The (Arm) Pitfalls of Running: Finding Stink (and Cruelty) Free Green Options

Let’s talk about smelling bad for a minute.

Exercise in general makes you stink. That’s just a fact, and no one wants to be the smelly potato-salad-whiff kid. Like, ever.

In my quest for vegan, cruelty-free and eco-friendly solutions to all of life’s challenges, deodorant and antiperspirant has been a continuous holy grail. The things that work (that store brand ultra-ultra super-duper stink prevention chemical-laden antiperspirant) are often filled with scary ingredients, tested on animals, bad for the environment and not something you want to rub on your bod.

Sam and I have adopted a trial and error approach. Both of us are obsessive about being clean and smelling good. Particularly as a gym teacher who runs around all day, Sam is adamant that he need something that works (and as a Fundraising and Development Director, smelling bad does not help my job either).

Here at Ecology Runner, we have a “do what you can handle” approach to ecology, diet, exercise and green living in general. I know there are many who adopt an all-or-nothing stance but frankly, it’s just not always practical, and I figure as long as we are making a concerted effort that is what’s important. Life is about learning as you go, not being perfect.

So without further ado, in order of least effective to most, here is what we’ve tried:

1. Homemade Natural Deodorant


First, and most natural (no chemicals, parabens, aluminum and toxic ingredients), homemade deodorant is simple to make, and fun. Combine equal parts (start with ¼ cup each) cornstarch, coconut oil and baking soda. This will be a sandy/gritty mix. Then add 25-30 drops of essential oil of your choice (woodsy, strong, and musky scents seem to cover or sort of “blend” with body smells).

Once you have the recipe mixed together you simply smear it on and go. This works…okay. It leaves a bit of residue (which comes off clothes pretty easily) and it doesn’t really absorb into your skin like commercial brands. The upside is that it’s cheap, you can make lots of it and store it in a jar, you will never run out and you know the ingredients. If you aren’t a big sweater, it works and is the greenest option.

2. Natural vegan deodorants


Got a mini of this for my purse at Madison’s Veg Fest last year
Got this one from Petit Vour when I used to subscribe
This one came from Conscious Box, which I also subscribed to
Um, okay honestly? These all smell great. I’m a sucker for lavender, and two of them were very lavender-y and the other one was yummy smelling too. If you don’t mind a little sweatpit/underarm circle action now and again, any of these will probably work fine.

The NorthCoasts Organics Death by Lavender had the cutest label, and I found it at the Mad City Vegan Fest (which is a super fun event in Madison)! It was purse-size which was awesome, because I was looking for something I could use after my lunchtime walks and on sweaty days.

It worked okay. I like that it’s in a stick. It smells fantastic. It was a little sticky, but it was great for those days when I get to work and realize that I forgot to apply deodorant that morning.

Schmidt’s Lavender Sage also smells amazing. I used to subscribe to Petit Vour (before we went on our big savings plan, and cut out a lot of extras), and I honestly really liked this one. It’s a tad rough and gritty when it goes on, and you apply it with your fingers….which took a little getting used to. This stuff was more highly scented (in a good way), and I could definitely smell it during the day. It didn’t absorb quickly, which was a big deal. I did start to have a little erm…”B.O.” after working out, and was definitely sweaty. The scent covered it, but not completely.

Piper Wei Natural Deodorant came in my Conscious Box. I like that it contains activated charcoal, which did seem to be pretty helpful in terms of absorbing “smell”. It didn’t have a strong scent, but it was pleasant. I definitely had some shirt-sweatpit going on, but almost no smell even after working out! It’s still an “apply with your fingers” type, which is not for everyone, of course.

3. Tom’s of Maine

Both Sam and I have used Toms of Maine, and I find that it’s the most widely available, easy-to-find brand of antiperspirant and deodorant that still falls into the “somewhat natural, eco-friendly and cruelty-free“ category.

Here’s the deal, though—Tom’s of Maine has been owned by Colgate-Palmolive since 2006. So….yeah, obviously not a totally cruelty-free or eco-friendly company. Remember what I said above about doing what you can, and as much as you can, and then trying to “zen” the rest? Well, compared to other brands you might buy, Tom’s of Maine, itself, is at least a brand that has a commitment to natural ingredients, a strong history of giving back, and of using green practices in their manufacturing such as offsetting their energy usage and using recycled components in their package. Is it perfect? No, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. Showing support for companies that offer “greener” products is a way to encourage their eco-friendly practices and brand options. So there are upsides and downsides to it.

For something such as deodorant and antiperspirant, there are times when you have to do what you can tolerate and live with. Tom’s of Maine is one of the best, most conventional-type products out there, it’s easy to find and it works well…HOWEVER…

4. Certain Dri

Never fear, because Certain Dri is here! For those of us that are profuse sweaters, and are embarrassed by the sweat rings and smell, particularly when we are very active there is…dahdahdah: Certain Dri. This stuff works. It’s easy to find at most pharmacies and grocery stores. It has basically no scent.

The odd part is that you put it on at night, before bed. It’s a little unconventional, and we were both pretty skeptical at first, but it goes strong for at least 24 hours. If you are not sold, you can put a little deodorant on in the morning just to offset any anxiety and voila…sweat free.

I work out at night (usually) and I never have to re-apply. Sam is active all day, and nothing. This stuff is pretty great. It does contain aluminum, but I have pretty sensitive skin and have had no reaction. If aluminum (which is pretty much every commercial brand) doesn’t concern or bother you, then this stuff is pretty amazing. As a company they are committed to being cruelty-free and vegan. There’s not a lot of background on their parent company (Numark Laboratories), and their commitment on environmental policy available online, but they are rated on the Environmental Working Group scale as having a low overall hazard.

So in conclusion…is there a perfect solution for the eco-athlete who sweats? Well, no, but there are definitely options that will keep you from smelling bad and actually make you smell pretty great. Sweat happens, and the good news is that eating less meat will make your sweat less “smelly” (for real, I swear) and is good for the planet. Even if you aren’t ready to go “that green”, there are quite a few natural options that are good, and will balance out your sweatiness with a little basic hygiene (wash your pits, yo).

Good luck, everyone! Let me know what you guys have found for “green” deodorant options! How do you stay sweat free?