Spicy garbage. Hot death. Essence of onion. These are just some of the colourful terms I’ve used to describe my body odour since having babies.
I expected mom life to be a little on the smelly side, what with the dirty diapers and spit-up and all. What I didn’t expect was the most offensive stink to be my own. But between the hormones, sleepless nights, stress and baby-wipe sponge baths (we’ve all done it, right?), I am definitely more ripe than I’ve ever been in my life.
And, much to my annoyance, my certain je ne c’est quoi has lingered well beyond the newborn phase, when a shower was a luxury. My kids are in daycare and kindergarten, I bathe regularly and I have yet to find a deodorant that can keep up with my spice. At least I know I’m not alone, since finding a deodorant that works is one of the hottest topics in my Facebook mom groups, natural deodorants are all the rage among influencers, and #armpitdetox has four million views on TikTok alone.
Welcome to motherhood! You stink now. The culprit is hormonal changes in pregnancy that can continue postpartum, says Toronto dermatologist Julia Carroll. The composition of your sweat changes during pregnancy, and may never change back to its exact pre-baby composition, Carroll explains. “Based on my practice, and chatting with fellow moms, I would say it's quite common."
Stick it to your mom stink with a good deodorant (which masks odour but doesn’t block sweat) or antiperspirant (which reduces the amount you sweat, thanks to a key ingredient: aluminum). If sweating is your main issue, opt for a traditional antiperspirant, Carroll says. But if your main issue is odour, not wetness, you can try a more “natural” product or deodorant to mask it.
First of all, there’s no such thing as a natural antiperspirant. A natural deodorant tends to use essential oils and natural antibacterial ingredients to hide odour and reduce bacteria, Carroll says. But “natural” is simply a marketing term. “Traditional antiperspirants are perfectly safe and can be used worry-free,” says Carroll. “Moms have enough to worry about without stressing over deodorant or antiperspirants.”
There has been a growing demand for more natural ingredients in deodorants. While there is no evidence that the aluminum in antiperspirants causes breast cancer (which is a common but unfounded worry), many people still find the idea of a natural deodorant more appealing. Some feel like the armpit should be allowed to “breathe” and that sweat is a natural function that shouldn’t be blocked.
If you’re interested in hopping on the natural-deodorant bandwagon, here are five highly rated ones to try. It will likely take some time and trial and error to find the option that works best for your budget, your body and your stink.
Native is one of the most popular natural deodorants, and for good reason. It goes on smooth, has a light scent that fans say lasts all day and it’s readily available in most drugstores. And hopefully its plastic-free, responsibly sourced paperboard packaging will be available in Canada soon. $19, shoppersdrugmart.ca
Main ingredients: coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda, tapioca starch, probiotics.
Also popular in my crunchier-mom Facebook groups is Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant, which is an inexpensive, great-smelling unisex option that you can sometimes even find at Costco. Some find the baking soda a little irritating, though, so if you have sensitive skin, you may want to avoid. $16, well.ca
Main ingredients: arrowroot powder, baking soda, coconut oil, shea butter.
Routine is all the rage in my “natural mama” Facebook groups, my circle of friends and my book club. It smells sweet and fresh and has fun names like “Cat Lady,” “Dirty Hipster” and “Like a Boss.” It’s also available in a baking soda–free formula for sensitive skin. Bonus: It’s Canadian. $28, routinecream.com
Main ingredients: coconut oil, magnesium hydroxide, cornstarch, essential oils.
Dove introduced an aluminum-free version of its popular deodorant in 2019, and it has topped several beauty editors’ lists since. If your main concern is simply to be aluminum-free, this (or another aluminum-free mainstream brand) is probably the “natural” deodorant for you. $9, shoppersdrugmart.ca
Main ingredients: dipropylene glycol, water, glycerin, propylene glycol, fragrance.
The name alone endears this one to us, but the reviews are positive, too. Undercarriage can be used anywhere on the body (hence the name) and it’s handmade in Canada. It’s also cruelty-free and comes in “No BS” (no baking soda) formulas. $24, undercarriagedeodorant.com
Main ingredients: arrowroot powder, coconut oil, baking soda, beeswax, essential oils.