As soon as I learned about the dangers of chemical-laden commercial antiperspirants and deodorants, I started looking for a natural and healthy substitute. But it took me some time to perfect the recipe for DIY deodorant alternative. The early versions were either not working all too well or working fine but being too harsh for my skin. Until I found this holy grail: completely natural homemade deodorant with bentonite clay! Super easy to make, very effective, inexpensive, with a customizable fragrance from organic essential oils.
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
First of all, it is important to know the difference between these two.
Deodorants are meant to mask the odor from excessive bacteria that accumulate when we sweat.
Antiperspirants are meant to reduce sweating. Commercial antiperspirants achieve this by including aluminum in their formulas. This mineral works on sweat glands and blocks them from producing sweat.
For me, the very idea of an antiperspirant is weird. We know that sweating is the body’s normal and healthy response to overheating. We sweat because this is a way for the body to cool off.
Another reason why sweating is good for you is that when we sweat, we also get rid of toxins that might have accumulated in the body. Our skin is the largest detoxifying organ in fact.
This is why I have sworn off antiperspirants ever since getting diagnosed with cancer. But, of course, I am not looking forward to being smelly. In order to avoid this, I turn to a natural deodorant.
Why Look for Natural Deodorant
As mentioned above, antiperspirants and even some commercial deodorants contain aluminum in addition to other harmful chemicals such as parabens. When we put them under our arms, all these chemicals can easily get absorbed into the bloodstream. Not a healthy thing to do.
Consider also that armpits are where important lymph nodes – crucial for proper immune responses – are located. Assaulting these with harsh chemicals may cause disruptions in the way our immune system functions.
Antiperspirants and Cancer
Technically, the direct link between aluminum in antiperspirants and cancer has not been discovered, yet. Still, I do not want to take that risk when there are indications that aluminum being a toxin might be harmful.
Aluminium in the form of aluminium chloride or aluminium chlorhydrate can interfere with the function of oestrogen receptors of MCF7 human breast cancer cells both in terms of ligand binding and in terms of oestrogen-regulated reporter gene expression. This adds aluminium to the increasing list of metals capable of interfering with oestrogen action and termed metalloestrogens.Aluminum, antiperspirants and breast cancer
Another study on the topic noted the fact that majority of breast cancers accur in the upper breast quadrant which is also the closest to the arm pit where deodorants and antiperspirants are placed.
Coincidentally the upper outer quadrant of the breast is where there is also a disproportionately high incidence of breast cysts and breast cancer. Aluminum has been measured in human breast tissues/fluids at higher levels than in blood, and experimental evidence suggests that at physiologically relevant concentrations, Aluminum can adversely impact human breast epithelial cell biology.Aluminium and the human breast
How to Find a Good Substitute for Deodorant
I used a commercial antiperspirant for many, many years. Making the switch was not easy. First I bought a pre-made natural deodorant with baking soda as the main active ingredient.
The result was a disaster. I lasted about a week before ditching the experiment. During that week, I was sweating profusely, so the deodorant did not work right. Secondly, my armpits became sore and irritated on the second or third day. I was extremely disappointed.
Turns out, I did it all wrong. After years of using aluminum-based antiperspirant, my armpits needed a detox first.
How to Detox Armpits
Even simple ingredients such as coconut oil and charcoal can work as a natural antiperspirant, but they won’t work unless you detoxify your pits first.
The good news is that a bentonite clay armpit detox, for example, has additional benefits. According to research, “armpit detox can boost the immune system and decrease cancer risk. Conventional deodorants and antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin, and after many years of using these products, a lot of chemical residues have built upon a person’s skin.”
Pit detox is easy.
All you need is 1 TBS each of bentonite clay, apple cider vinegar, and water. Mix the three ingredients into a paste and place on clean armpits. Rest with the mixture on the armpits for a few minutes up to 15-20.
You’ll have to repeat the procedure daily for about a week. Make sure you are not using any deodorant or antiperspirant during that week. If pressed, massage a bit of coconut oil into the armpits, this will prevent excessive sweating.
After one week of this detox, the pits should be detoxified and ready for natural deodorant. It worked for me.
Alternatives to Deodorant that I Tried
I tried a few, and here is what worked and what did not work (for me).
Coconut oil – works fine but it will make your shirt greasy
Charcoal Powder – works in principle (it can absorb the wetness) but it will stain anything you put on unless it’s a black fabric.
Baking Soda – it is used often in commercially available natural deodorants and it works fine for many people. For me, it led to irritation, itching, and redness of the armpit area (even after the detox)
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It is not easy to find a natural deodorant without baking soda. There are a few out there:
A careful balance of drying components, skin supporting oils and butters, and fragrant essential oils keeps our natural deodorant working all day long.
Their deodorant has no baking soda so there is no irritation whatsoever. The odor-fighting ingredients are bentonite clay, arrowroot powder and magnesium.
From the website:
- Stink-free and clean feeling pits
- Wake up fresh, go to bed fresh!
- Fight odor and feel dry all day!
- Nothing fancy, just good-ole plant-based, pit-friendly ingredients!
Also free of aluminum and baking soda. It also smells divine and has very nourishing ingredients (Diatomaceous Earth to absorb sweat and odor, and a proprietary Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate to further neutralize odor.
A cream deodorant that soothes underarm skin, keeps odor at bay, and is free of baking soda, essential oils, and aluminum-derived ingredients.
Benefits of a DIY Deodorant Without Baking Soda
The store-bought natural deodorants above work great. Being a DIY type I wanted to make my own though. Looking at the ingredients, it did not seem to be a difficult dupe to make.
I tried a number of recipes for homemade deodorants, and the recipe I am sharing below is a true winner. Here are the key points:
- 100% natural
- zero chemicals
- effective on sweat and odor
- soothing to skin
My Homemade Deodorant With Bentonite Clay
This deodorant is so easy to make! It will literally take you ten minutes. The recipe will make two deodorant tubes. If you need more, just double up the recipe.
The Ingredients and their Benefits
20 g Cocoa Butter (emollient)
30g Beeswax or Vegan alternative
20 g Bentonite Clay (absorbent)
15 g Arrowroot Powder (odor-fighting)
optional Essential Oils (frangrance)
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1. Combine the oil, butter, and beeswax in a beaker and heat up in a double boiler or microwave until fully melted and combined.
2. Add clay and arrowroot powder and stir together.
3. Add essential oils.
4. Pour into your containers (either deodorant tubes or a jar). Keep stirring until the mixture starts cooling. This step ensures that the powders don’t settle on the bottom of the container.
5. Cover and place in the fridge until completely cold and solid.
There you have it. Not much to it, but it is so much better for you.