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Simple, homemade deodorant: an effective, safe alternative

The following is a guest post from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship.

I haven’t worn deodorant since last Christmas.

I hope that wasn’t too personal for you. The best part is that I don’t stink, so there wouldn’t be anything to smell even if you visited my house (and that would really trip my husband out, so please don’t).

Wouldn’t you like to know why I gave up deodorant? (Antiperspirant, actually–there’s an important distinction.) I’ll tell you, but the even better question is: What’s on my armpits now?

Why Avoid Antiperspirant?

Since antiperspirant goes on skin that has often just been shaven, it’s going to be absorbed even more quickly than other products you put on your skin. Which, consequently, have as great an impact on your system as what you put in your mouth. Your skin is your largest organ, and one of its jobs is to absorb.

There’s a little experiment in Greg Horn’s book Living Green that proves this point: rub a cut clove of garlic on the sole of your foot. Within 15 minutes, you’ll taste garlic in your mouth.

The simple fact that my skin absorbs what I put on it is one reason to be cognizant and careful about any personal product — but antiperspirant has a few more. Last December I learned that antiperspirants (not deodorants) have aluminum as an active ingredient. This list gives me pause:

1. Aluminum may impact breast cancer risks.
2. Antiperspirants block sweat glands. Is that a good idea?
3. Aluminum mimics estrogen. (technical term: “hormone disruptor”)
4. Aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s.

For more factual information and citations for this dismal list, see Analyzing Aluminum in Antiperspirants: Hazard or Hoax?

My mother tells me that in her youth (before antiperspirants were on the market, even though she’s not that old), everyone was just used to the feel of sweat. Now we’ve become accustomed to dryness, and sweating in the armpits seems like a problem. Isn’t sweat a bodily function that serves a purpose? I tend to believe that God had reasons for what He gave us, even if it feels a bit unpleasant.

Another common ingredient in antiperspirants, along with volumes of other personal products on the market today — including deodorants, is parabens. They’ve been in the spotlight lately, proof of which is the number of bottles in your local pharmacy that now proudly proclaim “No parabens!” Parabens are linked to cancer – another reason to move away from conventional antiperspirants and deodorants, too.

When there’s a question about the safety of something, especially when that something is relatively new in the scope of human history, AND especially when the alternative is an easy, non-commital, low-cost choice, I’m going to err on the side of caution and try the alternative.

I don’t like to be overwhelmed or buy new ingredients for something that might not work, though, and I hate spending more money on natural products. I wasn’t about to go buy some $5 deodorant that could make me stink and wish I had my five bucks back. What’s the frugal, simple option?

My Baby Step: Baking Soda

bakingsodaIt was Christmas break, and I’m an at-home-mom, so I don’t have a lot of people around to offend with my body odor. I grabbed the baking soda from under my sink and stuck it in the bathroom.

After my next shower, I remembered to put it on my still-moist underarms. I thought nothing of it that day. Pleased that I didn’t stink out the family, I tried the same thing again after the next shower. My baking soda was caked in little balls from being exposed to moisture as I used it as a cleaner, so it was actually really easy to apply it to my armpits by grabbing a chunk and (gently!) rubbing it in over the sink.

Added bonus: I could use the baking soda that drifted down into the sink as a scouring mini-clean for the sink-bowl the next time I washed my hands.

You might be thinking that I didn’t sweat much because it was winter, and I live in Michigan. With the house at 64 degrees, this is probably true. That second day however, I thought the baking soda “deodorant” was doomed for sure.

I went out shoveling after a massive snowfall, and I could feel the sweat dripping down my back under my work coat that doesn’t breathe.  I noticed that nagging perception of wetness under my armpits, too, that we’re not accustomed to anymore. I could almost smell my B.O. in my imagination, certain that I had come to the end of an interesting experiment.

Much to my great surprise, I did not stink. Unpleasant wetness, sure, but no negative odor. The only time I really noticed body odor with plain baking soda was when I was due for a shower and wore synthetic silky PJs at nighttime.

Most antiperspirant, in my experience, is wearing off by bedtime anyway, and from what I read, synthetic materials cause our body odor to be worse.

Baby Step Number Two: Adding Cornstarch

I continued using baking soda exclusively for a month or two until my mom gave me a gorgeous powder puff container that she had sitting in her cupboard. I decided I’d mix an equal part of cornstarch in with the baking soda, for dryness.

I applied it to slightly moist after-shower armpits, just as before, but using the puff.  You could do it with a small bowl and a standard make-up brush instead. This baby step took all of two minutes to complete, and again – no commitment, no up-front cost. Again, all was well. I began to worry about summer and sleeveless shirts, however.

The Final Step: Coconut Oil

homemade deodorantI had this post at Passionate Homemaking bookmarked since December, but I didn’t have bulk coconut oil until I figured out how to use it in my kitchen. Once I had a gallon of the stuff, it was time to make a real mimicked deodorant by adding coconut oil to the baking soda and cornstarch mixture.

I used a fork and mashed the solid coconut oil into the powder mixture until it was an appropriate consistency. Less than one cup lasted about nine months.

I put the paste into an empty antiperspirant container, and it twists up and rolls on just like the real thing.  This made my husband slightly less embarrassed about my “weird” deodorant.

Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and a nice, light coconutty scent, so it’s really the ideal medium for the baking soda (for odor) and cornstarch (for dryness). It goes on easily and dries clearly.  Some also add a few drops of essential oil for a boost of fragrance.

But Does it WORK?

Short answer: Yes. I didn’t stink it up this summer at all!

Even if the risks of aluminum and antiperspirant are overblown or minimal at best, I’m still going to stick with ingredients that are so safe I could eat them with no harm done. It’s a simple step to take, very frugal, and exceptionally safe. Besides all that, the natural solution is working.

