Loads of traditional body sprays and antiperspirants line supermarket aisles in plastic packaging and single-use aerosols. The problem with these single-use products, all designed for a fresh odorless day, is we bin them once done. Zero-waste deodorants present an alternative, with plastic-free options, refills, natural ingredients, compostable packaging, and more.
However, a great deodorant is so much more than the packaging. Most of us apply deodorant daily to help keep our natural body odors at bay. As such, the perfect deodorant does a great job of keeping our pits smelling fresh, doesn't irritate the skin, and shuns wasteful packaging.
To help you choose, we've researched and tested the best zero-waste deodorant products. Read on for our recommendations for eco-friendly underarm care.
To save you the scroll, here are our top 3 recommendations of the best zero-waste deodorant alternatives; keep reading for more information on going zero-waste and natural in your deodorant choice and our detailed reviews.
Over 90% of Americans use deodorants2, with the majority coming in either plastic tubes, roll-ons, or aluminum cans. Most of us get through at least 3-4 a year, meaning we discard something like a billion deodorant packages annually.
Whereas we can recycle most roll-ons, it's not always as straightforward as it might seem - Because many manufacturers mix different types of plastic in deodorant containers (think the outer tube and the ball), recycling requires separation. Most of us don't end up taking our end-of-life deodorant containers apart to separate the plastics and maximize their recyclability. Therefore, they end up incinerated or in a landfill.
Similarly, we can recycle aerosol cans; however, extracting metals from the earth, turning them into cans, and then doing so again is certainly not environmentally friendly when we have better zero-waste deodorant options.
We should note the difference between antiperspirants and natural deodorants. Antiperspirants generally prevent the body from sweating, including aluminum chloralhydrate, which clogs our sweat glands.
Research from the scientific community has pointed to the potential link between antiperspirant use and breast and other cancers. However, more recent studies have found insufficient evidence for any direct causality4. Whereas the research indicates minimal risk, we have a choice of applying metal extracts to our pits or going natural.
Other chemicals such as parabens, DEA, TEA, stearates, propylene glycol, and triclosan also make it into our traditional deodorants and are shunned by zero-waste deodorant. Whereas scientific evidence as to the human health impacts of these chemicals can vary, a study by Mintel found that more than a third of UK users were exploring natural deodorant choices, with 20% using the traditional variety less due to health concerns7.
By contrast, you'll find many inventive, economical, pleasant-smelling zero waste deodorant choices. These alternatives win out because they use natural ingredients such as coconut and essential oils for moisture and comfortable all-day wear.
To help ensure fresh all-day wear, many zero-waste brands swap out aluminum for baking soda or magnesium as the active ingredient. However, it is important to note that these products don't prevent us from sweating in the same way as antiperspirants; instead, the ingredients reduce bacteria and the smell they cause when they get busy in our armpits turning sweat into odor. Others mask those nasty smells with natural fragrances.
We've been trying out various zero-waste deodorants for the last few weeks, and they work great! There's no doubt that it's a bit of a different feel and that antiperspirants stop sweat effectively. However, faced with the choice of chemical-laden options in polluting packaging versus natural ingredients in zero-waste packaging, we're confident you'll find an excellent choice that is better for the environment and suitable for you.
Finally, if those weren't enough good reasons to switch to zero waste deodorants, using deodorant in aerosol cans also pollutes the atmosphere. VOCs have become the primary propellant used in aerosols, majorly replacing the even worse chlorofluorocarbons due to the Montreal Protocol in 1987.
The national centre for atmospheric science found that aerosols now emit more volatile organic compounds into the air than cars6.
Researchers have shown that VOCs cause air pollution and smog and can negatively impact human health8. Whereas the VOCs come from various sources, simply choose zero waste deodorant from our list below rather than reaching for that can of spray can help improve the air quality in your home1.
We love a good brand story. Bearing the owner's name, Jamie Schmidt first blended natural ingredients from plants and minerals in her kitchen in 2010 to find the perfect zero-waste deodorant recipe that worked.
This award-winning jar, packed with natural ingredients, will keep you odor-free for 24 hours. They enclose a small spatula with the order you use to take a pea-sized portion of deodorant cream and warm it with your fingers before applying it. It tested non-greasy and non-sticky.
