All-Natural Homemade Deodorant Recipe With Bentonite Clay
Has it ever occurred to you to make your own deodorant? If the answer is no, that's okay; I understand. Even if you've experimented with commercially available natural deodorants, I urge you to try this recipe. I tried a readily available, natural deodorant a while ago and wasn't pleased with the results, and it has taken me about a decade to work up the desire to try another all-natural deodorant. This recipe really does work, so please don't let past failures bias you against the entire idea of natural deodorants.
This DIY deodorant is not an antiperspirant, but sweating is actually good for you. It does, however, keep you from smelling funky. I work outside and have tested this recipe on a day when I was visibly sweaty. Amazingly, I found I smelled better at the end of the day than when I use commercial deodorants! Additionally, this DIY deodorant does not lead to smelly, unsightly, permanent shirt stains. Give it a try—I think you'll be glad you did.
Homemade Deodorant Recipe
There are many homemade deodorant recipes, but I believe this is the best recipe. It is effective, easy to make, unlikely to cause skin irritation, and goes on just like a commercial deodorant.
- .75 dry ounces of beeswax, about 1.5 tablespoons
- 4 tablespoons unrefined shea butter
- 1 tablespoon unrefined cocoa butter
- 2-4 tablespoons of cosmetic clay, such as bentonite or kaolin
- 1 scant teaspoon of tea tree oil, or 20-25 drops
- Additional essential oils, if desired
- A container, such as an empty commercial deodorant dial-up container. You may want to have a second container on hand, just in case you fill your first one.
Why Not Baking Soda?
Many homemade deodorant recipes call for baking soda. Baking soda can easily irritate sensitive skin, so (as a person with very sensitive skin) I do not recommend using it. Baking soda and arrowroot are used in homemade deodorants to absorb moisture and to act as a binding agent. This recipe uses clay, instead, because is less likely to cause irritation. You can use either bentonite or kaolin clay. Bentonite turns green, which is why my deodorant has a greenish color. If you prefer a more refined look, choose kaolin, which is white. I like bentonite because it is easy to turn into a fantastic facial mask.
Why Not Coconut or Olive Oil?
Deodorant recipes also frequently call for coconut oil. Coconut oil contains natural antibiotics, so it helps fight odors. However, it can also create oil stains on clothing. Olive oil is another common homemade deodorant ingredient, but, once again, it can create oil stains. These oil ingredients also make most homemade deodorants more like a thick cream than a solid, unless refrigerated. Because it uses mostly solid-state ingredients, this deodorant recipe solidifies into something that can be applied just like commercial deodorant. I just don't enjoy scooping deodorant out of a jar with my fingers or putting something ice cold on my underarms!
Why Tea Tree Oil?
While you can add your favorite essential oils for their scents. do not leave out the tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is naturally anti-bacterial and a major reason this deodorant recipe works! Essential oils are the extracts of so-called volatile oils from plants. Herbs and other plants are soaked in a carrier oil, usually something with very little scent of its own, for a long time in order to extract the 'essence' of the plant. You can think of essential oils as the 'vanilla extract' of the scent world.
Bentonite or Kaolin?
You can use either clay in this recipe. Bentonite is usually easier to find but, depending on how much you use and what fabrics you wear, could stain the underarm area of your shirt. I haven't had this problem, but others have reported it. Kaolin is while clay, making it a better choice if you wear lots of light colored fabrics.
A Note on Cocoa Butter
Make sure to choose unrefined cocoa butter, not the lotion-like stuff you find at the drug store. Unrefined cocoa butter is solid at room temperature and smells like chocolate instead of sun tan oil.
How to Make Deodorant
To see the instructions step-by-step in photos, please scroll down a little.
- Assemble your ingredients and two cooking pots, or a cooking pot and a heat-resistant bowl. Choose one large pot and one smaller pot or bowl. The smaller container should be able to fit comfortably inside the larger pot. Choose a smaller pot that you do not mind filling with wax. You can usually get wax out of a container, but there is always the possibility you could ruin it. Test fit the containers. If the smaller container sits flat on the larger container's bottom, use a metal cookie cutter or jar ring to elevate the smaller container.
- Use your pots to create a double boiler. You should never heat wax directly on your stove. It can reach dangerous temperatures and spontaneously combust when it reaches its flash point! Place an inch or two of water in your larger pot and place it on high heat until it boils lightly. You do not need a full rolling boil - a gentle boil will work just as well.
- Meanwhile, combine the beeswax, shea butter, and cocoa butter in the smaller pan. Unrefined cocoa butter is fairly solid at room temperature, so you will either need to scoop it out forcefully (like I did) or warm it slightly in hot water or the microwave.
- After the water is boiling, set the smaller pot/bowl in the boiling water, on top of the cookie cutter/jar ring, if necessary.
- Wait for the ingredients to melt. It should only take a couple of minutes.
- Remove the melted wax and butter from the water bath but leave the water boiling. Cover the pot with a lid to prevent excess evaporation before you need the water again to clean your smaller container.
