Homemade Deodorant: Is It Worth It?

by Marla Walters on 28 August 2012 10 comments

If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be writing a post about how to make my own deodorant, I’d have laughed. Scoffed. Shaken my head — no way. However, 10 years ago, I didn’t live in a humid area. (See also: 5 Hair Conditioners You Can Make at Home)

Why I Tried Making My Own Deodorant

Those of you who read my posts know I’m a sucker for any DIY challenge. My criteria are:

  • Is the product I make better?
  • Is it cheaper?
  • How much time does it take?

Secondly, although the popular brand of deodorant that I use works well, I am never happy with the scent. In fact, I use “unscented” because I hate all the other scents, and I still dislike the weird, chemical-ish scent. So, I added another criterion — could I make something with a scent that I actually liked?

Third, and probably most important — is there a health risk involved with any of the chemicals in commercially made products? This debate is confusing. According to a post on the National Cancer Institute site...

...researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer...Because studies of antiperspirants and deodorants and breast cancer have provided conflicting results, additional research is needed to investigate this relationship and other factors that may be involved. (Emphasis added.)

Those two words — “conflicting results” — are what bother me a little. Don’t you try to reduce your cancer risk, even if it's just a possibility? For instance, you likely use sunscreen and avoid charred meat. Further research may confirm that commercial deodorants do not increase cancer risk, and that would be great (I’ve used them for many years) but just in case...I’m going to give homemade deodorant a try.

Also, there was the does-aluminum-lead-to-Alzheimer’s controversy, but the organization’s own website pretty much put my mind to rest about the connection. You see, most commercially made deodorants and antiperspirants contain aluminum, which blocks your pores.

The (Easy!) Deodorant-Making Process

After perusing several recipes, I ended up trying this deodorant recipe from Live Whole Be Free.

In the spirit of frugality, I wanted to try using ingredients I had on hand. I already had baking soda and cornstarch. I purchased the coconut oil and essential oil at a local natural foods store, and those cost $8.99 (coconut oil) and $6.39 (essential oil).

The above recipe is for a lemon-clove deodorant, but when I started opening testers and sniffing away, “lemongrass” really got my attention.

My next stop was the local Salvation Army store, where I found a small plastic, lidded container (which I took home and washed in hot, soapy water). Cost: $0.50.

Mixing the deodorant was very simple. First, I combined the baking soda and cornstarch, then added the coconut oil and drops of essential oil. It went together very easily, and I poured it into the container. I was worried about the coconut oil overtaking the lemongrass scent, but that wasn’t a problem. They seemed to combine very nicely, and I wasn’t overpowered by either one.

Testing the Deodorant

Day 1 test conditions: 84 degrees. I went to a farmers market, which was very hot, and then came home to some housework and ironing. No stickiness and no “wearing off" of the nice scent.

Day 2 test conditions: Work, and an all-day presentation for 20 people. No problems; nice scent.

Day 3 test conditions: Work, and a one-hour presentation for 95 people — and this presentation was the true test, because it made me really nervous. It was also about 80 degrees outside, and I had a heavy box to lug. I figured this would be the make-or-break day for homemade deodorant! I didn't need to worry — again, all I smelled was the lemon. However, keep in mind that this is a recipe for a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. It doesn’t keep you dry. I may experiment with my next batch, increasing the baking soda/cornstarch ratios. Another alternative may be to make my own bath powder concoction and layer the products.

The final test? I strode into my husband’s man-cave, holding up my arm, and said, “Wanna sniff my pit?” (Bear in mind that we have been married for thirty years.) After giving me a look, and actually not laughing, he said, “Sure, why not?”  His proclamation? “All I smell is lemon.” He’s a real sport.

Is Making Your Own Deodorant Worth It?

Revisiting my criteria, then:

Is the Product I Make Better?

I like the scent better. I like the fact that it's all-natural better. I can improve upon the packaging by scooping the product into an empty roll-on container, which will make it easier to apply.

