Make my own deodorant? Check.

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.

No joke.

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.”

So. Maybe you’d like the recipe? Of course you would.

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).

INGREDIENTS

  • 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.

TO USE
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.

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17 Responses to “Make my own deodorant? Check.”

  1. Keili June 8, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    I am going to have to try this. I just switched to a paraben-free face lotion…after 15+ years with Aveeno, so…baby steps. Also, I will tell my mom about this as her solution is to go sans deodorant, which is not always what other people want her to do. Very funny post! :)

    • Kellee June 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

      I continue to be amazed at how well it works! I do still sweat some, but it NEVER smells. Kind of makes me feel silly for all those years I spread chemicals on my pits, when it turns out the natural stuff is actually better. Go figure, right?!

  2. Carolyn August 22, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Yes. I have to make this! Tom’s (and all the other brands of natural deodorant I’ve tried, including the ridiculously expensive stick of Lavanilla I sprung for because it says right on the package that it’s 100% healthy with no harsh chemicals) all have the unfortunate side effect of peeling my underarm skin off my body. And the itching. Oh, the itching. I hate the itching. Also on the list of things I hate: smelling like a hippie. This stuff looks like it just might be the answer. Thanks!

    • Kellee August 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      I hope it works for you! I’ve heard that some people with corn allergies have trouble with DIY deodorants because of of the corn starch. You can try just leaving the corn starch out if you think that might be the issue. And baking soda can be an irritant for some people too – hope that’s not the case for you. I have a hard time with store bought natural deodorant because they almost all add some sort of natural fragrance that irritates my skin, but this recipe doesn’t bug my skin at all (in fact, the coconut butter has me nice and softly moisturized). But, if you find you’re having issues even with this recipe, check out this post from Crunchy Betty on “resetting” your skin’s ph balance. I haven’t tried it myself, so I can’t vouch for it, but it sounds like it works for a lot of people who have similar issues to what you’re describing. Good luck!

  3. Robin August 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Going into perimenopause cranked up my stink factor and my usual commercial deodorant just didn’t cut it. Nor did any natural brands. If I was willing (and remembered) to use rubbing alcohol several times a day that worked – ish. Then I decided to try those clinical strength antiperspirants and they did indeed stop the stink. Until the skin under my arm turned dark brown and peeled off. Yikes.

    I found a similar recipe to yours, tried it and it was magic. I’ve been using it for about 3 years and it works great. I do have to reapply daily even if I’ve decided to skip showering but even if I forget, you are right, it is more of a musky scent than straight-out BO. However, I don’t add the arrowroot, just cornstarch, and wonder if adding it would help the mix stay more solid. I just made a fresh batch and it is still in a liquid state (as was the coconut oil in my cabinet – I guess it’s warmer in my place than I thought).

    I have had the oily stains issue but it seemed to be related more to a gradual increase in the amount I used (cause, you know, more is always better). If I stay with a pea-sized amount I don’t have the problem.

    As for sweating, my pits are occasionally moist – gee, like the rest of my body sometimes is – and it really is a non-issue for me. But I am not a heavy sweater so it may be different for someone else.

    Thanks for the recipe. I think I’ll pick up some arrowroot and give it a try.

    • Kellee August 25, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

      Definitely try the arrowroot, as it does help thicken things up a bit. Mine has never been anything but a chalky solid, but then it doesn’t get terribly warm here in Seattle. (Though, since we don’t have air conditioning in the temperate northwest, the house does get up to the high 80s on the warm summer days – but still: solid deodorant.) I do know some people in significantly warmer climates who just keep theirs in the fridge to keep it solid, so you could always try that too.

  4. Nocturnal August 23, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Hi Kellee,

    Is arrowroot powder the same as arrowroot starch/flour? I have this in my pantry for cooking, but can’t seem to find “powder” from my supplier of natural ingredients for healthcare. Thanks, and can’t wait to try this!