This zero waste deodorant cream has been around a while with loads of excellent reviews; however, it's not quite perfectly zero waste with a plastic lid, and the brand further loses a few points as elsewhere in their range, they promote sticks with plastic casings.
Award-winning (Cosmo, Glamour, and more)
Full ingredient transparency with smart label
Can be messy to apply
Baking soda can cause skin reactions for some people (try a little at a time at first)
Only the glass jars are zero waste (their sticks are plastic), and this product does have a recyclable plastic lid, so not perfectly so
A purchase no longer supports a small business, as Unilever acquired Schmidts in 2017.
Since we first wrote this guide to zero-waste deodorant in 2020, many innovators have entered the market, and Fussy looks set to define the refillable deodorant segment. We can certainly get behind their compelling mission of banning single-use plastic from the bathroom.
Fussy's deodorant works by initially buying an aesthetically pleasing case in various bright and neutral colors and then subscribing to refills. Refills come in multiple refreshing scent options, from minty to citrusy, and feature limited editions from time to time.
Refills make all the difference here as an important part of the 4Rs. Excellent overall sustainability however, you'll still end up using a plastic case at the end of the day.
Glamour magazine (UK) recently named them the best eco-friendly deodorant
Less baking soda than your average natural deodorant
Probiotics for effectiveness
Subscriptions send refills regularly, so you don't have to worry about running out
88% of reviewers rated fussy excellent on Trustpilot
Case is plastic, but it's not single-use, so only a slight downside
Case a bit large for travel and easy stashing in purses and handbags
Some users note it can leave greasy stains on clothes
UK-based company, so whereas they do ship to the US, delivery will take a little longer
Scented with lavender and vanilla, the stick glides on just like a roll-on. Ethique zero waste deodorant sticks last twice as long as a similar-sized roll-on format, which means you also further save on shipping and packaging, or the equivalent of 2 100ml plastic bottles.
Ethique has chosen natural magnesium and zinc to combat the bacteria that cause our sweat to smell. And uniquely in our recommendations, couple these with bamboo powder, which absorbs moisture and helps reduce wetness.
We love Ethique and have also featured them in our recommendations for zero-waste hand soaps, lotions, and shampoo bars. Ethique, a New Zealand company, was founded intentionally to create eco-friendly self-care products and has become known for the quality of its zero-waste & sustainable goods. As they are fond of saying, to date, they believe they have curtailed the use of over eight million single-use plastic items. And that in itself makes them worth a look.
One of the best range of clearly stated and transparent sustainability credentials, and with recent product improvements (it used to be a deodorant bar), this is certainly one of the best solid low-waste deodorants from a company genuinely doing good for people and the planet.
92% of users recommend it for effectiveness
Improved tube packaging with a push-up applicator makes it easier to use
Ethique is one of the best for transparency, and 100% plastic-free
Also available to buy direct on Ethique
Wild is on a mission to redefine deodorant and seemingly have that very much in hand. What really stands them apart from other refill deodorant brands is their striking aluminum cases that you purchase once and then refill.
Wild also has a great range of scents; we enjoyed the coconut and vanilla most. Our male tester loved the sandalwood and patchouli scent, which smells rich, and musky, tho female shoppers, might like it too!
Wild has gone all out on sustainability, carefully considering each aspect of the packaging and product use of their zero-waste deodorant, including bamboo pulp instead of paper, and recently launched an end-of-life scheme with Terracycle.
Over 10K 5-star reviews, people love their wild "deodorants for life."
Smell fresh with a dermatologically approved formula that lasts all-day
30-day money-back guarantee in case it doesn't work out
You can personalize your metal tin with an 8-character long engraved text
TerraCycle end-of-life scheme for cases that end up broken or no longer required
UK based, so shipping to the US takes a short time at a small additional cost
Some users noted can leave white stains on clothes
End of the refill is hard to use as it remains in the bottom of the case (tho they're working on this!)
Alternatively, both humankind, and myro, offer similar buy-the-case-once and refill options in the US.
