Personal Care Consumers Go On Armpit Detoxes In Droves
From a young age, 34-year-old Zabana Essentials founder Shanell Edwards battled a finicky digestive system. To keep things running smoothly on the inside, she decided to eliminate gluten, and began ingesting activated charcoal and apple cider vinegar.
The remedies worked so well for Edward’s digestive tract that she wondered if they could have external benefits, too. “At that point, I had realized there was a detox process. I learned activated charcoal absorbed odor and could detox the surface of the skin,” she says. “I took my activated charcoal capsules, busted them open and made a mask for my armpits.”
The kitchen charcoal tinkering led to the birth of Zabana Essentials’ Armpit Detox Bar Coconut Charcoal + Clay, an example of a surging number of products assisting the transition from conventional to natural odor solutions or, in the parlance of natural deodorant brand founders, a detox period cleansing armpits of suspect ingredients in antiperspirants. The pit crews of the personal care industry have embraced the concept of armpit detox in a big way, translating the Goop-approved nutrition craze for natural beauty aisles everywhere.
“The concept of detoxing is particularly relevant to natural brands,” says Merrady Wickes, head of content and education for The Detox Market. “Consumers are starting to think about what they put on their bodies, not just in them. Much with like the food industry, we’re being bombarded with chemicals and fillers that save manufacturers money or create a specific effect, but aren’t healthy for us.”
Mary Futher, founder of natural deodorant brand Kaia Naturals, elaborates, “People sometimes overlook the fact that sweating is a very natural form of dispelling toxins from your body. It doesn’t occur only in your liver or kidney. It happens through your sweat as well. It’s a very important form of detoxing and people forget that.”
The toxin in question for natural deodorant brand founders is the aluminum in antiperspirants. They discuss it in a manner not dissimilar from nutrition experts talking about purging sugar or caffeine from people’s diets. “The aluminum and chemicals in antiperspirants, they create a dependency. It’s really a kind of addiction,” says Suzannah Raff, founder of Cleo&Coco. “The body naturally wants to sweat out the toxins. It’s a healthy way of purifying your body. When we block our sweat glands with the chemicals in antiperspirants, we are preventing the body from what it wants to do naturally.”
Combatting weight gain or high blood pressure may drive people to try nutritional cleanses. Breast cancer has been a prime motivator for deodorant swaps. The detox concept often resonates with women concerned about the unproven link between the aluminum in antiperspirants and breast cancer whether they’re survivors of the disease or not.
Breast cancer survivor Sabrina Landau, co-founder of the Nublume, which sells natural deodorants and skincare, says, “After I got breast cancer, everything changed. I thought I was healthy before that. I look healthy. I exercise. I eat right, but you are exposed to so much nowadays. I’m not saying one thing causes breast cancer, but I think if you eliminate toxins and chemicals, that’s key.”
In the diet cleanse segment, detoxes can last three days, 7 days, 10 days, 21 days or more. For Kaia Naturals, the equivalent in the armpit-cleansing field is 30 days. The brand developed a $42 30 Day Detox kit with a Detox Charcoal Deodorant, Deodorant Booster Bar and Charcoal Detox Hot Bath. It asserts the kit’s contents help with the stages of armpit detoxing, including sweat levels above normal and stench before armpits stabilize to normal sweating and smell.
“The kit is a one-stop shop for somebody coming into a store saying, ‘I would like to change to natural deodorant,’ and they don’t really know what they’re going to be in for,” says Futher. “The store can say, ‘Here’s a kit that tells you all about detox.’ We put in little tips like it’s advisable to wear loose fitting clothing and natural fibers that breathe.”
Futher created the idea of a 30-day armpit detox from conventional deodorants and antiperspirants to natural alternatives, and codified the stages of armpit detoxing in acknowledgement that the switch to natural odor-fighting options can be a tough process. Diet cleanses can be extremely difficult, and pit cleanses can be uncomfortable, too.
“I look at aluminum like fast food. It’s quick, easy and gets the job done,” says Futher. “You have to get used to the adjustment, and it’s really hard for some people. If they see there’s an end date to it and we’re transparent about it, telling them to be patient and push through, they’re going to expect they might have to go through a little work to make this happen.”
While she doesn’t stipulate a given number of days, Fatco founder Cassy Burnside concurs that it takes time for aluminum-laden armpits to adapt to natural deodorants. She suggests informing consumers that there is a possibly rocky armpit detox phase can ultimately improve product satisfaction.
