Back in my college days, there were two things I did not want to be caught wearing: my freshman orientation lanyard and sweat stains.

The lanyard, I feared, would give away my status as both an underclassman and out-of-towner who needed orienting on campus and in the big city. Believe me, I had "freshman" written all over my face, but in my mind, this wearable keychain would be the poisoned cherry on top.

Despite this, I would have worn ten lanyards jumbled together if it meant my sweat stains would disappear. My fear that my classmates, cool adjunct professors, and (heaven forbid) ever-growing number of gym crushes would spot me walking around campus with a damp shirt was nightmarish. To combat this, I applied clinical strength antiperspirant like my life depended on it. My ritual was sacred and unwavering -- each night, using the twist knob at the bottom of the applicator, I applied three “clicks” worth of product to each underarm. In the morning, I would add another swipe on each underarm as added protection. My stringent schedule held up for more than seven solid semesters before I hit a roadblock near the end of my senior year.

On a warm day in 2017, when washing my underarms in the shower, it dawned on me that the skin on my pits felt vastly different than my skin everywhere else. Instead of feeling like, well, skin, my underarms felt distinctly like rubber. Once I noticed, the feeling was undeniable. I squeezed another glob of body wash onto my washcloth and began to vigorously scrub my pits again. To my shock and horror, there was minimal lather. No matter how much vanilla-scented exfoliating wash I used, the product refused to suds up under my arms. Even worse, I noticed the unmistakable scent of body odor creeping out from underneath all that vanilla. I reached a soaking wet hand out of the shower to pause my Harry Styles playlist that was reverberating in our dorm suite bathroom and began to cry.

My sense of beauty and cleanliness was shattered. I diligently washed my underarms every day, sometimes twice, and applied clinical strength antiperspirant before bed and upon waking. Despite this strict routine, my underarms refused to be "tamed." Sweat stains were all over my shirts and even worse, I smelled sweaty. How could this happen? How could my underarms overpower the strongest antiperspirant the drugstore offered? Was I destined to a life of sweat and odor? I glared, face hot with tears and anger, at my arsenal of antiperspirants, feeling betrayed.

This sense of being "unclean" unearthed greater feelings of inadequacy and shame. I felt like a failure, unable to control simple bodily functions like sweating. It felt like everyone else mastered this magical ability to smell like roses all day long without sporting darkened spots of sweat on their shirts. What was I doing wrong? Perhaps more importantly, why was I ascribing morality to dry underarms?

I confided in my best friend and asked what products she used, hoping she had something stronger than my clinical strength antiperspirant to share with me. She cheerfully handed me a jar of Soapwalla deodorant cream, told me she used "natural deodorant," and said I was "welcome to take a scoop." To say I laughed in her face is an understatement. I scoffed, gently set down this tub of woo-woo plant cream, and kindly asked if she’d had a lobotomy since I saw her earlier that morning.

Juliette, if you're reading this, thank you for insisting that I just try the damn thing. Let's just say, this damn thing completely changed how I view my body and my beauty routine.

Instead of a typical stick applicator, the Soapwalla deodorant cream was housed in a little pot with a screw top lid. This was much cuter than my countless piles of plastic antiperspirant sticks, but it also meant that I was expected to apply the product with my hands. Juliette joked that we were to use the applicators we were born with: our fingers. Not only was I touching this cream, I also had to touch my armpits (my newest enemy). I sucked it up, stuck my finger in to take a pea-sized scoop, and massaged this frosting-like cream onto my underarm. One down, one to go. As I was applying to my other pit, I realized how ridiculous I must have looked. I was a woman with her eyes squeezed shut, rubbing her underarms, and praying that this experience would just be over already.

I do not remember explicitly reading in fashion/beauty magazines that it is uncouth to touch one's pits, but the unspoken cultural understanding - that certain body parts were not meant to be touched, let alone massaged with a peppermint and tea tree smelling cream – still seeped in, loud and clear. I thought that part of my body was inherently gross. I wish I could give past me a hug and tell her that coming face to pit with her underarms was the first step in creating a positive, loving personal beauty routine.

Rachel Winard, founder and CEO of Soapwalla, understands that most folks will be hesitant to touch their underarms. Rachel acknowledges, "The underarms are not parts of the body that get a lot of love. Our pits are so hardworking and yet they often go underappreciated. Applying deodorant daily with your fingers allows you to show your beautiful body some love. Plus, this gentle massage is also great for lymphatic stimulation." The cream application system is both an expression of self-love and an intentional design factor. "We chose the jar partly because of the minimalist design (less plastic in the world is a good thing), but also because it allows the customer full control over how much and where they apply the deodorant. It also allows the customer to get every last bit out of the jar, instead of throwing away up to 25% of product as is common with commercial deodorant packaging,” says Rachel. It's a win for the body and the environment, a true feat in today's manufacturing world.

