Natural Foods Merchandiser
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Secret Shopper: What to look for when choosing a natural deodorant

This month, Natural Foods Merchandiser's secret shopper visited an integrative pharmacy in the Southwest to test its staff's knowledge on clean deodorant options.

NFMI want to find a natural deodorant that works. What should I look for when choosing one?

Store: The first thing to know is that natural deodorants won’t stop you from sweating. They are not antiperspirants, but they can cover up stink. Be prepared, though: It often takes up to two weeks for your body to get used to them, and some work better for some people than others, depending on body chemistry.

NFM: Ah, so there is some trial and error involved. OK, well, I see that many of these have essentials oils. Are those mainly for masking body odor?

Store: Some are. Others, like tea tree oil, are antifungals, so those are good to have in a deodorant. We often hear from customers that they prefer the unscented natural deodorants over the scented ones, because they think that extra scent is unnecessary.

NFM: Baking soda also seems to be a common ingredient. And shea butter …

Store: Baking soda is a very common odor neutralizer; shea butter is a moisturizer. Both are good.

How did this retailer do?

Our expert educator: Jolene Hart, certified health coach, founder of Beauty Is Wellness and author of the Eat Pretty book series

This retailer did a great job of leading with key info that sometimes catches natural deodorant newbies by surprise. I’d also tell shoppers that baking soda, one of the most widely used active ingredients in natural deodorant, is commonly sensitizing to the skin. Sometimes a baking soda reaction, usually an itchy red rash, isn’t immediate but develops after months of deodorant use. Retailers can ask shoppers if they know whether they are sensitive to it. If they say yes, point them toward baking soda–free formulas that use ingredients like magnesium, arrowroot, cornstarch, clays or even charcoal to absorb odor and moisture instead.

The retailer also mentioned tea tree essential oil, which, like rosemary, lavender and grapefruit essential oils, can help eliminate smelly bacteria. These oils also preserve the deodorant formula and add scent.

When speaking with shoppers looking to try a new deodorant, be upfront about your store’s return policy, just in case the formula they choose doesn’t work well for their skin pH (the “body chemistry” this retailer mentioned). The goal is to help each customer find a natural deodorant that works for her unique body—one she will buy again and again—and makes her feel like the end result (underarm freshness sans toxins) was worth the effort.

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