Nuud is new in our list of best zero-waste deodorant brands for 2022. Taking a different approach, Nuud uses micro silver as its primary ingredient that prevents bacteria build-up that causes sweat to start to smell (it doesn't happen naturally without bacteria).
A big win for this new breed of deodorant, and patented formula, is that one application lasts for as long as seven days and at least two. Due to the concentration of the product, you only need a small amount. That means that using a bioplastic tube not only means less waste, but you'll also use a lot less of it, further reducing the product's impact.
What's more, it is odorless and won't stain your clothes. However, it's also a bit different from standard deodorants in that it can take a little while for the bacteria build-up to reduce and the product to become effective.
Unique bacteria-beating approach to long-lasting odor-free pits
Lasting effects even after showering or exercise
Bioplastic packaging, still plastic, but better
Doesn't clog pores
Loads of raving fans leaving 5-star reviews
The lid is regular plastic, but the brand is believably seeking a better option
Can take a while to become fully effective
Fragrance free, so it doesn't mask smells in pits of clothes that may already have them
Appears not to be effective for some people sometimes (but then we're all different).
Stick up makes this unisex plastic-free & plant-based zero-waste deodorant stick, scented with white lavender in the form of a three-ounce stick, that will last about 3-4 months with regular use. Other natural scent options include matcha, black rogue (intriguing!), and white coconut.
Primal life organics has chosen to make this zero-waste stick with magnesium instead of baking soda, which can impact the body's normal pH and cause a rash.
They make each zero plastic order by hand and have swapped out beeswax for candelilla wax recently, as the bees have enough to worry about. Their black formulas come infused with charcoal which helps absorb moisture and attract toxins away, reducing odor.
30-day guarantee so you can try it out stress-free
98% of reviewers would recommend it
Black formulas require massaging into skin until the color disappears to avoid staining clothes (easy to forget!)
Lacking transparency statements and certifications
This small, sustainable package makes for an excellent baking soda-free version scented with beautiful natural jasmine and honeysuckle fragrance. It requires only one or two swipes under the arm to be effective. - A star seller on Etsy, nearly 50,000 purchasers can't be wrong.
Sandra, this Etsy store owner, has been handmaking her excellently reviewed items in Georgia, US, since 2014. Their recently improved formula lasts longer for more people, even after sweaty gym sessions. Further, since we first featured this zero-waste deodorant, they've introduced a push-up tube for easier applications.
Each purchase supports a small local business in the US
Loads of scent options
Can pair your purchase with a great range of scented soaps and other skin care products, all sustainably made with natural ingredients
Meow Meow Tweet developed this lavender-scented formula, which comes in a 2.4-ounce glass jar with a metal lid, to go on smoothly with a creamy texture. You only need a pea-sized amount to rub gently into each armpit until the substance is thoroughly blended, providing a full day of odor protection. The product is handcrafted in the US in small batches.
Alongside these lovely zero-waste deodorant jars, numerous scents for you to choose from include tea tree, grapefruit, and eucalyptus.
All products are available in larger bulk sizes to further reduce the impact of packaging and shipping, and you can request a return label to send back your empties (bulk lines only)
Excellent transparency covering their sustainability and ethics initiatives on their website.
Loads of reviewers noted it as one of the best zero waste deodorants they've tried
Or available direct from Meow Meow Tweet
A husband and wife team produces this all-natural zero waste deodorant in Kentucky, US. Best used on clean, dry underarms, and, when not in use, you should store it in a cool, dry location. It ships from Eugene, Oregon, and has no shipping charge on any order of $35 or more.
Another small batch husband and wife team, Jenn and Laith, founded their zero-waste personal care business with a passion for all-natural personal care goods.
These handmade zero-waste deodorants are available in multiple scents, including peppermint and bergamot, bergamot and vanilla, lemongrass and clove, orange and cedarwood, rosemary and cedarwood, orange and bergamot, and vanilla and ylang-ylang - you're bound to find a scented bar you'll love.
With the increasing demand for more eco-friendly and zero-waste products, as our awareness of the environmental degradation our consumerism creates has grown, numerous brands have jumped on the bandwagon.
Some make bold claims but dig a little deeper, and their eco creds start to look more like greenwashing than genuine environmental care and responsibility.
