Ed: This turned into a crazy long post. If you just want to skip my delightful intro and jump straight to the recipe, I won’t mind. I mean, I kind of will. But I’ll get over it after a good cry.
I’ve spent the last week or so bragging about my deodorant on Facebook. Which, presumably, is precisely what Zuckerberg had in mind when he set about creating his now famed social network: “I shall create a platform from which a person can describe the aroma of her pits to all of her friends, ex-boyfriends, and a couple dozen people she doesn’t even remember going to high school with – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.” And all the investors were like, “How has civilization survived this long without a mechanism through which ex-boyfriends can learn the armpit status of their former lovers?! Here’s a bazillion dollars, Zuck.”
And now you have no reason to finally get around to watching The Social Network, because I just spoiled the ending for you.
But back to my deodorant. Making a homemade batch was on my Life List (dream big, Kell!), and I decided to make it my #BeGreen resolution for 2013. Why? Because many commercially produced deodorants (even the “all natural” hippie ones) contain a lot of crap, and I do my best to avoid rubbing crap straight onto my organs (skin, remember, is the body’s largest organ). Crap like:
- Phthalates, a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals typically used to soften plastics.
- Parabens, which are a synthetic preservative used in most cosmetic products. Parabens are linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin irritation.
- Synthetic fragrances, which are linked to endocrine disruption and skin irritation.
- Triclosan, an antimicrobial agent that has been linked to hormone disruption, skin irritation and contact dermatitis, and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It also ends up in our rivers and oceans, where it is toxic to marine life.
(And then there are antiperspirants with their aluminum, but I swore off those a long time ago.)
I was a little worried about switching to homemade because I am no delicate sweater and, I dunno, I guess I just figured Tom’s had some secret ingredient or something. (On further inspection I see that Tom’s contains propylene glycol, a common skin irritant. That’s not exactly the kind of “secret ingredient” I had in mind, TOM.)
Turns out, my homemade stuff works WAY better than any store-bought deodorant I’ve ever tried. But before I recommended it to all my friends, I wanted to be sure – so I subjected my all naturally deodorized pits to a series of field tests. In other words, I tried to make myself stink. This stuff held up to intense workouts, too much coffee, skipped showers, my favorite pit-hugging (sweat-inducing) sweater – and that one day that I skipped a shower AND drank too much coffee AND wore a pit-hugging shirt AND finished it all off with an intense workout.
In fact, at no point during the two weeks that I’ve been using this magical concoction have I smelled anything on myself that would be considered B.O. Even on the worst days, I’d put myself more in the category of “pheromone musk” than “body odor.”
Coconut Oil Natural Deodorant
There are a whopping four ingredients in this recipe (five, if you opt to add essential oils), several of which you probably already have in your pantry. We’ll use baking soda for its odor eating powers, arrowroot powder to thicken the mixture and absorb moisture, corn starch for a bit of an antiperspirant effect, and coconut oil for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and moisturizing properties (and to bind the whole mess together).
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
- 4 tbsp corn starch (this can be eliminated for those with corn issues)
- 5-10 drops of essential oil, optional
You’ll also need a large bowl for mixing and a clean jar or other container with a lid.
PREPARATION (as demonstrated by a meddling toddler)
In a large bowl, combine baking soda, arrowroot powder, and corn starch.
Add in coconut oil and use a fork to blend it into the other ingredients. It’ll turn into a crumbly mess, like so:
If desired, add in essential oil(s). Many people like to use tea tree or lavender oils for their added antibacterial effects. I don’t care for the medicinal scent of tea tree and I’m wildly allergic to lavender, so I used ylang ylang. All essential oils have some antimicrobial effects (though some more so than others) and the coconut oil is an antimicrobial as well – so, I’d recommend selecting the essential oils based on scent preference rather than medicinal concerns.
Using clean hands, gently “knead” your mixture until the coconut oil is evenly distributed. (Or continue with the fork if you’d rather; I found hands to be more effective at this point.) Add more coconut oil or baking soda to adjust consistency, if needed. You’re going for something moist enough to stick together, but dry enough to be a solid. If you can form it into a non-gooey snowball, you’re on the right track:
Stick it in the clean container of your choosing. I used an old jelly jar. I know some people use cleaned-out store-bought deodorant sticks, but remember that coconut oil begins to liquify at 76 degrees. This doesn’t ruin the deodorant, but I’ve heard woeful tales of glorious messes leaking from the bottoms of reused deodorant containers.
Muck about in the mess before your mother has a chance to clean it up.
That last step is super important according to my toddler.
With clean hands, scoop out a small amount of deodorant. I use a dollop about the size of a dime. Let it sit in the palm of your hand for a moment to warm and become more “spreadable.” Apply half to each armpit, rubbing it in like a lotion. Do a quick mirror check to make sure you don’t have any visible smudges of deodorant, and you’re done!
This recipe makes enough to last about 5 or 6 months. Coconut oil has a shelf-life of two years, so there’s little worry of spoilage (unless you use old coconut oil at the start, obviously).
A Few Additional Notes:
- Use organic ingredients. I’m guessing you’re already on the organics train, since you’re interested in making your own deodorant, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Whole Foods and other natural markets will have arrowroot. I did find it in one conventional store too, but it was in with the spices and cost $7 for a tiny jar. Compare that to the PCC near my house where I was able to pick up several cups in the bulk section for a few bucks. If you’re having trouble finding it locally, you can always Amazon it. Arrowroot flour, arrowroot starch, arrowroot powder… they’re all good. You can also use corn starch in place of arrowroot, but it’s not as silky and more likely to cause skin irritation.
- If your skin is turning red and irritated, it might be due to the baking soda, which can be drying and aggravating to skin. The coconut oil in this recipe should more than offset any drying, but some people are especially sensitive to baking soda so I thought it worth mentioning.
- If you have what feels like an allergic reaction (red, itchy, hives), it’s probably the essential oils. They’re potent! Try using less, using a different scent, or eliminating them altogether. Note: using the recommended 5-10 drops in this recipe has been fine for me, and I’m someone who has to be careful with essential oils.
- Some people have mentioned that coconut oil deodorants leave oil stains on their clothes. I haven’t experienced that at all with this recipe. This is a chalkier recipe than some (many I’ve seen have a whipped consistency closer to body butter), so I suspect it has to do with the ratio of oil to dry ingredients. Still, you’ll probably want to test it wearing an old t-shirt before pulling out your best cashmere.
- You will sweat a bit. It’s deodorant, not antiperspirant.
- Making it is not nearly as messy as my photos would suggest – unless you, too, are in possession of a meddling toddler and decide to let him “help.”
If you try this recipe, let me know how it works for you. Or maybe you have your own recipe to share? There are countless other natural deodorant recipes out on those magical internets if this one doesn’t work for you. Or, if you’re not much of a do-it-yourselfer, you can always check EWG’s database to learn about the safety of the ingredients in your favorite store-bought brand.