Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's the Pits - Natural Homemade Deodorant

This is what you have all been waiting for! Ok, so at least a few of you have been waiting for this post. Natural, homemade deodorant.

Why make my own deodorant? The short answer is that most store bought deodorants are really icky. The ingredients lists contain many substances that I would rather not put on my skin. (Click HERE to check out Environmental Working Group's guide to see what ingredients are in your deodorant and how they could affect your health.)  I will not take the time to elaborate on why most deodorants are so bad for you. You can find info on the EWG page and there are also many blog posts out there that cover this topic. (I will include a couple links at the end of this post for you to get started.)

And now for the deodorant recipe!


3 Tbsp shea butter
Tbsp cocoa butter
Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil
Tbsp baking soda
Tbsp corn starch or arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp (or 25 drops) tea tree oil
1/4 tsp (or 25 drops) essential oil for scent - optional

(More essential oil can be used, but do not exceed 50 drops (or 1/2 tsp) for every 2 ounces of product. Essential oils can cause skin irritation and other health problems if used in too high of concentration or applied directly to skin. They must be properly diluted with a carrier oil or in a product, such as deodorant. This recipe makes about 6 ounces of deodorant, so a total of 150 drops (or 1 1/2 tsp) essential oils would be the limit. Though I do not think that much is required.)

These ingredients, in these proportions, provide good odor control and a nice consistency for the deodorant. The key ingredients are the coconut oil, baking soda (diluted with the corn starch or arrowroot starch) and tea tree oil. The other ingredients help give a nice consistency and/or are good for the skin. Beeswax could be substituted for the cocoa butter and shea butter, though I have not tried it myself. This may be a good alternative if you do not have other plans for cocoa butter or shea butter seeing as they come in larger portions and it may take a long while to use them if you are only making deodorant. I would try about a tablespoon or two of grated beeswax, melted with the coconut oil. You can try different amounts to get the consistency you want. Though, I recommend using the shea and cocoa butters, if possible, because I think that will make your pits nice and smooth and happy.

Read through to get to the how-to picture guide for making this deodorant. Or skip over this next part if you wish. I am going to tell you about how I came up with this recipe and the problems I have had with it.

A little background...

First of all, let me tell you that I tried a couple natural deodorants over the years. It seems that it would be much easier to go to the store and buy a stick of deodorant than it would be to get the ingredients and make your own. (It really is not that much harder or more time consuming to make your deodorant, surprisingly.) Most recently I have tried Jāsön brand Tea Tree deodorant. It smells great. It did not work for me at all. It did not even mask the odor. It only added a pleasant scent on top of the odor, which really was not pleasant at all. I have heard people say that it works for them, but it did not for me. I think body chemistry and other factors must make a difference in what deodorant works for each person.

I decided to try to make my own deodorant. I found a couple great recipes online from various blogs and, using them as a basis, came up with my own natural deodorant recipe. I chose ingredients that would not just mask odor, but would kill the bacteria that cause the odor. I had all of the ingredients on hand for the lotion I make for the boys. Whipping up a homemade deodorant would be easy. (Hop on over to my other blog, Boys With Braids, to check out the recipe for the lotion, too. I also use the lotion and love it!)

The deodorant that I made was totally awesome and worked better than aluminum-laced, store-bought, synthetic-chemical-filled deodorants I have used over the years. It stopped ALL odor and made the skin in my pits look and feel wonderful.

I loved this deodorant. I could not believe how well it worked. I am the type of person that is paranoid about body odor. When I used store bought deodorants, I would reapply a couple times a day, especially if I was going to be out in public. This dive into homemade deodorant was a bit terrifying as I contemplated it. What if I smelled bad? What if other people could smell me? But once I took the leap, it was not terrifying at all. It was amazing!

For a week.

Then I broke out in an itchy, red rash in my pits. I tried to ignore it but it got worse and began to burn. I was so bummed. I thought maybe it was the coconut oil because my lips become irritated with coconut oil. Crazy, I know, since I love the stuff so much and pretty much use it for everything. So I was more than a little sad to think that it might be the coconut oil that was causing the problem. I tried making the deodorant with olive oil. It did not work very well and it still irritated my pits.