To select our list of the best zero-waste deodorants, we considered five dimensions:
Packaging: Reusable, and/or compostable plastic-free packaging.
Ingredients: Avoid harmful chemicals and be transparent about what's in the jar or tube, ideally using certified organic ingredients. Palm oil is free and not tested on animals. Use natural rather than synthetic fragrances or none at all.
Sustainability and ethics: We looked for brands that go beyond a product tick box exercise, producing their goods in fair labor conditions, offsetting carbon emissions from online delivery, and doing their bit for communities and the environment at a corporate level (e.g., supporting good causes or planting trees to offset carbon emissions)
Certifications: Where available, we looked for brands that have third-party certifications as to their eco-friendliness or ethics. Common marks for sustainable shopping include vegan, cruelty-free, and climate friendliness.
However, we're also a fan of championing smaller producers that might not be big enough to go through the rigor of certification. As such, we have also featured those we found transparently supporting eco-friendly and ethical production values.
General: Finally, we reviewed how the products perform the essential task you need from a good deodorant - lasting, smelling good, and keeping away odors throughout a busy day.
To do so, we tested these deodorants for a few days and scoured loads of online reviews, so you don't have to, to arrive at our best recommendations.
Unlike your standard deodorant, typically in an aerosol can or roll-on, zero-waste deodorants come in different formats. These include jars or tins of creams and lotions, bars, paper tubes with a solid "push-up" deodorant inside (a bit like a lip balm), and newer and more innovative refill products.
Whereas it comes down to preference, we've prepared a summary of each type of sustainable deodorant to help you choose.
Creams in jars or tins: convenient sizing and easy recycling, just like a standard glass bottle. However, the application can prove a little messier as you'll need to use your fingers or an applicator.
Paper tubes: Handily sized for stashing in bags and so on. However, they can also get stuck, and if the solid deodorant inside is not warm or soft enough, the application can feel scratchy.
Also, cardboard tubes are not the best with water, and their structure can deteriorate over time if not stored carefully. Tubes make an excellent choice for 100% plastic-free deodorants.
Bars: Just like your regular hand soap, bars are applied directly to the skin, and the contents have a similar solid yet pliable feel to the deodorant formats in paper tubes.
Bars, too, can get a little messy and are less portable unless you have a case or wrap them in beeswax paper or similar. Ethique, who we've featured since we first wrote this article several years ago, recently replaced its bar format with tubes.
Refills: Refill companies have come to the fore in the last few years, most operating with a simple model where you buy the container once and order refills that slot into it when finished.
These are great as arguably the best of both worlds. However, they can also tend to be larger and may not be best for conveniently carrying in your backpack or purse.
Sweating is a normal bodily function performed to help keep us cool and process some of our bodies' waste. You might not realize, however, that our sweat does not actually smell! Instead, the perfectly normal bacteria on our skin feed on our sweat and produce the smell we associate with body odor.
Whereas aluminum in many traditional deodorant products blocks our pores from secreting sweat and thereby works to prevent perspiration and smell, zero waste and natural deodorants shun the use of metal in favor of organic ingredients and natural minerals.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is known for absorbing smells, and you'll find it in many natural and low-waste deodorant products. Loads of people that have switched to natural deodorant products using baking soda swear by its effectiveness.
However, baking soda can irritate sensitive skin resulting in rashes, redness, and other irritations no one wants to experience under their armpits.
If you have sensitive skin, you're probably best to go for a baking soda-free option like Ethique or Nuud. If unsure, try a smaller amount of natural products first for a few days and see how you get on.
We're all different, and the different formulas you'll find in the recommendations listed blend various ingredients to create long-lasting fresh smelling pits throughout the day.
Popular active ingredients include zinc oxide and magnesium oxide, which already occur naturally, and you can find them in some foods in small amounts. Our choices are nasty chemical free.
Researchers have found that zinc oxide can act as an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent, effectively combatting the bacteria that cause underarm smells3. Similarly, magnesium oxide has proven to be an effective deodorizer5.
Meanwhile, other brands, generally as a part of their lines, opt to include activated charcoal. Because charcoal is porous, it can help absorb impurities, excess moisture, and oils on the skin.
