Handmade Deodorants That Work
I learned many years ago to stop using commercial anti-perspirants, such as Secret and Lady Mitchum, due to the unhealthful ingredients. I switched to the crystal rock and it’s variations (rock, spray, roll-on) over a period of time. Once in awhile, I would try a random health food store brand, such as Tom’s of Maine or Kiss My Face. The crystal deodorants worked fine, but the other solids from the health food store left me stinky in a few hours. I began to wonder why. Suddenly, I saw reports popping up about aluminum also being in the crystal deodorants. Now, I’m not paranoid about aluminum, but I have a daughter who was just about to need deodorant. No need to start her off with something questionable, so I decided to try making my own deodorant.
My first attempt was a solid and had mixed reviews. It worked exceedingly well as far as keeping me smelling fresh, even on two long flights and three airports worth of traveling in various temperatures. However, it was not firm enough for me. I specifically made that recipe for traveling in the Southeast USA and combined deodorizing and insect repelling properties. It worked on both accounts, so I just needed to get it firmer. Time did that for me. I have found all homemade solids are mushier in the warm months and quite nice during the cool months. If I had a fridge close to my bathroom/bedroom, I would keep the deodorant there in the summer. As it is, our kitchen and master bedroom are as far apart as possible in our house and I simply forgot to apply deodorant when I kept it in the fridge.
With that limitation in mind, I decided to try other forms of deodorant for the warm months. Autumn is an excellent time to experiment with handmade deodorants. The weather is cooling down in most areas and you can ease into it. Just remember you can always use your old standby for specific days when you feel it is necessary.
Sprays had mixed results. I first tried commercial alcohol-based body sprays from a tip I read online. What was I thinking??? OUCH!!!!! Vodka-based homemade sprays were too harsh for my sensitive skin, too. Witch hazel-based sprays and apple cider vinegar-based sprays, though, worked well – for me. They did not, however, work for my daughter. She was smelly by noon. A friend and her daughter had the same results: worked for mom, not for daughter. We are guessing it is a difference in hormonal issues.
Creams get mixed results, too. The girls who have tried them do not care for the idea of putting “lotion” on their underarms. Touching that area of their bodies is uncomfortable for them at this stage (pre-teens and teens). When placed in a deodorant container, however, the exact same formula was a BIG HIT! Adult women vary in willingness to rub in a cream.
Although powder deodorant sounded messy, I decided to give it a whirl since I already used something similar for deodorizing mattresses and carpets. I added some additional ingredients and fell in love. Head over heels in love. Many batches later and I am still in love. I’ve shared many batches with clients and friends. Everyone loves it!
Some people will go through a detox period (up to two weeks) after switching from the average commercial deodorant. This is quite common and means the pores under your arms were clogged and/or your body is not used to excreting it’s normal wastes via the skin. Some tips for helping this process along:
- Gently exfoliate under your arms. Any product will do, but gentle is best. Plain baking soda works while showering, as does salt or sugar. The finer the grains, the better. Gently rub a small amount onto wet skin. Rinse well. Pat dry.
- Increase the amount of water you drink — slowly, if you want to avoid a million trips to the bathroom. This also helps your skin look more beautiful and your body be healthier overall.
- With *nothing* on your underarm skin, “sun” your armpits. Yep, let that skin see the sunshine, baby, for a few minutes every single day. Some folks find this is sufficient and never use deodorant!
As always, use common sense and skip any ingredients you are allergic to or to which you have sensitivities. Here are the most effective handmade deodorant recipes I’ve created:
Soothing Cream Deodorant
- Baking soda
- Cornstarch (non-GMO) – I ran out of arrowroot powder. Feel free to try either one.
- Vanilla-infused coconut oil – I infused 1 vanilla bean in 1 oz of coconut oil for a DELIGHTFUL scent.
- Herbs – chamomile and calendula. I pick and dry the ones I grow.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Patience – It takes a few weeks to make this. It is worth it!
- Castor oil – I buy hexane-free castor oil.
- Small glass jar or clean deodorant container
- Infuse chamomile and calendula in olive oil in a sunny window for 2-3 weeks. Simply fill a clear glass jar with the dried herbs and cover completely with olive oil. Shake, swirl, or stir once in awhile. The scent and color will change and you’ll know when it is finished. (I use this infused oil for LOTS of things, so I already had it available.)
- Infuse vanilla bean in coconut oil in a sunny window for 2-3 weeks. Simply fill a clear glass jar with coconut oil and add a split vanilla bean. Cut the vanilla bean short enough to be completely covered by the oil inside the jar. Shake or stir once in awhile. The scent and color will change and you’ll know when it is finished. (I use this infused oil for LOTS of things, so I already had it available.)
- In a glass jar, mix 1 part cornstarch and 1 part baking soda. Stir well. I used a teaspoon as my “part” since the recipient was my daughter, who was being very picky and her rejects were quickly adding up in MY cabinet! I also made this for a friend and her two daughters with a tablespoon as my “part”.
