We Put 5 Natural Deodorants To The Test—Here’s How They Held Up

There’s a nasty little rumor floating around out there that natural deodorants just plain, well, stink. Anyone who tells you otherwise? They haven’t gotten a whiff of their pits lately.

No one wants to smell—even in the name of going natural—but just how much truth is there to the rumors? Is it so impossible that we might be able to keep our pits chemical-free without offending other people’s senses? Five of our bravest Health Enthusiasts volunteered their underarms in the name of giving natural deodorant a fair trial—and the results are in.

Nubian Heritage 24-Hour All-Natural Deodorant in Indian Hemp and HaItIan Vetiver

Tested by What’s Good associate editor Lauren Del Turco

“I have been a longtime lover of my Dove Go Fresh Cool Essentials. It keeps my underarms dry, even when it’s absurdly hot out (and I’m a sweaty person), plus it smells like squeaky-clean cucumbers. The Nubian Heritage deodorant felt a little wet and gloppy going on, but it had a light and pleasant scent. My pits felt a little stickier than usual when I was outside in the summer heat, but otherwise I didn’t really notice a difference throughout my normal day.

The real test would be wearing this stuff to the gym, so I wore the deodorant for my usual morning strength-training session. I was dripping more than usual from my underarms, but I still didn’t feel self-conscious about how I smelled, which was a huge win. (Other natural deodorants I’ve tried have all failed the gym test.) I felt confident in this stuff, so I decided to do something bold: I wore it to hot yoga. I sweat everywhere, but was surprisingly stank-free! Seriously impressed.

I also really loved that this deodorant didn’t leave a hard-to-get-off residue on my armpits that I’d have to ferociously scrub away in the shower. I’m not sure if I really love the scent of this one enough to use it every day, but I plan on trying out another scent from this brand now that the experiment is over.”

Related: I Stretched For 30 Days With The Goal Of Touching My Toes—Here’s How It Went

Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant in Lavender + Sage

Tested by What’s Good video producer and editor Jennifer Pena

“I’ve been using Secret Powder Fresh solid for years because it’s the only one that hasn’t let me down in the stank department.  I perspire a lot under my arms, especially when it’s hot and humid out or when I work out.

In comparison to my usual product, I was really surprised at how well the Schmidt’s natural deodorant held up while I slept and throughout my day-to-day stuff. Because the deodorant went on so nice and light—and I’m extremely skeptical about natural deodorants—I kept reapplying it just to be sure.  But it survived all sorts of outfits, busy days at work, and long walks outside. The lavender made me feel really fresh—major bonus!

The big test was an outdoor workout on a very hot summer day. Honestly, I’m not sure how well any deodorant could handle those conditions. I definitely had some stink pouring out of me, so I’ll probably stick to my Secret before workouts.”

Schmidt’s Deodorant in Bergamot + Lime

Tested by Head of Content and Customer Engagement Lisa Chudnofsky

“I normally use Secret Invisible Solid, and don’t find my pits sweaty or smelly (at least I don’t think?) unless it’s really humid outside. I tried the Schmidt’s Bergamot + Lime jar, and was shocked by how much I liked it. Delicious smell (I actually found myself sniffing my pits when no one was looking, just to get a whiff!), and the same coverage I get from the Secret.

The only reason I wouldn’t give it a 10 out of 10 is because of the whole jar situation. I much prefer using a stick to get even and quick distribution. The spatula included was tiny, and although the deodorant spread on okay (like a room temperature butter), it took a while to cover the entire armpit. Definitely more of a process than my usual swipe-and-go. But luckily the product also comes in stick form—I already placed my order on VitaminShoppe.com.”

Related: Why Do Some People Sweat More Than Others?

Crystal Stick Body Deodorant

Tested by editorial graphic designer Samantha Dimsey

“I usually use a basic Dove deodorant—and the Crystal natural deodorant was definitely different! The Crystal deodorant was a clear, solid stick, but it wasn’t wet at all, so it felt like I wasn’t putting anything on. It didn’t have a scent and didn’t leave any marks on my shirt. I realized after the first day that you’re supposed to lightly wet the deodorant stick before applying it—but it had worked really well even when I applied it dry!

