I started looking for a new deodorant about three years ago. Part of the reason for this was a desire to move away from deodorants and antiperspirants with aluminum. I had also found that my underarm skin was getting rashy and sore, though I didn’t know why. I started by moving to Adidas cotton tech absorbent + deo for days when I was going to work out and Tom’s of Maine for day-to-day deodorant.
I had heard that, as with shampoo, there would be an adjustment period when switching from the more common kinds of deodorant/antiperspirant (which can clog pores), during which time you might be more smelly than usual. That was right. I used wet paper towels in the bathroom at work to wash my armpits when it got bad, and even took some deodorant to work for emergencies. After a year had passed, I was confident that the Tom’s didn’t quite have enough kick to combat my underarm odour. The Adidas brand was fine, but smelled very strongly. I next tried Alba Botanicals clear enzyme deodorant stick. This was much better, but I still smelled a bit after a day at the office. Trying to continue with brands I could find locally, I then switched to Kiss My Face Natural Liquid Rock deodorant. This was a bit pricier, it did contain alum (an aluminum salt), and it goes on as a liquid that you have to let dry a bit before moving on with your day. It mostly worked, but wasn’t perfect.
Sweating is an important function for our bodies, and had no desire to clog my pores and hair follicles and get more ingrown hairs. I did want to remove the odour, excessive moisture, and bacteria growth. And eliminate that pesky aluminum. So back to the internet I went.
It’s important to note that I find my armpits smell a lot worse when my body is reacting in other ways. Keeping my inflammation low by avoiding chemicals and using medications has reduced my deodorant use considerably.
I started looking at the ingredient lists of every commercial “natural” deodorant I could find. Finally I discovered this. It’s natural and effective, moisturizes, and a complementary touch-up spray can be made for bad days.
Without further adieu, here is my favourite deodorant recipe:
Equal amounts of shea butter (or another mid-softness nut/vegetable butter) and fractionated coconut oil (or another liquid vegetable-based oil). These hold the other ingredients onto your skin and moisturize your skin.
Equal amounts of baking soda (reduces bacterial buildup and smell) and arrowroot powder/flour (absorption).
UPDATE: Try about 2/3 arrowroot flour and 1/3 baking soda if this recipe produces any irritation. To do this, the mixture can be gently reheated, slightly more oil/vegetable butter added, and additional arrowroot flour added.
Gently heat the nut butter on the stove in a double boiler until just melted. Turn off the heat and remove from double boiler. Add the liquid oil. Add powder, made of one part baking soda and one part arrowroot powder, until the mixture reaches the consistency of thick pudding. The mixture will become a bit harder when it cools, especially if you use a hard nut butter, like cocoa butter, so don’t add too much powder beyond this point. Allow to cool a bit. Once it is only slightly warm to the touch, you can add a few drops of essential oils if desired, but be careful, as sensitivity to essential oils can develop. Put into a glass jar and rub a pea-sized amount into clean armpits as needed. Store in a cool place. If it gets warm and softens, it will still work.
This formula will not help you if your armpits already have smelly bacterial growth. If that’s the case and you can’t wash before applying, use the deodorant spray below first.
Refreshing Deodorant Spray
Fill a bottle with vodka or rubbing alcohol. Screw on the sprayer, and voila! You may add a couple of drops of essential oil if you wish, but don’t go overboard. Spray onto armpits and rub in. If needed, you can also use this on the armpits of your clothing during the day.
- My jar broke!Use a glass jar. I have had this formula break at least three different plastic jars of various materials. Maybe it's the essential oils I used weakening the plastic, maybe it's expansion and contraction when the mixture experiences temperature fluctuations, or maybe it's something else, but it's not worth breaking the jar. The only plastic jar I've had survive is a repurposed pharmacy cream container, used for transporting travel-sized amounts.
- The mixture is too crumbly or hardNext time, use less baking soda and arrowroot powder. If the mixture is too hard and you used cocoa butter, try increasing the amount of oil and decreasing the amount of cocoa butter. This time, use as-is or fix the current batch by re-melting and adding more oil/butter.
- The mixture is too soft/liquidyAdd more powder. If the mixture has set, re-melt before adding powder or use as-is.
- I don't want to use this with my handsTry melting beeswax with the nut/vegetable butter in addition to the other ingredients (about 2 parts butter to one part beeswax), and then making the recipe as above. Pour into a washed, reused deodorant container and allow to cool and set thoroughly. I have only tried this once because I wanted to make my mixture as noncomedogenic as possible, so you will probably have to play with ratio of beeswax a bit. The worst case scenario is you have to use it with your hands as with the non-beeswax formula, but you can always re-melt the formula to add more beeswax.
- The mixture still irritates my skinDecrease or remove any essential oils in your recipe. If the mixture still causes irritation, try decreasing the amount of baking soda and increasing the amount of arrowroot.
- The deodorant seems to make my skin more sensitive to the sunIf you are using citrus essential oils, make sure that they are 5-fold distilled. This means that the separation process is run through five times to make sure certain sun-sensitizing chemicals in the oil are removed to safe levels.
That’s it! Let me know how this works for you in the comments below.