Author: Kathryn Koehler
Never ask a dirty hippie to write about 19 deodorant brands to avoid. Their initial reaction will be why stop at 19? As a full-fledged fragrant hippie, I haven’t used deodorant or antiperspirant since the Ban roll-on my mother purchased for me before 7th grade telling me that everyone would appreciate it if I would start using deodorant. I rolled it on my pits a couple of times before deciding I’d rather stink than have an unnatural, distracting scent about me. Thankfully, my grandmother stepped in telling me that she relied on white vinegar or lemon juice on special occasions. She then explained the science behind it. Vinegar has been my odor neutralizer of choice ever since, though I would dab my pits with lemon juice before Saturday night cotillion.
Body odor aka B.O. results when secretions from apocrine sweat glands, principally located in the armpits and the groin, come in contact with bacteria on the epidermis, the outer layer of skin. The deodorant’s goal is to mask the associated odor. Antiperspirants aim to control the odor by eliminating secretions. Most of the products on today’s market offer dual-protection. Hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive perspiration is treated with prescription-strength antiperspirants that contain aluminum-based compounds. Aluminum chloride, aluminum zirconium, and aluminum chlorohydrate are also found to a lesser degree in OTC antiperspirants. They work by forming a gel-like plug in the sweat ducts, reducing or eliminating sweat production. I prefer my ducts to be unplugged. Like Bob Dylan before Newport.
Our criteria for determining the 19 deodorant brands to avoid included the propensity to have a too-strong or too-longlasting scent, the number of difficult-to-unpronounceable ingredients, and value. Because the appeal of personal hygiene products is highly subjective our list is presented in alphabetical order.
Arm and Hammer Advanced Sweat Control Fresh
- parent/owner: Church and Dwight
- established: 1846
- price point: $3.00/2.6 oz.
From the name you’d think the active ingredient in Arm and Hammer would be baking soda. But it’s not, it’s aluminum chlorohydrate – a whopping 19%! This is high enough to warrant a warning on the label for those who have kidney disease. Your kidneys are responsible for flushing aluminum out of the body, as well as all of your un-sweated sweat. This product also includes talc which is problematic thanks to the probability that it contains asbestos, a known carcinogen. Baking soda is listed as an inactive ingredient, however. Let’s hope this is because it is not prevalent enough to cause the skin irritation associated with baking soda found in other personal care products.
Bottom line: The talc alone is reason enough to keep your distance.
Axe Apollo Long Lasting Spray Sage and Cedarwood
- parent/owner: Unilever
- established: 1983 (EU)/2002 (USA)
- price point: $6.00/4.0 oz.
This product contains an astounding 23.3 % aluminum chlorohydrate and hydrofluorocarbon 152A, a propellant, that was created as a presumably safe alternative to chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas. While hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) don’t deplete the ozone, they are super greenhouse gases. Axe Apollo Sage and Cedarwood is also 23.3% duct-clogging aluminum chlorohydrate, butane, a handful of other difficult-to-pronounce chemicals, as well as the all-encompassing, exceptionally vague fragrance. Fragrance is an Axe specialty, but not one everyone especially appreciates. Used correctly, Axe products are probably still over-scented, but in the hands of pubescent middle schoolers who have been conditioned to believe natural body odor must be masked at all costs? Eye-watering nostril-stinging, breathtakingly cloying.
Bottom line: Be a good Earth steward and avoid products that contain hydrofluorocarbon 152A.
BLEU DE CHANEL
- parent/owner: House of Chanel
- established: 2010
- price point: $40.00/2.0 oz.
The ingredients in this product aren’t all that sinister, but they’re also nothing special, certainly not 20.00 and ounce special. Two of the first three ingredients are alcohol and water. The website also boasts that the woodsy, sandalwood scent leaves a trail. Personal scents should not leave a trail.
Bottom line: You’re paying for the label and a scent that remains long after you’re gone.
Carpe Underarm Fresh Powder Scent
- parent/owner: Clutch, Inc.
- established: 2015
- price point: 20.00/1.69 oz.
With 15% Aluminum Sesquicholorhydrate and talc, this isn’t the safest antiperspirant around. That said, it has a compelling backstory. No spoiler alerts here, but sweaty palms are annoying. Carpe is a bit overpriced, at over ten dollars an ounce, but if you can afford it, you’ll be supporting a small business.
Bottom line: Better than some and no worse than some others, seize the day with Carpe!
Certain Dri Prescription Strength Clinical Dry Spray
- parent/owner: Clarion Brands, LLC
- price point: $10.00/2.0 0z.
Among a host of other chemicals, Certain Dri ups the ante with 25% aluminum chlorohydrate plus the greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon 152A. This product lasts up to 72 hours – even factoring in showering. Where some view its long-lastingness as a perk, others find it frightening? Concerning? Perhaps I’m projecting but if a shower can’t wash it away, I’m keeping my distance.
Bottom line: Lower your carbon footprint; choose a deodorant that doesn’t contain hydrofluorocarbon 152A.
