Bath & Body

Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant, and the whole natural deodorant adventure so far

May 30, 2014
Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant ($6.25 for 2.5 fl oz)
Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant ($6.25 for 2.5 fl oz)

Exploring natural deodorants was one of my resolutions for 2014, and I’m currently running low on the second one that I’ve tried so far. The Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant is free of propylene glycol and aluminum, and I picked it out at Whole Foods mostly based on it’s reasonable price tag and pleasant scent without knowing anything else about it (or any of the other options on the shelf, for that matter).

I do want to say a few things about my natural deodorant “journey” so far, though, because one thing that’s important to note is that transitioning to aluminum-free deodorant takes a little bit of time. The aluminum-based compounds that are in traditional antiperspirants physically block sweat glands and prevent sweat from emerging onto skin, and sweat glands tend to compensate by working harder and producing even more sweat. Before using natural deodorants, I would need to switch antiperspirant brands every time I went to buy a new stick because my body would become used to each one in a month or two and whatever brand I was using at the time would become less and less effective.

Thus, when you stop using antiperspirant abruptly and switch to an aluminum-free deodorant, you may feel … sweaty. It takes some time for your sweat glands to get used to the gentler treatment, and with time the overcompensating will let up. Because the first natural deodorant I tried ended up irritating my skin pretty severely, this stick of Desert Essence was really the first one with which I was able to complete the transition process. I felt sweaty for about 10 days before I started to notice things calming down.

I think that the reduction in sweat that I’ve seen over the course of using this is a pretty nice perk of the whole natural deodorant thing. When I was using regular antiperspirants, not only would I need to constantly change brands but I’d also shell out the extra dollars for the “clinical strength” products. I felt like my body’s ability to adapt and one-up the products was out of control, and being able to calm my sweat glands down to this degree by quitting antiperspirant feels like some sort of magical power. Not a very exciting magical power, but a useful one. And it makes me feel like a less gross version of myself, if I’m being honest.

Another perk of using natural deodorant is that I won’t stain my shirts anymore. Those pit stains aren’t caused by sweat, they’re caused by antiperspirants. And if you don’t use one, you won’t stain your shirts! Also, have you noticed how hard it is to scrub regular antiperspirants off skin in the shower? They cling to my skin like crazy and I feel like it’s really difficult to get 100% clean. Then there’s the whole issue of eliminating the daily use of questionable ingredients. While the link between aluminum and cancer (the biggest concern about traditional antiperspirants) isn’t a sure thing, I just got to a point where I was tired of hearing that ingredients in this product I used every day (and didn’t even like!) might build up in my body over the long-term. The switch to natural deodorant seemed like a fairly simple maneuver and an interesting experiment, too.

Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant
Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant

A couple months back when I was standing in the body care aisle at Whole Foods feeling lost, I picked up the Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree Deodorant because it was priced reasonably and smelled amazing. It’s regularly $6.25, and you could certainly scope out a sale to get it for even less. While a lemon tea tree scent theoretically sounds like it might come off as very medicinal, I absolutely love the way this smells.

It has a pretty wet texture, and so if you really want to feel powder-dry then you may find this one unsatisfying, but it doesn’t bother me so much. The scent isn’t overly strong, so I don’t feel like I’m perfumed when I’m wearing it. I’d only smell it if I stick my nose into my pits (that’s how I prefer my deodorant, personally). Antiseptic tea tree oil and witch hazel are the primary odor-eliminators in this, and ingredients like glycerin and aloe help keep skin conditioned.

This deodorant works fairly well for me. For the first 10 days I used it, I definitely detected some stink at the end of the day. After the 2-week mark, I really saw a difference and I wasn’t funky when it was time to get ready for bed and I was just generally a lot more comfortable with how much I sweat. Every time the weather got a bit warmer I’d notice a bit more smell again, but my body would seem to get used to the change in a couple of days and adjust again. One thing I think this deodorant does really well is actually eliminate odor if I do have to re-apply it during the day. It doesn’t just feel like I’m adding some fragrance to my funk, it actually makes me feel pretty clean again. So that’s really helpful, especially during those adjustment periods.

I have experienced  a little bit of irritation in the central area of my armpits, but I think it’s actually caused by my own sweat rather than the deodorant. It appeared as the weather warmed up and only affects a very specific spot, rather than the whole area that I apply the deodorant. I feel like it makes sense that skin may actually need to get used to feeling the sweat after years of not allowing yourself to sweat at all. I just wanted to mention it – I’ve never heard anyone else describe this, so it may just be me … not sure!

I definitely like to wait a good while before making a determination about a product like this, especially considering the time it could take to adjust, but I’m starting to get to the final twists of it and I really did like it. Using a product from Desert Essence felt oddly appropriate recently as I am, in fact, in the desert. We actually just spent a few days in the Phoenix/Tucson area earlier this week and the heat there was absolutely unbelievable – up to 110 degrees. I have tons of respect for those who live in this kind of climate! I feel like I probably did a good thing by adjusting to the deodorant a 6-8 weeks ago in milder weather, and now that I’ve been using it for a while, I survived the trip south perfectly fine. I didn’t find that I had to reapply the deodorant throughout the day at all, and I really didn’t experience a significant increase in odor. There are a lot of other brands I’d like to experiment with, but I’d definitely consider repurchasing this one in the future.

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ ... where it was 108 degrees.
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ … where it was 108 degrees.

Desert Essence products are widely available at natural health stores, and their deodorants are available in Lemon Tea Tree, Tropical Breeze, Spring Fresh, Dry by Nature, Tea Tree and Lavender, and Natural Roll-On (though I only remember my local Whole Foods carrying two or three of these varieties). Desert Essence is certified by Leaping Bunny, they use environmentally sustainable practices, and the deodorant is labeled as non-GMO. I feel pretty good about using it, and it worked pretty well for me.

Do you have any natural deodorants that you like? Is quitting traditional antiperspirant something you’d consider? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. Oooh, I found this really interesting. About 2 or 3 years ago I switched from the Dove deodorants I’d been using for over a decade to a salt crystal deodorant. The salt crystal doesn’t do too much to deodorize, but it does tone down the amount of sweating I do. I also tried the Tom’s of Maine deodorant, which was a little too sticky for my liking, and I wasn’t totally sold on the scent.

    I’ll look for this Desert Essence Lemon Tea Tree one next time I’m at Whole Foods, because it seems like it could be worth a shot. Thanks for doing this review!
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    1. I’ve wondered about the crystal deodorants, it’s such a weird concept. Toms of Maine is actually the next one that I’ll be trying, I found it on sale at a price I had trouble passing up. Let me know what you think about Desert Essence if you end up trying it, or if you find any other great ones! Thanks for reading, I hope you have a great weekend, Terri!

      1. I also thought that salt crystals as a deodorant was weird, but a coworker eventually convinced me otherwise. I hope Toms of Maine works out for you! Have a great weekend, too! 🙂

    1. Interesting! Would love to hear more about that! I’ve seen some not-too-great reviews of Tom’s as well, but they always seem to be written by people who use regular antiperspirants, and Tom’s is not. So I wanted to see for myself – we’ll see how it goes.

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