By Guest Blogger Ruth Holroyd
What do you do if the skin under your arms is affected by eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis or any sensitive skin condition? Imagine using deodorant on ‘just shaved’ armpits and you’ll have some idea of what it’s like using anti perspirants on sensitive skin. It stings! And it can make the condition worse by irritating the skin and causing inflammation.
If you have dry sensitive skin, here’s a few things to consider before choosing your next deodorant:
What is sweat? Sweating is your body’s natural response to cool the body down and excrete toxins. Sweat is actually odourless; water, salt, fat and bacteria cause the unpleasant odour. You can notice changes in smell due to what you eat, hormones, supplements or any medications you’re taking.
Why do we sweat? Everyone sweats and it’s a completely natural part of the body’s cooling and cleansing process.
Sweating hurts sometimes - It is good for you to sweat, and it helps skin health, but if you have eczema, it can also hurt, sting and cause flares. This can be hard to manage – the balance between getting active and avoiding the acid burn is a constant struggle.
Let it sweat! During topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) washing was a trauma and deodorant was pure torture. It completely changed my views on body odour and taught me a lot about these products in my search for kinder brands and solutions. The weirdest silver lining is that my sweat doesn’t smell now. I find this fascinating, and have been searching for safe deo for warm summer and exercise days (more on some tested products below).
Shaving armpits – an added complication – Shaving eczema skin can be problematic. Using more natural and unfragranced deodorants should make it less irritating. There are laser hair removal treatments available, but these can be expensive. Should we all throw out our razors and stop shaving? A debate for another day!
Steer clear of antiperspirants – Old fashioned BO basher contained aluminium to block the pores and prevent sweating. This sounds great but can cause lots of problems in the long run – blocking pores can mean more smelly bacteria build up. Look for natural deodorants instead which will work with your body, allow pores to breathe and be more matched to your skin’s PH value.
Support your pit microbiome - You might not want to think about all the bacteria living naturally in your armpits, but they’re there, nonetheless. A study conducted into armpit microbiome and the effect of antiperspirant use, cessation and experimentation showed that these products have a dramatic effect on bacteria present in body odour. It’s a little understood science, along with gut microbiome but it is something to consider.
How do you decide what product to buy?
This can be an absolute minefield with so many new natural products available. Whilst there is a lot of choice now, it is difficult to decide which brands to trust. Here are a few tips:
I think it’s a really important decision and we should all take extra care with the products we put on our skin and check them as we would the food ingredients we eat.
Here are a few products that I’ve tested and found gentle and kind enough for sensitive skin.
Bionsen - One of the first companies to offer natural, aluminium free deodorants, Bionsen have been around for over 30 years. Their products are dermatologically tested and cruelty free. I’ve used their deodorants for years and would use them again now. They contain fragrances, but they’re natural and don’t irritate my skin. They do a range of pumps, sticks, roll-ons and sprays. I used to use the roll-on which was great, gave me reliable odour control and was fine on my skin prior to topical steroid withdrawal. During TSW I couldn’t put anything on my skin for years, however I think my skin has recovered enough to use this product again. I couldn’t find ingredients listed for their products, but they should provide them if requested. You can find Bionsen in most supermarkets and large chemists or buy online. https://bionsen.uk/
FitPit – This is the one I found during TSW. I was drawn to it because it’s so simple. Ingredients: Arrowroot powder, coconut oil, sodium bicarb, shea butter and aloe vera. It comes in a small glass jar that also appealed because I’m trying to avoid unnecessary plastic. All you do is apply a small pea sized blob to your finger and rub it gently under your pits. It didn’t irritate my skin at all and worked well. Some people can react to bicarb so always spot test, but I’d recommend this. Full disclosure, I did not use on broken skin when TSW was at its worst. I just left my armpits alone. I was glad I tried it and it has lasted for ages. They have some with fragrances and also do toothpaste and skincare products. You can buy online from Green Woman: https://www.thegreenwoman.co.uk/
MooGoo – Currently trialling this lovely deodorant and I really like it. I have the Natural Fresh Cream Deodorant roll-on and the Fresh Cream Deodorant Lemon Myrtle, which are 100% aluminium free.
It’s very gentle and soothing. Feels cooling to my skin when I apply it and I’m enjoying using it. I’ll be testing it for a run soon to see how it fares for a full on sweatathon so fingers crossed. MooGoo do a whole range of other moisturiser and skincare products. https://moogooskincare.co.uk/
Ingredients: Aqua (H₂O’s Fancy Name), Magnesium Hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia), Xanthan Gum (Food Grade Thickener), Piroctone Olamine (Olamine Salt), Backhousia Citiodora (Lemon Myrtle) Leaf Oil, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract.
Salt of the Earth – I’ve used their salt crystal deodorant stick which is basically a rounded block of salt. You wet the salt stick under water and apply to clean armpits. I found it worked well for me. However, if skin was broken at all it stings, so not great after shaving or when skin is inflamed. I loved using something that was so simple though and they are small and easy to travel with. They do a huge range of deodorants, not just the crystal salts, so there really is something for everyone. https://saltoftheearthnatural.com/
Green People – I love their scent free deodorant and used this back in the day before TSW. It’s affordable and I discovered them one year at the Allergy Show which has sadly closed for good now. It has quite a long ingredients list, though none that should cause alarm in any way.
Ingredients: AQUA (SPRING WATER), POTASSIUM ALUM (NATURAL MINERAL), OLEA EUROPAEA (OLIVE) FRUIT OIL*, HELIANTHUS ANNUUS (SUNFLOWER) SEED OIL*, CETEARYL ALCOHOL (EMULSIFYING PLANT WAX), ZINC RICINOLEATE (FROM CASTOR OIL), BUTYROSPERMUM PARKII (SHEA) BUTTER*^, ALPHA-GLUCAN OLIGOSACCHARIDE (PREBIOTIC), ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA) LEAF JUICE POWDER*, ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS (ROSEMARY) LEAF EXTRACT*, CETEARYL GLUCOSIDE (PLANT DERIVED EMULSIFIER), LEVULINIC ACID (PLANT DERIVED), CETEARYL OLIVATE (FROM OLIVE OIL), SORBITAN OLIVATE (FROM OLIVE OIL), GLYCERIN, POTASSIUM CETYL PHOSPHATE, SCLEROTIUM GUM (NATURAL GUM), XANTHAN GUM (CORN STARCH GUM), SODIUM STEAROYL GLUTAMATE (PLANT DERIVED EMULSIFIER), SODIUM LAURYL GLUCOSE CARBOXYLATE (PLANT DERIVED), LAURYL GLUCOSIDE (PLANT DERIVED), CITRIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, SORBIC ACID, SODIUM BENZOATE, POTASSIUM SORBATE*. *90.1% ORGANIC ^FAIRLY TRADED.
I never had any issues using this and would recommend it. It wasn’t up to a full-on running effort but was good for everyday use.
Are you ready to make the switch to kinder deodorant?💭
If you’re going to swap products, be aware that it could cause a change in body odour as your armpit microbiome adjusts. It should take around 30 days to regulate and hopefully it’ll be worth it.
For a full roundup of the above, with prices and links, visit a ‘Roundup of natural deodorants’ on Ruth’s blog. https://whatallergy.com/2023/04/roundup-of-sensitive-skin-deodorants/
Let’s give our pits some loving and get to know what products are out there to support those sensitive troublesome areas. Are you ready to try something new? Or are you happy with your current deodorant?
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