I don’t normally sweat a lot, but I didn’t feel insecure about sweating or smelling at all when using this—I really didn’t feel any different than I did wearing my normal deodorant. Now that I know the natural stuff works so well, I’ll probably switch over.”

Tom’s of Maine Long-Lasting Stick Deodorant in Lavender

Tested by What’s Good senior editor, Lisa Basile

“Here’s my deal: I usually either don’t use deodorant at all or use a powder antiperspirant when I’m worried about smelling bad. A huge part of why I limit my antiperspirant use is to keep my body as chemical-free as possible—so I was eager to try the Tom’s deodorant, since it’s more natural. I have to say, it smelled really, really, really good (sort of like a light, airy, lavender-filled field). It went on smooth—not gloppy— and it didn’t irritate my sensitive armpit skin at all.

I’d definitely use this again, since my sweat usually isn’t profusely gross-smelling and my main workouts happen in water (which sort of keeps you fresh-smelling). However, for VERY sweaty people or people who are constantly active, I’d say this might be a little light. If I were outside in 90-degree weather a lot or working out really hard, I think I would probably want something a little more heavy-duty. But for every day, this is great.”

Related: Shop the full selection of health-conscious bath and beauty products.

I Tested 7 Different Health And Beauty Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

Everyone talks about the many miracles of coconut oil, but you’ve probably also gotten an earful about the beauty and wellness benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV). This pungent mixture isn’t the stuff of old wives’ tales, either—it’s a legit multitasker.

ACV packs vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, calcium, and potassium, as well as antioxidants called polyphenols. Research has found that consuming it can support heart health and blood sugar function. And after a quick Google search, you’ll see that ACV is just as popular to use on the surface of your bod as it is to consume.

I’m all for natural beauty ingredients, so I was more than eager to incorporate some of this liquid goodness into my routine. Of all the different uses for apple cider vinegar out there, the following seven are said to be the easiest—so I put them to the test.

Related: 14 Practical (And Unexpected!) Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Apple Cider Vinegar Toner = Awesome

“Apple cider vinegar contains alpha hydroxy acid, which helps to exfoliate the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D. “It also helps your skin maintain a good pH balance,” she adds.

Knowing the benefits of alpha hydroxyl acid for the skin, I was more than willing to use ACV as a toner.

I will say that my skin is a little sensitive, so I diluted two tablespoons of ACV in four tablespoons of water before I used it. (If your skin is sensitive, I’d recommend going with this dilution to avoid any potential irritation.) I used a cotton ball to apply the vinegar mixture onto my face so that my skin could soak up all those awesome acids. Once the ACV had dried, I went on with my regular skin-care routine and applied my moisturizer.

Overall, the diluted ACV proved to be a really awesome toner for my skin. Not only did my face feel clean and refreshed, it wasn’t overly dry afterward, which is a common issue I have had after using other toners.

2. ACV Makes For A Semi-Helpful Mouthwash

Some mouthwashes are filled with harsh and/or artificial ingredients, making ACV a pretty attractive alternative for anyone trying to clean up their daily routine. Same goes for your oral care. Again, diluting your vinegar is key here—I made the mistake of slugging back a good mouthful of undiluted vinegar and immediately had to spit it out. (I think my mouth went into shock from the intense flavor.) I did, however, manage to successfully gargle with three tablespoons of water and one tablespoon of vinegar.

As far as odor control goes, I can’t say that the vinegar made my (sometimes noticeably) bad breath go away entirely. It certainly didn’t make it worse, but I do feel like I gave off salad dressing vibes for a little while there…so I’m not sure I’d swish again.

3. ACV Is Worth Pouring ALL Over Your Hair

I’m all about DIY hair rinses—I’ve dumped everything from beer to soda over my head in a quest for the hair of my dreams. Unsurprisingly, those two sensational Internet-beloved rinses didn’t work out as well as I hoped, so I was curious to see how apple cider vinegar would rise to the occasion. Plus, Dr. Jaliman told me that ACV can support a healthy scalp because of its pH—so my intrigue was doubled!

