DIY deodorant: a healthier way to banish the stink

DIY deodorant - a healthier way to banish the stink

Conventional deodorants and antiperspirants contain some pretty scary stuff.

I’ve known about this for years, and yet I was still wary of giving up my perfumey deodorant in lieu of a natural solution. (I admit, I was nervous about being seen as a smelly hippy, which is probably why I waited so long to try a healthier alternative.) Before I dive into what I use now, I’m going to give you a quick run-through of why you want to avoid conventional deodorants in the first place.

Where conventional deodorants fail:
the ingredients

deodorant ingredientsThe active ingredient that’s used as an antiperspirant in traditional deodorants is aluminum. The aluminum-based compound acts to plug up your sweat glands. Plugging up the sweat glands might sound like a good idea (especially if you’re a heavy sweater), but it’s really not.

Your armpit area houses lymph nodes. The lymphatic system basically works with your immune system to get rid of waste products and other crap that can cause damage to your body, including things like toxins, pathogens, and even cancer cells. If this area is plugged up, it can mess with immune function and limit how much of the junk floating around in your body can be removed.

Aside from that, aluminum is an element of hot debate – it has a potential role in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases… and some say that aluminum may increase cancer risk (though studies surrounding aluminum are definitely mixed).

[Even though studies are conflicted about aluminum, why risk it? Would you rather get a shitty and life-threatening diagnosis before you come to the conclusion that maybe you should’ve avoided aluminum and other toxins? I sure don’t… but I digress.]

If this wasn’t enough to make you want to toss your deodorant, hold your horses… I’m getting to a couple other ingredients that are also troublesome.

Endocrine disruptors are another major concern for deodorants/antiperspirants (they’re also found in a wide range of other things you’re exposed to… but that’s for another post).

Endocrine disruptors are basically chemicals that disrupt your normal hormonal balance. This is a problem because when hormones are out of whack, it can lead to things like fertility issues, growth and development issues in kiddos, behavioral issues, thyroid issues, cancer, and others (even the World Health Organization recognizes the potentially devastating effects of endocrine disruptors on health).

Endocrine disruptors are virtually everywhere and they’re stored in fat tissues, which means your exposure to them can be fairly lengthy (and they can build up in your body pretty easily). It’s best to take measures to avoid exposure to them whenever possible.

Parabens and phthalates are a couple of the common endocrine disruptors found in deodorants/antiperspirants. (FYI – “fragrance” is a common catch-all term that can mean that there are hidden phthalates.)

So, now that I’ve gone through some of the concerns regarding conventional deodorants and antiperspirants, let’s launch into safer alternatives to eliminate underarm stink.

DIY deodorant

Before I discovered my current favorite for underarm odor, I tried several other methods with so-so results.

I didn’t particularly like the idea of purchasing the fancy health food store deodorants because: (a) they can be pretty pricey, (b) they have seriously mixed reviews, and (c) some of the popular brands still contained some questionable ingredients.

I’m also the type who likes to take the DIY route when it comes to beauty and personal care items, that way I know exactly what’s going into ’em (and I can control the quality of the ingredients used).

The first route that I took was a recipe that basically combined baking soda with coconut oil. This actually worked really well initially, but I discovered that after using this method for a couple weeks or so, I started developing a nasty rash underneath my arms (it was red, tender, and peeling… not a pretty sight).

[Some say that this can be a detox response initiated by the baking soda and that it should get better over time, but I just couldn’t handle waiting it out. I also suspect that the baking soda was just too abrasive for my sensitive skin.]

After scouring the interwebs for a while, it seemed like the most popular deodorant recipes called for baking soda in some capacity. So, I ended up just using coconut oil with some essential oils for a while, but it definitely wasn’t ideal because I would have to re-apply it throughout the day to keep odor at bay. (The coconut oil and essential oil combo did help my rash heal pretty quickly, though!)

Eventually I discovered (quite by accident) that magnesium oil can make a wonderful deodorant (it’s even held up in the 80-90 degree temps and 1,000% humidity that’s common during Michigan summers). Magnesium oil can be purchased already made, or you can make it yourself with magnesium flakes (which is a much more economical solution).

Magnesium oil recipe

magnesium oil recipeBring 1/2 cup of distilled water to a boil. Place 1/2 cup of magnesium flakes in a glass bowl, then add the boiled water – stir until dissolved. When the mixture cools, you can transfer it to a spray bottle (or for even easier application as a deodorant, a roll-on applicator). Easy peasy. (Note: DISTILLED water should be used to extend the shelf life of the mixture.)

Some people find that magnesium oil can cause somewhat of a burning/tingling/itching sensation. This may be more of an issue with folks who are super low in magnesium (it usually gets better over time as magnesium stores are brought up). If this is bothersome for you, you can dilute the magnesium oil further by adding more water (you can also apply coconut oil or aloe afterwards, if needed).

You may also want to avoid applying magnesium oil to freshly shaven pits if you’re new to it (otherwise, shaving prior to application may cause some extra stinging).

Magnesium oil is an awesome option because it serves a dual purpose: it works to keep odor down in a much safer way than conventional deodorant AND it helps bring your magnesium levels up. Most people are LOW in magnesium (for many, many reasons that I won’t get into in this post), so this is one way to get some extra magnesium into your routine.

