Sometimes people give me a funny look when I tell them I don’t use deodorant. My secret is a homemade, natural deodorant that I make with healthy, edible ingredients.
I live in a place that is always warm (Hawaii), and I do lots of activities (like biking to work most days). Yet most days I don’t need deodorant – which surprises most people. True, I am not overall a very sweaty person. It’s only just before my period that I get truly stinky, or while dealing with stressful situations (like, traveling or having computer meltdowns). I eat a mostly vegan diet with a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, and drink a lot of water and tea to keep my body flushing naturally all day long. So that helps, too.
The other secret is that for those times of the month or when things get extra stressed, I rely on a homemade natural deodorant recipe that I created years ago. Homemade deodorant might seem really complicated or expensive, however… using just a few ingredients that are probably in your kitchen right now (!), you can create a lovely natural deodorant that works really well and feels really good. This natural deodorant doesn’t clog up the pores in your pits, so it keeps the sweat flowing, and keeps bacteria from backing up.
This DIY natural deodorant uses a few edible ingredients and some essential oils, so it’s also customizable depending on your preferred scents. Currently I’m have a patchouli and lavender combination that always garners compliments from those that get close enough to smell me. Which is more people than you might expect, because I smell so good!
Why Choose Natural Deodorant or Homemade Deodorant
There are lots of reasons to avoid conventional deodorant. Firstly, the containers are super wasteful. Those plastic containers with lid, base, and interior push bar are most likely not recyclable. If you’re interested in reducing your plastic waste and building a zero-waste body care routine, deodorant is an easy option to remove from your life. Plastic pollution is one of the defining issues our time, so it makes sense to avoid these products and reduce our overall plastic consumption.
Secondly, most conventional deodorants are both deodorant AND antiperspirants, which means they mask your natural body odor AND they reduce or eliminate sweating. The problem here is that our human bodies were made to sweat! This is a natural detox for our bodies, and the armpits are a key area for sweating. Some of the ingredients to avoid in deodorant include:
- Triclosan, to prevent bacteria (linked to hormone disruption in humans and other animals)
- Parabens and phthalates, which help preserve and ‘stick’ the product, linked to cancer and hormone disruption; and
- Fragrance, used for scenting the product, and also used to cover up potentially hundreds of ingredients under proprietary information. These could cause irritation, allergies, and other issues – but we don’t know exactly because exact ingredients are always hidden by the company.
The other deodorant ingredient that is most often cited as being dangerous to humans is aluminum. This metal is rumored to be linked to both breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Thankfully, there is not a definitive link between breast cancer and aluminum. And while there are studies that did show links of aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease, these have been mostly discredited. However, I’m a firm believer of the precautionary principle – why add this crap to our body care routine (and especially into sensitive areas like our armpits) when we just do not need it?
Should I Switch from Conventional to Natural Deodorant?
I’m biased, but yes, absolutely!
Even if there are no links definitively connecting some of the controversial ingredients to specific diseases or conditions, I’m a firm believer that chemicals should be avoided at all costs, especially for our body care, and plastic should be avoided when possible. Moreover, I do not trust companies to do the proper research about the single or collective (combined interactive) toxicity of their chosen ingredients, as the cosmetics industry essentially self-regulates, and there is no way to test for the combination of ALL the chemicals we’re exposed to in our daily life. If we CAN avoid chemicals in one area of our life, why not do so?
A note about switching to natural deodorants: if you’re switching away from traditional deodorants/antiperspirants, you might feel a little extra sweaty and be a bit stinky for a few days, perhaps a bit longer. This is normal and it will pass. This is a natural flushing of your system. As aluminum blocks the pores in your pits, there can be backed up bacteria that needs to come out.
Well + Good writer Erika Stalder explains, “According to [research], habitual deodorant and antiperspirant users who stopped use for two days or more secreted far more Staphylococcus hominis (a bacteria that another study determined to be one of the stinkiest once broken down by the skin) than those who didn’t regularly wear deodorant or antiperspirant. What’s more, the group of non-deodorant users were found to have pits dominated by corynebacterium, a different type of bacteria that doesn’t top the stink list.”
So give yourself a few days, get good exercise to keep the sweat flowing for the whole body, hydrate copiously with water, reduce caffeine, and give your body time to adjust. Your pits will be pleased.
Let’s get on to that recipe!
An Easy Homemade Natural Deodorant Recipe
This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of deodorant. Have a few small glass jars (new or repurposed), and try some different scent combinations to see what you like best. As I mentioned above, I like patchouli and lavender in combination. Other great scents for armpits include vetiver, cedarwood, rosewood, geranium and tea tree (both of which have antibacterial properties), sandalwood, rose, or vanilla. This deodorant lasts indefinitely, and you need only a tiny dab each time you use it. I recommend storing the homemade deodorant in small glass jars. It will get runny in very hot weather (or if stored in the car); it will still work, but be sure to store upright so that it doesn’t leak.
Finally, some people are very sensitive to baking soda in the pits, so if you get a rash or itchiness, stop use immediately. There isn’t a replacement for baking soda in this recipe, but there are recipes available that don’t contain this ingredient, so get to Googling if you have that issue.
Easy Homemade Deodorant Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons shea butter or cocoa butter
1 Tablespoon chopped beeswax (see note below for vegan swap)
6 Tablespoons baking soda
4 Tablespoons arrowroot, cornstarch, or potato starch
10-20 drops essential oil of your choice
Directions for Homemade, Natural Deodorant
- Add coconut oil, shea butter (or cacao butter), and beeswax to a small glass bowl. Place bowl over a small saucepan with a few inches of water inside. Bring water to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer until oil mixture is completely liquified.
- Once oil and butters are liquified, sift in remaining ingredients using a mesh strainer, and stir until well combined – it will be runny while warm, but the mixture will solidify when cool.
- If you are using essential oils for scent, add the essential oils, then divide evenly into the small jars. If you’re using multiple scents, pour into small jars, then add in oils to individual jars, and use a chopstick or q-tip to swirl in the scent evenly.
- Let jar(s) cool completely; it should cool to room temperature and firm up quickly. If it doesn’t set, move to refrigerator for about a half hour.
- To apply: once cool, gather about 1/8 teaspoon onto your clean fingers, then spread into armpit area until evenly distributed- and that’s it!
Notes about beeswax: Beeswax is really hard when solid, so use your sharpest knife and carefully ‘shave’ the beeswax down and pack into Tablespoon measure. Alternatively, use beeswax pellets. And if you don’t use bee ingredients, you can use candelilla wax, which is made from a plant. I learned about this ingredient in the book Wild Beauty, and I can’t wait to experiment with it.
Enjoy this wholesome, healing body care recipe! For more homemade body care, check out my post about zero-waste beauty for links to all my delicious homemade body care recipes, like lip balm, foot spray, body scrub, minty mouthwash, and MORE. Andrea