Armed with an opinion backed up by some amount of credible research, I went to the Passionate Homemaking blog and found a recipe.
6-8 TBS. coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
Any additional essential oils you’d like
It also told me to mix the powders, then add the coconut oil until I was happy with the consistency. Simple enough, but I didn’t have any of these materials. I went to Tropical Traditions and invested in some gold label virgin coconut oil because I knew I would use it quite a bit, not even really for the health reasons, but simply because I LOVE coconut. I ordered it so that it would arrive when my conventional stick ran out so that I wouldn’t have to miss a day (ew).
I had never heard of arrowroot powder because this being healthy and trying new things is new and completely foreign to me, so I opted for cornstarch. When the coconut oil arrived, I got to work. I mixed liquid coconut oil with the dry powders, and poured it into my old empty stick of conventional deodorant. This is what happened when I used it:
That, my friends, was uncomfortable. It only happened on one armpit though, strangely. Undeterred, I pressed forward and thought that maybe since my skin wasn’t used to any of those ingredients, it would take a few days to normalize and adjust. Well, the itchy red rash was as persistent as I was and just would not go away. I went back to the drawing board and adjusted the ratio of powders. Instead of a 1:1, I did 1:2 baking soda to cornstarch. That didn’t help.
Eventually, after a long while (we’re talking months) of hypothesizing and figuring out what I was reacting to, it occurred to me that it was probably the coconut oil. I was heartbroken.
Then it occurred to me that if I actually did some research on arrowroot powder, I might be able to use that instead of the cornstarch. So, I went to a neat spice store in my hometown and picked some up.
Arrowroot, in case you didn’t know, is a plant. It’s actually an herb that grows in tropical climates, and grows well in Florida. The plant is about 25% starch, and that gets extracted and is used as a food thickener. When I opened the bag, I noticed that it had a very faint but distinct aroma. It smelled quite good actually. After doing some reading, I found that you have to be careful when purchasing arrowroot powder because the extraction process can be harmful, and apparently it gets mixed with other types of starch so it’s not 100% pure arrowroot. Oh well, I’ll do better next time.
So, I gathered my empty deodorant container (the same one that I’ve been using for almost a year), arrowroot powder, coconut oil, a bowl, and baking soda:
I mixed about 6 TBS arrowroot powder with 3 TBS baking soda. I took a spatula and added about 5 TBS of coconut oil in its solid form. It’s important to note that coconut oil is solid at 76 degrees Fahrenheit and below, but right above that it melts. For example, it melts upon body contact because of your body heat.
I applied just a little bit of heat to get everything to go together better, but honestly it’s easier to tell what the consistency is if you just work the coconut oil in by hand in its solid state. Once I had it to where I wanted it, I poured it into my recycled deodorant container and let it set up.
I have had no reactions with the arrowroot powder formula. I really like this method, and it seems to be working a lot better. I read that most people react to the baking soda though, so my reaction to the cornstarch is something that I find strange.
The final product smells fresh and clean and actually not overly coconutty, and I didn’t use any additional oils. A little bit of this goes a long way, so use a light hand when applying this. If you put too much on, the coconut oil will run down your arm and be gooey. If you don’t use that much of it, it works out fine. I also suggest trying this out first on a weekend or on a day when you don’t actually have to go see anybody because trust me, you WILL be obsessively smelling your pits to make sure you aren’t stinking up the place. You probably will be smelling just fine, but it’s still good to check.
Since I have switched, I noticed that my clothes don’t end up stained anymore. The commercial deodorant was reacting with my sweat and creating this weird film that would just sit on my clothes, and eventually create all kinds of problems. No matter what I did it wouldn’t come out! This doesn’t happen with the homemade deodorant. It washes out clean and leaves no residue.
There are two main drawbacks though. I live on the Texas gulf coast, and it gets HOT here in the summer. If you’re going on a road trip and taking this with you, I suggest wrapping it up in an icepack or tossing it in a plastic baggy and putting it in a cooler. I have to admit that I probably would not take this on an airplane either without seriously bagging it up because it will melt en route. It isn’t as convenient as a toss-and-go commercial deodorant. I have read that this can be fixed by adding some beeswax to the recipe to firm it up, and that seems to work fine. Secondly, you will sweat with this. This is not an antiperspirant. Sweating is good though because it’s your body’s way of ridding itself of toxins and other impurities. If you wear an undershirt or don’t over-apply this, you will likely not have any issues.
As I mentioned above, essential oils can also be added for additional scents. I have heard of people using chamomile, melaleuca (also known as tea tree oil), rose, (clove (I’ve heard it has antiseptic properties but I think too much of this would burn but I’m not sure), lavender, and patchouli. I would like to get some beeswax and some oils and continue experimenting with this deodorant when this stick runs out.
So, even though there is lots of debate about these chemicals, I am choosing the fewer chemical route.
Have you made any homemade deodorant? Do you have any interest in it? What are your thoughts?