How to Manage Body Odor Without Using Deodorant

By Arabelle Sicardi

There are other ways and reasons to manage body odor that don’t involve deodorant or its sibling, antiperspirant. One of the leading suggestions you can find online is to use essential oil. As a beauty editor and expert, I would warn against that, and mention it with strong reservations. Most people do not dilute the oils properly with an all-important carrier oil and run the risk of making skin irritation worse. Using them can be dangerous despite the idea behind essential oil being a holistic option that is free of ‘scary’ chemicals like phthalates and sulfates. The scare tactics around these ingredients are great marketing, but in reality, even “natural” options are chemical.

There are several kinds of parabens and phthalates that have legitimate reasons for being in products: they act as shelf stabilizers and anti-bacterial agents. They last longer and are generally safer to use than something that will expire in a few days, weeks, or months. As for the promise of an aluminum-free deodorant being better than others, the American Cancer Society has an explainer that walks you through the fact that aluminum, a standard deodorant and antiperspirant ingredient, is likely not a cancer-causing ingredient, and there is no significant research proving otherwise.

If you’re looking for a break from those in-store options, consider other ways of negotiating your body odor, using the ingredients below:

Baking Soda

Baking soda is the main ingredient in many deodorants and antiperspirants if you look closely at any label. You can use it as a paste, or combine it with some of the ingredients below. Keep in mind: this is often considered the main culprit for those mysterious armpit rashes in the first place, because of the high alkaline content involved.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a trending beauty ingredient at the moment, and for good reason. A variety of brands have been using it as a star ingredient in their body odor categories because it’s excellent at detoxifying your skin and balancing the microbiome that creates body odor. So when you use this, you aren’t just masking the scent - you’re eliminating the cause.

Milk of Magnesia

You can pour this into a spray bottle or a roll-on deodorant container and voila: deodorizing D.I.Y. product. Make sure to buy a brand that is simply magnesium hydroxide and water. This simple product is most commonly used as a laxative, and it won’t leave stains.

Magnesium Supplements

There aren’t enough clinical studies (at least of acceptable quality) to suggest that topical application is an effective way of getting magnesium into your system in an effective manner. Still, there is clinical evidence to support that ingested supplements have benefits like helping blood pressure regulation and neuromuscular conduction — stuff that can affect your sweat level but are serious in their own right.

Coconut Oil

Used alone, a little goes a long way, but used in combination with baking soda as a cream? One of the better alternatives, plus you’ll smell great.


Mixing rosemary leaves, which are filled with vitamins like iron, calcium, and B6, with hot water for a bath, will leave you smelling fresher than before. Still, it will also stop bacteria growth on your skin for a while. Rosemary has menthol and chlorophyll that act as deodorizers, and the zinc levels combat body odor as well.

Body Powder

Baking soda combined with powdered arrowroot, kaolin clay, and lavender makes a dusting powder that can absorb your sweat and eliminate the smell of body odor.

Wear Natural Fibers

Synthetics, particularly polyester, trap sweat on the surface and smell worse in the end. Linen and cotton allow perspiration to evaporate.

Your diet: I’m reluctant to tell you anything about your diet because people have different access to food resources, dietary restrictions, etc., but what you eat does impact how you smell. It’s proven that spicy foods, red meat, alcohol, broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) have an impact on how you smell, due to the way they metabolize in your body. If you care to, you can swap them out for citrus, wheatgrass, cardamom, and fiber-rich foods like spinach, if you care. Besides, vegetables are good for you.

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