Pit Stop: Do Non-Aluminum Deodorants Keep Away The Stink? We Put 9 To the (Sniff) Test to Find Out

Pit Stop: Do Non-Aluminum Deodorants Keep Away The Stink? We Put 9 To the (Sniff) Test to Find Out

Arlyn Hernandez
Jul 26, 2016

It's summer. It's hot. It's sweaty. It's time to talk deodorants.

Antiperspirants keep you dry — and B.O. at bay — by using aluminum to block sweat glands, though the ingredient is a bit controversial. Non-aluminum varieties, on the other hand, let your body sweat the way it was meant to, but use natural extracts, baking soda and the likes to keep you smelling fresh...or so they claim. In the pursuit of knowing whether these products actually work, we tapped 6 brave (and sweaty) souls at Apartment Therapy headquarters to put 9 non-aluminum deos to the test. Here's what we found:

(Image credit: Aesop)

Aesop Deodorant

  • Price: $35 for 1.7 fl oz
  • Test subject: Carrie McBride, Managing Editor
  • Application: The first time I used this, I accidentally sprayed half my face, but let's chalk that up to user error. After that initial debacle, I used two pumps on each armpit which seemed like the right amount. It stung a little when I applied it soon after shaving, but otherwise dried pretty quickly.
  • Sweaty situation: 1-hour boot camp-style exercise sessions (burpees, folks) over several weeks
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): 5
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 2

Overall thoughts: This has a strong, herby scent that did seem to overpower my natural body odor, even after a heavy workout. The scent faded halfway through the day and I sometimes re-applied, especially if I was going out to dinner or on the subway. The scent was not my cup of tea (I mostly noticed notes of eucalyptus), but was more appealing to my husband. I also think the warm, woodsy scent might be more pleasing in the wintertime.

Final grade: B

(Image credit: Toms of Maine)

Toms of Maine Long Lasting Wild Lavender Deodorant

  • Price: $4.99 for 2.25 oz
  • Test subject: Arlyn Hernandez, Design Editor
  • Application: The stick deo package felt comfortable to me. I felt like my pits were a little moist after slathering it on, but I might have done one too many swipes.
  • Sweaty situation: Beach day, which means laying out, exposed to the South Florida elements for 3 hours straight.
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): 2.5
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 3.5

Overall thoughts: This did not hold up its end of the "long lasting, 24-hour odor protection" bargain. A few hours into my beach trip and I wasn't in any position to lift my arms up and make a grab for another drink. If it wasn't for the faint lavender smell that lingered, I would have thought it had evaporated into thin air upon application. If you plan on stepping foot outside for the day and interacting with people, you might want to rethink putting this on.

Final grade: D

(Image credit: Weleda)

Weleda Citrus Deodorant

  • Price: $14 for 3.4 fl oz
  • Test subject: Carrie McBride, Managing Editor
  • Application: I liked the glass bottle which gave me the feeling of putting on perfume, which I rarely do. The spray dried quickly and it was nice not worrying about white antiperspirant stains on shirts.
  • Sweaty situation: 1-hour boot camp-style exercise sessions (yes, more burpees) over several weeks
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): 5
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 2

Overall thoughts: The scent was summery and light and, to my nose, smelled just like a gin and tonic – in a good way. It was like starting each day with a cold cocktail for my armpits. The scent did fade as the day went on and I usually ended up re-applying once in the late afternoon even on days when I didn't work out.

Final grade: B+

(Image credit: The Honest Company)

The Honest Company Deodorant

  • Price: $8.95 for 4.0 fl oz
  • Test subject: Dabney Frake, Projects Editor
  • Application: I like the spray, although I wasn't sure how much to use and might have overdone it – and had to wave my arms around until it dried (I'm curious how long a bottle would last me.) Once it dried, it didn't make my pits feel swampy. I only reapplied mid-day once or twice during the test week, but I was surprised it lasted as long as it did most days, given how much I sweat.
  • Sweaty situation: Schlepping across Manhattan in hot, humid weather while hauling paint cans, marble cutting boards, a potted palm tree for a photoshoot.
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): I think I tipped the scale at 5+
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): If 1 is best, I'd give it a 2. My right pit was suspiciously stinky one day, but looking back, it might have been the shirt I was wearing.

Overall thoughts: This deodorant did a good job of neutralizing body odor, but it does have a strong smell itself, especially when you first put it on. Although the natural aroma is nice (it's not perfume-y in the slightest, and reminds me of Aveda products, which I love), know that you are choosing a signature scent – not just a deodorant – when you wear it.

