I'm not the most health-conscious person in the world, but under no circumstances will I use a deodorant that contains aluminum. I'm obviously not a doctor, but I've read and heard about potential links to breast cancer (you can get cancerous tumors in your underarms), and even the possibility is enough to scare me into using more natural deodorants. If you'd like more information on this topic, which I strongly recommend, talk to your physician.
There are actually quite a few natural, aluminum-free deodorants on the market these days, but a lot of them don't work as well as their more chemical counterparts--isn't that always the case? If you sweat minimally and have little need for anti-perspirant, any natural deodorant would work fine (like Tom's or anything you can find at a health store). But for the rest of us, here are my favorite aluminum-free picks!
1. LaVanila Healthy Deodorant: **Everything I originally wrote about this deodorant below is still true, but I recently discovered that Sephora will no longer be stocking the LaVanila range. I haven't been able to find the line in Sephora stores for a few weeks now, and though you can certainly order off the LaVanila website (they're actually having a sale for the Fourth of July), I'm less likely to purchase from the Internet. For those who don't mind, the deodorant is currently on sale for $14 (instead of the usual $18) on both the LaVanila website and Sephora.com.** Not only is this aluminum and paraben free, it's also 100% natural and recommended by dermatologists. I've found that it does very well at keeping sweat and odor at bay, and it doesn't leave that weird film some others do (though it does leave a white cast). It also seems to be a bit soothing for irritated armpits, in case that's an issue for you or you're just a bit uncoordinated with a razor (hey, it happens!). LaVanila does about 5 or 6 vanilla-based scents for this deodorant, and vanilla passion fruit is my favorite (though it doesn't really smell like either). That's kind of to say that it's the least bad option, as all of their scents have an off-putting powderiness and don't really match up to the description. Despite the scent, I've been through at least a dozen of these sticks and it's never let me down.
2. Malin + Goetz Eucalpytus Deodorant: Malin + Goetz started out as a dinky New York apothecary but has since expanded and is now carried on several beauty websites as well as Space NK. This is actually one I'd recommend smelling in person before purchasing because that eucalyptus is no joke. Like most Malin + Goetz products, the herby, minty smell is incredibly strong. I don't mind it, but if you have a sensitive nose, this is definitely one to skip. Unlike the LaVanila, this deodorant goes on clear, so you won't have to worry about white deodorant marks. In terms of odor and sweat-preventing, the two are probably on the same level, though I think the stronger scent of the Malin + Goetz masks any smell of B.O. for longer. The transparency factor puts it ahead of the LaVanila for me, so this is definitely my favorite deodorant at the moment. If you want to give it a sniff, check any Space NK (even the ones inside Bloomingdales) or a Malin + Goetz apothecary in Manhattan or L.A. It's a little pricey at $18, but I think it's worth the money, and it contains more product than the LaVanila.
3. Arm and Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant: This, while still a good deodorant, is my least favorite of the group, yet I've gone through about six of them. Hands down, it is the most accessible aluminum-free deodorant, available at virtually any drugstore for a mere $4. It's not all natural, but is also paraben-free, if that's something you're concerned about. Again, it holds up well against sweat and the like, and I like that it's transparent, but it's just not as strong. Still, if price is a concern, and you don't mind reapplying, this really can't be beat. Arm and Hammer calls this scent "fresh", but it just smells like soap with a small dash of men's cologne. I don't mind it, and that probably makes it more unisex, so tell the men in your life about this deodorant! But be careful when you go pick it up--Arm and Hammer makes quite a few deodorants, but only this one is aluminum free.
4. Kiss My Face Natural Active Life Deodorant: I don't have a lot of faith in deodorants from natural brands, because experience with the likes of Tom's tells me they're awful. This little stick, however, helped changed my mind. It's a traditional white solid deodorant stick, but it only leaves a faint white cast on the underarms. I'm not wild about the cucumber and green tea scent, as it actually smells like a salad or an herb garden (in a less appealing way than you might think). Still, this performs reasonably well and I have to give Kiss My Face credit for coming up with a non-horrible natural deodorant. It's not as strong as LaVanila/Malin + Goetz, and is probably somewhere near the level of the Arm and Hammer one, if not slightly higher. They should carry this anywhere you can find Kiss My Face, so try places like Whole Foods, Gourmet Garage and those natural food stores--it should be around $7.
5. Nivea Pure and Natural Action: This one will probably be more helpful to anyone living outside North America, as I can almost never find this deodorant here. I actually bought this a few months ago in Zurich, and while I'm not sure if it's 100% natural, it definitely doesn't contain aluminum. (Always double-check by reading the ingredients list!) Unlike the others, this one is a gel formula applied with a rollerball, and smells exactly like DKNY Be Delicious--that fresh, clean, green apple scent. I actually sometimes like to layer the perfume on top for a really long-lasting fragrance. This one isn't quite as sweat-combatant as the first two, but it comes close. Gel deodorants feel really nice on hot summer days and their transparency is priceless when wearing dark clothing, so even if you don't typically like gel formulas, give this one a go if you can! I found it very easily at COOP and pretty much any pharmacy in Switzerland, so you shouldn't have too much difficulty finding it in Europe. Luckily, if you live in New York, I've been able to get it here too--check your small, off the beaten path drugstores--Pasteur Pharmacy in Manhattan carries it for $10.
If you know of any other good aluminum-free deodorants, please let me know!
Hope you (and your armpits!) are well!