Here are the benefits I’ve found so far:

  • No sting on newly-shaven underarms
  • Pleasant smell
  • Avoid risk of parabens, aluminum, and other unnatural stuff
  • For nursing mothers, there’s a serious change in my peace of mind now that I don’t cringe when baby’s hand works its way up into my armpit. Well, I still cringe, but I’m not worrying about toxic chemicals finding their way into her mouth.

There have been just a few disadvantages:

Coconut oil has a 76-degree Fahrenheit melting point, which means it turns to liquid in the summer. I store mine in the fridge, but it’s harder to remember to go there and put it on in the mornings.  It is easy to apply, even when cold. Just touch it to your skin for a second and it already starts to soften.

It takes five minutes or so to mix up a batch, although I’ve only done that once and just refill as needed. Of course, I bet I spent more than five minutes per stick of antiperspirant cutting and organizing coupons and matching with the best deals, then standing in my pharmacy trying to find the exact version on sale.

For more step-by-step instructions, see my eHow article on How to Make the Most Effective Homemade Deodorant.

Have you ever tried making your own deodorant? What was your experience like?

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  1. Ruthie

    Just last night my sister and I were talking about this very topic! I will be passing this post on to her asap and we will be trying this! Thanks so much – love your blog!
    .-= Ruthie´s last blog ..Christmas Menu =-.

  2. Tamara Hutchison

    Wow, this sounds wonderful…as I too have the same concerns for using store bought deodorant/antiperspirant.

    Does the coconut oil contained in it leave any “oily” type marks on clothing? I’m curious about that part.
    .-= Tamara Hutchison´s last blog ..Wow – This is Hard! =-.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship


      I worried about the stains, too, as I’m famous for ruining clothing with unidentified grease marks (before I embarked on this experiment). I haven’t had any problem with any oil marks, though, so I’m really pleased with that.

      Thanks, Katie Kimball
      .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Monday Mission: Thanksgiving Review Week =-.

    • Allison

      I have used this deoderant for almost a little over a year and it works wonderfully on me. It works great on my husband as well, but since he has hairy armpits and I do not, he left greasy marks on almost all his shirts. Coconut oil absorbs very quickly into the skin leaving no greasy feel, hair was obviouisly a different matter all together. I place it on after getting out of the shower, and it’s fully absorbed by the time I get dressed.

      • Allison

        I’ve been using baking soda for over 6 months now, and I actually just started to apply coconut oil beforehand, to help adhere it better, and it works wonderfully! There is no staining either! Deoderant from the store is notorious for making those chemical reactions, coconut oil does not stain, however!
        Thanks for the extra ideas!

  3. The Accidental Housewife

    This is a really interesting post. Unfortunately I live in the tropics so coconut oil (although a very suitable fragrance!) will not work for me. I will give this a try in plain powder form though.
    .-= The Accidental Housewife´s last blog ..A very early Christmas "tree" =-.

    • Lori

      I live in the tropics too and I had the wetness/oilyness worry also. But…. it works just fine!!! I even didn’t have coconut oil available at the moment and used only some lavender essential oil with no wetness or bad odors!

  4. karina

    I will definitely try this. Baking Soda is great as a cosmetic – I have used it as an exfoliant for face (and underarms) for years now – as it doesn’t “scratch” the skin like many commercial ones. Also – left over coffee grains are good for exfoliating the rest of the body – but be sure to wash off thoroughly!!

  5. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Katie – thank you so much for this! I’ve been on a baby steps journey to natural body care for several years now. My favorite switch has been using the Oil Cleansing Method to clean my face. That used to freak me out – but now I love it. I have to admit, the idea of not using my trusty Degree antiperspirant/deodorant kind of freaks me out, too, but this post is so encouraging to me!

    I’ve been hearing so much about coconut oil lately – this is one more reason I need to track down some! Thank you for sharing this.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..And (another) Baby Makes Four! =-.

  6. R.M. Koske

    I’ve done the baby step for a year or so myself. Like you, I decided to just give it a try one day when I could afford to stink if it didn’t work, and to my surprise, it worked way better than the commercial deodorant did.*

    The problem I’m currently struggling with is that baking soda is gritty and if I wear a snug top, I get some painful chafing. Does mixing it with the cornstarch and coconut oil reduce the grit? My current solution is to moisten the baking soda after I put it on my body until I can’t feel the grit anymore. Then I gently pat my underarms dry. Even diluted like that it works pretty well. The stick looks convenient, but you wouldn’t be able to dampen the soda and get rid of the grit because of the oil.

    *(Yup, this is a footnote in my comment. I’m a geek.) I wasn’t using commercial antiperspirant, I was using deodorant, and I sweat in the night. So I’d wake up in the morning stinky when I used the commercial stuff. I was really surprised to discover that most days with the baking soda, I didn’t wake up stinky at all – even during a Georgia summer.

  7. Southern Gal

    I come from a long line of sweat hogs. I’m not as bad as some, but pretty close. I can’t wear dark colors easily. So I guess I wonder if the sweaty armpits are really bad with your homemade concoction. Also does the coconut oil cause a build up on clothes? I’m noticing a build up with a different brand of deoderant and it’s ruining my clothes!! (We’ve tried the crystal. In my humble opinion it doesn’t work at all.)
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      The oil on the clothes hasn’t been a problem – I hear you on some deodorants ruining clothes! I’m sure the sweaty armpits is a pretty individual thing, so the best way to find out is to try it. Some of my readers found that they ended up with less of an odor problem after switching to a natural solution, perhaps because you’re not fighting your body’s natural functions with antiperspirant. Some others find that having a more traditional, whole foods diet also helps body odor decrease.
      Best of luck!
      .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Monday Mission: Thanksgiving Review Week =-.