Used in deodorants, the addition of charcoal helps absorb odor-causing bacteria and is a natural antibacterial. However, the downside is its dark color can put people off; despite these deodorant brands' bests efforts to prevent staining, it is more likely to than white creams.
Further, other eco-friendly companies we've listed, like Nuud, use tiny amounts of silver to help prevent odor-causing bacteria from building up while leaving the body to sweat naturally.
Overall we can conclude from our research and tests that some of the natural formulas we've listed work better for some people than others. Additionally, it can take a while to adjust to some of these approaches, sometimes over a few weeks, before your natural deodorant choice becomes most effective.
As such, we recommend trailing a product or two with different formulas before settling on the perfect choice for your skin, how much you sweat and how active you are.
It sure does! However, it works differently from your traditional antiperspirant, which prevents sweating. Natural deodorant brands choose minerals and plant-based organic ingredients over metals and synthetics. These work by preventing naturally occurring bacteria on our bodies, making our sweat smell. With various formulations of zero-waste products on the market and approaches, we've found that testing out which works best for your unique skin and sweat patterns is the best way to find your perfect natural deodorant alternative.
Most zero-waste brands opt for natural ingredients, which means they don't produce antiperspirants. However, we can find some of the more prominent brands making strides to improve the eco-friendliness of their mainstream antiperspirant products. For example, Old Spice does a refill kit, and Secret also used to do one, which they discontinued in March 2022. However, based on our research, we couldn't find a completely plastic-free antiperspirant.
Without wanting to dodge the question in our research, we found that the choice of deodorants that actually work best comes down to how well a formula suits your skin type, how much you sweat, and how well it deals with the bacteria on your skin that produces body odor. As we're all different, the best bet is to try a few options and see how they work for you, mindful you have to give most of them a little time to work effectively.
DIY cosmetics fans will find the most common ingredients used in natural deodorants readily available. Some of the best options above started with kitchen endeavors to find a better natural solution to the chemical-laden options on the market. You can experiment with blends of baking soda, organic essential oils, and a binding agent like corn starch, clay, or beeswax. A quick search online will also offer up some easy-to-follow recipes for beauty products, including deodorants. However, you'll most likely find that creating a really great deodorant that works is best left to the professionals unless you fancy lots of trial and error.
Innovative companies and individuals in the zero-plastic and waste-free movement are devoting themselves to steering our society away from its dependence on plastic and questionable chemical compounds.
Check out their zero-waste deodorant creations, give them a try, and offer them some support. Each, in its own way, shows that we don't need to choose mass-produced products complete with their single-use packaging.
Tsai, W. (2019). An overview of health hazards of volatile organic compounds regulated as indoor air pollutants. Reviews on Environmental Health, 34(1), 81-89. https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2018-0046
U.S. population: Usage of deodorants / anti-perspirants from 2011 to 2024. Statista, Jun 23, 2022
Siddiqi, K.S., ur Rahman, A., Tajuddin et al. Properties of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles and Their Activity Against Microbes. Nanoscale Res Lett 13, 141 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11671-018-2532-3
Bull, Lauren MD; Langner, Shannon MD. Does the use of antiperspirants increase the risk of breast cancer?. Evidence-Based Practice: June 2019 - Volume 22 - Issue 6 - p 23-24
Analysis of body odor generation mechanism and countermeasures (2) Development of new deodorant powder and application to antiperspirants, Masatsugu Miyazaki, Kenichiro Fujihira, Emi Teika, Naoki Nishikawa, Ryo Chika, Keikichi Sugiyama. https://doi.org/10.5107/sccj.37.3_202
Amber M. Yeoman, Alastair C. Lewis; Global emissions of VOCs from compressed aerosol products. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 21 January 2021; 9 (1): 00177. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.2020.20.00177
UK Soap, Bath and Shower Products Market Report 2021, Mintel, Emilia Greenslade, 2021
Soni, V., Singh, P., Shree, V., Goel, V. (2018). Effects of VOCs on Human Health. In: Sharma, N., Agarwal, A., Eastwood, P., Gupta, T., Singh, A. (eds) Air Pollution and Control. Energy, Environment, and Sustainability. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-7185-0_8
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.