Just like falling in love: natural deodorant edition
by Elize Manoukian
Smell might be a “social construct,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. What I mean of course is how our preference for some, and aversion to others interact with our lived experience. We all desire to smell good, whether that’s a smell that speaks to our own desires or someone else’s.
In the pursuit of the “smell of success,” I’ve made more than my fair share of trips down the deodorant aisle of the drug store trying to find the one. More often than not, I’ve cracked under the pressure of having too many options, and just grabbed men’s deodorant in a fit of uncertainty (another benefit of men’s deodorant: being able to enjoy the smell of a man, without having to actually go near one).
Out of the readily available drug store brands, I’ve found that products targeting men have more deodorant options, while women’s brands are nearly all antiperspirants, in which aluminum is the most active ingredient. Alongside this heavy metal is a cornucopia of chemicals synthesized to plug your pores, trick your sweat glands, and leave you drier than a desert on a summer’s day. But do any of these actually belong in your armpit?
Common additives to our skincare routines like phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde were designed to increase shelf-life and maximize profit, not to make the products we use any safer. So why do we keep buying them? I’ve tried every deodorant under the sun--natural and made of who knows what-- and I still haven’t evolved into the sparkling, ethereal, and odorless being that I apparently should be. Consider that the average American woman uses at least 12 beauty products daily, less than 20% of which have been assessed for safety at all. It’s possible our routines are exposing us to a banal, yet significant health risk, all while feeding into toxic notions of what beauty is and what we have to ignore to get it.
The most common-sense solution is to only use known-to-be-safe ingredients in products that come into contact with humans, period. On the deodorant front, how hard could that be: finding deodorant made of all natural ingredients, which lasts longer than 5 minutes, and that isn’t tested on gerbils? It’s actually really hard. While writing this, I realized I have been wearing deodorant for 15 years, and have been extremely dissatisfied with most products I’ve tried. Is there anyone out there who really loves their deodorant?
Kind of like falling in love, finding the right deodorant is equal parts fragrance, body chemistry, and compatibility. When I received the Nairian Lavender Deodorant for my birthday (as part of a gift basket, so I’m trying not to take it personally), everything changed. I look forward to putting it on everyday, as weird as that sounds. I love the spray application, which helps the product go on evenly, and makes me feel like I’m putting on natural, lavender scented perfume. I love that it stands up to morning and evening runs with my dog, and that it doesn’t clash with my body’s natural scent. And I love that it has 6 ingredients, 2 of which are locally grown on the Nairian farm.
Even if love was invented to sell antiperspirant, I still want to believe it’s real. The best kind is the one that looks inward, and loves the reality of your body, no matter how smelly, or imperfect.
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Elize Manoukian is a writer and DIY facial aficionado who currently lives in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. She believes that a small brand is like a family. And for her, Nairian represents the tightly-knit diasporan community that raised her in California. Because she is so close to the action, Elize often visits the Nairian eco-farm, where she takes part in rose harvests, interviews lab and agricultural workers, and unlocks the secrets of Nairian's production. Her favorite product is the Lavender Deodorant.