    • Allison

      I too have very active sweat glands and haven’t used antipersperants in 7 yrs. I’ve used all sorts of natural deoderants and my body would adapt and they would stop working. I would have to have a rotation every 2-3 days. Since I’ve used coconut oil, I have not had a problem with adaptation and I have also noticed a decrease in my sweat production. I think the anitpersperants acuatally cause your body to increase sweat production, since it’s trying to suppress it. I’m not sure whether it’s something in the coconut oil or whether it’s the lack of chemicals and my body is now balanced out, but I dont’ sweat nearly as much as I used to.

  8. Heather

    I stopped using deoderant a year ago. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and they encouraged her to by a crystal type natural deodorant. She loved it and ended up giving me one for Christmas. I was intrigued by a comment on the no-poo post a while back with the same recipe that you just gave, but decided to wait until I’d finished up the crystal. Well, two days ago, it fell and shattered. I knew I didn’t want to go buy a traditional deoderant, so I decided to give the coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch recipe. Three days into it, I love it. It works better than any product I’ve ever used. I just wish I’d thought about putting it in any old deodorant container! Maybe I’ll make a travel one with the old container I have before we go somewhere at Christmas.

  9. Merrilee

    Thanks for the post. I haven’t used antiperspirant for about 7 years now – mostly because I developed an allergic reaction to it. I used Tom’s of Maine (unscented) for awhile, but then developed a reaction to that too. To clear up the reaction, I would have to use a strong steroid cream. Since I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for 6 years, I used nothing because I couldn’t use the cream without concerns of affecting my babies. Now I am out of that stage for a bit and would like to try something. Hopefully this will work!

    I do think that I sweat & smell less though than I did when I was using anti-perspirant/deodorant.

    Thank you!

  10. heidi

    Glad it’s working out for you! Have you ever heard of using a rock crystal? My MIL gave us one, but I have not tried it yet…

    Your method is probably more frugal, but here’s a link about it:
    .-= heidi´s last blog ..Monday Musings :: Attitude =-.

  11. Liz

    A friend who’s a breast cancer survivor gave me this recipe about a year ago and I LOVE it. I’m one who stinks when I sweat, and really need deodorant. I tried the crystal (a few different kinds) and they didn’t work at all for me. This works great: no smell and I haven’t had a problem with oil stains on my clothes. I put mine in a small glass jar and keep it in the bathroom. It’s a little harder in the winter, softer in the summer, but I just scoop a little out with my fingertips and rub under my arms. Then I rinse the flaky bits off, and rub any leftover oil into my hands.
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..High Fives…When the tooth fairy loses her wings =-.

  12. Kristina

    Interesting! One word of caution, though. If you have any food allergies, it’s not a good idea to apply any food products to your skin; repeated use can actually lead to a new allergy. But I think I’ll try the baking soda and cornstarch!
    .-= Kristina´s last blog ..Five Kernels of Corn =-.

  13. Kika

    I’ve tried many expensive natural deodorants and none worked well. I do have a crystal and as long as I’m not going out of the house (and its not a particularly hot day – don’t have to worry about that much where I live) it works ok although by bedtime I can be a little smelly. I want to keep trying and need to go ahead and try this recipe. A large part of my concern is for my children; my teenage son has been quite resistant to my desire to switch us all over to healthier products, though. I’ve been using the OCM for my face and over Christmas break want to go “no-poo”. I love all these recipes and the encouragement to keep trying alternative methods/products.

  14. tabatha

    i had to stop using regular deodorant a long time ago b/c it was making the ingrown hairs under my arms a lot worse, and my boyfriend can’t use an regular stuff either b/c he’s allergic to zinc and it makes him break out or gives him a chemical burn. butd he has really bad body order and uses two different natural deodorants and washes repeatedly during the day. so i will suggest this.

    i might have to try this to at some point. i tried the crystal a long time ago, and the crystal spray and it works fine unless i am doing something that will make me sweat a lot. but i found some natural deodorant last year that i love, its kinda pricey though, i go it at a natural/organic store where i used to live and now order it online b/c the store where i live now doesn’t sell it. this is where i get it from now

    its 7.50 a container so that’s a lot but it does last a long time, and its roll on, and i never stink when i wear it and its not an antiperspirant so i still sweat.

    but i just found this link for deodorant containers if someone doesn’t have an empty one, the could buy a case of these(20 in the case), and then tell friends about making their own deodorant and give them a container if they need one and want to try it.
    .-= tabatha´s last blog ..Autumn Love =-.

  15. Amanda Parks

    A year ago I tried natural deodorant and my husband vetoed it because apparently the “woodspice” scent was not attractive on a woman! 😉 In the end, HE started using the woodspice deodorant, and I switched to Arm and Hammer’s natural deodorant, which seems to work pretty well for me.
    By the way, I’ve lived in several countries were deodorant is rarely worn…
    .-= Amanda Parks´s last blog ..Thankful for: =-.

  16. sammyw

    i use the crystal stick and love it, but the baking soda, cornstarch & coconut oil, seems lovely – but as with the other ladies, i am curious if the oil will leave a mark on clothes. thank for you these natural posts, i love them – keep em’ comin’ 🙂
    .-= sammyw´s last blog ..Fall Table =-.

  17. Chocolate on my Cranium

    I’ve been no poo for a year and a half and have wanted to try natural deodorant. I’m going to try your “recipe” as I have everything needed including the coconut oil as we use it when we make lip balm. Thanks for posting this!
    .-= Chocolate on my Cranium´s last blog ..My Gratitude List Day 23 =-.