Degree Original Protection- Cool Rush
- parent/owner: Unilever
- price point: 2.00/2.0 0z.
The price is certainly right, but Degree Original is 18.2% Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly and talc. The 48-hour protection Degree provides translates into a strong scent that is permeating. Does your scent announce your arrival or stay after you’ve gone? Then it’s time to consider an alternative. Just like no one wishes to smell your stench, no one cares to smell your deodorant, either.
Bottom line: An exceptionally inexpensive choice, but be cautious in its application.
Eau Dynamisante Antiperspirant
- parent/owner: Clarins
- established: 1987
- price point: $34.00/3.3 oz.
They tout 92% natural ingredients and claim that they have an herbarium in which they grow the plants that are at the core of their products, and for the most part, I believe them. The Eau Dynamisante label has a variety of unfamiliar words, however, most of them are simply fancy ways of saying coconut oil. Two of the fragrance ingredients, hexyl cinnamal and ethylene brassylate are concerning. The Environmental Working Group lists hexyl cinnamal as high for allergies and immunotoxins, which negatively affect the immune system. Ethylene brassylate, a synthetic fragrance in the musk family, is considered safe enough, but for $10.00/oz. you deserve the real deal!
Bottom line: While there is nothing inherently bad about this brand, there are other equally not bad options with much lower price points.
Gold Bond Body Powder Spray Clear
- parent/owner: Chattem Inc./Sanofi S.A.
- established: 1882
- price point: $8.00/7.0 oz.
It’s a fact that label ingredients are listed from highest to lowest amounts, and the very first ingredient on the list for Gold Bond Body Powder Spray Clear is the dreaded greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon 152A. Hydrofluorocarbon 152A is, thankfully, being phased out. As of October 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed regulations that should lower HFC emissions by over one billion metric tons by 2050.
Bottom line: Why wait until your favorite aerosol brand is phased out? Roll-ons and sticks are excellent, more environmentally friendly ways of keeping fresh.
Jungle Bravo Untamed Pheromone Deodorant
- parent/owner: Jungle Bravo
- established: c. 2023
- price point: $35.00/3.0 oz.
Of the 19 deodorant brands to avoid, this one’s my favorite. Do yourself a solid and check out this brand’s website. From the graphics to the comments, there is a lot of entertaining content, if you have critical thinking skills. Jungle Bravo touts itself as a natural, aluminum-free deodorant, however, they do not provide the label ingredients, beyond alpha pheromones. And sorry, suckers, but according to Jungle Bravo 90% of men simply do not produce enough alpha pheromones on their own. Since they tout their ingredients as all-natural, I’m wondering where they’re sourcing their alpha pheromones. I’m envisioning one of the lucky 10% hooked up to an alpha pheromone extractor. It looks painful. And, if the comments and reviews are to be trusted, Jungle Bravo is one of those gifts that keeps on giving, long after you’ve cruised through the casino.
Bottom line: There’s a sucker born every minute and 90% of them cannot produce enough alpha pheromones. -P.T. Barnum
Metro Sexual – Deodorant Stick
- parent/owner: Sea Of Spa Labs Ltd.
- established: 1996
- price point: $23.00/2.5 oz
Besides the fact that it’s fairly expensive and contains the very unnecessary FD&C Blue No. 1 and FD&C Red No. 40., there’s nothing precisely bad about this brand, Oh wait, yes there is. It’s the name. It screams 1990s.
Bottom line: No 21st-century metrosexual would be caught dead wearing something called Metro Sexual.
Old Spice Red Collection Captain Scent of Command Deodorant
- parent/owner: Procter & Gamble
- established: 1937
- price point: $5.00/3.0 oz.
Chances are your grandfather was an Old Spice aftershave guy. Old Spice is about as American as you can get. With a desirable price point and a formula that is absent of HFCs and aluminum, it continues to be a trusted brand. Something changed recently, however, that has consumers questioning the rashes and stinging sensations that experience after applying Old Spice deodorant.
Bottom line: If you have sensitive skin, it would behoove you to steer your ship leeward.
- parent/owner: various
- established: 5oo A.D.
- price point: $7.00/1.0 oz.
There’s no more polarizing scent than patchouli. A member of the mint family, patchouli has been used medicinally since 500 B.C. in China and India. Now, you might think that because I’m a hippie I love patchouli, but you’d be wrong. I don’t mind the scent, per se, it’s the resulting migraine that I like to avoid. And I’m not alone. Recent studies at the University of West Georgia and the American Academy of Dermatology, et al., suggest that 1/3 of consumers find scented products irritating. The strength of its aroma is one of its original selling points: Patchouli was used in funeral rites in which its scent was used to mask odors associated with decomposition.
While I have your attention, I’d like to point out the misconception that just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Some well-meaning individuals have told me that the scent they’re wearing couldn’t possibly be making me ill because, like patchouli, it’s all-natural. Snake venom, bee venom, and hemlock are all-natural, too.
Bottom Line: Unless you smell like death, think twice before applying patchouli.
