Jessica Olsen on PRIMARY – A Non-Toxic Deodorant Spray
The PRIMARY philosophy opens with a balancing statement: ‘A completely natural product isn't a guarantee of a safe product, and not all chemicals are the enemy.’ Jessica Olsen tells us about her search for the daily staple that keeps us sociable and why she developed a non-toxic solution.
Tell us when and why you created PRIMARY.
I launched PRIMARY in late 2017 after a year of research and development. I created PRIMARY Mineral Deodorant Spray first for my own use because after trying what felt like every natural deodorant on the market, I still hadn’t found my “holy grail.” Everything I tried was either messy to use, irritating to my skin, or somehow actually made me smell worse. I wanted something that was non-toxic and at the same time smelled and looked incredible; something that I was excited to use every morning and that felt like a delight to re-apply throughout the day. I realized that the product I really wanted didn’t exist yet, so I set out to make it.
What did you learn?
I did a ton of research – not just online, but at the library reading actual books! I also have the benefit of a brother who studied biological chemistry, so I asked a lot of questions and ended up learning way more than I ever thought I would know about sweat, bacteria, and the human microbiome.
Contrary to what antiperspirant advertising would lead us to believe, our sweat doesn’t really have a smell. It’s when bacteria that live naturally on the skin start to break down the sweat that we start to stink. Commercial antiperspirants combat this by using aluminum to plug our glands and stop us from sweating. At this point, most of us know/agree that sweating is a natural, healthy process and we don’t want those chemicals clogging up our precious pores.
What I found the most eye-opening in my research was how complex our skin flora is and how important it is to work with our body’s natural process rather than against it.
Every healthy person has millions of bacteria living on the skin surface and they all work in synergy to create the first line of skin barrier defense.
Most of us know that overuse of antibacterial soaps has the potential to create antibiotic resistant bacteria. But we’ve overlooked the logic that the same is true under our arms. When we use harsh chemicals like triclosan or denatured alcohol, we run the risk of creating a resistance and essentially rendering those ingredients useless against the bacteria. That’s one reason you might find a deodorant that works really well for a while and then all of the sudden you find yourself smelling worse than you would if you weren’t wearing anything at all. A study in 2016 found that when regular antiperspirant users stopped using their antiperspirant, the bacteria that grew back in their armpits were different from the species that make up the microbiomes of people who don’t use antiperspirants. That’s really fascinating to me and is just one more on a list of reasons why I feel so strongly that we need to stop using antiperspirants and stop being so embarrassed about sweating.
“My belief is that beautiful design, well-being, and practicality can comfortably co-exist.”
Which brings us to PRIMARY.
The base elements of Primary Mineral Deodorant Spray is a fusion of magnesium chloride, witch hazel distillate, whole leaf aloe vera, zinc ricinoleate, and a custom blend of essential oils shown to help neutralize the bacteria that causes us to stink without wiping out our entire ecosystem. With PRIMARY, my goal was to gently maintain the balance of our microbiome and create a harmonious-yet-effective product that works with the skin rather than against it.
Why a magnesium based deodorant? Is it because magnesium is often advised to be applied topically?
Magnesium is vital to the function and metabolism of every cell in the body. It also helps combat stress and aid digestion, toxin elimination and works to neutralize odor. Most people are deficient in magnesium for many reasons, and it’s very difficult to raise the body’s magnesium levels through oral supplementation. We can get a little boost of magnesium transdermally with magnesium chloride or by taking a bath in magnesium chloride.
What do sustainability and self care mean to you?
For me, sustainability means balance. It means doing my homework and being informed regarding how my choices affect the world we live in. I’m also realistic about where I’m at in my journey towards living more sustainably. In my personal life, I give preference to natural, organic skin care and household products, but I do include some products with non-toxic synthetic ingredients.
The place I’ve found it easiest to live more sustainably is actually in my closet. In the last year, I’ve only made 5 new clothing purchases: two pairs of pants (Jesse Kamm and First Rite), plus one dress and two shirts (both Miranda Bennett Studios), everything else was purchased second hand.
There’s a flood of organic beauty brands entering the market, but not so many deodorant options. Why might that be?
Good question. I think one reason could be that it involves a lot of research to create something completely unique in this space. And it’s not necessarily a super sexy topic. I don’t think most companies think of it as a luxury item.
Do you have plans to expand into a range soon?
Absolutely! I have other products in the works including some additional scents for the Mineral Deodorant Spray. My belief is that beautiful design, well-being, and practicality can comfortably co-exist. My goal is to make one-of-a-kind wellness products that elevate our everyday routines and spark a feeling of joy every time we use them.
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