  18. Cheryl

    Ok – I found this post really interesting, mostly because I just don’t wear any type of deodorant or anti-perspirant at all. And really, I swear I don’t stink! After high-school I found it to be such a pain to find, and buy it, that I just stopped. And after a while, I didn’t even notice the difference. Now I work as a forester, so there are days when I’m in the office, and days where I definitely work up a sweat. But I think that it’s like many cosmetic products, you think you need it, your body acclimatizes to it, and then you do need it. So good luck with your home-made system. Maybe I’ll pass it on to my sister – she thinks I’m crazy.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I don’t think you’re crazy! 🙂 I have a friend who just goes “au naturale” (sp??) too! I do on accident when the doggone deo is in the fridge and I forget it… 😉
      .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Monday Mission: Thanksgiving Review Week =-.

  19. LaToya

    This is great! I think I’m going to try this out over the Christmas break. I wonder though if there’s powder marks that would show when wearing something with no sleeves?? With my dark skin I’m always worried about having white marks under my arms whenever I try something new.
    .-= LaToya´s last blog ..Holiday Traditions =-.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      That’s one of the reasons I started trying it in the winter, but I have been pleasantly surprised by its versatility – I’m a big fan of sleeveless shirts and didn’t have a problem with it. I’d be interested to hear if darker skin makes a difference though. I hope it works just as well!
      🙂 Katie
      .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Monday Mission: Thanksgiving Review Week =-.

  20. Marie

    I’ve recently started using plain, white vinegar instead of antipersperant / deod…..and have been amazed at the results. I keep it in a glass flip-top spice bottle & apply with a cotton ball or wash cloth. I haven’t had much of a problem with sweat & even when I do (ie after working out), no odor! The only downside so far – if I apply it right after shaving it stings a bit, not nothing major (doesn’t bother me). And I don’t smell like a pickle – the vinegar smell disappears shortly after I apply it & I’m left with just a clean, fresh smell – naturally (my husband would be the first to tell me that I smelled like vinegar – he hates that smell). I have the most sensitive nose on the planet – so I was very surprised that this method works.

    I’ll have to try the baking soda / cornstarch…..just for something different. 🙂

  21. Tonya

    I am a follower of Katie’s blog & scientist & I want to re-iterate my responses to her original blog about this topic here. I am not here to rain on your parade. I just want to present sound, factual, scholarly research on this topic. Deciding to use a deodorant is your choice, but recognize that there is no sound science linking it to cancer.

    First…as I am sure you’ve read, “researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.” & “The belief that parabens build up in breast tissue was supported by a 2004 study, which found parabens in 18 of 20 samples of tissue from human breast tumors (5). However, this study did not prove that parabens cause breast tumors (4). The authors of this study did not analyze healthy breast tissue or tissues from other areas of the body and did not demonstrate that parabens are found only in cancerous breast tissue (5). Furthermore, this research did not identify the source of the parabens and cannot establish that the buildup of parabens is due to the use of deodorants or antiperspirants.” (se website for numerical citations)

    here’s some scientific journal articles on the topic (for those who are not familiar with scientific journals…when an author submits a paper, it’s reviewed by a small editorial board which either approves or denies it. the various journals have “impact ratings”. the higher the impact rating, the “better/more prestigious” the journal.):
    J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002 Oct 16;94(20):1578-80.
    Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer.

    Mirick DK, Davis S, Thomas DB.
    Program in Epidemiology, Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.

    The rumor that antiperspirant use causes breast cancer continues to circulate the Internet. Although unfounded, there have been no published epidemiologic studies to support or refute this claim. This population-based case- control study investigated a possible relationship between use of products applied for underarm perspiration and the risk for breast cancer in women aged 20-74 years. Case patients (n = 813) were diagnosed between November 1992 and March 1995; control subjects (n = 793) were identified by random digit dialing and were frequency-matched by 5-year age groups. Product use information was obtained during an in-person interview. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals were estimated by the use of conditional logistic regression. P values were determined with the Wald chi(2) test. All statistical tests were two-sided. The risk for breast cancer did not increase with any of the following activities: 1) antiperspirant (OR = 0.9; P =.23) or deodorant (OR = 1.2; P =.19) use; 2) product use among subjects who shaved with a blade razor; or 3) application of products within 1 hour of shaving (for antiperspirant, OR = 0.9 and P =.40; for deodorant, OR = 1.2 and P =.16). These findings do not support the hypothesis that antiperspirant use increases the risk for breast cancer.


    Bull Cancer. 2008 Sep;95(9):871-80. Links
    The use of deodorants/antiperspirants does not constitute a risk factor for breast cancer][Article in French

    Namer M, Luporsi E, Gligorov J, Lokiec F, Spielmann M.
    Centre Antoine-Lacassagne, Nice, France.

    Based on the observation of a high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant adjacent to the usual area of application of deodorants and/or antiperspirants, several scientific teams have advanced the hypothesis of a possible link between antiperspirants and breast cancer. The possibility of the involvement of parabens and aluminium salts, traditional components of a number of cosmetic products, has been advanced by the same teams. In order to ascertain whether this hypothesis could or could not be confirmed, a group of clinical experts in oncology was set up to search and analyse the literature data relating to the problem raised with the aim of answering three predefined questions: 1) does it exist experimental or biological arguments supporting a potential link between the use of deodorants/antiperspirants and breast cancer? 2) Does the use of deodorants/antiperspirants have any effect on the increase in the risk of breast cancer? 3) Could a causal relationship between the use of deodorants/antiperspirants and breast cancer be accepted? The scientific data were searched systematically in the PubMed database ( using standardised search equations. Fifty-nine studies resulting from the literature search were reviewed and nineteen articles with various methodologies were selected for in-depth analysis. In view of the fact that parabens are generally not present in deodorants/antiperspirants, the reflection group’s search related purely to the question of aluminium salts.

