I have an announcement to make: homemade deodorant actually works! Now I’m a stinky person, so it came as a huge surprise that bicarb soda-based homemade deodorant could actually work on me. And work BETTER than antiperspirant.
I’ve been using it since the beginning of last winter and all through summer and can attest to its efficacy even in Perth summer conditions. It lasts for at least 12 hours. The only conditions I haven’t tested it under are strenuous exercise (I hate exercise but my excuse now is that I have been pregnant and suffering badly from PGP during this period).
So if you would like to avoid fragrances and chemicals with safety concerns, want to know what you are putting on your skin and keen to avoid unsustainable constituents like palm oil, you should seriously consider homemade deodorant.
The basic recipe I used came from Wellness Mama and is repeated here:
3 parts coconut oil
2 parts shea butter
3 parts bicarb soda
2 parts arrowroot (tapioca flour)
1% approx essential oils of your choice (optional)
Bicarb soda is the key deodorising ingredient, though the coconut oil is antibacterial (and provides a pleasant coconut smell), as are some essential oils, and the arrowroot absorbs moisture. If you are used to using antiperspirants you will have to get used to the sensation of sweating again.
I prefer to measure the mixture by weight.
The shea butter and coconut oil need to be melted in a crock pot or double-boiler. Alternatively, place in a jar or pyrex measuring jug and heat this in a pan of water. Microwaving is also possible but over-heating is said to destroy the properties of the oil/butter. Then mix in the powders. Mix the essential oils after the mixture has cooled a bit.
The mixture can be kept in a jar and applied with fingers or a spatula, but note that only a small quantity needs to be applied.
I purchased a couple of twist up sticks like these, and keep it in them. Or you can use an old solid deodorant twist up container if you’ve got one. The mixture melts in summer in Perth so I keep it in the fridge.
This recipe is pretty effective without essential oils but you can choose to add some antibacterial essential oils to add perfume and extra odour-fighting properties. Lavender or tea tree a good, cheap options. Some other choices include sandalwood (my fave but expensive) or rose (even more expensive). Citrus essential oils like lemon, orange, grapefruit or bergamot can also be used but you should be wary if your skin is going to be exposed to the sun as they can cause photosensitivity. I am currently using may chang because it is said to be an antiperspirant as well.
20 drops of essential oil is approximately 1ml.
Bicarb Soda Sensitivity
Unfortunately some people are sensitive to bicarb soda. As was I! After 2 weeks my skin started developing a rash. The good news is that only a small amount of baking soda is needed to make it effective, so I let my skin heal then started again with a smaller proportion of bicarb soda and the rash has not returned. I halved the quantity of bicarb soda from the recipe above and replaced this with arrowroot.
To keep the quantity I apply to a minimum I also:
- Use a twist-up stick and only apply one layer
- Keep the stick in the fridge so it remains solid
- Discard (or mix it in with a new batch) the last bit at the bottom because I suspect that the bicarb soda (and arrowroot) sinks to the bottom creating a greater concentration.
There are also other alternatives to bicarb soda deodorant. I tried magnesium spray but this didn’t work for me. Other bloggers claim that coconut oil without the bicarb soda but with extra essential oils worked for them. I know that some people just don’t smell much – if this is you (lucky you!) then doing without the bicarb soda or even just using an essential oil perfume may be adequate.
I didn’t notice any stains on the armpits of my shirts until recently (nothing in my work shirts all winter). But any oil embedded in cloth can stain – it tends to leave a grey stain after washing. I think dirt tends to stick to the oil. The way to get oil out? Wash with lots of soap! That is what soap molecules do, they attach to oils and fats so that the oils and fats can be rinsed away with water. So apply lots of soap to the affected areas and soak, then rinse or wash again. Soaking in sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleach) is also effective (I’ll leave a post on oxygen bleach for another day!)
One suggestion to minimise staining is to leave the deodorant a few minutes to dry before putting on clothes.
I suspect that the hot weather may be contributing to more of the coconut oil getting onto my shirts (or maybe it’s the fact that I have a newborn now and I shower and dress in 2 minutes flat?) More than one wear is required for the staining to be noticeable and only on my lighter-coloured shirts.
I really hope you take the plunge and decide to experiment with this more environmentally and health-friendly option.