    • Kellee August 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

      I think it’s all the same thing, but I could be wrong on that. I had the same issue, so I used arrowroot starch. It worked great! Let me know how it works for you. So far, everyone I know who’s tried this recipe has loved it.

  5. Denise August 27, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    I made this last week and it’s great! I had to add more baking soda and arrowroot powder (quite a bit) as it was very liquid-y for some reason. I was using just straight baking soda but this is much better. Thank you!

    • Kellee September 23, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      Interesting that yours was liquidy! I’ve never experienced that. Maybe temperature difference? (Coconut oil does get soft at warmer temps.) At any rate, I’m glad to hear it’s working for you!

  6. Vicki September 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    I’ve been experimenting, too, but with a different formula – I recently heard that milk of magnesia is effective – I wanted to put it in an old nearly empty roll-on, but can’t figure out how to get it open in such a way that I can close it again. So, I’ve been using it in a squeeze bottle, and squeeze a small amount onto a round flat cotton pad, apply to one armpit; turn the pad over, squeeze a second small amount on, and apply to the other armpit. This is working very well for me, and is saving me the $5/roll-on that the People’s Pharmacy is selling it for. Anyone else try this?

    • Kellee September 23, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Milk of magnesia? How interesting! I’ve never heard that before. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Dawn September 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Hi, I am having some issues with eczema in my arm pits! I have been using the crystal stick that I bought in Whole Foods, but I’m not sure whether it’s stress or what, but i’m breaking out in my pits and they are both so red! It itches like crazy and I haven’t changed anything but the stress level at work. Now, I have been known to be pretty darn smelly, but the crystal stick keeps me B.O. free for quite a while, does this recipe do the same? I have a face wash I use every now and then b/c I can only use cetaphyl on my face, but the face wash is mainly coconut oil with sea salt and a little essential oil in it.

    ^^^^ Milk of Magnesia? Really!
    I love being a hippy, I just don’t want to smell like one, esp since I’m kind of a big girl… Any advice is welcome! Please and thanks in advance!

    • Kellee September 23, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      I find that this recipe keeps me completely B.O. free, and I have several friends who use it now too with equally excellent results. That said, everyone’s body chemistry is a little bit different, so what works for one won’t necessarily work as well for someone else.

      One note: there is baking soda in this recipe, and baking soda can be a skin irritant for some people. So if you’re already experiencing skin irritation, you might want to hold off on trying this until things return to normal. I’m worried it might just make the problem worse for you.

  8. Amy P September 19, 2013 at 2:36 am #

    So, I made this. When I put it on there’s an initial moment of irritation from the baking soda, but then it disappears. It’s good for the first half of the day – I keep catching whiffs of coconut from my pits ;) But, I find it doesn’t last to the end of the day and reapplying doesn’t necessarily help at that point. I use it when I’m home all day (most days) but am still pulling out the antiperspirant for the events etc. I’m an average sweater and not at all active, although I do lug around a 35lb toddler and a 20lb infant, so…anyway. I like not wearing commercial stuff but I’m not sure this is cutting it.

    • Kellee September 23, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks for sharing your experience. A couple notes that might help:

      I’ve found that with deodorants (as opposed to antiperspirants), if I feel like I need to reapply, wiping with witch hazel first helps tremendously. Reapplying to clean, “fresh” pits works better than trying to apply over the top of odor. I’ve never had to reapply with this recipe, but I used to have to regularly when I was using Tom’s brand.

      I also found that there was an adjustment period after switching from antiperspirants to deodorant, during which time I seemed to sweat a bit more. Once my body was used to just deodorant, I seemed to actually sweat *less* than I did when I’d been using antiperspirants. I’ve heard others comment on the same experience. So, if you’ve been using antiperspirants up until using this recipe, you might be experiencing the same adjustment period. Maybe? Just guessing…

      But, of course, this is maybe just not the right recipe for you. There are a bazillion different recipes posted online for natural deodorants, so I encourage you to keep searching and experimenting to find one that works for you. (And then share it with the rest of us, if you don’t mind!)

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