    [b]Among these nineteen articles, many are methodologically unsound, do not answer to the questions posed or deal with the question of parabens and were therefore discarded by the reflection group. The expert group’s conclusion coincides with those of the French, European and American health authorities. After analysis of the available literature on the subject, no scientific evidence to support the hypothesis was identified and no validated hypothesis appears likely to open the way to interesting avenues of research.[/b]



    Nature Medicine 10, 216 (2004)
    Studies linking breast cancer to deodorants smell rotten, experts say
    Aparna Surendran
    New York

    Cancer experts are up in arms over two recent studies linking deodorant use to breast cancer, saying conclusions from the studies are flawed.

    An e-mail hoax in the 1990s suggested that chemicals in antiperspirants can cause breast cancer, and quickly became a powerful urban legend. In 2002, a study of 1,600 women found that deodorant use—with or without shaving—is not associated with breast cancer. But deodorants continue to be linked to breast cancer at least in part because environmental factors contribute to risk, says Patrick Borgen, chief of breast cancer surgery at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

    Based on data from 437 breast cancer survivors, lead researcher Kris McGrath in December reported that women who used deodorant at least twice a week and shaved more than three times a week were diagnosed with breast cancer nearly 15 years earlier than those who did not shave or use antiperspirants (Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 12, 479−485; 2003).

    One possible explanation is that aluminum salts in deodorants can enter shaven skin and alter DNA, says McGrath, section chief of Allergy and Immunology at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. Animal studies show that aluminum can travel through the body and appear in the brain and in breast milk, he adds.

    Data from animals can help build a hypothesis, but cannot be used as proof unless they are also observed in humans, notes Wendy Chen, an oncologist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School. The study has other limitations, such as a small sample size and a lack of proper controls, Chen says. By not including women who never had breast cancer, she adds, all the study shows is that women who use a lot of deodorant happen to be younger.

    “This study seems particularly weak,” says Michael Thun, head of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society. “The analysis doesn’t control for [body mass index], use of postmenopausal hormones and the age of first live birth, just for starters.”

    The second study, published in January, reported that preservatives called parabens, known to mimic estrogen, were also found in breast tumors (J. Appl. Toxicol. 24, 5−13; 2004). But animal studies suggest parabens would have to be about 500 to 10,000 times more potent to equal oral estrogen.

    The mere presence of parabens in tumors does not mean anything, says Borgen. Because breast tumors are highly vascular, he says, they are likely to have traces of everything in the bloodstream. “If I put blue dye into a vein in a foot and took a breast tumor out, it would be blue,” Borgen says. “No one would think blue dye caused the cancer.”


    Furthermore, if you search pubmed for scholarly research on this topic, the results you find are dated. If there were any legitimacy or possibility that deoderant or parabens could be linked to breast cancer, it would have numerous recent journal articles.
    .-= Tonya´s last blog ..rcwant2be: Welcme back RT @pnwlocalnews: RT @bgrimley: RT @KitsapSun: @stennis74 is coming into Sinclair Inlet right now. Ferries are slightly delayed. =-.

    • Andrew

      Thank you for doing this before I could.

  22. MagrathKC

    Hi everyone. Love all the ideas everyone shares here 🙂 . I recently made two versions of a deodorant… one for me (very similar to this recipe, using the coconut oil and adding ylang ylang essential oil for fragrance). I love it, but living in FL I must keep it in the fridge… which poses a problem when traveling. The other I made for my husband, using shea butter and cocoa butter (both of which must have a higher melting point, as they remain solid at room temp, even here in the sunshine state). Even though I added orange and cedarwood oils to his, I can still smell cocoa/chocolate. I simply can’t go around smelling chocolate on my body all day … but I found a website (so I’m certain there are others) selling a “deodorized cocoa butter”. I ordered some and hope to make my next batch out of that.

    Keep all the great ideas coming!

  23. hailey

    this is the most informative post i read today. thanks!
    .-= hailey´s last blog ..Homegrown Ideas… =-.

  24. Patty

    For about 2 years, I have been using a natural crystal deoderant. I just love it! I purchase mine at a local health food store, but a few weeks ago, I noticed Target now carries a type of crystal deoderant. Might work well for those living in hotter climes, too.
    .-= Patty´s last blog ..Teachable engineering moments in 2nd grade =-.

  25. Melodie

    Excellent post Katie! I use a crystal but this sounds like a fantastic recipe if I ever change.
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Waldorf Christmas Fair Magic =-.

  26. Melissa

    Hi, I love your blog and thought I would add my 2 cents about natural deoderant.

    I’ve used natural (purchased) no chem deoderant for a couple of years now. It’s expensive $9, but I only need to buy it once a year (I use it every day), so not so bad. It’s made with aloe vera gel and bicarb with a few essential oils thrown in so I really should make it myself. I think it’s all about the bacteria on our skin coming in contact with air and moisture that causes the smell. Stuff like bicarb, aloe and vinegar have anti-bacterial properties.

    I used to tell people that I naturally don’t sweat much – until I stopped using anti-persperants. Boy, was I wrong! But I live in the sub-tropics and the natural deoderant has never let me down.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Handmade Gift Ideas Part 1 – Bath And Body =-.

  27. Jen

    There is an Australian company called Le Reve ( and they sell a deoderant mist that is alluminium free. You can get it perfumed or un-fragranced, and it is a wonderful product. It doesn’t stop the natural body function of perspiring, but it kills the bacteria which causes the odour. I live in the tropics, where it is over 90+ every day and I LOVE this stuff.

    Here’s the link…
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Check it out… =-.

  28. Holly

    I’ve only been reading Simple Mom for a few months, and wish I had found it years ago. The posts are always so timely for what I’m thinking about. Just this week I paid $5 for a natural deodorant and by the end of the day was already wishing I had my $5 back 🙂 In addition to all the standard reasons to prefer natural, my family history of Alzheimer’s is another motivation. However, I am a very scent-oriented person, so I can’t stand to stink, and with 2 babies at home I can barely make time for one shower a day – there’s no time for more!

