Au Naturel Deux
The 2021 Renaissance Revival
It's a new year and admittedly very, very, very similar to the last. So if at least the first quarter? third? half? of this year is basically just a continuation of 2020, I feel obliged to also continue on with the search. I cast the net for some of the internet's most listed must-try's and gave three of them two week trial period for each from January 18-February 28, following the recommended wisdom for how long it takes to adjust to a new formula.
Introducing the 2021 lineup!
First impressions: Smells like a good gin. Hendricks, maybe. My partner disagrees. He finds the fir needle scent to be true to form and when comparing the EiR unisex scent to the Secret Essential Oils and Each and Every Citrus Lavender, he is right that I can smell the differences between the formulas. The EiR hits a true unisex scent to me where the scent of pine is rounded out by the kind of warm amber scent one finds in homey candles.
The applicator (as well as the product's ingredients) is 100% natural, compostable, and plastic-free. At first I was a little wary of this kind of packaging. It reminded me too much of paper straws that a number of products that disintegrates like soggy cardboard when exposed the least bit of moisture. It's also small, reminding me of a extra large craft glue stick. Looking at their website, it looks like they used the same applicator design for their natural sun screen, which makes sense for a face, but less sense for an armpit. There's a clear reason why traditional deodorants have an oblong shape designed for minimal swiping.
It's expensive. $22 a pop is steep for a pretty small daily-use product. This is close to designer territory to me. And to be fair, EiR does cater its branding to "holistic luxury" with a commitment towards sustainable practices and playing up its Montauk surf community origins. The packaging it arrived in did have those nice touches of a designer brand, the deodorant nestled in tissue paper and a handwritten postcard with the company's story and mission tucked in beside it.
Finally, there's baking soda in it. I run into at least one or two horror story reviews of irritation from natural deodorants that contain baking soda. Below is one such review for Agent Nateur's N5 deodorant (which I feel no compunction about sharing because they denied my request for a sample):
The Full Experience
TLDR: Despite the steep price, I adored the product. It has made me finally believe in the viability of using natural deodorants full-time (or at least, three seasons of the year).
EiR had a lot to contend with and still got me to fall head over heels for it. The scent really grew on me. Wearing it day to day over the two week trial period, I noticed my body adjust to it and reach a pleasant equilibrium. What I like about scents that are conceived as unisex is that it strips away those highly stereotypical gendered scents of flowery and fruity or musky and woodsy. It's always a lot more tamped down and focused on just smelling good. It also wasn't a cloying scent. After the trauma of the Dove 0% Aluminum, I was relieved when I would pick up a shirt I'd worn for the past four days of post-holiday-covid-numbers-spiking-plus-normal-winter-indoors-entrapment and it didn't reek of the deodorant smell. In fact, to my nose those well worn shirts still smelt "fresh" because the scent complimented my natural scent so well. I would pick up those shirts and felt like they just smelt a little like me.
The first couple of days, anytime I felt a little bit of prickling, I became paranoid that the baking soda burning and itching would begin. But you know, it never did. I was amazed at my fortune. Perhaps I was one of those lucky people who didn't get a bad reaction to baking soda. Or, just as likely, I had EiR's formula to thank. Maybe the combination of "just enough" baking soda and arrowroot, something I hadn't seen in any of the other products, had cracked the code for an effective natural deodorant.
Effectiveness: Granted, I spent the majority of January supine whilst I tested this product. It was pretty damn cold month and spent indoors. 11° and a light routine of part-time work from home isn't really a challenge for any deodorant. I was pleasantly surprised when a heavily layered walk in the park for a couple hours didn't have me peeling away layers to reveal sweaty layers and soaked pits. Perhaps more of a true test was a long, though very brisk shop at Target for our usual quarantine essentials. I didn't remove my coat, foolishly thinking the process wouldn't take long, despite the length of my list. By the time I got home and lay on the couch to recover, I could feel that the product had melted and was congealing a bit under my arms and clinging to my long sleeve shirt. It wasn't the greatest feeling in the world, but I primarily smelt the pine needle scent and not an onslaught of BO, so I called it a win.
I would say the EiR Pitted Deodorant does a top notch job keeping me dry. As bone dry as the aluminumed Secret Essential Oil? No. But post-light indoor workouts, aggressive afternoon naps, and blanket bundled nights, I never woke up sweaty or felt excessively damp.
My only real complaint is that EiR's pitted deodorant has the hand feel of a glue stick and unfortunately, the accompanying feeling of applying a glue stick to your armpit. Plus, as predicted, I needed to rub it all over, multiplying the usual back and forth swipe of a normal deodorant to a furious four swipes to cover my whole armpit, compounded by the fact it was a tacky formula that needed to be dragged over my skin for the product to catch. It did go on dry and stayed in place, which was a marked improvement to the slicking and crumbling off of the Equate and Dove ones respectively. It's a drawback that's given a pass from me by the environmentally friendly packaging and overall effectiveness of the product, however.
After all this, I would strongly consider spending my own money on this product, despite the price tag. It ships direct from NYC and a stan for the company's sustainable practices. Bottom line: it works and I like it, which makes it worth the money.
This one definitely strikes me as being more of boutique brand. For one, there are actually two women founders you can put names to (Lauren and Mikah) and e-mail directly. In the age of faceless mega corporations, I really appreciate that kind of thing. I also like that they have a number of buying options and free shipping. When your product isn't in stores to pop open and sample, it's important for indecisive people like me to have something like a minis option that allows me to sample multiple scents without breaking the bank or to reward die hard fans with bulk savings. Lauren and Mikah were kind enough to offer to send me two full size products so I could get a full experience. I picked what was seemingly their flagship scent (Lavender & Citrus) and the one I kept seeing as a social media favorite (Rose & Vanilla).
