Natural DIY Deodorants & what WORKS for me

Antiperspirants

Most of my life I have had to battle with antiperspirants and commercial deodorants. Despite their antiperspirant properties, I always found myself smelling worse after a few hours of wearing whatever artificially scented gel/bar/ liquid we had around. Even the ones without scent or the “neutral” scents like baby powder, gave me a very off putting odor. It was very embarrassing! If I wore deodorant I would end up smelling worse later on but if I didn’t wear deodorant…I wasn’t pleasant to be around either way. Not only that but I frequently found that my armpits would become dark and unpleasant looking. As a young woman already dealing with a variety of self-esteem issues- acne, body hair- this was just one other thing I didn’t want to deal with (not to mention the lack of clarity when it comes to the adverse effects of aluminum absorption, especially since as I write this I am pregnant with my first.)

I have always been of a DIY spirit so over the years I have tested out a variety of ways to shield my pits and save money along the way and this is what I have found:

Lemon Juice

A few years ago I found many people saying that they used lemon juice as a natural deodorant so my mother and I decided to try it out!

Pros: It worked! We would simply cut a slice of lemon and wipe it on clean armpits and it would keep our armpits odorless throughout the day. Lemon also has whitening properties which helped with the discoloration.

Cons: Common sense would tell you that lemon is very acidic. After prolonged use I developed a very bad burn- I traded dark pits for painfully red ones! Not only that but I would reuse a slice for a few days-which inevitably would go bad. Lemons are not cheap!

Odor?Fixed
Discoloration?Temporarily
Skin sensitivity?Ouch!
Cost? Unless you have an overwhelming abundance of lemons…
Zero-waste?If you live in a place where lemons do not naturally grow, you have to take into account the waste made to bring you the product!

VERDICT: NOPE!

Baking Soda

My father has been using baking soda as deodorant for as long as I can remember, so I decided why not! Just sprinkle a bit and go about your day!

Pros: It works. In terms of odor control, baking soda has been the best of all. It is also very cheap and available at bulk stores which makes it a great zero-waste alternative.

Cons: Using baking soda directly has a number of drawbacks. First of all, since it is a powder it tends to fly everywhere upon application. In addition, it isn’t transparent so it looks a bit weird to have white powder on your pits. Many times I have sweat through my shirt only to see a white baking soda ring temporarily imprinted on each underarm- not very cute! Finally, but most importantly-prolonged use was causing discoloration of my armpits! Over time, the basicity of the baking soda was taking a toll and my skin began to become dark, unpleasant and eventually I started to develop burns.

Odor?Fixed
Discoloration?Made armpits dark over time
Skin sensitivity?Burned armpits over time
Cost?Cheap
Zero-waste?Yes

VERDICT: NOPE!

This was the hardest choice for me to let go of. Baking soda worked so well for odor, I didn’t want to give it up. I also started becoming more conscientious about environmental issues and trying to be a better steward of my resources so baking soda seemed like a great choice. I tried overcoming discoloration in different ways as follows:

Baking Soda and Coconut Oil

This was one of my first actual “D.I.Y” projects. I was in second year university and decided to mix melted coconut oil and baking soda together and keep it in the fridge as a solid deodorant. It was effective to prevent odors and I never had any problem with staining. I used it for a very long time but the discoloration persisted.

Baking Soda and Cornstarch

This was an absolute flop. I thought the cornstarch would help absorb moisture and would stop the baking soda from directly burning my skin. Unfortunately, cornstarch is much messier to apply than just baking soda and I could never get a good enough ratio that would actually work to prevent odors. So I stayed stinky, discolored and full of white powder…I stuck to pure baking soda for a while after that.

Magnesium Hydroxide “Milk of Magnesia”

After I started developing some more burns due to the direct application of baking soda, my mother suggested that we start doing what my grandmother had began to do–use “milk of Magnesia.”

Sold commercially as a laxative, milk of magnesia is a liquid magnesium hydroxide. After doing my research I learned that magnesium hydroxide does not absorb into the skin, it is more pH balanced (but still basic) and may be effective in preventing odors (and even for other uses such as soothing acne). I decided to give it a try.

Pros: The skin discoloration began to disappear after a few days of use and my odor was being managed.

Cons: This is unfortunately not a zero-waste option. Milk of magnesia is commonly found in pharmacies and sold in plastic bottles. The bottles can be re-purposed and the amount of magnesium hydroxide that you need each time is extremely little (I would argue if done properly a tiny 350 mL bottle could last you a year) but it is still not zero-waste. In addition I find it to manage odors but the baking soda would last much longer. Since it is basic, I am still curious to see how it will manage over the years.

Odor?Fixed
Discoloration?Fixed
Skin sensitivity?Fixed
Cost?Moderate
Zero-waste?No

VERDICT: YES…for now!

I am very happy with my results with the milk of magnesia. After spending years being upset because of the discoloration of my armpits, unable to wear summer dresses or stretch without being self-conscious, this has come as a wonderful alternative.

However it is a bit of a stumbling block on my journey to being as zero-waste and self-sufficient as possible. Regardless, I have found this to be one of the areas in which I find that the benefits outweigh the costs. In all our journey towards more sustainable living, the most important thing is that we are conscious of our consumption and waste and to make little steps in the right direction.

I am still open to trying out different products, perhaps to invest in better alternatives in the future, but for now this is the #1 best.

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