Going organic: Homemade Deodorant

September 05, 2015 Naija girl next door 18 Comments

Hello good people,
    How'd your week go? Happy weekend!

  Soooo let's talk about something no one is ever comfortable with- underarms and B.O.
      When I started down the road to giving up chemicals and replacing everyday essentials with all-natural, maybe even organic alternatives, I knew it wouldn't be easy.
   Two things I felt were going to be almost impossible to replace: deodorant and makeup (especially lipstick, the beloved). I still wear makeup but I am glad to report that deodorant has been successfully replaced! I haven't used commercial deodorant in almost nine months.
  Cue music, pretty tears, confetti, princess wave...
     Honestly if you knew what I went through looking for an alternative that WORKS, you would understand the theatrics. I gave up commercial deo cold turkey, determined to make it work. Let me walk you through it all.

    Each of the methods I tried below were put through a very standardised and sensitive scientific test known as The Sniff Test.* It involves {1} applying the substance being tested to freshly washed underarms, and then {2} at strategic points during the day (according to personal preference), you lift an arm discreetly. {3}With your nose in the direction of your 'pit take a good long whiff. {4}If unsure of the aroma you perceive, get a trusted, straight-talking friend to sniff you. Like I said guys, sensitive scientific test.
   I also tested them on days when I would be up and down at work in the heat. No weekend-under-AC testing.

1. Diluted essential oils (in carrier oils): My body oil mix contained Rose and Frankincense essential oil.
Verdict: This did precious little to keep me smelling fresh in Lagos heat.

 2. Straight essential oil: I know I know. Never apply essential oils directly to your skin without first being diluted. BUT it was rose and frankincense; there are women who use a drop or two on their faces to stay youthful. I googled this stuff. Plus, I need a more potent strength than my oil mix so I used a drop or two directly on my underarms after my morning shower for about two weeks.

Frankincense essential oil
Rose essential oil
    Verdict: Rose was more slightly more effective than Frankincense for this purpose. Worked up until about 3pm when a very close and deep Sniff test could detect a hint of the natural musty smell somewhere underneath the sweet essential oil scent. Not on call- it held up just fine until I got home and had my evening shower.
 On call solution- Wipe with baby wipes/dampened paper towels (I stopped using baby wipes. More in a later post) and re-apply essential oil.

3. Diluted essential oil (in water): I finally buckled and suspended the use of undiluted essential oil directly on my skin, even though I saw no side effect.
 In a small spray bottle- 5 parts water to 1 part Rose essential oil.
Verdict: Definitely more convenient than painting my 'pits with my fingers. It worked too, just as above. However, its effects lasted for a shorter time than straight essential oil.
   One time I got home in the evening after a particular sweaty day and my sister who is my "straight-talking, trusted friend" performed the sniff test and ruled that I go back to commercial deodorant because this one was snitching on my freshness.

   I wasn't about to give up man. I was like, Challenge accepted!
   Consulted my best friend Google and got a very widely shared and touted recipe for homemade deodorant that would involve painting my underarms with my fingers again. I resisted and decided to try strong black tea as some site suggested. I also bought a tea tree and lavender essential oil blend.

4. Strong black tea: I brewed two teabags in a tiny cup of boiling water. Nice and strong. Added several drops of the tea tree+lavender oil.
Verdict: Woeful fail. Didn't work for a second!
  At this point I went into Health Plus in search of a natural stick deo. I saw one from a tea tree-fronting brand, I forget the name; and it was over 2k. Haba now. I decided to try the homemade one as a last resort before going for premium priced armpit stick.

5. The Homemade Deo
    Baking soda 
     Bentonite clay
        Coconut oil
          Tea tree essential oil
           Any other essential oil you choose
Clockwise from top: bentonite clay, baking soda, cornstarch.

   I don't measure strictly.  I just try to use almost equal amounts of the powders but recently I cut the clay down a little cos I didn't really like the way its scent played off the others in the mix: I use Namaste Organics bentonite clay and it comes with essential oils pre-added.
     I added just enough coconut oil to make a spreadable paste, then ten drops of my tea tree + lavender essential oil.
Verdict: Resounding success! It works like a dream allll day after just one application. Passed mine and my sister's end-of-the-day sniff test in flying colours. Fam, I can actually afford to go to bed still smelling like fresh laundry if I so decide I don't need a shower at night.