In the Pits

This is where things get stinky. So, sorry to everyone who had to smell me for a few weeks while I tried to work this out.

I decided to try to build the deodorant one or two ingredients at a time to find out what was causing the rash. I spent at least a week on each stage to give it time to develop irritation before adding the next ingredient.

I started with coconut oil. I used coconut oil every day in place of deodorant. I had no irritation (whew!) and it controlled the odor fairly well. I had to reapply several times a day, but it was better than nothing at all. I sometimes used the coconut oil and then put the Jāsön deodorant on over top to help me smell a little more fresh.

When I had determined that the coconut oil did not irritate, I added the shea and cocoa butters since I doubted they were the problem. This version of deodorant was not as effective as coconut oil on its own.

Next, I added arrowroot starch. No problems, but I was still smelly. Vitamin E oil was my next addition with the same results.

Then, I added baking soda. BINGO! That was the culprit. I even used a small amount, just in case. Within a day or two my pits were itching and turning red. But EVERY homemade deodorant uses baking soda. Seriously. Every recipe I have come across contains baking soda. And there is a reason for this. Baking soda is one of the most key ingredients to be odor-free. Just my luck.

I made the deodorant again with all ingredients except baking soda. It does not work. Not even remotely well enough to use it. So, back to the drawing board since the two options - smell bad or have burning pits - were not viable.

At one point in my itchy, red, painful pit experience, I sprayed on a mixture of aloe, witch hazel and vitamin E to help soothe the rash. I was surprised when this spray helped to control the odor. It was not a perfect solution, but it was better than nothing. After discovering this, I went and searched online to find that the very mixture I came up with is used by others as a deodorant. Though, they generally add baking soda to theirs, which I am sure makes it more effective, but out of the question for me.

For now, I am using coconut oil with tea tree and essential oils, applied morning and night to clean skin to control odor. It works very well most days and for the days that it does not work so well, I use my Jāsön Tea Tree deodorant to stay a little more fresh.

I will provide the recipes for the alternative, baking soda free deodorants after the picture guide.

How to Make Homemade, Natural Deodorant (picture guide)

Gather ingredients. I used corn starch for my first batch, then switched to arrowroot starch for the next.
You may want to start with the lowest amount of baking soda and then increase it if you do not have problems with it and feel that you need more odor eating power. Some people have used this recipe with the maximum amount of baking soda with no problems. Each person is different, so it may or may not be a problem for you.
Cocoa butter is fairly hard at room temperature, so I took a big knife and chopped it up a little bit so I could measure it easier. Because you will be trying to measure chunks of cocoa and shea butter, you may need to just eyeball it a little bit rather than get an exact measurement. It really is not all that important if it is exactly the right amount. "Close enough" works.

Melt cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil (if solid) in a double boiler or in a saucepan over very low heat. It only needs to melt, not cook.

Stirring helps to melt the butters a little faster, but is not necessary.
I generally stir so I do not get bored waiting for it to melt.

Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.

Stir until smooth and dry ingredients are completely dissolved. A whisk may be useful at this stage, as well.
The color of the mixture will depend on the color of your ingredients. My first order of shea butter was a creamy yellow. The shea butter I am currently using is a darker yellow.

Refrigerate 1-2 hours or until the edges begin to harden. The middle should be a little gelled, not liquid. If it hardens too much, you may have to melt it down again - at least until it is soft enough to mix.

Stir well. As you stir, the mixture will continue to harden while it continues to cool. 

When the mixture is one consistency (no hard lumps and no soft spots),  spoon it into small jars. You will want to do this before it becomes too solid. This recipe should make about 6 ounces. Small jelly jars (4 oz) are perfect.
The deodorant should remain solid even in indoor summer heat, but may melt if left outside, in a car or in the sun. It will be harder in the winter and softer in the summer if you indoor temperature fluctuates with the seasons. You can experiment with adding more liquid oils, less cocoa butter or more to achieve a desirable consistency. This consistency was good for me.

Place a lid on the jar and label it. If you are like me, you will being making all sorts of concoctions and you do not want to mix up your deodorant, lotion and salve. Having labels is a good idea!

