Deodorant might be the most forgettable grooming necessity. No one ever gets excited about it. Which one do you use? Probably whatever your parents did. When does it expire? Not until it dries out and hardens into a congealed brick that doubles as a blunt force weapon. What should it smell like? Nothing too floral or “girly.”
But like everything in our comfort-obsessed culture, deodorant can be a form of self-care and preservation. Take it from Jada Pinkett Smith, the newest armpit mogul. She just debuted Hey Humans, a line of personal care products which includes a natural deodorant.
According to People, the deodorant is Pinkett Smith’s “favorite” of her products. It comes in six scents, with names that could double as flavors of tea: Banana Aloe, Rosewater Ginger, Coconut Mint, Cedarwood Sage, Apple Matcha, and Lavender Vanilla.
“I had such a hard time finding natural deodorant,” Pinkett Smith said. “My kids were like, ‘Use lemon under your arm,’ I’m like, ‘That’s not enough odor protection.’ So that is one of my favorite products with Hey Humans, I just love the deodorant so much. I’m like, ‘Finally.’”
Pinkett Smith does have competition. This week, a brand called Bella Skin Beauty launched a $12 Probiotic Underarm Toner. Since no one owns printers anymore, most people who use skincare understand that toners are a type of wash that clear pores and hydrate skin. But the product is most often used on faces.
Diana Shneider, who co-founded Bella Skin Beauty with her daughter Alexandra, told The Daily Beast that the idea for an underarm toner “was born during COVID.” Alexandra, who is 22, had a cyst under her arm for a couple of years. “Every time we would go to the gynecologist, she would say, ‘It’s fine, just take care of your armpits,’” Shneider recalled. “That was it. There was no additional information.”
Stuck at home in lockdown, Shneider began “learning and experimenting” with different toner formulations. She ended up creating what is now the underarm toner that will soon be for sale. A year later, after exfoliating her armpits every shower and using the toner, Alexandra’s cyst is “90 percent gone,” according to her mother.
Dr. Michael Gold, a board-certified dermatologist who runs Gold Skin Care Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said that it’s best to find products “with as little scent as possible.” But to him, the idea of an armpit toner “actually makes sense.”
“I like the concept of an armpit toner if it’s used in the same way we use toners on the face and neck—to get rid of excess debris and make sure there’s no bacteria living there,” Dr. Gold said. “The biggest issue I would have is with somebody overdoing it. If you keep in mind that you’re supposed to use just a little bit of toner on a cotton ball, then I think it’s a great idea.”
Last year, Kelly Ripa told New York magazine that she “couldn’t live without” a $15 aluminum-free deodorant from Each & Every. This comes in nine scents, including “Cannabis & Green Tea.” A representative for the brand told The Daily Beast that the brand sold a tube of its deodorant “every 45 seconds” in 2020. (Ripa’s influence!)
Gigi Hadid, who gave birth to her daughter Khai in September, wrote on Instagram that she uses the “Hug Me” deodorant from Blume these days. “When got pregnant I decided to find a good natural deodorant... @blume makes one that actually works,” she wrote. Its peach-topped container also conveniently matches her marble countertop.
“If you’re fine with the status quo and what you’re getting from your mom’s products, then by all means you do you,” said Lauren Lovelady, the CEO and co-founder of Each & Every. “But we believe that there can be a more elevated experience for deodorant. It can be a moment of indulgence at the beginning of the day, instead of just swiping it on and forgetting it.”
But Dr. Tatyana Nektalova, a board certified dermatologist and clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatologist at Mount Sinai, told The Daily Beast that she’s “not a fan” of natural deodorants and armpit treatments.
“What I find is that a lot of my patients avoid certain antiperspirants and deodorants to go the ‘all natural’ route,” Dr. Nektalova said “That gets them into trouble. I see them come in for rashes in the underarm area, which develop secondary to these new products.”
Dr. Nektalova warned of the “branding and marketing” of self-described organic products. Since there are no legal regulations on words like “natural,” “nontoxic,” or “plant-based,” customers do not always know what to expect.
“What I find is that these ‘clean’ products contain botanical ingredients like lavender or jasmine essential oils,” Dr. Nektalova said. “With repetitive exposure to those products, people can develop a rash or contact dermatitis, because your body recognizes that fragrance as foreign.”
Each & Every deodorants are made with essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and bergamot. Lovelady said the brand is “super conscious” that “people’s bodies respond differently to different ingredients across the board.”
“We’re very cautious to only include [essential oils] at levels where we can minimize the impact,” Lovelady said. “Anything in too high of a level can be harmful, and we are very conscious to validate the safety testing. We don’t want to perpetuate [bad] reactions for large groups of people, but everybody responds differently. It’s not 100 percent fail-safe, but we do what we can.”
According to Dr. Nektalova: “It’s best to stick to something unscented, that doesn’t have any botanical extract or essential oils.” She recommends an aluminum-free formula from Vanicream—though its clinical-looking, blue-and-white bottle might not be as sexy as a designer deodorant.