Like my DIY apple cider vinegar toner, I wanted to dilute my ACV first so it wouldn’t be too harsh on my scalp. I found that adding ¾ cup of vinegar to a half a cup of water was a good ratio for me. (My hair is a little wavy, a bit oily, and bleached.)

I shampooed my hair as usual and then poured the ACV mixture over my hair. I’d seen online that this rinse could help get rid of product residue shampoos aren’t able to nix. I let it sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing my scalp and hair and conditioning as usual.

I use dry shampoo a lot, and tend to get a sticky residue in my hair after a few days. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ACV did a good job clarifying my hair and scalp (I actually used it twice with good results!)  The mixture removed all that gunk on my dry-shampooed scalp with ease—and without irritating my skin.

I’ll continue to use my ACV hair rinse—and if you’re a big hair product-user like me, try it out! Just be sure to dilute your vinegar in water if you have a sensitive scalp.

4. I’d Use Vinegar As Deodorant If I’m Not Going To The Gym

Now, I’m not a big natural deodorant fan to begin with, because I want maximum odor control all day long. However, I did successfully use a lime as a natural DIY deodorant once (yes, really), so I figured I would have a similar experience with apple cider vinegar.

I wet a cotton ball with undiluted ACV and dabbed it across my armpits—and then I hit the gym. Let’s just say the experience didn’t go well. As soon as I started sweating, any effect the stuff may have had totally went out the window. I definitely smelled by the time I finished my workout. But since I didn’t notice any stink before I hit the gym, I think a few armpit dabs of ACV could be a decent deodorant swap if you’ll just be lounging around the house.

5. Have A Zit? Apple Cider Vinegar To The Rescue

I was a pretty big fan of using ACV as a toner, so I was intrigued to see how it would hold up as a spot treatment for zits. I’ve tried my share of pimple-shrinking skincare products, and unfortunately, a lot of them have made my skin super dry or red.

Unlike my diluted hair rinse and toner mixtures, I used straight-up vinegar for this one. My zits stung a little when I applied the ACV directly onto them—and for a minute I feared this experiment would end badly. But I figured this couldn’t be as bad as popping them, right?

I used my ACV spot treatment once a day for five days total. I can’t say it made my zits vanish completely, but they definitely dried out faster than they would have otherwise. In short, my store-bought acne-vanishing products worked quicker, but the ACV did naturally help.

Related: 4 Possible Reasons You’re Still Breaking Out As An Adult

6. Never Again: ACV For Razor Burn

With a few solid apple cider vinegar remedies already under my belt, I decided to try one of the more intense uses I’d seen online: ACV as a razor burn-reliever. I shave my legs pretty frequently, so I definitely know the woes of pesky razor burn. So, after a long workout and shower at the gym, I put it to the test.

I got a little bold (and maybe also a little lazy!) and used my ACV undiluted. This was huge mistake. The stinging sensation on my legs was really bugging me, and I ended up rinsing my legs off just to make the burning go away.

I think I should have waited a little longer after shaving before applying the vinegar, but either way, the stinging was so uncomfortable that I don’t think I’ll try this one again. Licensed esthetician Lora Cordon warned that the acid would be too harsh to apply to wounds or irritated skin, and boy did I learn my lesson. I’ll be sticking with my trusty post-shave coconut oil instead.

7. ACV + Baking Soda = Easiest DIY Scrub Ever

A lot of conventional face scrubs are too abrasive for my sensitive skin, so I was happy to learn that a mixture of baking soda and apple cider vinegar could make a gentle—but still effective—face scrub. Just mix the two ingredients until you get a good pasty consistency, and voila.

This concoction was honestly all kinds of awesome. Making the scrub wasn’t super complicated, and my skin felt velvety smooth (without any redness) afterward. I’ve been making this two or three times a week since my first test run—it really gives my skin a nice healthy glow.

