How to ditch your conventional (and switch to all-natural homemade) deodorant

How to ditch your deodorant (and switch to all-natural homemade)Ok, I know this is one of those topics people don’t like to talk about or admit they have an issue with, but underarm sweat is just simply part of real life.  We all have it.  And some of us seem to have more trouble with it than others.  I’m not talking about  I-sweat-when-I-exercise, more like I-can’t-wear-certain-shirts-because-the-armpits-will-be-soaked.  I know I am not alone in this because many friends and relatives have confided that they have this issue too: serious underarm sweat, and thus, underarm odor.

While there are many conventional deodorant/antiperspirants out there branded as “extra strength” or even “clinical strength” that are aimed at this exact issue, it is difficult to find a natural, healthy option that really works.  I have tried many-a-natural-deodorant in my day – all of them store-bought – and I never found anything that actually worked.  Some made my underarms really dry and itchy, others made them sticky and gross, and others seemed to make no difference at all.

Why do I want to ditch conventional deodorant?  I have read a bit about natural and toxin-free personal care and beauty and I have learned that certain studies suggest that there are links between ingredients in conventional deodorant/antiperspirant and cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  There is much debate over this, as major non-profits and governmental institutions deny these links and cite the findings as unfounded or flawed.  (I’ll give you my two cents on this at the end.)

Additionally, I had been thinking about how oil-cleansing my face works.  When I first learned about this method, I thought it was a terrible idea for me because I tended to breakout with acne on my chin –> oily skin + oil cleansing = disaster waiting to happen, right?  Nope.  And when I learned a bit more about how oil cleansing works, it started to make sense.  I was stripping the natural oils from my skin by using those acne face washes, which was actually causing my skin to produce MORE oil.  Since I’ve been oil cleansing, my skin is far more balanced.

What does this have to do with underarms and deodorant?  Well, I thought that similar to the facial cleanser/oil issue, maybe the way deodorant/antiperspirant blocks my underarms from sweating was making them need to sweat even more and causing my soaked shirt issues.

I actually got back on conventional deodorant for a while.  I had even stocked up, buying several sticks on sale and using coupons.  I have a really hard time throwing things out, so I had not thought of trying natural deodorant again any time soon because there was no way I was going to waste all of those sticks of deodorant.  Then, on a whim, I decided to ditch store-bought deodorant altogether.  I don’t really know what made me do it at that particular moment, and I didn’t have any recipes for homemade natural deodorants, I just decided I was going to do it.

{Step 1: Ditch the store-bought conventional stuff}

One day I just didn’t put deodorant on.  Using nothing at all made my underarms feel sticky, so the next day I used a little coconut oil.  Then I started using coconut oil with essential oils for a bit.  I did this for about 3 months and all the while, I was searching for a homemade natural deodorant recipe that didn’t seem to use any strange ingredients.

During that time, I learned a few tricks for cutting back the odor that naturally comes with underarm sweat.  The first was to wash my underarms with water every night.  That washes away some of the sweat.  The second was to swab with some witch hazel after washing, which kills bacteria (the actual contributor to odor).  Then I’d use coconut oil before going to bed.

Interestingly, I noticed that my underarms did eventually seem to sweat less and have less odor the longer I went without using those conventional deodorants.  I still wasn’t completely comfortable with cutting deodorant out totally though because I did still have some sweat, which naturally causes odor, and because coconut oil will leave greasy spots on your clothes if you don’t allow it to dry before dressing.  That got a little tedious.

The biggest part of my search consisted of reading what people had to say about these recipes.  I was looking for questions, answers, complaints, suggestions for modifications or substitutions, and of course, testimonials from readers who had tried the recipe and found success.

I finally found one on Wellness Mama.  This has become one of my main go-to resources for all natural personal care and beauty product recipes (and many other topics as well).  Katie really does her research and I have come to trust her as a legitimate source of information.  She isn’t just churning out recipes and other articles just to have something to publish on a regular basis – she really puts actual research into what she shares and she links to where she finds her information.  If you are looking for recipes for natural and toxin free living, check out her site.

{Step 2: Detox your underarms}

While looking for a solution, I also learned from Wellness Mama that if natural deodorants don’t work for you, you may need to detox your underarms.  Looking back, I think I may have done this the long way by going so long without conventional deodorant.  Had I known about this method, I would have tried it in the beginning.

{Step 3: Find a recipe that works for you!}

I have been using this deodorant (the first one in the article) for over a month now and I cannot say enough how happy I am with it.  It uses ingredients you can find at the grocery store (if you are looking for arrowroot powder, check in the area where the Bob’s Red Mill products are located).  It is super easy to make and it doesn’t make a vat of deodorant.  I put mine in a 4 oz. Mason jar.

How to ditch your deodorant

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect just from reading the recipe and the blog post with it, so I’ll share the answers to some of the questions I had.

First of all, I wondered what the consistency was and how it was applied.  The deodorant ends up a thick pasty consistency – not a bar or solid form.  It has coconut oil it in so if your typical room temperature is in the mid-70’s it will be more liquid.  So how do you apply it?  I scoop it out with my fingertips and apply it like moisturizer.

Second of all, this is a deodorant not an antiperspirant, so it will not stop you from actually sweating.  This is a good thing though – your body needs to sweat.  Don’t worry, the arrowroot powder does a good job of absorbing moisture and the baking soda does a good job of absorbing odor.  I have no issues with excess sweat when I use this (just don’t expect to be dry after a good workout, but that wouldn’t happen with conventional deodorant/antiperspirant anyway). 

Finally, it does not seem to leave marks on my clothes.  I either leave my shirt off for a while after applying it or just throw on an old t-shirt for a while before actually dressing just to be safe.

Also, I still recommend washing your underarms with water (I just use a wet washcloth) before bed if you don’t shower at night.  However, I find that using witch hazel is no longer necessary.

And now back to…

My thoughts on the debate over health risks of conventional deodorant/antiperspirant?  Well, I took a masters level course in epidemiology and know enough to understand that often times the results of a single study are not conclusive, but the findings can still raise legitimate concerns and give cause for further study of the issue.  The findings may raise serious concerns even if the researchers cannot definitively say that there are health risks.  The results of a study can be said to be confounded or biased due to factors in the set up of the study.  For example, if it can be argued that the study had no provision for ruling out genetics or lifestyle as the cause of cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, then the results can be considered flawed or unfounded.  So from my view, even if these studies don’t show a conclusive connection between ingredients used in conventional deodorant/antiperspirant and serious health problems, the fact that the studies suggest there are links is good enough reason to be concerned.  Especially since it isn’t actually all that difficult to avoid those ingredients if you make your own deodorant.

Have you ever made your own deodorant?  What is your favorite recipe?  Did you find the switch a challenge or was it easy?  Talk to me by commenting below!


6 thoughts on “How to ditch your conventional (and switch to all-natural homemade) deodorant

  1. I started making my own deodorant about a year ago with a similar recipe to this one. I have made a few modifications to my recipe, and am actually able to pour it into an old deodorant tube and apply it like regular deodorant instead of with my hand. I absolutely LOVE my homemade deodorant and will NEVER go back to the store bought kind. I tried it one time after I started using my own and couldn’t believe how bad I smelled. I couldn’t wait to wash it off and put my own on again!

  2. Thank you for the information! When detoxing, do you apply the detoxification recipe and then the homemade deodrant? Or just use the detoxification recipe?

    1. Hi Andi – You go through the detox process completely (including rinsing), then apply the natural deodorant as you would a conventional deodorant. Does that answer your question? 🙂

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