With natural deodorant being part of the breaking news cycle in the last few months, people who never thought about the health of their pits are paying more attention to products that stop the stink without compromising their health. It’s a significant shift, as natural deo can be a gateway for consumers into cleaner, safer personal care products. To shed some light on the appeal of natural deodorant to the mainstream beauty industry, we chatted with Tara Pelletier, co-founder of OA brand Meow Meow Tweet.
Meow Meow Tweet has been at the forefront of numerous aspects of the clean, ethical beauty movement, from ingredient sourcing to sustainable packaging. But a major piece of what makes the line stand out is its attention to products that care for your underarms in a way that most of us only care for the skin on our faces. Tara opens up about the importance of underarm health, why a natural deo detox isn’t necessary and what’s new for MMT this spring, in our Brand Spotlight.
Natural deo has been in the news lots lately. Why is underarm health important?
I think there are a few different reasons that natural deodorant is such a hot topic for the beauty industry. More and more folks are becoming concerned about what’s in their conventional personal care products and want to move toward natural options. Using a natural deodorant is a big step, because you’re cutting out a daily application of aluminum compounds that are present in antiperspirants.
I also think that customers are asking for more transparency from the companies they buy from. They want a full disclosure of ingredients and to actually understand what the ingredients are! When you’re avoiding things like “fragrance” or “parfum,” this disclosure is super important.
Finally, I think deodorant is the hardest natural product switch to make. Part of this has to do with the stigma around sweating and natural body odor. New users have to get used to underarm sweat—there’s no way around it, you can’t have an aluminum free deodorant that stops sweat. Also, as a society we’ve decided that natural body odor is bad, so the other challenge is finding something that takes care of that odor. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another which is why there are so many deodorant options on the market.
How hard is it to switch? How does your body respond and is there a detox period we should be pushing through?
As I mentioned above, one of the hardest adjustments is getting used to having underarm sweat. A simple solution is to wear shirts that are looser fitting and made of natural fibers.
I don’t believe in the detox period. The deodorant you choose should work for you right away. That being said, I think it’s difficult for new natural deodorant users to understand that whatever they eat, their exercise habits and even their stress levels all impact their body chemistry—which then changes the efficacy of their deodorant.
Ever have the nervous sweats? Bad body odor when you’re menstruating? Being in tune with our bodies is tough when we are used to conventional products that function differently. I often tell customers that I like to switch between two different formulas depending on what’s going on with my body. I use our baking soda free formula daily and I use our classic soda-based cream when I’m really hormonal or feeling a lot of stress. I personally love working with my body in that way—I feel really tapped into something deeper, like I’m collaborating with my products. I think the natural beauty industry is closely related to the wellness industry and so a holistic approach to our personal care makes a lot of sense.
What ingredients does your deo have that help stop B.O.? What makes them effective?
We have a two-fold approach to formulating our deo for efficacy. First, we use ingredients that make the underarm area inhospitable for bacteria to thrive in, like pH-adjusting baking soda or dietary magnesium and antibacterial essential oils. Secondly, we think about skin health in general. When you’re using deodorants with aluminum compounds in them, you’re plugging up the skin instead of helping it to be healthier and more efficient. The moisturizing butters and oils condition the skin, creating healthier cellular structure so that the skin can function as it should- meaning regulate body temperature and release waste.
Are there scents or ingredients that work better than others?
All scents definitely DON’T work for everyone… but I don’t think there are some scents that are better than others. I think a lot of it is personal preference and body chemistry. This would be an amazing clinical study! As I mentioned above, I don’t think there is a detox or trial period. I think you should be able to find something that works right away.
Tell us about your Underarm Primer. How does that support underarm health and how does it help combat stink?
The Underarm Primer is a funny product. I like to describe it as a makeup primer and a toner for your armpit. It balances, soothes and boosts. Toning witch hazel balances the skin’s pH to help avoid sensitivity that is often triggered by the skin’s acidity combining with alkaline deodorant products. This is one of the main causes of baking soda irritation, and it’s important to be proactive, not reactive. So when you get the slightest tingle of irritation, switch to a baking soda free option or prime those pits!
The Primer also conditions, moisturizes and soothes delicate underarm skin after shaving or an ordinary day of irritating underarm friction caused by physical activity and tight shirt fabrics. It’s also antibacterial itself with tamanu oil and tea tree, so it can act alone to help stave off odor (not as well as deodorant!) or it can give your deodorant a little boost if you’re having a stressful day.
The Underarm Primer is not a necessary product for everyone. You can get similar benefits by moisturizing and toning your underarms with products you already have! We just wanted to create something really intentional for folks that are transitioning to natural deodorant or have trouble with underarm sensitivity.
I think one of the best things you can do for your underarms to help with the transition to natural deodorant is exfoliate them once per week and moisturize them. If you think about how much product you put on them daily, while also scraping them with a piece of metal or ripping at them with hot wax to remove hair… they could use a little TLC. The skin is so sensitive and barely sees the light of day. Take care of those pits!
You’re at the forefront of the sustainable packaging movement, and these incredible cardboard deo tubes are part of that. Why is it important and what makes your packaging different?
That’s really nice of you to say, I’m so crazy about our paper tubes! And there’s so much more that we have planned to make our packaging footprint smarter and more sustainable. Jeff (my co-founder) and I had been wanting to launch a stick deodorant for years but the plastic sticks didn’t jive with our company’s ethos. The argument for plastic is that it’s recyclable… the argument against it is sitting in our oceans and landfills because only about 10 percent of plastic is actually recycled! Americans will use close to one billion sticks of deodorant in a year. That’s a lot of plastic tubes.
We worked with a great paper tube company out of Chicago to develop our sticks. The cost, development and education to our customers has been one of the biggest challenges to our business. The paper tubes are hand constructed, so they’re super expensive. Also, it’s been hard to scale up production because there isn’t filling machinery that works with them (because they’re all made for plastic tubes!).
At this point, the process of making the deodorant sticks in the paper tubes involves pouring each single tube by hand and capping each single tube by hand. Since the process of producing the stick cannot be mechanized (yet), our labor costs are very high. If more companies start to use the tube, the corresponding costs will hopefully go down as manufacturers develop the proper machinery. Hopefully more companies will jump on this paper tube party!
What’s your favorite MMT deo scent? And new ones in the works?
Hm… sneak peek but my favorites are the two new ones we developed for this summer. One is Rose Geranium and the other is Cedar Spruce. The Cedar Spruce will be limited edition and the Rose Geranium has been in the wings for a while. They’re both sooo good. Both baking soda free and in our stick form.
Want more info about how OA brands are changing the industry? Check out our latest Trend Report.
This post has been edited for clarity and conciseness.