That’s not all! The baking soda-ACV combo makes for some useful other remedies. “Baking soda and apple cider vinegar also make a great foot bath to soften the skin and calluses,” says Condon. I haven’t tried this one out yet, but it’s definitely on my radar if I’m ever in need of a good at-home pedicure.

FYI: Baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) is an inorganic salt that’s been used to do everything from gently exfoliate the skin to whiten teeth, to make natural deodorant—and is considered safe for use, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database. Its abrasive quality is what makes it effective for exfoliation—think of the beads or coarse grains in your favorite scrubs, but finer and gentler.

The Final Vinegar-y Verdict

Apple cider vinegar’s versatility continues to impress me—who’d think you could get quality salad dressing and a good clarifying hair rinse out of one pantry staple? If you haven’t already added this to your routine, it really doesn’t hurt to give it a try. The toner, hair rinse, and face scrub were my personal favorite ACV uses, but the opportunities for natural beauty ACV uses are endless! Just consider skipping the whole post-shaving scenario and spare yourself the pain.

Related: Get yourself a big ‘ole bottle of ACV.

7 Gym-Related Skin Issues—And How To Deal

Working out is great for your bod—but it can really do a number on your skin. From uncomfortable chafing to back breakouts, chances are you’ve dealt with your share. While some sweat-related skin conditions are just annoying, others can be more serious—like herpes or staph infections. Not good.

Here, find out what causes some of the most common gym-related skin conditions, and how to prevent and treat them.

  1. Heat Rash

When you feel super itchy mid-run, you might be breaking out in a heat rash (don’t worry too much, though—it’s irritating, but it’s common). “This pink, bumpy rash can develop on the neck and body when working out in a super-hot environment, whether it’s outdoors or in a spin class without air conditioning,” says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California. How exactly does heat rash happen? Your hair follicles become inflamed by sweat that gets trapped beneath them, explains board-certified dermatologist Esta Kronberg, M.D.

The fix: If you’re sprouting bumps, move to a cooler area and apply a cool compress (like a cold, wet washcloth) to relieve the irritation, says Shainhouse. “If the rash is very itchy and uncomfortable, apply a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream twice a day for a couple of days,” she adds. It’s also a good idea to skip the gym until the rash heals—sorry!

  1. Body Acne

Bacne is a total pain in the you-know-what—and it can rear its ugly head after an intense training session. Body acne (which most commonly pops up on the chest, back, and butt), usually makes an appearance when you wear super-tight spandex gym clothes that aren’t breathable and lock in moisture, says Shainhouse. Why the breakouts? When you exercise, the glands in your body start secreting sweat—and then the sweat builds up in your hair follicles and clogs them, explains Kronberg.

The fix: Step one: Make sure you change out of your sweaty workout gear ASAP after you exercise, says Shainhouse. Then, shower right away and use an anti-bacterial body wash that contains benzoyl peroxide, suggests Kronberg. (Look for a cleanser with 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide—anything stronger may just cause further irritation.)

If an immediate shower isn’t in the cards, wipe down your acne-prone areas with a salicylic acid towelette, says Shainhouse. (Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that exfoliates dead skin cells that build up, clog pores, and cause zits.) Skincare products may contain anywhere from 0.5 to 2 percent salicylic acid. These 2 percent Clearasil Rapid Action Pads make for a strong acne-fighting option.

Related: 4 Possible Reasons Why You’re Still Breaking Out As An Adult

  1. Chafing

Many a gym goer is familiar with this pesky issue. “When skin rubs against itself or clothing, it can chafe, leaving it pink and sore,” says Shainhouse. Ouch! Chafing usually occurs around the armpits, inner thighs, and under sports bra straps and bands, says Shainhouse. But it can also happen around your ankles if your shoes aren’t snug enough!

The fix: Say goodbye to shirts, leggings, and sports bras that are too restricting. “Make sure that all clothing fits and that you don’t feel any rubbing during movements like swinging your arms,” says Shainhouse. You can also apply a thin layer of Vaseline or coconut oil before working out to reduce friction in those trouble zones, says Shainhouse. If you sweat a lot, she recommends applying an absorbent, like Zeasorb Super Absorbent Powder, to dry skin.

