DIY Experimenting: Making Deodorant
I’m continuing my gradual process of learning how to make various toiletries as I run out of them. A while back I thought it would be really cool to be able to make everything I used on a daily basis myself, , and really environmentally friendly because my products wouldn’t have all the chemicals that seem to be a ubiquitous feature of commercial products. Of course, I couldn’t waste what I already have so as I run out of each item, I’ve been researching and creating my own home-made equivalent. I started with toothpaste, in part because it was the first thing I ran out of but also because it seemed relatively straightforward. It was indeed pretty easy since my first attempt incorporated only baking soda and sea salt. I’ve since added a little ground clove to the mix for a bit of taste, and use a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash (ok, so the H2O2 doesn’t exactly involve a recipe, but it’s pretty cheap, which is nice). The fluoride in drinking water covers for the fluoride you would be getting from store-bought toothpaste. With that little confidence builder, I felt daring enough to move onto deodorant, aka the next item I ran out of.
There didn’t seem to be any consensus as in online sources as to how to go about making deodorant. I read numerous online articles, all of which varied in their ingredients and amounts. Some advocated baking soda because of it’s strength as an all-purpose cleaner, so it should keep your underarms fresh, right? Actually, no, because the baking soda is mildly basic and sweat is mildly acidic after a month forum posters began to notice rashes. Other recipes suggested corn starch as a drying agent to absorb sweat, but this too was problematic because cornstarch provides great nourishment for the bacteria that cause odors. Yet another recipe was nothing more than vodka and essential oils, and struck me as more of a perfume than a deodorant.
After significant research online and books on natural cosmetics, I didn’t have any actual recipes, but I did have a general idea of what ingredients would be helpful and which wouldn’t. I also had been without deodorant for two days and that simply wouldn’t do. So I started experimenting. Taking roughly equal amounts of beeswax and shea butter (obtained at my local health food store), I melted them in a pot, stirring until smooth. I then added approximately a tablespoon of coconut oil (in ratios, about 1/10 to 1/5 the amount of shea butter) and a quantity of lavender oil from the local lavender farm.
This is where I took a weird detour. One recipe I read suggested using the extra mixture for chap-stick, and so before continuing I poured a little bit of the mixture into an empty chap-stick tube. The resulting mixture is a little more fickle than its commercial relative, as it the colder it gets the harder and less useful it is. I found keeping it in my hip pocket however, it stays relatively soft and has been tremendously advantageous in the cold, windy weather.
After making some chap-stick, I finished the recipe by adding about a capful of tea-tree oil. (This didn’t go into the chap-stick because I’m less fond of the smell.) The lavender and tea tree oils are great because they’re natural astringents and the lavender is an anti-inflammatory. I had intended to add witch hazel, an ingredient I’d seen in several of the recipes, more likely because of it’s benefits as a cleanser, toner, and astringent but then forgot (this was moot though since I didn’t have any).
Unfortunately, right around here the experiment broke down because I had forgotten to save my old deodorant container. Instead, I cleaned a plastic bag and poured the mixture in and let it sit in the windowsill until the mixture hardened and then broke off a chunk which is now sitting with the rest of my toiletries.
In case you haven’t already determined by my imprecise measurements and method, here’s where I admit I’m not much of a scientist. Despite that fact, in my enthusiasm over my latest endeavor I tried to test my new deodorant as thoroughly as I could. Warning: Some of the tests may sound kind of gross and I apologize in advance for the ensuing over-shares. The first test was wearing the deodorant, without reapplying, over 3 workouts. Fortunately, the workouts were only over the span of a little more than 24 hours, so I didn’t have to go too long without showering. After spending years using Tom’s of Maine, which functioned relatively well as a deodorant and about as poorly as an antiperspirant, I was not expecting much. At this point, I was astonished. While they were not incredibly intense workouts, I was still breaking a sweat. Not only did my underarms remain relatively dry, there was no discernible smell.
The next test was an evening blacksmithing in the forge, spanning two hours near an incredibly intense flame. Minimum perspiration, and next to no body odor. I was floored, especially given that forge fires can be hot enough to be painful at a distance of nearly two feet and can singe off arm hair. I’ve since returned to the forge numerous times for long periods and have discovered that as long as I remember to use the deodorant before heading over, it holds up astonishingly well under these intense conditions. I admit that it’s still the middle of winter (there is about 18 inches of snow on the ground right now with lots more coming down) so I have yet to see how the deodorant holds up during 90+ degree bike rides, but if the time at the forge is any indication, there’s hope.
Perhaps the most surprising feature though was that the razor burn I experienced with just about every deodorant I’ve ever used is gone and I no longer have angry red marks under my arms. (For those who don’t shave, feel free to feel smug right now.) I’m guessing this has something to do with the lavender and the fact that most of the deodorant is a powerful moisturizer.
The concoction continues to work better than I expected and better than the Tom’s of Maine I had used before. My incredibly unscientific calculation puts it at about 6 dollars for a roughly 6x3x2 inch bar, making it fairly economical too. I am, however, anticipating it being cheaper if I can obtain beeswax in larger quantities. I think I may also add more of the coconut oil next time I make it and perhaps a touch of olive oil, as the beeswax stays relatively hard at room temperature and subsequently can be a little inconvenient. Despite my fears that it would not remain in a solid state, I actually discovered that I had quite the opposite problem. Overall, I think the hardest part was gathering up the nerve to actually try making this but after being sans deodorant for two days I got over that pretty quickly. I’ve been using my mixture for about a month now and have been very pleased with the results.
If you give this a shot, let me know how it turns out for you. The cool thing is, if you get the ratios wrong, you can put it back in the pot and add different ingredients. As a word of caution though, many of the sources I read advised exercising care with the essential oils, as they are highly concentrated. (Especially since I’m not a scientists and have absolutely no credentials other than a willingness to experiment and use myself as a guinea pig.)
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