My two older siblings, who I love very much and who I would voluntarily sniff at length, are huge deodorant whiners. They’re very Goldilocks about their brands, both in perpetual search of a new one while claiming their current one doesn’t work. Then, one day, their complaints gave way to raves — the kind of raves that can only result from a fruitless, life-long search. They’d finally found it.
“I went on a trajectory from big name stuff like Old Spice in high school to ‘natural’ stuff like Tom’s in college, none of which worked for me,” my brother Andy tells me when I ask him to lay out his deodorant history. “Eventually, I fell into a rotation of smaller ‘menswear’ or high-end deodorants: Baxter, Ursa Major, Herban Cowboy, Malin+Goetz, Aesop.” He says they all smelled good but didn’t work and were expensive (Aesop is $35 for a bottle), but he kept using them anyway. “I couldn’t remember not having a vague B.O. smell at the end of the day regardless of what I used. Some people are into that, but it’s not really my thing.”
Then he saw an ad for Native on Instagram.
“It’s the only Instagram ad I’ve intentionally tapped on, and it’s the first deodorant I’ve used in years that straight up works and continues to work after two months of daily use.” He tells me that at the end of the day he doesn’t have a single hint of B.O. “I keep waiting for the day that it stops working as my body gets used to it, but it’s never come.”
(I know this sounds like an ad — but so does he!)
“I’ve never been loyal to a deodorant because I didn’t feel like any of them worked that well for me,” my sister Kelly tells me. She’s newer to Native, but almost as hooked. “I would often switch between Dove, Secret, Mitchum, etc. My only experience with ‘natural’ deodorant was the Malin+Goetz one, which didn’t work.” But when she recently changed her birth control, her body revolted and things got worse. “After Andy forced Native on me, I’ve been letting my body adjust and am definitely noticing a significantly difference.”
Native’s branding touts a paraben-free, aluminum-free formula — but those are selling points I’ve seen before. What makes it different? I spoke to the founder of the company, Moiz Ali, to find out.
“We iterate on our deodorant formula like software companies iterate on software,” he tells me over the phone. “We’re constantly testing new ingredients and new variations of our formula to make it better.”
One of his team’s biggest breakthroughs was the use of a probiotic called acidophilus. “It’s a bacteria that’s found in your gut, and in yogurts like Chobani and Fage. It’s a bacteria that eats stinky odor-causing bacteria under you arm. I don’t think any deodorant company in the world uses it.” They also incorporated what they call “VegiCides,” which are 100% vegetable-derived preservatives that also eat odor-causing bacteria. “The way we’ve been able to make an effective deodorant is by pioneering new ingredients in deodorant and then testing new ones.”
(According to the website, Native contains shea butter, jojoba oil, beeswax, baking soda, vitamin E, vegetable preservatives, acidophilus, probiotics, castor bean oil, stearyl alchohol, fractionated coconut oil and arrowroot powder.)
Ali explains the idea was born when his sister got pregnant and his family decided to switch to aluminum-free deodorant. Aluminum is the ingredient that makes deodorants “antiperspirant,” and its safety is highly contested, with some studies linking it to an increased risk of breast cancer or Alzheimers, and others studies disproving those links. In other words: No one knows for sure. That wasn’t a risk Ali wanted to take, so he started trying tons of natural deodorants. “But none of them were efficacious; None of them actually prevented odors. (Ed note: MR has covered this before!) So I started developing Native just for my family to use.” Soon, friends and colleagues started asking for samples, and a business was born.
I ask Ali about aluminum and Native’s lack of it. “What aluminum does is basically act as a plug to sweat ducts to prevent sweating. We do have a lot of ingredients to absorb wetness, like arrow root powder, so when you sweat, it’s absorbed.” So not prevention, but absorption.
My sister confirms it hasn’t stopped her sweating, but abated it. “I’m wondering now if antiperspirants were confusing my body and triggering more sweat. If this keeps up, I will be so sad that I didn’t find it earlier.”
I tend to roll my eyes at the anxiety perpetuated by the wellness movement and have happily used Old Spice for years as a result, but I can’t help but find my siblings reviews and Ali’s impetus for making Native compelling. “Deodorant is the only product I apply on my body and it’s been on my body for 23 hours and 50 minutes a day since I was 13 years old,” Ali says. “And it will sit on my body almost all day for the next 50 or 60 years. So why risk it?”
They might be onto something. What are your feelings on antiperspirant versus natural? Have you found a deodorant you’re satisfied with?