You Heard It Here First

Akt London Deodorant Will Convince You To Go Natural

It’s used by Taylor Swift and Beyonce’s backup dancers.

You Heard It Here First
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When theater performers Ed Currie and Andy Coxon were forced into hibernation in March 2020 after their shows on the West End in London went dark due to lockdowns, they got cooking. It wasn’t a culinary masterpiece they were trying to perfect on their stovetop, but a recipe for a natural deodorant they had been working on for years.

Their brand, Akt London, has become something of a phenomenon in the U.K. and recently launched in the U.S. The hero product is a plastic-free and gender-free natural deodorant balm that comes in five scents. But what’s most surprising for a natural deodorant is that it’s worn and loved by some very energetic people who are prone to heavy sweattage: Beyoncé and Taylor Swift’s backup dancers, West End and Broadway performers, and the entire cast of Saltburn, for example.

Currie and Coxon met in 2014 as performers on the set of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, an experience that was intensely physically demanding: they were dancing under blazing lights for eight shows a week, wearing the same costumes every night. Naturally, all that exertion resulted in an unwanted olfactory response. “We realized that no deodorant was working at all. So we set out to make our own — not to make a business, but purely to fix an issue,” says Coxon.

Ed Currie and Andy Coxon.AKT London

Soon after, Currie found a basic recipe for a natural deodorant on a hippie mom's website, consisting of just three ingredients: coconut oil, sodium bicarbonate, and essential oil. “I gave it a go, and I got a massive rash with huge pustules,” he says. “It was super painful but I didn't smell as much as I normally did.”

Trialing different formulas soon became a hobby. Eventually, after using their family and friends as guinea pigs, they started getting orders from people who had tested the product and loved it. They started making it irregularly at first but soon got to 200 orders a month — so, in 2019, they decided to fund a company via a Kickstarter campaign, with a relatively modest target of £15,000 pounds.

“On the day we launched the campaign, we gave a sample to every single West End performer in one show, and they posted about it the day it went live. We hit our target within an hour,” says Coxon. The Kickstarter was up to £50,000 pounds and 3,000 orders by the end of the month. “We thought, well, we've got a business now,” he says.

The Second Akt

Pitt, as the brand was called back then, was the precursor to Akt, with a different formula and aluminum tin packaging. But the duo had to stop production because someone trademarked the name out from under them after seeing the success of their Kickstarter, and so they had to go back to the drawing board. Instead of fighting it out with lawyers, the duo decided to rebrand.

“We realized that no deodorant was working at all. So we set out to make our own — not to make a business, but purely to fix an issue.”

The actors’ struggle with BO under the West End arc lights was now at the center of the brand narrative, and Akt London was born. The packaging transformed, and now the deodorant balm is housed in sleek tubes with screw-on caps, both made out of aluminum. Typically aluminum tube packaging comes with plastic caps, but they were determined to be plastic-free. “We're the only company in the world doing these caps at the moment, which is wild to me,” says Coxon.

Akt’s existence challenges the idea that recyclable packaging needs to be boring. The tubes are coated with a matte finish in five electric shades, and other elements like the typeface and scent names are inspired by their acting background. The typography is inspired by the letters on theater marquees from the ’30s and ’40s (it’s Transcript Pro, if any typophiles are curious) and the scents are named after scenes.

akt london

And, just like they elevated the exterior, the duo was determined to create a scent experience that was more akin to fine fragrance than the noxious body sprays available for men. While building Pitt, they had concocted their own fragrance from 16 essential oils, “which was an illegal amount of essential oils to have on the skin,” laughs Coxon. This time around, they partnered with a fragrance house because they wanted beautiful, perfume-led scents.

One of the deodorants, SC.05 Ext. Columbia Road, is inspired by the Columbia Road flower market in London. “We wanted the sunlight peeking over the terraces, because you typically go there super early in the morning. So there is a lemon note to emulate the sunshine.” They also envisioned hands being warmed around a coffee cup, so tonka bean made it into the mix. A violet leaf note was included to represent the flowers. “We love to take inspiration from what we see in reality to transport our audience into a scene and tell a story,” says Currie.

The Product

Coxon and Currie recommend a pea-sized amount of balm for each pit, and the product is actually multi-use: it can be applied to any area of the body (even the face) that is prone to sweating or chafing.

The balm goes on easily and dries down without leaving white streaks on skin or clothing, and — unlike many natural deodorants I’ve tried in the past — it actually works to block odor. In my experience, it doesn’t annihilate every speck of natural human olfactory function the way antiperspirants do. Rather, it leaves me smelling like a much better version of myself at the end of the day: not malodorous at all but not devoid of any smell.

The scents, too, are really unique and special, with nuance and depth more akin to perfumery than anything else I’ve encountered in the deodorant space. It’s the only natural product of its kind I can get on board with.