Allergic Skin Reactions to Natural Deodorants Such as Tom's of Maine, Schmidt's, and More
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
I have been seeing SO many patients with allergic skin reactions to natural deodorants.
I don’t know when “natural” deodorants became so popular, but they are. I checked out my local Whole Foods, and there was an entire row containing just one brand of deodorant with 20 different versions of natural fragrances.
Your underarms don't need to smell like lily of the valley. When shopping for deodorants, opt for one that doesn't contain added fragrance
I’ll admit, they sounded fantastic, but here’s the thing: adding fragrance to a deodorant does not make it work any better. You may like that your underarms smell like a tropical garden, but these fragrance additives don’t necessarily function any better at removing odor.
What these added fragrances do is make you far more likely to develop an allergic skin reaction.
It doesn't matter what brand they're from. Whether it's large brands such as Tom's of Maine and Schmidt's, or smaller boutique brands, those added fragrances can be an issue. It doesn’t matter whether a fragrance is all-natural or synthetic: both types can trigger allergic contact dermatitis. In fact, some types of natural fragrances, such as orange oil, citronella oil, or ylang-ylang oil, are known for being more likely to trigger allergic skin reactions.
Using deodorant with fragrance after shaving may result in red, itchy rashes days later
For women especially, using fragrances in the underarm area can be a problem. That’s because many women shave their underarms, and some apply deodorant after shaving in the shower.
Why would that be a problem?
It’s because when you’re shaving, you create tiny cracks in the skin barrier. Then, when you apply a product on top of those tiny cracks, your immune system is more likely to “see” it. And then your immune system is more likely to perceive it as a threat and start reacting against it. And that’s when you develop allergic skin reactions. Many of my patients haven’t suspected their deodorant as the cause of their underarm skin rashes precisely because it IS “all-natural.”
Then there’s the fact that allergic skin reactions don’t occur right away. It’s not as though you put the deodorant on and your skin starts to burn. Instead, it takes 2 to 3 days after exposure to a trigger before the rash appears. And once the rash is there, it can take up to eight weeks to go away.
For more information about allergic reactions in the underarm area, you can see my handout here, which also lists some of the deodorants that I recommend for those with sensitive skin.