Is Soap the best Natural Deodorant?

The interest in natural deodorants has dramatically increased in the last few years as consumers worry about what they are putting on their sensitive armpits and scandals such as the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuit just reinforce the fact that we don’t really know what is going into our skincare. This has led to a rash of new products being formulated and a bunch of new brands rushing to market claiming to cut the underarm funk without the chemical junk.

This got us thinking over at UXB. We find that we are noticeably less smelly when we use bar soap under our arms (and anywhere else damp and sweaty) - so could soap be the best natural deodorant? This article discusses what causes body odor (BO), how natural and synthesised deodorants go about combating it and why soap helps reduce sweaty smells.

What is Body Odor?

Body odor is quite simply the smell that is given off when bacteria break down the sweat on your skin. You will notice that body odor is greatest in the dark dank parts of your body such us under your arms and in your groin. This is because the sweat you produce in these areas contains more protein and more and different types of bacteria thrive in these areas. The protein gets broken down into acid and it are these acids that whiff. You also have hair in these regions. These hairs increase the surface area for the acids to sit on increasing the smell.

How do Deodorants Work?

There are two types of deodorants. The first class deodorise by killing the odor-causing bacteria and usually contain a masking fragrance. The second type are antiperspirants that clog up the sweat glands to deprive the bacteria of food.

To kill bacteria the products usually contain an antibacterial (alcohol or magnesium oxide) or modify the pH in some way to make your pits an inhospitable place for bacteria to grow. To stop sweat being expunged, products contain an aluminium salt that mixes with the sweat to produce a gel that covers the entrance of the sweat glands.

How Does Soap Help Reduce Body Odor?

Bacteria love an acidic environment. It makes sense right? They eat sweat and sebum and produce acids. For this reason the surface of the skin is a slightly acidic pH of 5-6. Soap have an alkaline pH of 9-10. It makes sense that rubbing a bar of soap around your armpits and groin are going to make a lot of bacteria very unhappy, in a dead way. Soap also dissolves the fats that the micro-flora feed on, so it’s a win-win.

Using soap to control your underarm bacteria population and their food supply is a sure fire way to keep you smelling fresh as a daisy. It won’t stop you sweating, but it will keep that sweat fresh and undigested.

There is no need to worry that using soap once or twice a day will decimate your skin biome. These little bacteria fellas multiply like crazy and will be back tomorrow ready for round two.

So, for a natural way to keep deodorised we can’t think of a better way to do it than good old fashioned soap. If you can find a bar that smells nice and has a few other skin-loving ingredients then that is a bonus!