If you do experience chafing, you can use an OTC cortisone cream to ease irritation, says Kronberg. She also recommends slathering on a fragrance-free lotion to keep the area moist and to curb any further friction. (Fragrance may cause irritation, so it’s best to avoid scented moisturizers if your skin has chafed.)

Related: 12 Health And Beauty Uses For Coconut Oil

  1. Sunburn

It makes sense that you’d want to take your workout to the park when the weather is nice—but just be mindful of the sun! “Working out outdoors—including walking, running, swimming, or bike riding—leaves your skin vulnerable to damage by the sun’s UV rays,” says Shainhouse.

The fix: Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 30 minutes before heading outside, says Kronberg. Look for a sunscreen that’s ‘non-comedogenic’ or that’s specially formulated for acne-prone facial skin. You’ll need to reapply every two hours—or more frequently if you swim or get sweaty, so keep the SPF handy.

If possible, try to avoid getting your sweat on outdoors during peak sun hours (11 A.M. through 3 P.M.), advises Shainhouse. And try to stay as covered up as possible—that means no shirtless runs, adds Kronberg. All fabrics offer some sun protection, and there are even special workout clothes (labeled ‘UPF’) that offer UV protection.

Sometimes even the most diligent of sunscreen users get a burn, though. Taking an OTC anti-inflammatory and applying emu oil or a one-percent cortisone lotion may help soothe the pain, says Kronberg. Wait, emu oil? Kronberg likes this out-of-the-ordinary oil for sunburn because it moisturizes the skin and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which support immune health. (A 2013 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that emu oil could be useful when dealing with itchy or irritated skin.)

  1. Athlete’s Foot

So you forgot to put your flip flops in your gym bag—and now you have to shower sans sandals. Sounds like NBD, right? Er, not quite. “If you walk around the gym changing room, pool area, or showers barefoot, you may pick up fungus from other people’s feet,” says Shainhouse. Athlete’s foot is marked by dry white scales on the sides and bottom of your feet or mushy white skin between your toes, explains Shainhouse. “Once it gets into your toenails—leaving them thick, yellow, and crumbly—it can be harder to treat,” she says.

The fix: This one’s a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating: Always wear flip flops around the locker room, says Kronberg. If you notice any of the symptoms we mentioned above, make an appointment with your derm. You’ll likely need to use a prescription anti-fungal cream twice a day for three weeks or so until the infection goes away, says Kronberg.

  1. Herpes

Yep, it’s possible to catch an STD at the gym, says Kronberg. More specifically, we’re talking about the herpes simplex one virus (HSV-1), which is transmitted orally and most often causes cold sores around the mouth. Think about it: If someone touches their cold sore and then puts their hands on a mat, then they’ve just transferred the germs, leaving you susceptible to coming into contact with them, says Kronberg.

The fix: We know this sounds freaky, but a few easy protective moves can reduce your risk. If you’re taking a yoga or Pilates class, consider bringing your own mat. If you have to rent a mat from the gym, or will be using other gym equipment or machines, wipe everything down with a disinfectant wipe before you get started. (Dispensers are pretty much all over the place in most gyms.)

Once you have HSV-1, it stays in your symptoms for the rest of your life. The good news is that prescription meds can knock out an outbreak pretty quickly, says Kronberg.

  1. Staph Infection

Thought only people in hospitals contracted staph infections? Not the case. “Staph bacteria lives on our skin and is easily transferred to shared gym equipment,” says Shainhouse. “If you have any open cuts or sores on your skin that come into contact with that bacteria, you can develop a localized staph infection, called an abscess or boil.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, these abscesses are often warm to the touch, full of pus, and accompanied by a fever. (And yep, it’s pretty much as unpleasant as it sounds.) Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA), a common type of staph infection that is resistant to some antibiotics, is one you should be especially aware of, says Kronberg. The infection often looks like a really bad spider bite, so people may not realize it’s actually a staph infection.