Final grade: A-

(Image credit: Fat and The Moon)

Fat and The Moon Deodorant Cream

  • Price: $12 for 2 fl oz
  • Test subject: Keaton Taylor, Web Designer
  • Application: It's just a touch thicker than coconut oil (because of the beeswax) but super easy to apply. You can feel a touch of grit from the baking soda.
  • Sweaty situation: I wore this for one half of my week-long trip to New York, which means walking pretty much everywhere.
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): probably a 3.5
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 1.8

Overall thoughts: I'm not sure I've ever met an A+ deodorant. That said, I really liked the consistency and the feeling that I could really glop it on if I knew I was going to be walking around more. For the most part, I would dab a bit more on when I left the hotel in the evening because of the scent - which I love. You really get the black pepper and grapefruit. It's manly but not like grandpa's aftershave manly.

Final grade: B+

(Image credit: Fat and The Moon)

Fat and The Moon Sensitive Pit Cream

  • Price: $12 for 2 fl oz
  • Test subject: Keaton Taylor, Web Designer
  • Application: A little more fluid than the deodorant cream. No grit, really smooth and easy to apply, reminds me of a really thick lotion.
  • Sweaty situation: The second half of my NYC trip was by far more intense. I walked a lot (i.e. from E. Houston up to Strand Bookstore and beyond) but was also stuck between LaGuardia and JFK for 26ish hours.
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): roughly 4.8
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 2.5

Overall thoughts: The smell is a little greener than I like. The basil comes through really intensely when it heats up and it has an almost anise-y smell. My wife used a little bitty tin of this on our 16-month old's chubby legs and he loved it. In general, this is a great deodorizer but not as good for stopping the sweat. For me, when things got really stressful arriving at JFK at 3 am, I switched back to the regular Deodorant cream. The baking soda in it was far better for absorbing my man-sweat.

Final grade: C

(Image credit: Soapwalla)

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream in Original Scent and Citrus

  • Price: $14 for 2 oz
  • Test subject: Arlyn Hernandez, Design Editor
  • Application: I'm used to applying a dry spray chock-full of aluminum, so the cream consistency was a little bit of culture shock for me. It's slightly grainy and frosting-like. I wasn't sure how fast it would absorb, so I stood around with my arms in the air until I felt confident I was in good shape (about 30 seconds.) A downside is that I had to wash my hands after, so applying on the go seems a little tricky if you need a touch up during the day.
  • Sweaty situation: Running errands, lunch outside in 90+ degree/300% humidity
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): a solid 3.5, maybe 3.75
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 1.25 (though 3.5 on day 1…more on that later)

Overall thoughts: When the deodorants first arrived, they were pure liquid after sitting in my hot South Florida mailbox. I didn't read the directions which stated that you should stir the product and then pop it into the freezer to restore it back to its proper cream state, so day 1 was a little rocky. By day 2, I was back in business. Stink level varied by day (I suspect the material of the shirt I was wearing changed things), but overall, I was really pleased with the results, as was my beau, who was forced to stick his nose in my armpit after day 3 to give back honest feedback (the status report proved promising.) The original scent was much more appealing to me, as the citrus was a little too herby for my likes. I may be a convert.

Final grade: A

(Image credit: Target)

Every Man Jack. Deodorant in Eucalyptus Mint

  • Price: $4.99
  • Test subject: Adam Miller, Account Executive
  • Application: A little wet. I prefer a dyer style, but it did dry quickly.
  • Sweaty situation: The general struggle of living in New York in June
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): 4
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 5

Overall thoughts: The product smell was pretty generic, but it did not provide protection from sweat or smell at all. I generally use Old Spice, which outperformed this product by leaps and bounds. Generally, I do not sweat that much, so my sweat level rating was an index against my normal perspiration. The first three days, I applied this once, but by the last two, I felt the need to up the use to twice a day.

Final grade: D

(Image credit: Meow Meow Tweet)

Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Stick in Lemon Eucalyptus

  • Price: $22 for 4.5 oz
  • Test subject: Tara Bellucci, News & Culture Editor
  • Application: Goes on smooth, but by the end of the day, it kind of balls up like pills on a sweater, which was weird.
  • Sweaty situation: Salsa dance classes
  • Sweat level reached (scale of 1-5): 2
  • Post-activity stench level (scale of 1-5): 2

Overall thoughts: I appreciate that the packaging is biodegradable cardboard. The push up applicator can be tricky, giving you too much or too little. I loved the scent though – it's clean and refreshing, like a spa.

Final grade: A-

DIY'er at heart? Try making your own deodorant with our tutorial→ Quick, Easy, Homemade Deodorant...that Actually Works

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