Extra notes
1. Do not leave out the tea tree oil. It's essential for all-day freshness. I made a batch without it and it worked great for the most part but by 6pm on a sweaty day, the sniff test detected a slight hint of a-notch-below-fresh-laundry. It was barely there but still, tea tree very important.
2. Keep le underarms hair-free. It potentiates your deo. This also applies to commercial deo. Keeping a hedge there just traps sweat and potential odours and gives your deo so much more work to do. No bueno.
3. This is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. It  won't block your sweat glands and why should it? Sweating is a natural process that rids the body of waste and toxins. I'm fortunate in that I don't sweat much compared to a lot of people. However, the cornstarch and clay do absorb some of the wetness for comfort.
4. There are variations of this recipe online. Some people use shea butter in theirs or add beeswax to make it more solid. They put it in an old deo stick container and it sets up. This is fine if you're in a temperate country or you keep your deo at home in a cool place. If like me you have to carry your toiletries to the gym, to work when on call; and they feel the full effect of Naija heat, then a small no-leaks container like mine is great.

1. The obvious. An all-natural, no chemicals, in fact edible deo. (not that you should eat it. I know you not)
2. It is dirt cheap to make. Once you buy your ingredients you'll have them for a long long time. I already had these for baking and cooking (baking soda, cornstarch) and for my hair/skin (coconut oil, bentonite clay). I only bought the essential oil.
3. Even underarms. no greyish tinge from those harsh sprays and roll-ons. I had a slight discolouration with a deo one time.
 This one has my underarms looking very even and kissable;  they're same colour as my face.
4. Less perspiration. Yes it's not an antiperspirant but ever since I gave up commercial deo, I've noticed that over time, I sweat even less. To the extent that on a day I forgot to use this deo I was perfectly fine without it until I got home in the afternoon.
       It's a phenomenon that other people online living the green life have noticed.  They chalk it up to balance: your body has to work extra hard to get rid of the artificial particles in commercial deo so there's a rebound increase in sweating. They reported sweating more in the first week or two after giving up regular deo/antiperspirant (I didn't); and then reaching a balance where the sweating reduced after their bodies had gotten rid of most of the toxins (they figure by observation. No actually scientific testing done).

Okay good people this has been a long one. Just had to share this milestone in my journey to a fully all-natural life. I would love to hear your thoughts.


*juuust in case something got lost in translation to someone, the sniff test isn't a real scientific test. Ok. G'bye.


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  2. Nice article, Sandra. How do you apply the deodorant? A friend of mine used to use ACV on her armpits and it helped for a while.

    1. Hi Uzo! I just take a little bit on my fingers and rub in as you would lotion. ACV? Just hearing about that for the first time. Does its sharp smell linger?

    2. You can use cotton wool and dab it on your armpit. The ACV smell fades after some time and you shouldn't smell any body odour.

    3. Thanks for the info. I'll give it a try if I'm ever in a pinch

  3. This was a nice read. I love diy so best believe I'll try this out

    1. Yay! I look forward to reading how it goes for you

  4. Wow. You are one determined hardworking lady. Going through all these to give up deodorant?

    Diary of an Honest Naturalista: Week 118

    1. Yes oo, I was motivated. Aluminium salts in deo and their relationship with alzheimer's disease really had me uncomfortable. Plus, parabens and breast cancer.

  5. This was the right time for me to read this! Thanks, I'll be trying out your recipe for myself. Do you think I have to use tea tree EO? I don't have that one, but have lemon and one grapefruit frankincense blend.

    1. I would say yes, because tea tree oil is very good at inhibiting bacterial growth under your arms. However, you can try with these ones you have and assess how well they work

    2. I just found some natural deo that didn't cause an arm and a leg. It has tea tree oil. Thanks for cluing me in! We'll see today how well this works out. :)

    3. If it works do share the name please!

    4. The name is JASON tea tree natural deodorant. My experience so far sounds similar to other people who've tried natural deodorant. It seems to work for part of the day and then I feel not so fresh. I will give it some time because maybe my body is adjusting to me not restraining sweat and is filtering out the chemicals I had daily put under my arms just to smell fresh. I hope it works!

  6. I typed an earlier comment but I dnt know what happend��
    Sandra,my level of admiration for you just grew. You did all this to give up commercial products. Wow!!! I envy you as am not one diy lady, I give up before I begin anything of such. Am sure the brand you saw in healthplus is the Dessert essence brand.Good job,I hope you keep it up,your type is rare.Please dnt lets start the Aluminium and parabens trail��

  7. Good informative post.Mentioning deodorant is much more preferable to use in underarms. The recipe is much more easier to make and there is a lot of benefits behind this as this deodorant contains many natural ingredients.Again it is necessary to follow the precaution.Thanks

  8. Hi Sandra N.U.
    This is really nice post you have shared here on the title Going organic: Homemade Deodorant. I am so pleased to read your information as it is very rich content. Here your mentioning Rose and Frankincense is fantastic. Thanks a lot.