A rediscovered post from last August, when i was travelling:
Those who know me won’t be surprised by the true confession that i don’t use deodorant. Apart from a brief stint in my impressionable teens, when my parents tried to convence me that deodorant is the very glue that holds civil society together, i could never get past the idea that smearing or spraying chemical gunk on a fairly permeable area of one’s skin was a smart thing to do. I also didn’t buy that human odour was necessarily offensive to we creatures who have been smelling it, presumably, since we dropped from the trees.
Sure, there’s a point at which. But given basic hygiene, the occasional shower and the odd load of laundry, we should be able to put up with each other au naturel, no?
However, it has been a long, hot summer. And i’ve been travelling by Greyhound bus, spending much time in close proximity with strangers And i’m living out of a small backpack, with just three shirts to my name, in hostels and other accomm’s with limited laundry facilities. Sometimes — i admit it — i stink.
Last week i decided to see what i could do about it, and went into a drugstore while my clothes were drying in the laundromat, to check out … gulp … the deodorant aisle. There were dozens of products, arrayed in colourful packaging along multiple feet of shelves, that one could roll, wipe or spray on, in tantalizing scents from none through floral or spicy straight into industrial. They all cost in the $3-4 range, except for the frightening “extra strength” products, which were up around $8. But a quick check of the ingredients list was sobering. Here’s the formula for Old Spice Classic Antiperspirant & Deodorant Stick (from this link):
Active ingredient: aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly (16%) (anhydrous)
Inactive ingredients: cyclopentasiloxane, stearyl alcohol, talc, dimethicone, hydrogenated castor oil, fragrance, polyethylene, silica, dipropylene glycol, behenyl alcohol
Gak! I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds like stuff I want to smear on my skin on a regular basis, never mind wash all that crap down the drain into the water system (an aspect of product use we don’t generally think about).
A quick Google search for “toxic deodorant ingredients” yields a thousand reasons to stay away from all of the above.
But the invisible hand of the market being the thoroughgoing extremity it is, there’s usually a “green” alternative to most everything these days. Exploring further on the drugstore shelves, i noticed a small “natural” deodorant section, with about half a dozen choices. I finally settled on one that is, basically, just a stick of salt — not table salt (sodium chloride) but ammonium alum, a mineral salt. The chemical name for its lone ingredient is aluminium ammonium sulfate — something i can actually pronounce — and its chemical formula is [Al(NH4)](SO4)2 (Wikipedia entry for chem nerds).
What you do is wet the top of the salt stick with water, then rub it on your pits, kind of like you might season a turkey. You’ve gotta do the scarecrow thing with your arms for a minute until it dries, but then … protected!
Did it work? Bearing in mind that i have no baseline to compare it to, yes. Pretty well. Nobody ever moved to another seat in disgust. I’ve still got the stick, and use it before any potentially high-stress, nervewracking situation. Although my first line of defense against such annoyances is to avoid them in the first place.