I would be lying if I said that my underarms were magically changed after just my first Soapwalla application. Those rubbery pits of mine needed time to heal from the pretty harmful routine I put them through for years. I also became intimately familiar with the "detox period" people go through when making the switch from commercial antiperspirant to natural deodorant. In creating one of the first and most enduring natural skincare lines, Rachel spoke extensively with dermatologists on the effect of antiperspirants on the body.

According to Rachel's research and personal experience, switching from traditional antiperspirants to a natural deodorant can take the average person's skin anywhere from 14 to 28 days to get acclimated to the new norm. "This can include minor skin irritation (including darkening skin, redness, periods of intermittent itching, and dry skin patches/flaking) caused by (1) excess aluminum or other antiperspirant ingredients slowly working its way out of your system (this is especially true for darkening of the skin and flaking) and/or by (2) excess dried skin getting caught in the pores by the deodorant." One of the easiest ways to hasten this process is by gentle exfoliation. When I started exfoliating my underarms every week, I saw a dramatic improvement in skin quality almost immediately. I use a bamboo glove for the underarms, but a washcloth or other gently textured fabric will work.

In other words, the road to natural deodorant isn't traversed in a single night. Aluminum taking up to ten years to work its way out of my system was a sobering thought for me. I was never one to shy away from additives in my products (hey, if it works, I'm happy!) but some of those trusty additives were starting to fail me. Natural was the only road I hadn't gone down when it came to deodorant, so I knew that had to be the next step for me.

One of the aspects I liked most about Rachel's approach to skincare is that she intentionally does not give in to fear-mongering, as some folks in the wellness bubble tend to lean. Rachel doesn't scare potential customers by falsely claiming their commercial antiperspirants are evil and filled with life-altering poisons. Simply put, Rachel created a product that worked for her specific needs and knew others would benefit from a gentle formula that keeps the body smelling good. Drugstore deodorants just were not cutting it for her, and she learned the science behind why clogging our sweat glands may not be the best approach for all folks. The decision to "go natural" is in the hands of the consumer. If you're unhappy with the skincare you've been using and you need an effective alternative, Soapwalla is waiting with open arms.

Soapwalla's "Come on in, the water's fine" approach to natural skincare hooked me. I tossed my collection of failed antiperspirants, embraced the cream deodorant, and trudged on through the detox period while my armpits recalibrated. My sweat glands eventually unclogged, my rubbery pits turned back into soft skin, and I was sweating again. And the strangest thing? The sweating stopped bothering me.

This "woo-woo plant cream" kept me smelling fresh. At the end of the day, that's all I cared about. Once I was sure that body odor wouldn't creep through, the fear of showing sweat stains evaporated. I smelled good, so why should I care that my t-shirt showed signs of life? If it's 90 degrees outside, why would I feel ashamed people might see my body's natural way of cooling me off? The deodorant did exactly what it was designed to do: it inhibited the bacteria that mixes with sweat that causes odor. No bacteria = no odor. The sweating was normal, and in fact, encouraged! Perspiring allows us to regulate our temperatures and keeps us from overheating. Sweating serves a very clear purpose in promoting overall health, maintaining homeostasis and thermoregulation.

The longer I used Soapwalla's deodorant, the more I came to appreciate its cream application. I started to look forward to showing my pits some TLC instead of treating them like some strange, wild part of myself that must be tamed. I liked the way the cream made my skin smell (like tea tree, peppermint, and lavender) and more importantly, I loved the way it made my skin feel. My pits felt smooth, and my soap went back to lathering. I accepted sweating as something my body had to do to keep me feeling good.

Armed with my new favorite natural deodorant, I made my triumphant return to the campus fitness center. Much to my surprise, none of the other gym-goers (including my crushes) passed out in horror when they saw sweat marks on my t-shirt during a cardio session. The world kept turning, I kept sweating, and I kept smelling like delicious tea tree oil. After a lifetime of envying dry pits, I opened my eyes and looked around at the other students on the elliptical machines. They, too, were enjoying moving their bodies and sporting damp pits. I cranked up my Harry Styles playlist, my face split into a huge grin, and I let the sweat pour down.