    A few weeks ago your blog inspired me to take a second shot at going shampoo free. I have very fine hair, very hard water, and like I mentioned before, am really sensitive to smells, so it did not work out well for me. I may go back and peruse the resources you listed in that post to see if there are any tips for dealing with those quirks:)

  29. Krystal

    very interesting article. i’m tempted to try it out.

    i haven’t worn deo for a year either. I stopped at the end of October 2008 because I was pregnant and was put on bed rest and never went anywhere anyway. then the baby was born in february and i nurse, so i didn’t want the chemicals. Baby’s 9 1/2 months and i’m still nursing so i haven’t used deo. I live in Michigan too and the summer was pretty cool, so we didn’t have to worry too much about sweating! i do get sweaty and stinky at the gym but i figure that’s what i’m there for.

    i’m going to try this recipe. thanks!

  30. Robin

    Thanks for this tip – I will have to give it a try! I switched to aluminum-free and paraben-free anti-perspirant/deodorant two years ago and have tried many of the “natural” brands. The crystal was not user-friendly for me. “Kiss My Face” brand and Trader Joe’s brand didn’t work for me at all. I have used all five of the Tom’s of Maine brand sticks and they work OK for winter but less so in the summer. The Tom’s of Maine with “extra protection” (better for summer) made my skin irritated and peel. So I am very happy to have a new formula to try! Thank you! Love the blog!

  31. Shannon

    Arm and Hammer has a aluminum-free and paraben-free anti-perspirant that works like a charm and is only $1.50. I can’t find it everywhere though. I buy it at our local military commissary. Arm and Hammer does have an 800 number you can call to find stores that sell it.

      • Andrea

        It is not Triclosan-free.

        I started using the Arm & Hammer Essentials because everything else makes me itch or worse. Now that I’ve used it through a cold winter and a hot summer, I can say it doesn’t hold up in the summer… Pee-yew! It’s not as bad as when I forget to apply but definitely not fresh.

        I will be trying this recipe this week. (finally!)

        • Andrea

          Oh and my grandmother has the same problem with deodorant. She rubs on Vitamin E Oil and uses a powder puff to apply baking soda.

  32. AnnMarie

    Oh the coconut oil sound great! I hadn’t seen that before. I tried baking soda for a few months but it moved around and clung to my bra and made me chafe and itch. I finally gave up and went back to my old standard. Now I can’t wait to try this. Too bad I just opened a new container only a month ago so no empty to try. But soon! What did you do in summer? My cocnut oil was liquid this summer.

  33. angela

    I came across that very post about homemade deodorant at the beginning of the summer. I made one batch right away. I divided it equally in two little jars and it lasted my husband and I all summer. It works…great! No odor…even in the humid Virginia summer. I highly recommend making this deodorant. Family and friends thought I was weird at first but they got over it…and asked for the recipe!
    .-= angela ´s last blog ..a supreme day =-.

  34. bashtree

    Thank you so much for posting this information!! I have begun to learn about coconut oil, but I’m wondering if you are aware of any alternatives to it, as my husband is intolerant to coconut and even the scent of it makes him feel ill. I would love to follow this more natural path but I don’t want to do it at the expense of my husband’s quality of life. Thank you for any help.
    .-= bashtree´s last blog ..Nerves for Eli =-.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I have heard good things about shea butter. You may want to check the comments at Passionate Homemaking’s post – linked to above. Some people also simply use the baking soda, the cornstarch, or both together. I hope you find something that works!
      🙂 Katie
      .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Mental Mission: What Did You Throw Away Today? =-.

  35. Tricia

    I tried it, and I love it! I switched to the Oil Cleansing Method for my face a few months ago, and the next thing I wanted to tackle was deodorant. I love the idea of stuffing it into an old deodorant case. It’s works and applies exactly like my old deodorant, except that it’s not bad for me. Thank you for sharing!

  36. mina @ :: The Monkey Pod ::

    My husband and I made this after reading your post and it’s absolutely FABULOUS! Wow! We could not believe how well it worked. Last Saturday we spent 3 hours working hard in the garden prepping it for winter and we came out smelling like coconuts. The idea of recycling the old deodorant stick and filling it with this mixture worked great too. And the most surprising for me, was how CLEAN and LIGHT my underarms feel! Thank you!
    .-= mina @ :: The Monkey Pod ::´s last blog ..sipping through december =-.

    • Tsh

      Hi Tonya,

      Your comment got stuck in my spam filter; sorry about that. I get a TON of spam, so I keep the filter set pretty high, and sometimes, legitimate comments accidentally get stuck in there.

      That said… I read your comment, and while you have some useful information there, it is VERY long. How about you publish this information on your own site, and then you may leave a comment here, linking to your post? I’ll gladly publish it. As it stands, your comment is so long that not many people will take the time to read it. Comments are meant to be short-and-sweet.

      Thanks for understanding, and thanks for being a reader.

      • Tonya

        hi Tsh,
        Sorry for the misunderstanding. I don’t have a blog or site where I could post my comment. I used to livejournal, but no more. Just twitter & facebook for me (& the latter is private so I can’t post it as a note either). I don’t have a copy of my comment. Could you send it back to me & perhaps I could edit it down some.

  37. shelle

    Great post! I too make and use homemade deodorant. My first go I used a combo of coconut butter, and coconut oil which had better consistency in the summer. I am still surprised that it works better than the overpriced natural deodorants. Peace.
    .-= shelle´s last blog favorite bread recipe =-.

