I never thought I would make homemade deodorant, believe me, but as I told you Wednesday when we talked about hazards of antiperspirants, I wanted to make a baby step away from antiperspirant last December. I have used Degree for years, because many other name brands didn’t work for me. I’m not a dainty little lady who doesn’t sweat!
It was Christmas break, and I’m an at-home-mom, so I don’t have a lot of people around to offend with my body odor. I grabbed that baking soda from under my sink and stuck it in the bathroom as a rinky-dink homemade deodorant. After my next shower, I remembered to put it on my still-moist underarms. I thought nothing of it that day. Pleased that I didn’t stink out the family, I tried the same thing again after the next shower. My baking soda was caked in little balls from being exposed to moisture as I used it as a cleaner, so it was actually really easy to apply it to my armpits by grabbing a chunk and (gently!) rubbing it in over the sink.
Testing the Baby Step: Baking Soda
You might be thinking that I didn’t sweat much because it was winter, and I live in Michigan. With the house at 64 degrees, this is probably true. That second day however, I thought the baking soda “homemade deodorant” was doomed for sure. I went out shoveling after a massive snowfall, and I could feel the sweat dripping down my back under my work coat that totally doesn’t “breathe”. I could feel that nagging perception of wetness under my armpits, too, that I told you Wednesday we’re not accustomed to anymore. I could almost smell my B.O. in the ol’ imagination, certain that I had come to the end of an interesting experiment.
Much to my great surprise, I did not stink. Unpleasant wetness, sure, but no negative odor. The only time I really noticed body odor with plain baking soda was when I was due for a shower and wore synthetic silky PJs at nighttime. Most antiperspirant, in my experience, is wearing off by bedtime anyway, and from what I read, synthetic materials cause our B.O. to be worse. Weird, but definitely true. (And yes, I buy baking soda in bulk, since I use it for cleaning, too.)
Baby Step Number Two: Adding Cornstarch
I continued using baking soda exclusively for a month or two until my mom gave me this gorgeous powder puff container that she had sitting in her cupboard:
Then I decided I’d mix an equal part of cornstarch in with the baking soda, for dryness. This baby step took all of 2 minutes to complete, and again – no commitment, no up-front cost. Again, all was well. I began to worry about summer and sleeveless shirts, however.
UPDATE: Apparently many people have trouble with cornstarch irritating their skin. A company that makes a natural deodorant emailed me this: “Corn starch can contain many chemicals and alum salts from the soil.” I use arrowroot powder now – but honestly, I’m not sure it’s working quite as well. More testing needed!
The Final Step: Adding Coconut Oil
I had this post at Passionate Homemaking bookmarked since December, but I didn’t have bulk coconut oil until I found this deal at Soaper’s Choice. At that point, it was time to make a real mimicked deodorant by adding coconut oil to the baking soda and cornstarch mixture. I used a fork in a little plastic dish that I’m not using much for food anymore. It made enough that I’m still using the first batch 6 months later.
Step by Step Instructions for Homemade Deodorant
- Mix about 1/4 c. baking soda and 1/4 c. cornstarch or arrowroot starch in a small bowl.
- Add unrefined coconut oil, not melted, about a Tablespoon at a time, mashing with a fork until all the dry ingredients have been mixed in. I find it takes 4-6 Tablespoons.
- Optional: If you’d like a scent, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil at this time.
- You could use this mixture as is and apply with your fingertips, but it’s pretty messy.
- Best option: use an old deodorant container.
Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and a nice, light coconutty scent, so it’s really the ideal medium for the baking soda (for odor) and cornstarch (for dryness). It goes on easy and dries clear – sleeveless shirts, here I come!
My Choice: Is it Working For Me?
Friends and family, here’s your chance! Please comment if I’m wrong about this, but I don’t think I’ve been stinking it up this summer at all! Even if the risks of aluminum/antiperspirant are overblown or minimal at best, I’m still going to stick with ingredients that are so safe I could eat them with no harm done. It’s a simple step to take, very frugal, and exceptionally safe.