First Impressions: Again, unscrewing the lid of the Lavender & Citrus, it's that familiar gin scent, similar to the sharpish citrus essential oil scent from other organic citrus products I've encountered. However, actually on the body, I get more of the softer lavender notes. The Rose & Vanilla smells a little more like roses doused in citronella, which would perhaps be desirable as a natural bug repellent but not exactly what I'd call appealing for something meant to mask my stink. Big applicator and smooth glide which was a nice change from the EiR Pitted Deodorant. Applicator is plastic and sort of ugly, although points for developing an incentivized recycling program and coming up with a new sugar cane packaging. No antiperspirant of any kind with this one due to their "sweating is healthy" philosophy, which I'm circumspect about, but willing to give a try.
The Full Experience
TLDR: Choose your scent wisely. I was very meh about the Lavender & Lemon, but grew to really enjoy the Rose & Vanilla.
Looks like those mini sets might be the way to go because after my somewhat underwhelming, 'it-gets-the-job-done' experience with the Lavender & Lemon, I wasn't expecting to feel significantly different about the Rose & Vanilla scent. But 'lo and behold, that one really worked for me. February my friends and I did a workout streak competition to shape up and prepare our beach bods. While I can't say that this formula would hold up to a summer sweat, it help up to daily home workouts. Again, I could smell myself but both scents were more or less complementing my natural scent. I enjoyed the fact that the nose smell did differentiate from the on-the-body scent, mellowing out the concentrated essential oils. While the Lavender & Lemon gave me the experience pretty much all the other "gin" smelling deodorants did, the Rose & Vanilla actually went the best with my natural scent in that it softened it out without smothering it. And for all my rhapsodizing over the unisex scents, I did like the feminine lilt to this one. Much like how I am delighted to discover a well-appointed French-style powder room attached to a bathroom. It evokes a similar parfum.
The real MVP for me with the Each & Every was the size and feel of the applicator. It's not as pretty to look at, but it gave me the much better experience of a big easy swipe and then done. It still went on slightly damp after a shower and it didn't need to be warmed a bunch like so many of the stiffer natural deodorants do. It does meant there's a little more residue left in the screw top, but it's creamy enough that it doesn't obstruct it much. This one did leave a sticky-ish residue. Noticeable only in the way that compared to a traditional deodorant, you did notice it under there. Plus, this one was another winner for not waking up damp and might have to do with the unique formula.
Price point for efficacy, this might be the natural deodorant I actually spend my money on in future as my aluminum alternative of choice.
First Impressions: This was the first product that smelt exactly as advertised. While I came around to the Rose & Vanilla Each & Every scent, Megababe's Rosy Pits smelt exactly like high quality rose water. I was poised to love the product due to its refreshing scent and non-baking soda formula, which opted instead for a combination of sage, sandalwood, and horsetail plant to combat smelly bacterias. It has a funky, retro design which I enjoyed unveiling from the boutique packaging. And unlike some of the other natural deodorants brands, Megababe actually has an assortment of other scents or deodorant alternatives, as well as other products including no-talc body powders and anti-friction thigh sticks. I went into the trial period thinking this could finally be THE ONE.
The Full Experience
TLDR: Once the bloom left the rose, I was glad to be rid of this deodorant. You won't be satisfied with Megababe's if you've tried other natural deodorants.
Wow, Rosy Pits exemplifies the need to try before you buy. The first couple of days I was in heaven. I felt like I was walking around smelling of literal roses. It was the application feel that planted the first doubts, however. Much like the EiR, it applied like a glue stick and stayed sticky on my skin throughout the day, which was unpleasant after the easy glide of the Each & Every. It was a little easier to put on after a shower steamed up the bathroom or I held the stick towards the heater to soften. But into the second week, when I would go to grab the stick, I noticed there was some sort of condensation leaking out not just from under the cap but from the screw bottom as well. At first I thought it got wet from my face wash or some such but when the stickiness remained on my hands after wiping them down, I realized the product was leaking out of the seams of the applicator. Definitely not an appealing discovery given how humid the summers—and by extension, our bathroom—could be.
I was nearly ready to call it a quits after the first week, but I stuck to the experimental trial and am I glad I did because the product went from not ideal to despised by the end of it. Heading into a second week, I coincidentally jumpstarted my workouts after we got a stationary exercise bike to combat the winter quarantine greys. First off, the Rosy Pits will only work to combat workout stink if you re-apply right before starting to exercise. If you don't, your workout will burn RIGHT THROUGH IT. I'll give it this, the rose scent will rise with your sweat until it fails and that smell will be cloying on clothing. Let me be clear, Rosy Pits will not have you smelling like roses for long. You will stink and you will be sticky.
When I woke up to sweaty, BO-y mornings, it was a wrap and I threw Rosy Pits into the garbage. Not every natural deodorant is going to work for you and I think for a cool $20+ with shipping, it pays to do your research and find reviews where they actually tried the product long term like I did before putting that money down to live that alcohol, paraben, and aluminum free lifestyle.
Overall I was really happy to have the privilege to try these more boutique natural deodorants and get a better price point spread. As I said in Part 1 of this whole saga, natural deodorants are not created equal and every formula has its own quirks. I think what I learned from this whole experience was that for people who absolutely need an alternative due to allergies or skin sensitivity, there are ABSOLUTELY wonderful choices that do work and could quite possibly be a life changing. For those of us simply looking to get away from more chemical-y products, myself included, natural deodorants feel like a more environmentally friendly choice which I could probably commit to three seasons a year. Even with three more natural deodorants in my repertoire, I'm not fully convinced there's one that could keep me dry and fresh during the humid New York summers. But who knows? Maybe I'll find one in my next exploratory batch.