cool down, when you’re nervous, etc. What I mean is that the excessive sweating stopped. In everyday life when I was just sitting at my computer or walking around campus, I didn’t sweat. Once I allowed my body to just be instead of bashing it repeatedly with heavy duty chemicals, it regained its balance. From this I drew a conclusion:

#2: Products that interfere with a natural bodily function make themselves necessary. 

Once I realized this in relation to sweat, I started to see it in other products as well. A razor is supposed to give you hairless skin, but it makes the hair grow back twice as bad, which forces you to use the razor again. Shampoo gets rid of the oil in your hair, but without any oil your hair is too dry so you need conditioner, which gunks your hair up so you need shampoo. I haven’t done any tests but I have a hypothesis that products that are supposed to get rid of acne act in the same way.

Feeling jaded, I once more turned to Google, seeking deodorant alternatives. I found that there are people, like Colin Beavan and Beth Terry, who have stopped using commercial deodorants altogether and use baking soda. Instead of covering up bad smells with stronger smells, baking soda kills the bacteria that causes the bad smells in the first place. Inspired, I tried it myself (on a day when I didn’t have to go anywhere public) and it worked. I sprinkled some on a wet washcloth when I got out of the shower in the morning and rubbed it in, and I didn’t smell bad all day. In fact, I smelled like myself, and my own natural scent is quite similar to almonds.

#3: Humans can smell pretty good when they’re not slathering themselves in chemicals.

Who knew?

When my little container of baking soda was running low, I decided to experiment. How bad would I smell if I didn’t use anything? What if I didn’t even need anything? That would be the ultimate environment-friendly, wallet-friendly way to stick it to Them, whoever They are, the overlords of scent.

Those of you who have spent time with me in person are more qualified judges than I am, but I believe that my experiment has been a success. I no longer put anything under my arms unless I know I’m going to be sweating a lot; I probably used deodorant twice a month this past winter. Keep in mind that I do shower once a day, because my hair is impossible to tame when it’s dry. If I was not going to shower once a day I would at least wash my underarms in the morning before going deodorant-free.

Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on your own body chemistry and diet. I’m not saying you should go without anything if you know you have an odor that will offend others, but keep an open mind.

Which brings me to the final thing my deodorant taught me. It also happens to be the most important.

#4: There are alternatives to the norm — superior alternatives — if you look around and get creative.

Right now I am using up the last of a stick of commercial deodorant I got a year ago, and when that’s gone I’m going to go back to baking soda for the days when I know that I’m going to be sweating. There are times when I do want to add some scent, though, like when I’m wearing a shirt that is very close to smelling bad enough for the laundry but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. For times like this I am thinking of trying a solid deodorant by Lush. If you go to their store they will cut off a block for you so you don’t need packaging, and that is a wonderful thing.

There is no need to participate in an expensive, wasteful, dangerous industry when you can use something cheap and natural instead. I’d much rather smell like almonds than an “icy blast” any day.

If you have any suggestions for scents that would mesh well with almonds, by the way, I’d love to hear them.

2 Responses to Things my deodorant taught me

  1. Hey we should go to the Lush store in the Salem, NH mall! I want to try the deodorant too. I have been to the store before, it was really cool. Remember I got that peach soap for mom for Christmas?

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