R De Revillon Deodorant Spray
- parent/owner: Revillon Frères (Revillon Brothers)
- established: 1723/1839
- price point: $15.00/5.0 oz.
Revillion Brothers is a luxury brand that trades in furs and perfumes. Luxury deodorant is just the sort of decadence that the 21st century embraces. And while three dollars an ounce isn’t outlandish, it’s still twice as much as your proletarian brands. This brand originally counted benzene among its ingredients. Classified by the State of California as a carcinogen, benzene has been shown to cause leukemia, as well as birth defects. It would appear that Revillon has removed benzene from its listed ingredients, after the class action lawsuit. However, they didn’t replace the faulty nozzles that reportedly clog on the regular. Though my pioneer spirit would attempt to unclog the sprayer before tossing out a can of deodorant, it is a frustrating drawback.
Bottom line: Benzene or not, R de Revillion is not a great value.
Right Guard Extreme Defense
- parent/owner: Thriving Brands LLC
- established: 1960 (by The Gillette Company)
- price point: $5.00/2.6 oz.
By now it should be apparent that any antiperspirant/deodorant that offers three days of protection is going to contain some form of gland-blocking aluminum. Right Guard Extreme Defense has 16.4% Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex Gly, which obstructs the ducts that aid perspiration. What’s happening to all of the obstructed secretions? Processed through the kidneys, all.
Bottom line: Give your kidneys a break – opt for an aluminum-free deodorant.
Secret Invisible Solid Paris Rose
- parent/owner: Procter & Gamble
- established: 1964
- price point: $6.00/2.6 oz
The Environmental Working Group scored Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant/Deodorant, Paris Rose 9/10, with 10 being the worst. The offending agents included the ever-ambiguous fragrance, cetrimonium chloride, and methylisothiazolinone, as a high risk for allergies and immunotoxins, and a moderate risk of endocrine disruption, which affects hormones.
A preservative, methylisothiazolinone has been banned in the EU in leave-on products (like antiperspirants) and highly regulated in rinse-off products (like soap). Methylisothiazolinone, also found in pesticides, is regulated by the EPA and has restrictions placed on where it may be used. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to place any restrictions on its use. This is reminiscent of triclosan, an antimicrobial that was classified as a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor by the EPA long before the FDA. Triclosan was omnipresent. It was in everything from hand soap and deodorant to sneakers and toothpaste, until 2016 when the FDA finally banned it.
Bottom line: Just because the government says it’s safe, doesn’t make it true.
Speed Stick Power Ultimate Sport
- parent/owner: Colgate-Palmolive
- established: 1963 ( by The Mennen Company)
- price point: $2.00/3.0 oz.
With 18% Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly, Speed Stick Power Antiperspirant Deodorant, Ultimate Sport will definitely keep the sweat off your body. But re-routing it to your kidneys, like busing asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard, isn’t the best solution. Speed Stick also contains palm kernel oil. Palm kernel oil, along with palm oil, is responsible for deforestation and habitat destruction around the globe, as land is cleared for industrial palm farms.
Bottom line: Without much trouble, you can find a similar product that doesn’t contribute to the destruction of the world.
Suave Fresh Vibes Awesome Blossom
- parent/owner: Yellow Wood Partners LLC
- established: 1937
- price point:46.00/1.2 oz
With a name like Fresh Vibes Awesome Blossom, you can easily picture Suave’s target demographic – picture and smell. Fresh Vibes is the Axe for adolescent girls. Ironically, according to the Environmental Workers Group, the only concerning ingredient in Fresh Vibes Awesome Blossom is the fragrance. It should be alarming that the ingredients used to scent this product are endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system is responsible for producing and regulating hormones. Adolescents are surging with hormones. Disrupting that system seems like a bad idea.
Bottom line: Skip the wild scents and trendy names.
Teen Spirit Pink Crush Antiperspirant and Deodorant.
- parent/owner: Colgate-Palmolive
- established: 1991
- price point:
Of the 19 worst deodorant beads, this one is a classic – immortalized by the legendary band Nirvana. Beyond the 15.9% Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly and deforestation culprit palm kernel oil, Teen Spirit Pink Crush also contains, as you might have guessed, fragrance. And what have we learned about fragrance? It could be just about anything and at least some of those things pose risks to a teenager’s developing endocrine system.
Bottom line: Find a fragrance-free alternative. Be aware that unscented is not the same thing as fragrance-free! Many unscented products contain a masking fragrance.
ZeroSweat Clinical Strength
- parent/owner: ZeroSweat Inc.
- established: 2011
- price point: $20.00/1.2 oz.
Offering up to seven days of protection, ZeroSweat Clinical Strength contains 12% aluminum chloride. The strongest of the aluminum additives, aluminum chloride is most commonly found in RX-strength antiperspirants. Seven days? That’s a mighty long time to keep your glands sealed without a breather, so to speak. Also, at almost $20.00 an ounce, it has a higher price point than other brands with similar gland-clogging abilities.
Bottom line: You can clog your glands for less.