Updated: Feb 20, 2019
Back when I first switched away from commercial anti-perspirants, I tried several different natural deodorants. Unfortunately, they either simply didn't work, and/or the scent smelled so awful on my body that it made me self-conscious. Stuck with a choice between potentially harmful anti-perspirants and expensive natural deodorants that didn't work, I went au naturel. But it seems I'm not one of those people who can get away without deodorant, so this option wasn't something I could stick with for long.
Thankfully, I stumbled across a simple recipe from a naturopathic student (now an ND) in Ontario, and I've been using some variation of this recipe ever since. It's easy to make at home in less than 15 minutes, inexpensive, and best of all - it works! I have used this for over six years now and I don't plan on buying deodorant ever again.
Here's the original post from Dr. Talia Marcheggiani, ND. I'd recommend reading her post for some background and her perspective, but here's my own version of her recipe.
3 Tbsp virgin coconut oil (+ a little extra for dry climates)
3 Tbsp baking soda (aluminum-free)
3 Tbsp arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, or potato starch
20 drops of tea tree essential oil
10-15 drops of lavender essential oil
2 drops of patchouli essential oil
In a bowl, stir the starch and baking soda together.
Mix in coconut oil with a spoon or scraper until it makes a smooth paste. Be patient, as this can take longer than you expect. If it's a smooth texture but still too dry, add a little more coconut oil.
Add the essential oils and mix in thoroughly.
Transfer to a 125mL mason jar or other small container.
To apply, use a finger to scrape out about a pea-sized amount and use half under each arm. One jar will last several months. I don't keep track, but I feel like I only have to make a new batch a couple times per year.
I prefer not to soften the coconut oil past room temperature so I can get a sense of what the texture will be when it's done.
One downside to this deodorant is that it will melt and separate in high temperatures (around 24°C), and the top layer ends up too oily while the starch and baking soda sit on the bottom. Kind of annoying, but you can stir it up easily with your finger if it's still soft, or mix it up with a spoon again if it's too firm. I traveled to Central America with this and it was fine - just make sure you've got a well-sealing lid if you plan on throwing it into a bag at higher temperatures.
One thing I love about this recipe is that there's so much flexibility. The 1:1:1 ratio is easy and works as a general guideline, but you may want to vary the ratio of oil to dry ingredients based on which type of starch you're using, climate, and personal preference. If you find your skin is getting irritated, try increasing the starch and decreasing the baking soda.
I've played around with different essential oil combinations (citrus, cinnamon, peppermint, etc), and the one above is my personal favourite. Although the smell was nice, I didn't like my batch with peppermint because it seemed to make me sweat more, or at least it felt that way... perhaps I was overenthusiastic with the amount of peppermint? Anyway, I always include tea tree oil, since it has a fairly unobtrusive scent and has antimicrobial properties to combat odour.
And there you go! You never have to stand in the deodorant section pondering your options again. Let me know if you come up with your own twist on this recipe that you'd like to share!