Though the internet’s wisdom on the dangers of using antiperspirant are overblown (you don’t actually need to worry if yours contains aluminum), you may nevertheless have pondered whether you should go the more natural route when dealing with your body odor. Deodorants mask odor without inhibiting your body’s production of sweat (which is what an antiperspirant does), and there are a whole bunch of brands promising to do so more “naturally,” from Tom’s of Maine ($4.89), to Native ($12.99), to Schmidt’s ($9.19), to Lume ($16.99). The problem is, with the exception of Tom’s (which leaves underarms feeling wet all day), they’re often rather expensive. (Thirty dollars for this Routine deodorant gets you an amount that looks comparable to what you’d find in a container of silly putty.)
But there is another way to have “naturally” less odiferous pits—making your own deodorant. While it may sound ineffective or inordinately time-consuming at first, DIY homemade deodorant is a good way to avoid using those ingredients you’d rather not spread onto your skin, and keep a few extra bills in your pocket.
Why would you make your own deodorant?
While the fears around the toxicity of aluminum in deodorant have been discredited (there is no conclusive evidence linking aluminum to Alzheimer’s or breast cancer), you may want to avoid antiperspirants for other reasons. Their fragrances can cause itchiness, allergic rashes, or aggravate asthma; according to the David Suzuki Foundation, the antioxidant BHT (listed as an ingredient in the Dove 0% aluminum stick I’m currently using) can also induce allergic reactions in the skin.
Deodorants also may contain phthalates and triclosan, which, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, are endocrine disruptors “linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems.” The NIH acknowledges, “limited scientific information exists on potential health problems in humans,” as people are typically exposed to multiple endocrine disruptors simultaneously, and assessing the effects of a single disruptor is difficult. But according to the Endocrine Society, endocrine-disrupting chemicals “have been linked to numerous adverse human health outcomes including…sperm quality and fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, early puberty, altered nervous system function, immune function, certain cancers…” The list goes on.
Whether you’re concerned about traditional ingredients or not, there is still the fact that making your own will save you money and produce less plastic waste. In my experience, homemade deodorants actually do work, too—though they might take some getting used to if you previously tended to favor antiperspirants that stopped you from sweating altogether.
How to make your own deodorant
A quick Google search will yield hundreds of simple recipes, most of which revolve around three to four main ingredients: Corn starch or arrowroot powder (for moisture absorbency), baking soda (for absorbency and odor-reduction), coconut oil (for its anti-bacterial properties), and essentials oils (so it smells nice).
You can experiment with various bases (such as shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil), powders (corn starch, arrowroot, baking soda), and essential oils to achieve the desired consistency and scent.
A basic recipe for deodorant
- 6 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 Tablespoons baking soda
- 4 Tablespoons corn starch
- 5-10 drops Essential oil (optional)
Combine powders, mash in coconut oil with a fork. Mix to desired consistency, adding more powder as necessary. Add essential oil if desired. While this can be applied with your fingers, put it in an empty deodorant stick for easy application. Note: You’ll need to keep your homemade deodorant in a cool place, as the ingredients may melt in warmer temperatures.