The fix: Preventing a staph infection isn’t complicated. Just cover up any open sores while you’re at the gym and be sure to wash your hands really well—preferably while showering after you work out, says Shainhouse. The thing is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when left untreated, MRSA can be deadly.

That’s why it’s critical to book it to your M.D. immediately if you think you might have MRSA, says Kronberg. In addition to starting a course of antibiotics to treat the infection, you may need to have any abscesses lanced by your doc if they don’t go away on their own, says Shainhouse.

Related: Shop supplements to support your immune system.

How To Keep Your Chompers In Check—The Natural Way

People invest in 100% natural products because they want to live their best lives, free of chemicals, additives, and other nasties. There are loads of natural beauty and wellness essentials out there, but lately, natural oral care products are experiencing a boost in popularity.

Are you looking to clean up your oral care routine? Here, Dr. Philip Memoli, a holistic dentist with over 30 years of experience and a member of the Holistic Dentistry Association, offers his tips for healthy chompers:

Brushing and Flossing

For a more natural approach to oral care, Memoli advises veering away from conventional dental products. “Try to avoid fluoride, glycerine, sodium lauryl sulfate, sweeteners, and preservatives,” he says. In fact, the fewer ingredients in your toothpaste, the better. Some people opt for xylitol-based toothpastes (since xylitol is a natural sweetener), which Tom’s of Maine carries.

As for the actual brushing, it turns out less is more there, too: A softer brushing technique is more effective because it’s gentler on your tooth enamel. And be sure to use a soft toothbrush, as well, so you don’t affect the enamel, Memoli says.

Related: Try Tom’s of Maine products for your all-natural oral health care routine.

Your dentist has probably told you this a hundred times, and Memoli agrees: “People who floss regularly tend to have a lot less dental problems.”

Memoli suggests using dental flosses made with essential oils (like this Desert Essence tea tree floss). The tea tree oil promotes purification and cleansing, and includes no synthetic ingredients, artificial colors, or alcohol. Win!

Mouthwashes and Rinsing

Memoli advises that anyone stocking up on mouthwashes or rinses avoid products made with alcohols and dyes. Looking to try a natural mouthwash? The PerioWash Alcohol-free mouthwash includes Co-Q10, folic acid, oregano, cinnamon, and clove to support gum health.

And The Natural Dentist’s Healthy Gums Antigingivitis Rinse boasts a stellar lineup of other all-natural ingredient goodies, including spring water, aloe vera, Echinacea, calendula, bloodroot, grapefruit seed extract, and goldenseal.

On top of brushing, flossing, and rinsing, you may want to try oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic dental care habit that requires swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. The Dirt’s Oil Pulling Mouthwash is alcohol-free and made with oils of clove and sesame. Memoli strongly suggests oil pulling (which, on top of cleaning your mouth, makes you more aware of your oral health in general), but cautions anyone with mercury fillings to limit the swishing to two to three minutes.

Related: I Tried Oil Pulling For Two Weeks—Here’s What It’s Like

Whitening

Memoli advises staying away from conventional bleaching products, which may include harsh ingredients that could wear away at the enamel of your teeth.

Instead of reaching for the whitening strips, try Memoli’s yummy-tasting all-natural whitening routine: “Put strawberries in a food processor and combine them with baking soda to create a paste. Brush it onto the teeth and leave it for a while. Some people see great bleaching results with that,” he says. All you need is a few strawberries, a couple of tablespoons of baking soda, and 15 minutes. Turmeric and activated charcoal have also been used to potentially brighten the teeth and promote oral health.

Diet

Eating well not only promotes overall health, it can keep your pearly whites in good standing (beyond simply preventing cavities). “Holistic dentistry is always concerned with preventing dental problems rather than fixing them once they occur,” Memoli says. “One big way to prevent issues is through a healthy diet. No matter what diet you’re on, eating whole foods is what keeps people [including the teeth] healthy.”

According to the Journal of Biomedical Biotechnology, eating unhealthy food has been definitively associated with chronic diseases that impact oral health. So, it’s important that you nosh on whole foods, limit alcohol and candy consumption, and get all the nutrients you need through your diet or supplementation.

