Last week I conducted a bit of a personal experiment. I gave up deodorant. It’s a bold move for someone living in a civilised society, but I thought I’d give it a try.
Over the years I’ve become increasingly aware of, and concerned about the chemicals I apply to and rub into my body. Deodorant has long had a slightly worrying reputation, many contain aluminium and parabens which have been linked to cancer.
I’m also trying to reduce the number of products I use and as a household we are trying to reduce waste.
Before I began my experiment, I ran a quick audit of my lifestyle, just to gauge how much I was likely to sweat.
- I work from home on a laptop, most days my physical activity is a quick walk to school and back and some light housework.
- I’ll take a bath or shower every day and give myself a good scrub.
- I go to the gym twice a week for a swim and an aqua class.
- Sometimes I walk the dog for an hour.
- I change my clothes daily.
- I don’t drive, so most local journeys are done on foot.
- I’m not an excessively sweaty person.
I surmised that I was unlikely to get too sweaty, and if I did I could just have a shower. It’s also January which is the least hot and sweaty month of the year, if I did this in August I suspect there might be problems. I’ve added a Smell Rating for the end of each day.
Got up, showered and spent the day toiling over a laptop. No school run for me today, just a quick dash out to Cubs and back. Smell rating 0.
Tuesday is usually a bit of an out and about day for me. Showered, did some work, walked to the shops, picked my son up from school, took him for a haircut, went home, cooked etc. Late that evening I detected a slight odour, but only if you got right up in my pits, but the boys said I was fine. Smell rating 1.
Off to the gym this morning, skipped my shower as I’d have one before I got in the pool. Hopped on the bus because it was chucking it down, but there’s still a 10 minute walk at the other end. Noticed that my armpits were smelling a bit, but figured the shower, 90 minutes in a chlorinated pool and another shower would fix that. Chlorine is an excellent deodorant. Smell rating (eventually) 1.
Another quiet at home day. Realising that deodorant is a necessity for me. Scrubbing keeps on top of things and not inviting people to sniff your pits is helpful. Feeling a bit self-conscious now. Smell rating 2
I’d like this to stop now. It’s Friday and I went to the gym again for another shower/swim/shower session which does help to keep on top of things. I’m careful not to choose an overhead locker for fear of wafting unwelcome smells around the room. Smell rating, back to 1.
Days 6 and 7
Weekend and that brings with it a whole change of pace for me and the family. There’s a round of kid’s parties, shopping, housework, meal prep and dog walking. I’m feeling really aware of myself now; real or imagined I feel like I’m smelly. The boys assure me that I’m perfectly acceptable, but I’m bored with it now and just want to stop fretting about being socially unacceptable and put some deodorant on. Smell rating, it feels like 10 but it’s probably 3 or 4.
I like to look, feel and smell clean. Even with showering every day, it took me right out of my comfort zone and it’s going to take more than a week for me to break this habit. Standard deodorants might not always be the most healthy; so I’m going to look at changing to one with fewer chemicals, or an organic one from a company like Weleda.
These days more and more people are switching to solid deodorants; like the deodorants from German company, Ben and Anna which is vegan and cruelty free; or dusting powders from Lush. Finding a deodorant which works for you, fits with your lifestyle and keeps you comfortable in your own skin is so important.
I’ve also realised that the deodorant I’m currently using (it’s a Dove spray one) is fine for two days, even with a good scrub between those days. The chemicals in it keep me dry and odour free for 48 hours, even though it’s not a 48 hour one. So perhaps I can halve my deodorant use without too much of an impact on my social acceptability.
For me there are a few options on the table for where I go from here. At the start of the week I asked the question, can I live without deodorant? My answer is no, but I can change my deodorant habits and find a balance that works for me and my lifestyle, and I can move to a product with fewer chemicals.
Could you give up deodorant? Could you?