A few years ago, MIT alum Rachel Peterson reached out to me for advice about starting her own beauty brand.
She had previously led the same dance squad I was a part of at MIT, after graduation worked at Tesla while cheering professionally for the 49ers, and was now back in Boston, getting her MBA at Harvard.
So yeah, I had heard of her.
Flash forward to 2015, and when we reconnected, she told me she was working a natural deodorant, Native.
When I found out what she was up to, it took about 10 seconds for me to order my own Native deodorant. A month later, here’s what I have to say about it:
The Science Behind Native
Before I dig into my experience with Native, I want to first introduce you to what Native is, the problem it fixes, and what it’s made of.
Pulled from their site:
Native has just 14 ingredients, and they’re all right there for you to read. That’s it. Pretty clean, huh?
So why all the fuss?
The concept is simple: In recent years, deodorant ingredients have been linked to increased incidence of breast cancer. So instead of applying heavy metals daily to absorb into the sensitive skin near your breasts, Native instead takes a more natural approach and applies probiotics and natural oils to the area, to help contain stinky bad bacteria and leave you with a fresh, light scent.
Or, as Native says, in answer to “why is aluminum bad for you?”:
The short answer is that no one really knows how harmful aluminum is to your body. Some studies have linked aluminum to terrible maladies, including breast cancer, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s. That’s why deodorant that contains aluminum tells you to consult a doctor if you have kidney disease. We created Native Deodorant because deodorant is applied daily to a sensitive area of your body, and we wanted a safe and healthy alternative as compared to the existing options.
As for WHY aluminum is in our modern deodorants in the first place:
Anti-perspirant prevents you from sweating. That is, the aluminum contained in anti-perspirant acts as a plug on your body’s sweat ducts and prevents you from sweating and releasing other toxins. Deodorant works by eliminating and absorbing the moisture and odors associated with sweat.
Yeah.. aluminum sounds pretty yucky after all. I think I’ll pass.
As for critiques, I would say that the baking soda is not necessarily the best addition. Conventionally baking soda can be used to control odors, but it’s not the best choice for skin. Baking soda is extremely acidic and can disrupt the skin mantle (source) and repeated use can build up over time. But that’s just baking soda by itself, used in pure form. As long as the product in is in range of 5.5-7.0 pH, you’ll be okay.
I think that’s all you really need to know with this deodorant. Native chucks out the cancer-causing agents and bring on the natural alternatives.
Onto the review!
First Impressions: Native Deodorant
Before I had ever tried Native, I was already sold on the concept. For a few years I had been thinking about switching to a natural deodorant, but every one I tried wasn’t strong enough for my stinky man-pits (thanks mom and dad).
Buying was easy: $12 for a stick (not bad!!), comes in 6 gender-neutral scents, and includes free shipping.
The packaging, like the site, was decidedly unisex. No frills about it.
I ordered the lavender & rose scent; it was heavenly.
I swiped it on (easy to do, thanks to the jojoba oil, shea butter and coconut oil based) and off I went! Day 1 of testing had begun.
Wear & Tear: Native Deodorant
Surprisingly, Days 1-7 with Native were very effective. I thought I might have some *yucky* adjustments to go through, since the Native site said it takes 2 weeks for our bodies to purge itself of the heavy metals and other chemicals that traditional deodorants contain.
But nope, no issues here. Switching was easy.
Then came the second week.
Lots of holiday stress, too much coffee, packing and repacking, international flights, buses, trains, taxis and long layovers all left me a VERY sweaty human being.
It was tough to stay strong.
I reverted back to my original deodorant only once (stupid, I know!! I know) during the 30 hours it took me to get from my parent’s house in the rural backwoods of Greene County, Indiana to my apartment deep in Shenzhen’s factory district.
Yes, I gave in. I broke down. The stress of the trip did me in. I was so tired that I couldn’t bear to be stinky, too.
Once I was back in China, it was a breeze to use Native again.
It’s about 65 degrees here, so my sweat is mild. However, on the one or two days that it’s ticked to 80 degrees (yes, in January), I’ve had to reapply Native and even a few times use some spray on deodorant (but not an anti-perspirant).
I will say that once you break through Native’s threshold and your “natural scent” starts to poke through, it is a VERY natural (read: stinky) smell. I will be very happy when they have a travel size, so I can take it with me everywhere I go and reapply in case of emergency. Because BOY do I expect some issues next month when I go to Thailand! 90 degree weather, here I and my natural deodorant come!
Believe me, though, I am still using Native daily. I’ve permanently switched and am never, ever going back.
Heavy metals can kiss my butt!
Takeaways: Native Deodorant
Overall, I would say Native is an amazing, affordable deodorant alternative for the average person with average stank levels. The baking soda in the formulation can make it less of a rockstar product, especially for those with very sensitive skin.
For me, a higher-than-average-stank person, whose natural body odor rivals most males, the “24 hour protection” guarantee only panned out in cold weather. Once I started exercising, sweating more than average, or once the weather ticked above 70 degrees, it was time to reapply.
That being said, in those conditions I have to apply Native 2-3x a day, which is on-par (for me) with regular deodorant. So it’s competitive with the industry standard.
Don’t let this blog be the end all be all for your deodorant research. I’ve barely scratched the surface here.
I would encourage to start looking deeper at the products you use (and the products you eat!), and continue asking questions until you feel satisfied with the answers. Something that we use daily, like deodorant, can have a large, compounded effect. Our daily choices really do matter.
Be kind to your body. It’s the only one you have to live in!