How To: Make your own deodorant

When I tell people you make your own deodorant, about 70% of them back off in the way you’d expect them to if I just admitted a proclivity for inserting digits into my olfactory cavity on a nightly basis. (Don’t say I don’t help you improve your vocabulary). The other 30%, usually women with lefty leanings, go “really?” and ask for more information.

So, ladies, this post is for you.

And for those sceptics still reading, yes, I used to use shop-bought deodorant. Like everyone, I sweat. Sometimes lots. And like everyone, when that dried or sometimes when it didn’t – hormones, temperature, what I’d eaten – whatever the hell it was that did it, it didn’t smell great. When I moved to Japan, I found in Lush (yep, they have it there too, and yes, all the product names are in Japanglish) a solid deodorant bar, which I thought I’d try. It contained various oils but primarily sodium bicarbonate (aka. bicarbonate of soda or just plain ol’ “bicarb”) which works as a highly effective deodoriser (amongst loads of other awesome things).

Let me just interject to say that “anti-perspirants” and “deodorants” are not the same. The former stops you sweating, mostly by blocking sweat-producing pores, mostly commonly through the use of aluminium salts. These do not have a great reputation, and although their cancer-causing qualities have yet to be proven once and for all, let’s face it – stopping your body doing a function which is not only natural but necessary, is kind of fucked up. The latter neutralises odours, hence the name. Duh.

Anyhow, Lush stopped selling this product so I decided I’d try and make my own. That was about five years ago and I’ve never looked back. If you’d like to try it, it’s incredibly simple and cheap enough that you could give it a go and throw it all away if it didn’t work out.

These are the bare essentials. You could customise depending on what you have and what you like.
  • Oil. I used almond oil because it is clear and light – something like avocado oil, whilst super dense and moisturising, might leave a green tinge on your clothes.
  • Sodium bicarbonate. I get mine from Boots because it’s actually finer than the stuff they sell in the supermarket.
  • Essential oil(s). This is a blended oil containing fresh-smelling things like rosemary, but anything could work.
  • Optional (but not shown): cornflour, other solid fats like cocoa butter or coconut oil.
All you do is put the bicarb and cornflour if you’re using it (this thickens the paste slightly, and also acts as a buffer to the bicarb) in a small container and gradually add the oil to form a thick paste. If you’re using fats that are solid at room temperature, you can put them in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften, before mixing together. This would make the final product much thicker, and also keep the bicarb suspended in it (sometimes the oil can separate and rise to the top).
And that’s it. Easy. I use what I would guess is a third of a cubic centimetre (not that I’m trying to be accurate) or a fingertip-sized smear under each arm after a shower.
Whilst I think this is the best deodorant ever, there is one thing that you should be aware of: you cannot use it for 12 hours after you’ve shaved. It will sting like crap and might (I’m guessing) cause a rash or other reaction. I tend to leave my armpit hair until it hits an unacceptable level which people in the gym would notice with a passing glance (I’m lazy – sue me). Generally this works out at shaving once or twice a week, which I do in the evening before bed so I can use it in the morning. If you’re one of those girls who likes (or at least feels under crushing societal pressure…) to be hairless at every moment of their lives, this may not be the thing for you.

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