I grew up in New Jersey in the 80’s. Puberty meant slathering myself with Neutrogena Body Oil while using Nair to deforest my legs and Sun-In to frost my hair. Then I’d walk through a cloud of Anais Anais and spray a Chernobyl cloud of Aqua Net on my puffed up hair in case my lungs thought they were getting a pass for the day. The fact that I didn’t blow up our bathroom, sending shards of dusty rose porcelain tiles raining down into our kidney-bean-shaped swimming pool, is a modern-day miracle.
I was all about transforming my very human and totally satisfactory body into some imagined semblance of Molly Ringwald perfection.
Somewhere in the midst of all that self-grooming, my mother walked into my bedroom with a bottle of roll-on antiperspirant. She was giving me a neon pink sign. Apparently, no amount of perfumed, alcohol-laced beauty products was going to keep puberty at bay.
Let the record show, I’m not saying I stink more than average. At least my friends, boyfriends, college roommates, husband, and children have never told me so. So I’m taking them at their word, or lack thereof. I just stink like a normal person.
Thankfully, over the years my beauty routine has been pared down. No more Anais Anais or Aqua Net, and I traded in the Nair for a good old Daisy razor, the neon pink roll-on antiperspirant to a more modest Dove (because who doesn’t love their ads?). By the time I was in my 30’s I started to think a little bit more about what products meant for my body. Having children did that to me. I switched to an Aveda salon for twice yearly highlights when I got pregnant, cut down on sugar, read labels for ingredients instead of calories, and got rid of aerosol everything. (You’re welcome, ozone layer.)
Now that my firstborn has started to work up his own man-stink, I’ve begun to reconsider that puberty rite of passage, antiperspirant and deodorant. What in the world am I putting on his body? I won’t buy him Goldfish on a regular basis but I’m okay with daily aluminum on his otherwise perfect armpits? His younger sisters are waiting at the estrogen station to get on the puberty train any day now. What about those little balls of fleshy perfection?
Because, really, he doesn’t smell that bad. So I checked with a girlfriend, the one who composts and recycles everything, who only buys organic, and uses reusable beeswax wrap instead of plastic. (#IHaveNoIdea)
“What do you do for the puberty stink?”
And she told me.
Primal Pit Paste, Tom’s of Maine, or just soap. So I chose early summer as the perfect time to give it a trial run myself. I recommend the aluminum-free journey, but be forewarned that everywhere on any “natural” deodorant website, they’ll tell you the bad news. Those first few weeks of natural pits are a disaster of scent.
Apparently aluminum has been clogging your sweat ducts for 25 years. I can picture the sophomore year gym stank jammed all the way up there next to my cancer-free boobs, layered like a wedding cake with every sweat and stink situation I’ve encountered since 1985. When you stop plugging the ducts, that stuff comes oozing out like a Roald Dahl snozzcumber.
It doesn’t look like boogers, and it hardly even appears that there’s much actual sweat, but the smell. Whoo-eee. Fierce.
After about two weeks, I texted my friend.
“Still stink. How much longer?”
She replied within seconds. “Soon. You know you’re going to smell like a human, right?”
It hadn’t occurred to me. Seriously.
You can slather your armpits with all the deodorant soap and lavender-lemongrass pit paste in the world, but in the end, you will smell like a human. You are supposed to smell like a human, for obvious reasons. Or at least not like a robot version of imagined Molly Ringwald. (Who by the way, probably went to live in France as an exile specifically because she wanted to stop jamming aluminum up her ducts.)
Eight weeks later, I’m pretty much over the snozzcumber hump. I don’t smell too bad. In fact, I mostly smell like nothing. Also, my white shirts and blouses don’t get those nasty yellow pit stains on them anymore, which, I have to say, may be inspiration enough to stop putting random chemicals on one’s recently mowed and absolutely vulnerable pits. I may sweat a bit extra at my next mammogram, but then again, maybe I’ll sweat a tad less.
It’s time now for me to role model for my kids that it’s good to be clean, but it’s also okay to be natural, that my body is a (quickly aging) house for my soul that deserves a little more TLC and a little less Al. (Al n. 1. The scientific abbreviation for Aluminum, just in case all that Nair inhibited your ability to learn the periodic chart in 10th grade chemistry.)
Our journey into aluminum-free adulthood can be a stinky road to travel, but I’ve arrived at the destination and I heartily recommend it. Better health for you, your boobs, your pits, and most importantly, those sweaty, hair-covered lumps you call your pubescent kids. Go natural. In eight weeks you’ll thank me.