“We as people have grown impatient. People buy a new product because they want to do better and use healthier products. Then, they try it for two days, it doesn’t work and they throw it in the trash or store it in the back of their cabinet and never use it again,” says Burnside. “They are impatient and don’t want to go through the hard part, but it’s part of the process.”
Madeline Alcott, co-founder and CEO of vegan subscription box service Petit Vour, finds customer input on the armpit detox process assuages fears over going through it. When she moved away from the clinical-strength deodorant she’d long relied upon, she endured worse body odor than she was accustomed to and armpit redness. She persisted because she believed the transition symptoms would subside, and they did.
“A lot of people say at first it was intense, and then it worked. To me, having testimony really speaks for the detox claim that something is definitely changing,” she says. “As you continue to sweat, toxins are released from your body through a now unblocked channel. After you go through it, your body begins to detox in a natural, healthy way.”
Although consumers are scared of making the move to natural deodorants, Wickes stresses that switch shouldn’t be soft-pedaled. She sets realistic expectations for armpit detoxing and the experience of natural deodorant. “Switching deodorant is totally intimidating,” admits Wickes. “No one wants to smell bad. There are those rare unicorns that can skip deodorant and stay fresh, but these seem to be the same women who can air dry their hair and never wear mascara. When you first stop using conventional deodorant, your body will have clogged sweat glands and pores, and trapped bacteria.”
During the changeover, Wickes recommends a detoxifying soap – she points to one from Soapwalla’s Activated Charcoal & Petitgrain Soap Bar, a product that plays similar roles to Kaia Natural’s Deodorant Booster Bar and Zabana Essentials’ Armpit Detox Bar for natural deodorant converts – and using loofahs and washcloths to scrub armpit areas. “Basically, it really gives the armpit a good clean,” says Edwards of the Armpit Detox Bar. She also advises those detoxing to exfoliate and shave their armpits.
Futher has discovered Kaia Naturals’ customers respond well to the brand’s hot bath soaks to smooth the process of armpit detoxing and neutralize odor generally. “I am really surprised by the interest. People like taking baths and bath bombs are really popular, but that’s for fun, fruity, fragrance-y baths. People are interested in these because of the actives seaweed, turmeric and charcoal,” she says. “Scandinavians have known for years that taking a hot bath or going to a sauna is a way of detoxing.”
Nublume fashioned an Underarm Detox Mask to promote ongoing armpit detox activity. “It has bentonite clay to draw out the toxins, magnesium because most people are deficient in magnesium, and castor oil that stimulates the lymph to move,” explains Landau. “I think it’s really important to make sure the lymph is moving under your arm. It’s helpful to detox when you switch over to natural deodorant and then get your lymph moving on a regular basis.”
For Rebecca So, founder of Sway, a deodorant brand launching this month, an effective detox can result in armpits no longer requiring deodorant at all. “Our deodorant maintains the pH value of your underarm skin and, over time, you will find you are less and less dependent on deodorant and even on my product. I can go for over a week without using my own product,” she says. “That’s why we call it a detox because you get away from chemicals, and get rid of dead skin and bacteria.”
Most natural deodorant brand founders don’t purport application of their products will lessen dependence on deodorant. Instead, they encourage natural deodorants and detox transition products to restore armpits’ natural balance.
“A lot of people aren’t really educated on how our body functions, and it’s OK for us to actually sweat. We are supposed to sweat,” says Edwards. “We have been led to believe that we are supposed to be wearing this antiperspirant that stops sweating like it’s a good thing. They don’t understand the effects that it has on their bodies.”
- Deodorant brands have embraced the concept of detox that’s widely used in diet and nutrition circles. Instead of referring to sugar or caffeine, the brands discuss detoxing from the aluminum that’s in antiperspirants.
- The detox concept in the deodorant segment communicates to consumers that the process of switching from conventional antiperspirants to natural alternatives isn’t easy. Kaia Naturals suggests the transition can take about 30 days and underscores that stretch of time in its 30 Day Detox kit with essentials to smooth that transition.
- Pinning down a specific timeline for armpit detox can keep consumers motivated to go through the process of moving to natural deodorants and confront consumer dissatisfaction in natural deodorants that don’t perform up to conventional standards overnight. It can also spark a sense of accomplishment when the detox period is over.
- Deodorant brands have developed products such as bath soaks and soaps to ease the transition process. These products diversify deodorant brands’ product portfolios and emphasize the detox element of transitioning away from traditional antiperspirants.