I Tried Oil Pulling For Two Weeks—Here’s What It’s Like

As someone who has at least one new cavity every time I visit the dentist, I’d been considering adding oil pulling—the ancient practice of swishing an oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes in order to promote oral health—to my daily routine for some time. So, when What’s Good asked me to try out a new oil-pulling mouthwash on the market, I signed up without hesitation.

I was sent The Dirt Oil Pulling Mouthwash (a combo of coconut oil, natural extracts, and essential oils) and asked to swish with it every morning for two weeks straight. Here’s how it all went down.

Mouthwash bottle.JPG
photo: Christina Heiser

It took a few days to get used to oil pulling—but then it became enjoyable.

I’m not much of a morning person, but since I’d heard that oil pulling on a full stomach makes some people feel nauseous, I set my alarm for the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. in order to do it before I got hungry.

At first I was a little put off by the strong earthy taste of the mouthwash, which is full of essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, and rose, as well as extracts like turmeric and cardamom. After four days, though, my taste buds got used to the flavor and I actually started to like it!

To pass the 20 minutes, I’d usually just chill in my PJs on my couch. That quiet chunk of time helped me relax—and I noticed that I wasn’t as stressed out later during the day. Maybe there was something to this whole ‘morning person’ thing after all…

Related: 7 Ways To Become A Morning Person

My breath was fresh all day long.

I hate traditional mouthwashes—not only do they dry out my mouth (since most of them contain alcohol), but they also tend to leave a funky aftertaste that makes my nose burn a bit. But that wasn’t the case with this coconut oil-based mixture. My breath felt fresh for hours without any of the artificial ickiness I had come to associate with mouthwash.

Spoonful.JPG
photo: Christina Heiser

My lips felt softer than they’ve ever been.

As a beauty editor, I’ve known about the moisturizing superpowers of coconut oil for years—and this mouthwash definitely delivered. During my 20 minutes of swishing, a small amount of coconut oil always seeped out onto my lips, and it had a major conditioning effect. Normally, I apply balm throughout the day because my lips tend to get flaky—but as I got into my oil-pulling groove, I noticed I didn’t need to tend to my lips all that much.

Related: 12 Health And Beauty Uses For Coconut Oil

I started paying more attention to my mouth.

Halfway through my oil-pulling experiment, I called April Patterson, D.D.S., a cosmetic and restorative dentist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to find out if there was any scientific evidence that the trend works. Patterson told me that while she’s tried oil pulling before and is a fan, it won’t change your mouth’s pH level—which determines whether bacteria can survive in your mouth. (The higher the pH, the harder it is for bacteria to thrive.)

There are some small-scale studies on oil pulling—which suggest it can help nix stinky breath and help keep some bacteria at bay—but larger studies are needed to support its effectiveness.

Still, Patterson pointed out that patients of hers who oil pull tend to pick up better dental habits across the board. “When people oil pull, they often become more attuned to their mouths,” Patterson told me. “They start doing a better job brushing and flossing.” And that’s exactly what happened to me.

While I’d listened to my own dentist extol the virtues of brushing for a full two minutes twice a day (and flossing at least once a day) time and time again, I always used to rush through the process without much care. Oil pulling for those 20 minutes each morning forced me to really think about what was going on in my mouth. For example, I realized just how much tartar buildup I have on my bottom teeth—which I could’ve easily gotten rid of before it hardened if I had just brushed and flossed as much as I was supposed to. And that’s why I plan to keep up with my new oil-pulling habit—although probably not every day, to be honest, because I just love sleep too much.

Since dedicating such a large amount of time to my morning swish, I’ve found it a whole lot easier to hit the two-minute mark with my toothbrush. After all, compared to 20 minutes, two feels like a breeze. And that in itself is good news for my mouth.

Related: Check out a number of oral-care products for a happy mouth.

What Can You Really Do About Stretch Marks?

Many of us—guys and gals alike—have stretch marks. And although they’re so common, they can be pretty frustrating—especially when you’re getting ready for a summer of swimsuits.

