I have lots of reasons for rejecting commercial body care products. I don't like the chemicals, I don't like the marketing and in general I just don't believe my body needs quite so much "care" as Proctor and Gamble or Walgreens would like me to believe. For years I have been using baking soda and dish soap to do almost all of my household cleaning and this winter redoubled my efforts to remove chemical cleaners from my body cleaning routine as well.
This winter I made the switch to a no-poo method of cleaning my hair. I now use baking soda and apple cider vinegar and my hair looks great! I use only simple soap like Dr. Bronner's or local goats milk soap to clean my body and perfume free dish soap in the kitchen. Since I don't color, style or spray my hair I didn't have to worry about products for those "needs." The last hold out was deodorant.
I've spent a number of years accepting, and even cultivating, my "dirty hippy" persona :) I don't shave, I don't gel my hair, and only recently allowed myself to be held down to have my eyebrows plucked. I'm about as crunchy as you can get this side of dreads, patchwork corduroy or patchouli stank. That doesn't mean I particularly enjoy smelling like B.O. I gave up regular deodorant years ago because of aluminum and other health concerns but never felt my other options were particularly useful. I love all that Tom's of Maine does for this world, but controlling stink is not something they do well. I continued to use their deodorant for years because then at least I smelled like I was trying to control the odor but I certainly wasn't eliminating it.
Over the last few months I have kept running into blogs or flickr posts about homemade deodorant. I figured the universe was trying to tell me something so I did a little more research. Turns out, baking soda and coconut oil, two of my pantry staples that I already knew and loved the benefits of, were the base of most homemade deodorants. Baking soda is an moisture absorber and odor eliminator while coconut oil has some serious anti-microbial properties, as well as being a moisturizer and smelling wonderful. I saw that some folks had trouble with irritation when they used either baking soda alone or in high proportion to coconut oil and one recipe combined the baking soda with cornstarch or arrowroot powder. I took that recipe, added some tea tree and rosewood essential oils for their anti-microbial properties and amazing smell, and ended up with some amazing natural deodorant.
I've been using it for a couple weeks now and not only has it completely eliminated the unpleasant body odor on the days I use it (and leave a faint, pleasant natural odor) but it even has eliminated unpleasant odor on the days I don't use it! Wow!
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
4 tbs baking soda
2 tbs cornstarch or arrowroot powder, or more baking soda, or none of the above
2 drops tea tree essential oil*
6 drop rosewood essential oil*
- Melt the coconut oil gently in a jar with about 1 cup volume (I used wide mouth half pint jar and think it's a great size) either under hot tap water or in a gentle water bath. Coconut oil melts at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit so hot tap water is all you need.
- When the coconut oil is completely liquid stir in the baking soda and corn starch one spoonful at a time. Stir well and make sure to scrape the powders up from the bottom of the jar. Add the essential oils and stir to combine.
- As the concoction cools to room temperature stir it occasionally to redistribute the powders, which will sink in the liquid oil. There will be a magic moment when the oil is still liquid enough to stir but solid enough to keep the powder in suspension - find that moment and stir like the devil! If you are doing this during the heat of the summer when room temperature is above 75 use the fridge to cool the deodorant.
- Allow the emulsified oil to cool all the way to room temperature (it will probably want to be kept in the fridge in the summer to keep the powders emulsified). To use scrape a pea sized amount onto your finger and rub into your underarms. Your body heat quickly melts the ball of deodorant and you can smooth it all in there. I used a fork to break up the mass of oil so I could easily scrape out the right amount.
*I actually used 1 drop rosemary and 2 drops sweet orange in addition to the rosewood and tea tree, but don't recommend going out and buying those if you don't want to. Any essential oil or blend of oils that you like would work. Make sure they are high quality, natural oils. Go to the essential oil shelf of your local health food store and sniff away. Watch the prices though - some natural oils go for 5 dollars for a small bottle, other for 30 dollars.
I really, really like this deodorant. I won't have to make more for a long time - months at least - but when I do I will probably eliminate the cornstarch all together, and reduce the amount of baking soda even more. The first night I made it I didn't know to stir as it cooled so for the first few days I was using only scented coconut oil. It seemed to work just fine.
There are lots of reasons to avoid buying personal care products at the store. Money is a big one and so is the toxic chemicals used to produce those products. If you didn't read the article I linked to about marketing beauty products to women you should - it's bombastic and may be offensive, but so is how women (and men, to some extent) are seen by the people selling everything from shampoo to toothpaste to tampons. I don't have to support any of that when I make my own out of food products like this. Whatever I can do to support my health and a non-consumeristic culture is more than many are doing. And next time someone asks me what that tantalizing scent is I can say "my armpits."