  38. Erin D.

    Yay! You have just given me the tool that will help me make the transition! Thank you so very much. I bought an all-natural brand a few days ago, and I positively REEK after a few hours. Today, I’m trying a rock crystal salt under the deod, then cornstarch on top. I like this idea far better, however. 🙂 Thank you thank you!
    .-= Erin D.´s last blog ..Natural deodorant, day two =-.

  39. Tereza Fagundes

    Tenho 56 anos e aprendi com minha mãe que o bicarbonato de sódio eliminava mal cheiro dos pés.
    Usei muito o bicarbonato com alcool para as axilas também.
    Fico feliz em saber que envelhecemos e nada se cria. Tudo fica exatamente como era antes de nós.
    Minha mãe está com 84 anos e nós aqui falando da importância de nos protegermos dessa modernidade que só nos tras doenças.
    Parabens pelo seu post!!

  40. Erin D.

    I’ve been using this for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say I am hugely pleased with the results. My initial formulation was too heavy on the baking soda, and when it would pill up in the crease of my armpits, it would really grind in there painfully. Adding more coconut oil and arrowroot powder (in lieu of cornstarch) fixed that up, along with applying more lightly and making sure there weren’t any areas that were too thick. I’ve used some lavender oil as a scent, but the coconut oil scent is very pleasant on its own.

    I haven’t had any problems with oily residue on my clothing, as the oil part gets quickly absorbed. It takes a minute or two more to apply, due to needing to let the salt dry, but I’m happy to take that extra time.

    What I do is to apply the crystal salt first, allow it to dry briefly, and then apply my homemade batch. This has worked under conditions in which commercial deodorants have always failed me – warm rooms wearing synthetic fabrics, for example. With standard deods, I would always have just a nasty, odd sweat smell on my clothing after an hour or two. This stuff went all night at our Christmas party, though, and not even a whiff of malodor occurred.

    I am 100% thrilled wityh this formulation! Irrespective of whether conclusive research shows a direct link to cancer or Alzheimer’s, I firmly believe cutting down on the chemicals we apply to our bodies can only be A Good Thing. Given that it works better, too? Sold.
    .-= Erin D.´s last blog ..AAAAhhhhhhhhhh =-.

  41. Dee

    I cannot believe how randomly I have stumbled upon this! And it is so relevant to my situation! I have been dealing with itchy armpits for over a year now, and this past Sept I had to finally admit that I had to give up deo/anti. Whatever I tried from the natural food stores were NOT working. Pee YEW! And you are right, it is hard to get used to that sweaty feel. Then I started dipping the natural deos into some baking soda and BINGO! That did the job. I went ahead and started buying the Bob’s baking soda which is aluminum free. I don’t know if the aluminum in regular baking soda is really a problem but I want to be sure. I plan on trying your suggestion of the coconut oil (which I have on hand on a regular basis) and cornstarch. Thank you! And – no more itching! yay!
    .-= Dee´s last blog ..Thanks for the street cred, =-.

  42. Green Home

    This is too knowledgeable article. I was not aware of all the hazards of using aluminium. This is really serious; thanks for this wonderful receipe here. I would definitely give it a trial.
    .-= Green Home´s last blog ..An American Hybrid Pickup Truck =-.

  43. Natalie

    I recently made some of this deodorant and loved it at first, but now have very irritated underarms. I am disappointed and frustrated because I love the concept and frugality of making my own deodorant, but I’ve had to stop using it because it is really irritating my skin. I think the baking soda is the chief irritant (due to my investigations) which is the primary odor-reducer…do you have any suggestions or alternatives that I could try?

  44. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    A little update on the FAQ: “Does it stain your clothes?” I did get a stain on a Christmas blouse made of synthetic silky material, but that’s the first one I’ve noticed. I would recommend taking care with such materials and maybe other bold, solid colors. I will now get in the habit of putting the deo on before the shirt and making sure it’s soaked in better before letting the shirt touch my skin. Ultimately, it’s not much different than the yellow antiperspirant stains on white shirts or the powdery deo marks on black shirts!
    🙂 Katie
    .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Beautiful Beginnings: A Guest Post from Amy at Raising Arrows =-.

  45. Shona

    Excellent post. I’m always on the lookout for new, frugal ideas. Especially if they are green as well! People don’t realise just how much of an effect aliminium, parabens, and sodium laureth sulfate/sodium lauryl sulfate have on our health. The last 2 ingredients are found in all commercial soaps/shampoos…shocking. I’ve added a link to your site on my blog, because I feel that you have posted excellent content throughout your site. Url is mentioned above, should you wish to visit my blog page. Please feel free to comment or offer advice 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  46. Heather

    I’ve been ‘poo free for a month now (thanks Simple Mom!) and am much happier with my hair than I have been in a long time. Now I need to try this deo recipe! I *think* I don’t sweat or smell much. I already limit how much I wear the deo/antiperspirant, since I break out in painful sores if I wear it too often (gross I know). I have found that Dove makes me break out less, but I’m really excited to try an all-natural recipe & maybe get rid of the rash forever!!!

  47. KJM

    Something today possessed me to google “alternative to wearing commercial deordorants” and I stumble on to this link and have read every single omment. The recipe sound great and I am ready to try this. The comments were also informative. I will let you know how this working for me.

    I have been struggling with deordorant/antiperspirant for years. I wasnt happy with any one brand. It’s not that I have an oder problem. My number one issue is staying dry when not working out. Nothing seems to keep me dry “ALLDAY”. My other concern and annoyance with commercial deordorant/antiperspirant is that yellowish stains on my shirts or expensive blouses. I want this to stop.. Therefore, I am all excite to try this. I did however, find the solution to clearing the yellow stains from my shirts and blouse. I swear by Oxi-Clean (at least until I found a Green alternative).

