What starts out as a harbinger of adolescence—hello Teen Spirit, I see you and I honor you—quickly evolves into one of the stinky secrets of personal care: Most deodorants aren't that great. They're cakey. They stain your white tees. If you aren't into the stuffy smell of talc, you're done for. And perhaps most insulting? Most of them don't work, full stop. Of course, this is fifteen-year-old me talking. Adult me is here to tell you deodorant has come a long way, and honestly—some of them are amazing.
Deodorants should not be confused with antiperspirants, which are formulas which plug sweat cells from secreting any sweat at all. Antiperspirants rely on aluminum salts to block your sweat ducts. While there's no proven link between antiperspirants and breast cancer risk, concerns over the possibility have led some people to avoid them. But even outside of that, sweating is an essential physiological process, and many of us aren't keen to inhibit those. And so, deodorants! Ahead, the very best deodorants with elevated scents, sustainable packaging, and all the odor protection a gal could dream of.
Best Cult Fave
I've always been a sucker for Malin + Goetz, but I never knew that of all their products, this herby deodorant is the bestselling product year after year. The scent is piney but not masculine, and up to the test of a long workout—or a long day/night at your laptop.
Best Drugstore Option
"This deodorant helps mask body odor without causing irritation to the skin. It contains the same types of hydrating ingredients found in traditional moisturizer, making it useful even in people who have sensitive skin," says New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. It's also an easy-to-fine, deeply affordable aluminum-free option.
Best Natural Staple
"This paraben- and aluminum-free stick is made with tapioca starch to absorb sweat, plus coconut oil and shea butter to keep the skin friction-free," says New York City dermatologist Ellen Marmur, founder of MMSkincare. "I love the paper packaging and it also just smells really nice, unlike the spray-on types that make you cough."
Best for Sensitive Skin (and Heavy Sweating)
"Secret's clinical strength formulations are potent enough to keep the heaviest sweaters dry and the sensitive, unscented version is formulated with skincare products and provitamin B5 to prevent irritation. It's the best of both worlds," says Cheri Frey, a dermatologist based in Maryland.
Best Old School Hero
This baking soda formulation works wonders with an aluminum-free formulation that smells kind of like an herbaceous gimlet thanks to cucumber, sage, and ginger extract.
Best Insta Find
This one is included because Gigi Hadid posted about it—not #sponcon—as the natural alternative that worked during her pregnancy, which caused it to sell out instantly. Now it's back in stock, and we have to admit, it's worthy of the hype. No controversial additives, plus naturally occurring probiotics that work over time to combat odor-causing bacteria.
Best Refillable Choice
for $18). Used cartridges are recyclable, and the three scents are equally intoxicating, although I'm slightly partial to fresh coconut, which is more green than cloying.
Least Natural Compromise
As effective—more effective?—than the chem-loaded deodorants I relied on during my long-ago collegiate basketball career, but minus any eyebrow-raising nasties. The zippy scent is also invigorating and affirming.
"This deodorant bar, which you hold with a sustainable wax mold, contains activated charcoal from coconuts, which works to absorb moisture and eliminate odor-causing bacteria," says Vanessa Coppola, a certified nurse practitioner and owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa in New Jersey. "It also contains bentonite volcanic ash clay, known for its moisture and odor absorbing properties, and pH balancing arrow root powder."
Best Long-Lasting Protection
"A lot of natural deodorants make you smell worse as time goes on. This is one of the few clean versions that I have observed does not do that," says Sunitha Posina, a board-certified internist from New York City.
Best to Steal From a Dude
"Finally a deodorant that provides me clinical-strength sweat protection in a gentle non-irritating formula that smells great. It’s nice to have options that complement my natural aura without being too strong," says Birmingham dermatologist Corey L. Hartman.
Best Scents (and Sustainable Packaging)
Jada Pinkett Smith's personal care product line is...excellent! (And plastic-free, with every single bit of packaging 99 percent recyclable or 100 percent biodegradable.) This naturally-derived deodorant is vegan and free of parabens and aluminums, but it's the scents that's really hit. Banana aloe, rosewater ginger or apple matcha? Don't mind if I do.
A clean and earthy-scented formulation housed in biodegradable packaging? 10/10.
Best for Not-Staining
Aloe leaf juice and a combination of natural starches help to neutral odors and sop up moisture, while a zippy blend of essential oil extracts delivers a pleasant perfume that won't stain even the sheerest white tee.
Best Innovative Newcomer
Pre- and probiotics work with your skin's microbiome to minimize the impact of the bacteria that causes funky smells in the first place. As for wetness, fossilized algae and tapioca starch absorb almost on impact.
All I can say about this high-performance option is that I used to use it for a full day at the office, a spin class, and *sometimes* a beer after spin with my best girl, and always smelled fresh and inoffensive. (She co-signs this statement.)
Best for Whole Body
What's cool about this putty-like cream is that you can rub it onto your lower back, inner thighs, or cleavage because...well, sweating isn't just about our underarms, is it?
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Hannah Morrill is a writer and editor based in Portland, Maine. She’s an avid reader, an indifferent face-washer and a sunscreen/retinol evangelist.
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