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Trial + Error the hard way: Sustainable Deodorant

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Trial + Error the hard way: Sustainable Deodorant

Here's the longest story ever about the worst experiment that I ever tried. 

In April 2019, Earth Day hits and I am about as excited as a I can get. I see my toddler get this excited regularly about, like, a cookie, and I wish that I could be that happy about anything these days, especially with Covid-19 and the daily grind of parenting and maintaining a house and working and pulling it all together. But - it was Earth Day - and, finally... I could talk about environmental stuff on social media and not really be that weird.

I had already decided that I was into this whole zero waste thing. I had solidly dedicated a lot of procrastination minutes to watching youtube videos and reading blogs about people in Europe being so much more advanced in this department. I had always loved anything environmental and considered myself to be a bit of a nerd about it. But I was really going to get into it and make 2019 the year. And I really did. It was fun, I just did it slowly and as I used something up, I did an annoying amount of research into what I should actually be spending my money on, and then tried that. Mostly everything worked out pretty fast. But of course deodorant had to be the exception. I can't actually think of another thing that could have been worse to take the amount of time testing it out as this did. I really took this one on the chin, but had to make it seem like it wasn't really a big deal, because I have this husband that is a bit of a butt when he wants you to be wrong and I really want to be the butt that's right. I was such a stinky butt.

I also feel I should mention that I teach dance. I am sort of athletic, sort of. In like, I feel competitive with the kids in my dance class because I'm getting old and try really hard, but I don't regularly do split jumps outside of dance class, so I sweat a lot when I teach. A lot a lot. Like I'm always wearing black a lot. So it's not like I could just smell up my own home during my experiment. I will never know if the teenagers I taught noticed, but I definitely did.

So! I ran out of my last Tom's of Maine deodorant. I had previously switched to "natural" deodorant because you know, chemicals and sweat lodging in armpits and travelling to your brain and coming out of your ears, etc. There are a lot of reasons, but you should read about that elsewhere because this is not a scientific blog whatsoever. I think the big thing was cancer correlation for me, and it pushed me to ditch the Lady Speedstick a little while ago.

I had been sharing my adventures online since Earth Day 2019 when I had a pretty great reaction from my family and friends. I made so many connections with people and learned so much just because I put myself out there. So, I decided to just see what my group knew in this area. I posted about my dwindling Tom's supply and asked for suggestions on a natural deodorant that didn't carry this big plastic chunk along to house the product. While I got several suggestions and recommendations and testimonials, I didn't find anything that fit the criteria I was trying to get into like I really wanted to - local (at least Canadian!), not packaged in a bunch of plastic, natural (and when I say that, I mean it passes Environmental Working Group standards and doesn't have suspect ingredients like 'fragrance' in it), and.... effectiveness. Not all in one. Actually, I didn't get any non-plastic suggestions at that time and the most popular suggestion was American.

So, I pulled up my favourite website at the time,, and looked up some deodorant. Sadly, no reviews on the stuff coming in glass containers. Not mainstream enough yet. I had to try it out. 

My trial of a round of three different glass pot deodorants was horrific. I had to re-take Instagram and ask for help. A pal suggested putting a charcoal paste on my armpits to help them 'detox.' I did this. It turns out that this charcoal mask is now another essential in my bathroom now, because anybody can make a mask out of it for anything. Your face, your pits, your weird bug bite? It works. But it didn't help these deodorants be any more successful when I really needed them to be. And my husband's little annoying smiles were really pushing me to not quit this, either. 

I didn't realize until another friend mentioned the issue that I was breastfeeding at the time of trying to do this. The hormone waves and dumps involved with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding cause huge changes in sweat and odor. However, if we can't even eat feta cheese when we're pregnant, and the natural stuff isn't doing it for us, what are we to do? Use our husband's intense deodorant, and feel guilty about it, I guess, or face feeling stinky and sweaty? I decided to stock something else in my store that can help a girl out during these times - a detox bar for your pits (and where ever else it is needed, like your bra band line or even your back in the summer time). When I was trying my detox, I could read about this online but find nowhere that would ship it to me in Ontario. Use this No Tox Life bar to help you make the transition (if the armpit mask is a little out of your time frame), or throughout pregnancy and nursing to help a girl out.  

From here, I decided to try one more with my next order - Routine. They are Canadian, a company owned by two women (a small business!), and there was some solid sustainability to the brand and packaging. I did not have high hopes. I was impressed from the depths of not having any hopes and smelling like a bit of an old tomato. But, I tried out Lucy in the Sky, and I have not looked back. I even tried to save some money at one point and switched brands, and while this new option worked for a couple weeks, I just got stanky (with a whiff of lavender) again. 

I find for myself, that I use it when I get up, and sometimes before bed. I haven't needed to apply it before teaching dance in the evening, something I always had to do with natural deodorant, plastic or not. I'm sure there's a whole group of people reading this thinking that they don't need to apply their Lady Speedstick or Dove before bed, but I hope they wonder why, in the nicest of ways. I find that the scent of Routine, whichever type of tried, is awesome. I am now super sensitive to synthetic fragrances, and so to have something natural not smell like a health food store is so great for my thirty-something old-dance-teacher self esteem! 

I am really excited to hopefully provide some other like-minded guys and gals with this product, something I really stand behind, and something I honestly feel like I fought for with my womanhood and dignity. It was a tough time but I am happy to also say that I've seen Routine pop up at more places in the last year or so and so really, hopefully no one ever needs to do this weird experiment again. 

I have popped some faves into the shop and hope that when this Covid nightmare is over that I can do refills. Of course this whole small business thing is really nerve-wracking right now, like, will I ever make it to that point? But, that's my goal, if my little community gets into it, and I will always be a refiller myself. I was able to make it down to Nu Grocery in Ottawa in February this year while in town for a work thing, and was so excited to see I saved quite a lot of money on a refill, about $8.00. This makes my new deodorant tendencies cost me about $10 a month because my Routine lasts me about two and a half months. And to know that I'm supporting a business that should be supported, and treating my body the best I can, and not creating a ton of waste? That's the kind of toddler-excitement that I can get into these days. 

If you have any questions about Routine, please let me know! Always happy to be your enviro-nerd :)

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  • Hey Samantha!

    Usually if you find irritation in the armpit from a natural deo, it is the result of too high a baking soda content in that formula. It is so common! It might be worth a try to test out the baking soda free options. Come on in to refill your deo if you want to avoid the packaging completely (or check out a refillery nearby if you’re not local :) to do so), that’s frustrating you ended up with plastic in your lid.

  • I recently discovered Routine, and it seemed to be working well for a couple of months, but then it started making me itchy :(. Also, mine came with a plastic lid, not a metal one – purchased in Jan 2023. My search continues…I’m currently using the unscented, cardboard tube Attitude deodorant. It’s ok, doesn’t work quite as well as the Routine did for odour, but at least it isn’t irritating.

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