  48. stephanie

    My husband and I mixed up our first batch tonight and I can’t wait to try it out! Several months ago I had a staph infection under my arms – nothing serious, just small, red VERY painful bumps. I visited my dermatologist, who said it is very common since staph bacteria lives all over our bodies, but can be exacerbated by deo/antiperspirants, especially on freshly shaven armpits. I switched to Tom’s of Maine (I previously used Dove) and it really didn’t help much, and honestly, I was stinky! 😉 I am so hopeful that this will soothe my tender little pits! Thank you SO much for sharing!
    .-= stephanie´s last blog ..Better late than never… =-.

  49. Jordan

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  50. Jackie

    Hi Katie,

    Your writing is enjoyable to read, and a relief to me and obviously to many others. Thanks for doing the groundwork and sharing with the rest of us.


  51. Amanda

    I know that this post was a while ago, and I have been using your recipe since then and love love love the deodorant. While at work we were discussing natural body products and I shared your recipe. Another lady said that cornstarch is not very good for you and so I was just wondering if you had any information regarding this. Thanks!

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I’ve heard various things on cornstarch, but in the end you can always use arrowroot starch for the same purpose. Some are bothered by corn’s GMO status and others find the cornstarch physically irritating. I don’t have a problem with it in such small amounts, to be honest, but the arrowroot starch works great, too. Glad you’re enjoying the recipe! 🙂 Katie

  52. Jennifer

    My sister made some of this and I tried it. However, I keep breaking out in a rash. So I went online and looked at alternative and saw that some people use just baking soda. So I went without for a short time to heal the rash then I tried baking soda alone. I figured out that is what is giving me the rash. I’ve never been one with sensitive skin so I can’t figure it out. Any help? Is there yet another alternative? Thanks.

    • Erin

      Hi Jennifer –

      I have the same problem – it’s the baking soda granules irritating my skin. It’s like sand paper ground up – really rough stuff.

      I had to reduce the amount of soda in the mixture by over 50%. If I still get a rash after awhile, I stop using it and switch to a different natural deodorant for a week and then switch back.

      If you reduce the baking soda (by adding more coconut oil to the mixture, for example,) you should be able to find a point that will work for you.

      The other thing to consider is whether you have an allergy to corn/corn starch.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Some folks also just skip the baking soda, others have luck with simply coconut oil, and others find that certain brands of baking soda have fewer contaminants. Making sure you have some time after shaving is always a good idea, too.

      I hope you find a workable solution! 🙂

  53. jackie s

    you said that you refill as needed.. do you have some leftover that you refill into your old deo container? I want to make a big batch, but dont know if I can freeze or refrigerate the left over.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I do make more than what fits easily into my container all at once (about 3x), and I just store it in my linen closet. Coconut oil is incredibly shelf stable. You could also store in the fridge without problem, just warm up a bit before trying to refill your deodorant container.

      I’d recommend starting with a normal batch, which makes about a cup. That fills my deo container almost three times and last a long time! Better to start small until you know you’ve got the right proportions for your body.

      Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  54. Narie

    For those who are sensitive to baking soda, some have found that using milk of magnesia works as a natural deodorant. I tried it for a while, and it worked about half the day, but if I didn’t reapply it, I would notice odor on my finger tips if I touched my armpits, but I don’t think other people could smell me. Like BS, MofM is basic and helps neutralize the stinky acid by-products of the bacteria feeding in sweaty armpits. It actually works better after you’re already a little stinky than it does at actually preventing the smell in the first place. I would leave some out in a little cup to evaporate off some of the water so that it was more of a cream, and it dried more quickly. Sometimes I dusted with cornstarch.

    Another combination I have heard of is using coconut oil with zinc oxide. I was using medicated baby powder (cornstarch w/zinc oxide) over Milk of Magnesia with pretty good results. I eat a whole foods diet, but I have always been super sweaty and super odiferous. 🙁 It would work til about 5:00 and then I would start noticing odor if I didn’t reapply the MofM. That works fine when I’m home, but it didn’t help to simplify my life.

    All the natural choices I’ve tried have left me with the same problem: They only work til the afternoon/early evening, and then my shirts start smelly like BO and are ruined. Has anyone else had the same problem?

    I haven’t tried baking soda yet, but I think I will since I have all the ingredients and I don’t have anything to lose.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I get a little annoyed by the stinky armpit clothing sometimes, too, but I guess I’m lucky that I manage to get through *most* days w/o problem. Synthetic shirts will definitely have issues about 20x faster than cotton or other natural materials. Do you wear silky or polyester fabrics to work?

      You added such depth to my knowledge – thank you so much for sharing, and I hope this little addition works wonders for you!
      🙂 Katie

  55. Narie


    So I mixed some up this weekend, and so far, I’m amazed. I’ll give it a few days just to be sure, but by 5 o’clock yesterday, no stink. Just pleasant coconutty freshness. I can’t believe I didn’t try this before. I just hope I don’t get the pits of fire like some have with the bakind soda. We’ll also have to see what happens when the weather warms up. This seems to be working and it was easy to make and apply, so I’m happy. Thanks Katie!

  56. Michelle

    Thanks for sharing all this info! I used to struggle w/ store bought deodorants and wasn’t happy with any of them and was refusing to spend the big bucks for the “clinical strength” brands. Back in Feb I made some home made deodorant and I’ve loved it! I created a blog post on it and linked to your post… just thought I’d share and say “Thanks!!”


  57. Sarah

    Thank you for this!! I have been struggling to find the right deoderant and have often spent up to $12 for clinical strenth, even at Wal-mart, that still doesn’t work. I am SO excited to try this! I hadn’t even thought about the aluminum and parabens, but now that I know I’m going to be kicking store-bought deoderant!

  58. Megan

    I can’t believe how well this stuff works. My husband has tried everything natural because he refuses to wear anything with chemicals in it. We finally found this and it’s amazing!

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