- Stir the clay and tea tree oil into the melted mixture. I use almost 4 tablespoons of wax because I live in a hot climate and wanted to make sure the deodorant does not melt too quickly. If you live somewhere cooler, use 2-3 tablespoons of clay. Add extra essential oils, if you want to, at this time.
- Continue stirring as the mixture cools. When it seems cool enough to not melt the container, but is still pliable, pour or spoon the deodorant into your container. I use an empty commercial deodorant tube. Make sure to dial it down all the way so you can fill the whole container!
- Tap the container against your counter or table to make the deodorant settle and eliminate air pockets. Add more deodorant, if necessary, and repeat the process.
- Once your container is full, wipe up any messes and level the deodorant's surface. Fill any additional containers you want to use.
- After filling your container(s), scrape any extra deodorant mixture out of the pot and throw it away. Wipe the pot with paper towels. Then, place it back in the boiling water to re-melt any remaining mixture. Once it has melted, carefully wipe or pour it out. This should remove most of the mixture from your container. A scrub with soap and hot water, or a run through the dishwasher, should return this pot to usable status.
- Allow the deodorant to cool overnight before using. You don't want to burn your sensitive underarm skin!
Steps for Making DeodorantClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Use Homemade Deodorant
If you don't take a shower before applying this deodorant and then put on a smelly shirt, you will come to the conclusion that this recipe doesn't work because you will smell funny. Underarm smells are not actually caused by sweat. Sweat, itself, doesn't stink. Instead, bacteria that lives on your skin, and loves the fairly airless underarm environment, causes funky odors. When your armpits get warm and sweaty, this bacteria multiplies, which multiplies smells, too.
Make sure to bathe before testing this homemade deodorant to ensure you kill off as much lingering bacteria as possible. You can even wipe your underarms down with rubbing alcohol to ensure you both kill bacteria and remove lingering traces of any commercial deodorant. Then, choose a shirt that doesn't have stinky, baked-in deodorant stains.
The Problems With Commercial Deodorants
Before you decide that this recipe is crazy and there's no way a homemade natural deodorant could possibly work, take a moment to familiarize yourself with common deodorant ingredients and how they might be harmful to your health.
- Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex (anhydrous)—antiperspirant
- Stearyl alcohol
- C12-15 alkyl benzoate
- PPG-14 butyl ether
- Hydrogenated castor oil
- Phenyl trimethicone
- Mideral Oil
- Behenyl alcohol
While the news and Internet are full of pieces decrying deodorant's health risks, there are very few definitive answers about deodorant's safety. Here are some of the knowns and unknowns about common commercial deodorant ingredients.
- Aluminum salts are one of the most prevalent active ingredients in antiperspirant deodorants because they effectively block perspiration. Aluminum salts are not usually found in non-antiperspirant deodorants.
- Toxicology studies conducted by Dr. Curtis Klaassen show high levels of aluminum in the brains of patients dieing from Alzheimer's. No conclusive evidence can link these higher aluminum levels to deodorant use.
- According OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, exposure to high levels of aluminum can cause speech disorders, dementia, and other neurological disorders. Once again, there is no conclusive evidence showing aluminum salts are absorbed in significant enough quantities to cause these neurological problems.
- While concern exists about the possibility of deodorants and antiperspirants increasing a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, study findings are inconclusive. The concern is that parabans, which mimic estrogens, may increase a woman's breast cancer risk. A study of breast cancer biopsies was conducted in 2004 and found measurable quantities of 6 different parabans widely used in cosmetics and deodorants. While this may suggest a correlation between cosmetic and deodorant parabans and breast cancer, it cannot be definitively proven the parabans discovered came from deodorants.
- The National Cancer Institute states that there is no definitive link between using deodorants and developing breast cancer, though one study shows women who began shaving their underarms and applying deodorant before the age of 16 developed breast cancer earlier in life than women who began these hygiene practices after the age of 16.
- The only problem conclusively linked to aluminum salts is contact dermatitis, or irritation/inflammation of the skin, in some people.
- Deodorant is dangerous to your clothes. How many white shirts have you lost to smelly, permanent underarm stains? When aluminum compounds in antiperspirant deodorants combine with sweat they tend to sink into nearby fabric. These stains are difficult to remove, (ironically) set in place by most stain removers, and usually smelly. For more information on this process, check the Discovery Health page. Additionally, many deodorants have petrochemical ingredients that like to melt into clothing.
In summary, while the evidence does not conclusively link deodorant use to neurological disorders or breast cancer, studies also cannot disprove any potential link. But we all know deodorants can stain our clothing!
Give This Recipe a Try
I understand if you're incredulous about this recipe—it sounds too good to be true! I work outside in the South, so if it works for me, it should work for just about anyone. If you do try it, please leave a comment to let me know about your experiences! I'd love to hear if you change up the recipe to add new scents and how well it works for you.
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