In my ongoing quest to find a hippie deodorant* that works for me, I came across Routine while browsing the Well.ca site. I’d read the ingredients, read the reviews, and felt that I was probably ready to try something that required smearing with fingers. Being picky about smell, however, I was hesitant to just order one and try it out. So I wavered.
* I stopped using anti-perspirant sometime in highschool, but it was only actually in the last three years or so that I really started seeking out options that didn’t rely on aluminum or zinc oxide. I’d started with Tom’s of Maine which was okay, but annoying to source up here. Then I graduated to Green Beaver Citrus, which had a delightfully cheery scent but sadly felt ineffective. I tried Earth Science’s Tea Tree & Lavender (too much Ti Tree), as well as Nature’s Gate Lemongrass & Clary Sage and… you know? They all kind of felt refreshing and good-smelling when you applied and then… totally non-existent once you started sweating.
Over the past summer, the Calgary-based Routine offered up a sample box (which doesn’t seem to be available via Well anymore, but is still on the Routine site) containing their 11 “flavours” in miniature 5ml-sized pots. Finally! A chance to sample the different formulations, choose a smell that I liked and as a bonus, have mini-containers to take with me while travelling! Win! I ordered one, and a roughly 2.5-inch cube showed up in the mail a short while later.
Something that I hadn’t really understood from the website was that Routine offers three different “formulas” for the base of their deodorant: kaolin clay (bird), kaolin clay + beeswax (wolf) and straight-up beeswax (bee). (The list of ingredients is available here.) Opening the box of samples, I read the ingredients, and took a look at the textures of the different offerings. The two containing beeswax were most solid (and remember: we had a three-month heatwave this summer, so they stayed unmelty in quite warm ambient temperatures!) while the kaolin-only one looked a little runny; like very wet mud.
Next, I sorted the little pots by smell; namely those I wouldn’t mind wearing, and the definite “no”s, which tended to be the ones with a more “masculine” smell. I ended up with 6 contenders, across all three bases. They were:
- Blackberry Betty — a sort of chocolate-smelling beeswax formula (nope, did not detect blackberry)
- Bonita Applebom — a vaguely bubblegum-smelling kaolin + beeswax formula
- Bonnie or Clyde — a bit of a gender-neutral beeswax formula (the website says it’s unscented)
- Maggie’s Citrus Farm — a beeswax base that smells like lemon meringue pie
- Sexy Sadie — a more floral-smelling kaolin-only
- Sweet Jane — a sort of cinnamony, baby powder-y kaolin + beeswax
I will confess right up front that I avoided Sadie for several weeks becasue I was more than a little put off by the runny-mud texture. I started with Jane, which seemed to have the subtlest smell and was generally pretty happy with it. Each pot lasted a little over 2 weeks with daily usage, which I thought was pretty good. If we extrapolate, we can probably assume that the large containers they sell (58ml) would last about half a year. For the smearing, as someone whose nails are usually a little longer than my fingertips, it did take some getting used to, but definitely wasn’t a show-stopper.
In general, I found the following with the three different formulations:
- All of the kaolin formulae have a bit of an earthy “under smell”, if that makes any sense. It comes across a little like baby powder. Not unpleasant, but definitely there. All of the kaolin-based ones also had a slight grittiness to them which I disliked. With that said, I also felt that the clay formulations seemed to absorb a little of the moisture, as well as creating a Shield Of Smell Good, thus resulting in a comfier day overall.
- The straight beeswax formula had my favourite texture, hands-down. As someone intimately familiar with beeswax+olive-oil-based salves (namely in the form of Starfish’s diaper goo) this felt slightly less malleable, but just as soothing to rub in. Definitely it felt the most “moisturizing” of the three. I felt that there was no moisture absorption with the beeswax but the Shield of Smell Pretty was intact.
- The kaolin-only texture was as bad as it looked. In terms of effectiveness once it was on, it was about the same as the kaolin+beeswax but ugh. Really didn’t like dipping my fingers into that after a shower, and it was decidedly goopy to rub in. Needless to say, all the Bird samples were eliminated from my final contender considerations.
Last note: although a lot of people report stinging or sensitivity to baking-powder-based deodorants after shaving, I have to say I’m either very lucky, or these are quite mild, because I had no issues at all, and I tested that particular scenario more than once over the summer months. One sample which wasn’t in the box I ordered, but which seems to be in the one on their website (here) is The Curator, which is not baking-soda based.
In the end, it came down to Sweet Jane (which felt more effective, because of the kaolin’s slightly drying feel) and Maggie’s Citrus Farm (which 1- Citrus, and 2- All-beeswax). I won’t keep you in suspense. The winner was…
In general, I’ve been very happy with my switch, and actually repurposed a couple of the sample jars for taking small amounts of hand cream to work, or in a purse. (As a side-note, the big jar is glass with a metal lid, which appeals greatly to my mason jar-loving heart. Would totally repurpose the jar for my desk stash of hand cream once I’m done with it.) One thing I had been thinking of was maybe using a kaolin+beeswax formula in the summer, and swapping back to my beloved, citrusy Maggie in the colder months? We’ll see how I’m feeling when it starts warming up next year.
That about sums up my Routine experiment. What about all y’all? Thoughts on “natural” deodorants? What are your favourites?