“Stretch marks are pink, red, or purple indented streaks that most commonly appear on the abdomen, breasts, upper arms, buttocks, and thighs,” says Fayne L. Frey, M.D., a dermatologist in West Nyack, New York. If you have ‘em, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

Why We Get Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are caused by the breaking of elastin and collagen in the dermis (the thick layer of tissue below the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin) when your skin stretches quickly, says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., a dermatologist in Beverly Hills. (Elastin is a connective tissue found in the skin that allows it to stretch and bounce back, while collagen is a protein found all over the body that basically acts as your skin’s support structure —not only strengthening your skin, but keeping it smooth-looking.)

There are a number of reasons these marks might show up on your skin. For one, stretch marks are genetic, Shainhouse says. So if your parents have them, you’re more likely to develop them, too.

First noticed stretch marks as a teen? That’s because they often form on both guys and girls during quick growth spurts, says Esta Kronberg, M.D., a dermatologist in Houston. They can also pop up during pregnancy, after quick weight gain, because of hormone abnormalities, and even as a result of lots of exercise, says Kronberg.

One such stretch mark-causing hormonal disorder is Cushing’s syndrome (which is marked by excess levels of the stress hormone cortisol), explains Frey. According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisol which is pumped out by your adrenal glands, weakens elastic fibers in your skin, making it easier for stretch marks to form.

Related: Could You Have Adrenal Fatigue?

And, yes, you heard us right—your stretch marks might also be an unexpected result of your dedication to the gym. You can be fit and have stretch marks. “They are fairly common in bodybuilders, who develop significant muscle mass over a short period,” says Shainhouse, noting that stretch marks caused by muscle growth are often seen in the biceps.

Are Stretch Marks Permanent?

If you have stretch marks—wherever they are—you’ve probably wondered: Is there anything you can to do to get rid of ‘em? Eventually most stretch marks fade to white or gray, but they rarely disappear completely, says Frey. Womp. That being said, there are a few treatments that may help minimize their appearance.

One option: pulsed dye laser treatment. This non-invasive, relatively painless laser treatment takes just a few minutes per session and can be very effective, says Kronberg.

The procedure uses a concentrated beam of light to target blood vessels, according to the Baylor College of Medicine. “Pulsed dye lasers can help reduce the color [of stretch marks] more quickly,” says Shainhouse.

Many patients begin to see results in two to four sessions, says Kronberg, who recommends sessions on a biweekly or monthly basis.

Just keep in mind that this is a cosmetic treatment, so you’ll have to pay out of pocket. According to the online cosmetic surgery community RealSelf.com, the average cost of a pulsed dye laser session comes in around $800 (although price may vary by location). Kronberg recommends seeing a dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic treatments for the procedure instead of visiting a spa.

Related: 15 Natural Ways To Hang On To That Youthful Glow

Another in-office treatment: microdermabrasion. While this one might lessen the appearance of stretch marks, it’s not a given. “Microdermabrasion is used to gently remove the top layers of skin with the hopes of stimulating underlying collagen formation,” says Frey —“but little scientific evidence exists showing the efficacy of this treatment.” (Remember: When collagen breaks, it can leave behind stretch marks.)

As far as at-home options go, lotions with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid are your best bet, because they stimulate collagen, says Kronberg. Topical retinoids also stimulate collagen, says Kronberg. But they can be irritating—and may only work on new stretch marks that are less than a few months old, adds Frey.  Your best bet is going to the derm, since a prescription product will have higher-strength ingredients than anything you’d find at a drugstore, says Kronberg.

Stick with your treatment option of choice for three months, suggests Kronberg. If after three months nothing has changed and your stretch marks haven’t faded, it’s likely a sign they’ll pretty much stick around for good.

The bottom line: We’re all about embracing the skin we’re in—but of course, if you’re unhappy or frustrated with how your skin looks, talk with your derm to weigh your options. Otherwise, we say flaunt what you’ve got—stretch marks and all! After all, summer only lasts so long, and you deserve to enjoy every moment of it.

Related: Check out a number of body care products to pamper your skin with.