Alternative Deodorant Recipes

A quick search online will give many results for natural, homemade deodorants. There are many options, but these are two that I have tried and have used with some success.

Spray Deodorant
Tbsp aloe (I use fractionally distilled aloe, but regular, pure aloe with NOTHING added would work, too)
Tbsp witch hazel
1/2 tsp tea tree oil
1/2 tsp vitamin E oil
10 drops essential oil (more can be used, but not more than 50 drops)
If baking soda does not cause irritation, add a teaspoon or two to the mixture for increased odor protection.

Mix all ingredients together in a small spray bottle (available at Walmart for $1 or less, usually in the travel/trial size section). Shake well before each use to suspend the oils in the liquid. A few sprays to each underarm will help control odor for a while.

Coconut and Essential Oil Deodorant
4 oz coconut oil
1/2 tsp tea tree oil
1/2 tsp vitamin E oil
30-50 drops essential oils

Mix all ingredients together, gently melting coconut oil if solid before mixing. Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so this deodorant will be in a solid state at lower temperatures and liquid at warmer temperatures. It may be a good idea to keep this deodorant in a bottle during the summer and in a small jar during the cooler months.
I use this deodorant in the morning and at night before bed after washing my underarms. I will be working on this formula in an attempt to improve it. If and when I do, I will update.

Tips for using natural, homemade deodorants: 

  • These deodorants seem to work best with looser fitting clothing. I have noticed that shirts that fit snugly in the underarms somehow cause more odor. Perhaps shirts that allow more air flow help fight off the odor-causing bacteria.
  • Allow a few minutes after applying deodorant before putting on a shirt. You want the oils and other ingredients to have time to soak in and kill the bad bacteria without being rubbed off onto the clothing.
  • I have noticed that what I eat has an impact on whether or not the alternative deodorants will work well. For a day or two after eating processed or prepared foods (most likely with icky ingredients in them) the deodorants do not work as well. When I eat real food (no artificial ingredients), it seems that there is less odor (fewer odor-causing bacteria) to try to cover up or control.
  • It may take a few days or a week of using the natural deodorants before you notice the full effect. If you are switching from standard, store bought deodorant to a natural deodorant, your body may take a few days to detox - get all the icky stuff out. This can make you a little more smelly. Making the switch over the weekend may be a good idea. I have no scientific or medical backing on this, but it may help to use plain coconut oil on your underarms at night for a week while still using your old deodorant. It would make sense that this could help you begin to detox and also begin to kill off the odor-causing bacteria. You could also, or instead, try cleaning your underarms with witch hazel before bed each night.
  • These are deodorants, not antiperspirants. They will not stop you from sweating. That is a good thing! Your body needs to sweat in order to release toxins. Yeah, I know. It is yucky and not professional to have your shirt dripping with sweat. I abhor sweat. It is the main reason I refuse to exercise. But, honestly, I believe I sweat less since switching to natural deodorant. I have no explanation for it, just experience. Even on the hottest, most humid days, I seem to have less sweat than I did when using standard deodorant. That is not to say that I do not sweat at all, but it does seem to be less than before. I cannot guarantee your experience, so please do not be upset with me if you show up to your kids' school with sweat dripping from your favorite shirt. Just be aware that it is not meant to control sweating and you should try it out in a situation where you will not be embarrassed by wet underarms.

Links for pages that I have found useful...

Reasons to avoid standard deodorants and alternatives:
This is the recipe I originally followed (and added some of my own ingredients):

An online search for homemade deodorants will give you many more options and more information about how to make deodorants and why you should avoid standard deodorants that are sold in stores.

Please leave a comment and tell us your recipe (or post a link) for natural, homemade deodorant. If you try homemade deodorant because of this post, please let us know how it works for you!

1 comment:

Ducks said...

Jennifer, what an awesome post! I like your fine-tuning and experimentation. I have pretty good luck with a similar recipe, but with probiotics, and friends -- who are less malodorous than I am even without deodorant -- do well with just oil of lavender and/or magnesium oil. I wonder if magnesium oil would be as harsh on your pits as the baking soda?