Friday, August 14, 2009

Homemade Deodorant (Caution: TMI Ahead!)

So. You know that there are all these rumors about aluminum and its supposed harmful effects on the body, right? Cancer, Alzheimer's, and other health problems seem, in some tests, to be associated with the ingestion and absorption of aluminum into the body. Now, I tend not to just jump on bandwagons when it comes to health issues, but on the other hand, I also think it's pretty wise to err on the proverbial side of caution until we know for sure. I take this approach with plastics, non-stick, sulfates, cleaning products, and triclosan as well as aluminum. My theory is that it's best to stick with the materials and methods proven safe by hundreds of years of human history, rather than glom onto a bunch of new (as in last 40 years new) products whose safety is just plain not known.

Anyhoodles, probably the major source of aluminum absorption for most of us in the West is our deodorant! Any deodorant that has anti-perspirant in it uses one of a variety of aluminum salts as its active ingredient. Check out the back of your deodorant container and you'll see: US labeling laws require that the percentage of aluminum salts be listed -- the percentage for over-the-counter anti-perspirant/deodorants seems to range from around 12% to around 19%.

As I said in a previous post, I have lately not been relishing cramming aluminum into my pores every morning, particularly since aluminum has been linked to breast cancer. Eep! So, filed under "better safe than sorry," here's a recipe of sorts for homemade deodorant. You will need:

  • an old empty deodorant container (make sure you rescue the bit that holds the deodorant as it gets pushed up!
  • about 1/4 cup coconut oil (you can use the fancy extra-virgin kind or just the cheap Lou-Ana stuff from the grocery store)
  • about 1/4 cup baking soda (NOT baking powder, which often contains... you guessed it, aluminum!)
  • about 1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 10-20 drops essential oil (lavender, tea tree, cedar), optional

Put the coconut oil and essential oils in a small bowl. Add about half of the baking soda and the cornstarch. Stir and mix until smooth. Add more baking soda and cornstarch in equal proportions until the mixture is a stiff paste. Spoon into deodorant container, shaking and tamping down after each addition. Refrigerate for 30-40 minutes or until quite solid.

Now. Stuff you need to know:

This is NOT an antiperspirant, if by antiperspirant you mean "a chemical that keeps me from sweating." It will reduce the amount that you perspire, and it will absorb the perspiration. That being said, some people theorize that the reason you tend to sweat a LOT when you go a day without using your ordinary a-p/d is because your body is taking advantage of the aluminum hiatus and trying to clean the chemicals out of your pores. I have definitely found a reduction in the amount of sweat, and I also don't have that awful "crap, my deodorant just gave out" sensation in the middle of a tough day. The difference between natural deo and commercial a-p/d meltdown is sort of like the difference between the spillway on a dam and a total failure of the dam. Does that make sense?

This is a VERY effective deodorant. If, like me, you're prone to get a little whiffy by day's end, you will LOVE this stuff. Coconut oil is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, tea tree oil and other essential oils are antiseptic, and baking soda is known to eliminate odors. You know what my armpits smell like right now? Tea tree oil. That's it. And it's been a good ten hours since I applied my natural deo. And I've been outside in the August humidity, and I ran around at school for a couple hours!

But speaking of temperature and humidity, coconut oil tends to liquefy at around 75 degrees (that's Fahrenheit, y'all). So if you're the type to keep the A/C set at 80 in the summertime, you're probably going to have to keep this in the fridge for a couple months out of the year. No biggie, but there it is. In the winter, keeping it solid shouldn't be a problem.

One of my biggest problems with commercial a-p/d's, aside from the aluminum, is the fact that after a few months of using one brand, my body seems to develop a resistance to it, and it quits working. (Same thing happens with shampoo, too. Weird.) But supposedly, as you go along using natural deodorant and your body gets used to not having chemicals stopping its natural processes (hello, God made us sweat for a reason! It's called detoxification!), you'll end up sweating less. I'll let you know how that goes! ;)

Verdict: thumbs up. One less chemical in my life. Good riddance!


The Santos Family said...

I'm very intrigued. James is always teasing me about deodorant because he really doesn't even have to wear it unless he's baking in the sun. I am not that way. It's interesting how you mentioned your body seems to develop a resistance to certain brands. I constantly feel that way. When my current bar runs out...I may just have to try this... Where would you say it falls price-wise making it compared to the typical bar of nongeneric deo?

Laura said...

God bless your Asian husband! This would actually be a great option for him for the times he IS baking in the sun!

Do you already have coconut oil? If you don't, it's a great investment for YOU to order some good virgin coconut oil -- you can use it on B's behind as a diaper cream, or all over as a baby lotion, and on H too, and on yourself, and in food, and on and on.

Hang on, I can do the math. My half-gallon of virgin unrefined coconut oil was $14. That's less than $2 per cup, about 43 cents per 1/4 cup, and maybe a nickel's worth of corn starch and 2 cents worth of baking soda? So that's right at 50 cents, and this batch more than filled my deo container, so I have a couple tablespoons left in a bowl that I'm just applying with my fingers until I use it all up. Oh, it's probably a few cents more for the tea tree oil I used, so maybe 60 cents total

Plus it took maybe 2 minutes to make, so it's totally worth it!

Laura said...

BTW, you can get the refined kind, organic, from online retailers and it's $21 per GALLON! I think I'll probably do that when I run out of the stuff I have, since I use it 99% of the time for skincare and body care applications and not food. It still has the emollient benefits and the minerals that are good for your skin but WAY cheaper than the unrefined.

Erica said...

Awesome, I've been wanting to try this for a while. Thanks Laura!

By empty deodarant container, I assume you mean speed stick?

Laura said...

Hey Erica, I hope you like it!

It does have to be a container designed for a stick-type deo, not a gel-type or roll-on deo.

Britany Rowe said...

Thank you, Laura. I'm totally trying this. I have the same issues with deodorants and have to switch every time I buy a new bar. Plus it seems to go really fast, since sometimes it seems like I'm putting on twice a day, and it's like 5 dollars a bar just to get the ones that actually seem to kind of work.
You're awesome.

Suzanne said...


I tried this. It works. FYI I keep my house at least 80 all summer, no melting problems. Maybe it is b/c I bought the solid coconut oil from Amazing grace and melted it.

Britany Rowe said...

I'll second... I love this deo. Works waaaay better than commercial.

Bobble said...

I finally made this deodorant. I had to use a lot more cornstarch and baking soda than the recipe called for though. Next time, I'll just use about half the coconut oil instead.