[Magnesium oil can also be used for headaches/migraines and for tons of other reasons, but that’s for another post.]

Adding essential oils

Some people like to add essential oils to their magnesium oil because of their therapeutic properties and scent. One thing to note, though, is that magnesium oil isn’t really an oil, so essential oils won’t disperse well (water and oil don’t mix… so you’ll find little globules of essential oils floating around in the magnesium oil). If you want to add essential oils, you should always dilute them with a carrier oil first (like fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil), then you can add that to your magnesium oil (you’ll still have little globules, though, so you’ll have to shake up the deodorant mixture each time before applying).

Diluting the essential oils in a carrier oil is recommended because essential oils are extremely potent and can cause sensitivities over time if proper care isn’t taken (some essential oils can even burn you if applied directly to the skin without a carrier).

Another option is to just apply essential oils (diluted in a carrier) directly to your skin after applying the magnesium oil. This is a nice option because then you can switch up your essential oils easily depending on your mood that day.

A note about switching from conventional deodorants…

If you’re used to conventional deodorants, you may have an adjustment period when switching to a more natural deodorant – you may be sweatier and stinkier than you normally would be… this should improve over time. One thing that might help is to do an armpit detox (to help get rid of some of the gunk that’s been plugging up your pits all these years).

Here’s how you can detox your armpits: combine 1 tablespoon of bentonite clay with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (mix with a non-metal spoon). Add 2-3 teaspoons of water and stir. You’re going for a thick, pasty consistency (like peanut butter). Apply this to your armpits and leave it on for 10-20 minutes or so, then wash it off. (If you notice any pain after applying this clay mixture, wash it off right away.) You can repeat this process as many days as needed if strong underarm odor persists (you may notice improvements within a week or so). Many folks have reported that after the detox period, very little natural deodorant is needed to keep odor down.

armpit detox recipe

There you go: DIY deodorant that’s effective, inexpensive (when you make it yourself from magnesium flakes), and helps get magnesium levels up (potentially providing you with other health benefits along the way).

Let me know how this works for you in the comments below!

20 Responses to DIY deodorant: a healthier way to banish the stink

  • This totally worked, and I had zero expectations. I have different stinks throughout the month due to hormones and this, applied a few times a day, allowed me to ditch deodorant totally. Two thumbs up!!

  • I made the switch to this deodorant about two months ago, but it did take 2-3 weeks for my stink to go away even with detox… Now the stink is gone, but I have a very unattractive rash. It’s not where I shave, it’s below that portion and it’s not irritating or itchy, just red pimply bumps… Any thoughts? I diluted mine with witch hazel 50/50 cause the mag oil was burning quite a bit. Also, I use a nano silver spray that seems to help the rash a little and seems to help keep the stink away longer as well. Just want to get rid of this rash!

    • Hmmmm… could it be heat rash? Heat rash can look like red pimple-like bumps. I’ve had heat rash a couple times… it usually comes about in hot, humid temps (like this summer in the midwest where we’ve seen several 90+ degree days with 80%+ humidity… ugh) or during periods of heavy sweating (like from intense exercise). If it is heat rash, I’ve found that keeping the area cool and dry can help. If the rash is uncomfortable, try applying a little bit of aloe to the area. If it isn’t heat rash, another possibility is candida overgrowth. A lot of people unknowingly have candida overgrowth, unfortunately (thanks to widespread use of antibiotics in the medical community, antibiotics found in the food supply, heavily processed diets, stress, etc). Here’s some more info on candida – Hope that helps!

    • Is it pure witch hazel? Usually witch hazel is mixed with alcohol which can be quite harsh.

    • I am having the same problem with ugly red rashes under my pits. I was using the baking soda/cornstarch/coconut oil homemade deodorant but it was giving me fungal infections so I stopped using it and switched to magnesium oil spray. It which burns me too and now theres little red dots around the skin of my armpits. Did you ever find a solution to this?

      • Kamila, do you notice any reactions to the magnesium oil if applied to other areas of the body? The burning/tingling is common when magnesium levels are pretty low, so that may ease up after you bring your magnesium levels up (it may help to apply magnesium oil to less sensitive areas first to get those levels up, then transition to the armpits). I did notice a little bit of a rash when I first switched to magnesium oil from baking soda/coconut oil…. in my case, I’m fairly certain that it was mostly due to the high temps outside (though it could have been a combination of heat rash and a temporary transition/detox reaction). If you’ve had fungal infections there, that could definitely still be working itself out as well…

  • I realise that this post may not be read by hairy sweaty blokes like me, but i’d just like to back up this assertion.

    I’ve completely quit the ‘BO-Basher’ and now liberally apply magnesium oil to my arm pits.

    I can sweat like a horse – and its amazing. Absolutely No Stink. I think its magnesiums anti-bacterial action that does it. I still sweat, obviously , but theres zero resulting smell – whats more, as stated, its actually good for you.

  • Thanks for all of your information. I stumbled into using it as deodorant also…much to my delight I have stinkless hot flashes now!

  • some underarm smells (many I suspect) are not caused from bacteria externally, but are caused from gut issues. I don’t use any deodorant as a rule (don’t need to) but occasionally when I have gut flare ups I will notice a bad smell that nothing touches. When that happens I take a very very small amount of bentonite clay internally with LOTS of water. After only one or two of these my underarm smell is GONE!

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