- Add any combination of the infused oils to equal approximately 2 parts. Stir well. I used 1-3/4 part vanilla coconut oil and ¼ part chamomile+calendula infused olive oil because it was for my daughter, who requested a vanilla scented deodorant. The consistency and scent are your guides for how much. I used 1 part of each infused oil for my friend because her skin is super sensitive and this is very healing for her.
- If you are putting this in a deodorant container, add 5-10 drops of castor oil (5 drops for smaller containers; 10 drops for larger containers). It makes the deodorant slide on your skin much better!
- Rub a small amount into your underarms until lightly coated.
- Most folks use too much at first and end up with a little bit of staining on their clothing. It washes out with some dish soap. Work yourself down to the barest amount that works for you.
- If you use a deodorant container, keep it refrigerated in the warmer months and when traveling. Coconut oil melts around 76 degrees and the containers are not leak-proof. Yes, we learned the hard way.
Karin’s Citrus-Herb Deodorizing Powder
- Herbs – examples: bay, lemon balm, lemon verbena, spearmint, peppermint, rose petals. I use what I grow and I don’t use pesticides or herbicides.
- Citrus peels – examples: grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, Clementine, tangelo, mandarin, etc. I use our organic citrus from our CSA and citrus from neighbors who don’t use pesticides.
- Baking soda
- Cornstarch (non-GMO) – I ran out of arrowroot powder. Feel free to try either one.
- Essential oils – I used litsea cubeba (smells like lemon, but is not a photosensitizer; good deodorizer, controls perspiration, insect repellant) and ylang ylang complete (smells great, mood stabilizer).
- Patience – It takes a few days to make this. It is worth it!
- Spice grinder / coffee grinder / mortar & pestal – whatever you use, make sure it is clean and doesn’t have a lingering odor.
- Glass jar – examples: baby food jar, spice jar, anything you can close tightly and dip your fingers into easily. Essential oils “eat” plastic (technically a chemical reaction occurs), so use glass if you use essential oils. Your lid can be plastic.
- Pick some pesticide-free, herbicide-free herbs. Swish in clean water to remove dirt and bugs. Let dry completely in a single layer somewhere with good airflow out of direct sunlight. It may take a few days.
- Peel any organic citrus fruits: Scrape the insides clean, if you didn’t peel the fruit. Let dry completely in a single layer somewhere with good airflow out of direct sunlight. It will take a few days.
- Grind your now-dried herbs and citrus peels in small batches. Grind them very fine, taking care not to burn out your motor if you are using an electric grinder. This can be done in short spurts over a few days as your herbs and citrus peels dry. Collect the fresh powder in a glass jar and seal it up between additions.
- Once your citrus-herb powder is ready, grind an equal amount of baking soda. This will clean your grinder and make sure your baking soda is a fine consistency. I store this mix in a sealed glass jar and use it for lots of things, such as carpet freshener, mattress deodorizer, shoe refresher, and so on.
- Add 3 Tablespoons citrus-herb and baking soda mix to spice grinder. Pulse. Add 2 Tablespoons GMO-free cornstarch (or arrowroot powder) to spice grinder. Pulse. Pour fine powder into your glass deodorant container.
- Add up to 5 drops total of essential oil (or 1 drop for every Tablespoon of powder). Stir well. Cap and leave the powder alone for a day or two for the EO to be fully absorbed by the powder. Stir or shake well. If you are pregnant or nursing, you may want to skip the essential oils since there is conflicting information on the safety of using them under these conditions.
- I’ve also made this powder as follows: 3 T dried ground herbs and citrus peels, 3 T baking soda, 1 T arrowroot powder, and 0.5 T cornstarch (non-GMO). Add 3 drops litsea cubeba and 1 drop ylang ylang complete. Works just as well. The lesson here is the recipe doesn’t have to be precise to work.
- Open carefully to avoid a cloud of powder in your face.
- Gather a bit of powder on your fingertips. Press gently into skin under arms.
- Repeat until area is lightly covered and feels smooth and dry.
Making your own deodorant is empowering and fun! Try it and see for yourself. Please share your favorite recipes, too. Everyone has different body chemistry, so if something doesn’t work for you, try altering the ingredients a bit.
For liquids, for example, try plain apple cider vinegar rubbed on with a cotton ball to test. If that works, great! If not, try witch hazel. If neither work, try plain vodka or everclear, but not after shaving. Yes, I discovered this one the painful way. Once you know which liquid works for your body chemistry, then you can mix up a better smelling liquid using essential oils. You can temper the vodka with the insides of an aloe vera leaf (juice and pulp, smash the pulp a bit first). You can infuse the vodka with a vanilla bean for a nicer scent, too.
Have fun in your lab kitchen!
Karin Rose is an instructor, freelance writer, and woman of many interests. Her first published body care recipe, a face serum, was featured in December 2011 on Spa Week Daily – Spa Foodie: Karin Rose’s DIY Face Serum Recipe. She is married to the love of her life and enjoys being a mother, volunteer, and a student of life. When she is not smearing her concoctions on herself and loved ones, she can be found teaching others how to make their own body care products and selling her handcrafted goods to clients. Her favorite quote comes from Mother Theresa, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”