Is It Cheaper?

Yes, I think so. The price for a “natural” deodorant is $7.49 at my local natural foods store (for 2.7 ounces). I spent $15.88 on the coconut oil, fragrance, and container. The jar of coconut oil I bought was 12 ounces, and the recipe only called for five tablespoons of it. Cornstarch and baking soda are very inexpensive. Although the essential oil was expensive, a little goes a very long way.

How Much Time Did It Take?

With all the materials in front of me, a whopping four minutes.

Will I Make It Again?

YES.

Should You Try?

Well, that’s very much a matter of personal preference. You will need to weigh your impressions about health, your perceptions about scent, and your budget.

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Guest's picture
Monica

The true test would be to see if it works in Arizona. And I'm a little confused on how to apply it.

Guest's picture
Emmy

Monica, I spent the last 3 years in Tucson and just used a mixture of cornstarch and baking soda (more cornstarch than baking soda because it scratched my skin too much). I did just fine, even with my 15 minute bike rides (each way) to work all year round.
My only complaint was that it left powder under my arms on dark clothing but it was easy to wipe off with a cloth and doesn't stain. Of course when I went for a run I did get a little smelly but I didn't mind because, well, I was exercising. :)

My concern about using coconut oil is it staining clothes. That's the only reason I haven't tried a recipe like this.

I just moved to SC so I'll get to test the deodorant in intense humidity as well!

Marla Walters's picture

Absolutely, Arizona would be a great test. I heard it was 113 the other day? Wow. As far as application, I have tried a couple of different methods. I have just scooped it out with my fingers, but yes, that leaves your fingers all messy. My latest method is to use a tissue, get a scoop of the deodorant, and then apply. I saw empty containers on ebay so I think that's my next move. Love to hear how it works in that withering heat. Thanks for commenting!

Guest's picture
Sebrina

I love homemade deodorant. I even saved my old stuck deodorant containers, poured mine in and keep it in the fridge so I can swipe it on like the store bought stuff. unfortunately I find it just doesn't cut it in our south Texas heat and humidity of 100+ degrees. Come fall again, I'll switch back.

Marla Walters's picture

Thanks for the solution, Sebrina -- saving the old containers. I tried keeping mine in the 'fridge but it got really hard. That heat and humidity would do me in. I wilt in 90 degrees. Thanks for commenting!

Guest's picture
FrugalCat

With sales and coupons, I NEVER pay more than a dollar for deodorant at a drugstore. More often than not, it is free (just pay sales tax). Yes, it is nice to make it out of natural ingredients, but if you are doing this to save money, you are wasting your time!

Marla Walters's picture

Frugalcat, I admire your ability to get a great deal! As I mentioned in the post, there were several reasons to try making my own. In all honesty, the nice fragrance is my favorite part about it.

My daughter pointed out that I didn't address the question of underarm clothes staining. This has not been a problem, thus far! I am really pleased because I, too, was worried about the coconut oil.

Thanks for the comment!

Guest's picture

I just use a light dusting of bicarbonate of soda under my arms and that is it. I make sure I wipe it away afterwards, so that it doesn't rub. I find it gets rid of any body odours quickly and effectively and lasts all day. I sometimes repeat the process a couple of times before it works, but it always works well!

Guest's picture
Guest

i made some, with alittle twist. just use vanailla and sweet almond oil, and add alittle more baking soda. 3 parts baking soda,1 part cornstarch, 1/2 part sweet almond oil, 3/4 part vanilla. at the end resauld should be a sort of solid beacause of the extra powder, tomhelp with sweat. idk if u have 2 do this but i microwaved it twice 4 5 seconds. u do it once, let it cool, and do it again, then u put it in a jar, and sprinkle nsome baking soda on it -oils "float" to top although it doesnt under your arm because you put it on thin- nice recipe, nice website

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, guest! Thanks for the suggestion - I love the almond oil idea - I think that would smell great. Thanks again!