Besides all that, the natural solution is working.
There are plenty of benefits I’ve found so far:
- No sting on newly-shaven pits!
- Pleasant smell
- Avoid risk of parabens, aluminum, and other unnatural stuff
- For nursing mothers, there’s a serious change in my peace of mind now that I don’t cringe when baby’s hand works its way up into my armpit. Well…I still cringe, but I’m not worrying about toxic chemicals finding their way into her mouth!
There have been just a few disadvantages:
- Coconut oil has a 76-degree melt-point, which means it turns to liquid in the summer. I store mine in the fridge, but it’s hard(er) to remember to go out there and put it on in the mornings! It is easy to apply, even when cold. Just touch your skin for a second and it already starts to soften.
- Travel is tricky. Even in temperate climates, a warm car will cause the coconut oil to liquefy and you’ve got a mess in your toiletries kit. I either travel with the deo in a cooler, upright and in a plastic bag in a side pocket of my luggage, OR I just use my MadeOn lotion bar and a bit of baking soda patted on manually. It’s worth it to avoid the mess. Some people melt a bit of beeswax and add it to the homemade deodorant recipe to help it remain solid above 76 degrees.
- UPDATE: Many have asked “Does it stain your clothes?” I didn’t think so, but I did get a stain on a Christmas blouse made of synthetic silky material, the first one I’ve noticed. I would recommend taking care with such materials and maybe other bold, solid colors. I will now get in the habit of putting the deo on before the shirt and making sure it’s soaked in better before letting the shirt touch my skin.
- It takes 5 minutes or so to mix up a batch, although I’ve only done that once and just refill as needed. Of course, I bet I spent more than 5 minutes per stick of antiperspirant cutting and organizing coupons and matching with the best deals, then standing in my pharmacy trying to find the exact version on sale.
Also visit Real Food, My Way for a recipe with essential oils included.
Lindsay has published a fabulous update on her deodorant recipe detailing some common FAQs.
My mother, who listens to my stories of all the things I’ve been trying, is on the walk to more natural living alongside me. She chose to find a natural deodorant (not antiperspirant) to avoid aluminum. There are some name brand ones out there (Arm and Hammer) and things like Tom’s of Maine. They’re working for her, but she also said she saw triclosan in the ingredients. You just can’t win! Others have luck with a crystal deodorant that you can find at health food stores.
2015 UPDATE: Life Without Plastic now carries Hoda’s Herbals cream deodorant with only five ingredients!
A Side-by-Side Comparison
When I traveled to my parents’ for 10 days this August, I knew I had to pack my homemade deo in the cooler so it wouldn’t melt all over my toothbrush in the hot van. I had my conventional stuff with me, too, in case I forgot to pack it. I did, and was quite content with the fact that I’d get to do a real comparison. I figured I might find better results from the old antiperspirant on hot days, but I was also not looking forward to that old stinging sensation of antiperspirant on nicked-up underarms.
I was quite surprised to find that I stunk more with the “real” stuff.
My clothing had a more unpleasant scent after a long day. I can only imagine that it’s the chemicals in the antiperspirant mixing with the sweat and odor that does get through. I was quite happy to get back home and break out the cold coconut oil from my fridge.
I have a theory, too: I think my body is used to its sweat glands being left alone, not bothered by chemicals fighting them closed. I’m guessing they just “work” better naturally and aren’t trying to overdo it. Plus, when I learn about how bacteria works, I probably have more natural body bacteria rather than the super-strong ones that would be left after chemical deodorants (sometimes containing triclosan!). They’re just milder.
In the comments at the Analyzing Aluminum in Antiperspirants post, Jen formerly of Mommy’s Soapbox has another very intriguing theory. She says that when she started eating traditional foods, she noticed a decrease in her body odor. That’s one I’m going to ponder for a while!
I know forfeiting your deodorant or antiperspirant is not for everyone. That’s why this isn’t a Monday Mission. It’s something to think about, a little piece of my story that you may or may not want to try. (Just don’t tell my husband I told you, okay? 😉 )