Complicated Ingredients Not Needed
Have you thought about swapping out store-bought deodorant or anti-perspirant for something simpler but are unsure of what to do, especially when DIY formulas call for irritating baking soda and heavier nut butters or coconut oil when your skin cannot hack those ingredients? Read on for information about your fabulous under-arms, why sweating is good and easy DIY deodorant ideas.
You Are Supposed to Sweat
Sweating is part of the inherent cooling processes our beautiful bodies undergo; keeping us alive by maintaining our core body temperature. Think about it: if you are hot or exerting yourself and NOT sweating that is a real issue. Maybe you’re dehydrated!
One of the first things we can do to cut-down on unwanted sweating is ridding our lives, closets and the overall fashion industry of synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon. I’m serious. Refusing to have synthetics in your life is such an easy way to address some unwanted sweaty situations without even considering deodorant.
Tip: Get Synthetic Fibers Out of Your Life and The Environment
Many fibers, like nylon and polyester, in the every-day clothing we wear do a disservice to our bodies because they trap heat and air, creating an anaerobic environment which enhances a favorable environment certain odiferous causing bacteria love. This equals more sweating and stink.
These fibers are also terrible for the environment: from production, to laundering clothing made with synthetics, to disposal of that same clothing and more. Check out this podcast to learn more on the negative impact synthetic clothing has on Earth, our Home.
Body Odor: An Olfactory Clue
The microbiome. It’s a word in the zeitgeist for a few years now, most often relating to the gut. But we have “micro-climates” (as I think of them because my mind is always with plants and gardens) all over and in our bodies. The stink many of us try to “combat” is directly associated with the micro-climate of our “pits” which includes the skin’s surface (epidermis) and the underlying dermis. The fun thing is that sweat doesn’t initially stink.
Stink comes from some of the bacteria that makes up our under-arm-biome. Smelly sweat is less impacted by the “less stinky” water-based eccrine glands but more-so by the good oily stuff created in our apocrine glands (oil-based & more densely found in the underarms and genitalia) and hair follicles, where each follicle is associated with a sebaceous (i.e., oily) gland. These oils are vital for our health and immunity; protecting and nourishing our skin by contributing to our “acid-mantle.” Apocrine glands are nestled deep into the warm, moist depths of the dermis which provide an anaerobic environment where more “malodorous” causing bacteria thrive (AHEM….remember the anaerobic environs created by synthetics too?). It comes down to adjusting the type of bacteria that live in our underarm-biome, not covering it up or trying to wash it away.
Tip: Lifestyle Choices Matter
Diet is one of the main factors in how our bodies biomes are built. From a purely olfactory sense, aromatic plants (e.g., garlic, onions, fenugreek) and sulfurous foods such as the brassicas and alliums contribute to the aromaticity of our sweat. Granted sulfur has an odor most of us perceive as off putting but our bodies need sulfur to properly function. I’d rather smell like garlic, fenugreek and cabbage than an over scrubbed and perfumed bag of Twinkies.
Of course body odor goes beyond food; it’s about everything that goes into and on our bodies. Consider how the consumption of alcohol, coffee, sugary drinks and non-sugary drinks we imbibe contribute to the health-state of our alimentary organs (e.g., liver, skin, lymph) along with any medications and other factors like emotional stress and hormones.
Here’s the thing, those lovely apocrine glands of ours are in an anaerobic environment which hosts bacteria that love metabolizing the fatty acids, amino acids and hormones found in those glands into malodorous molecules. Sure, we can wash and spray as much as we want but addressing overall metabolism and liver health is a sure way to go (love your liver).
Okay, okay. But this article is about making your own deodorant, right? The reason I’m writing about all of these other factors is to underline how a simple deodorant will not do it all. Other factors like diet and metabolic health must be looked at too as well as hygiene habits such as using gentle cleansers and not stripping your body of its oils. The goal is to support a healthy acid mantle made of those aforementioned acids and oils. So how can we GENTLY make our under-arm-biome happy?
Essential Oils Love Oily Places
Essential oils are volatile (small, mobile) and lipid (oil) loving chemicals by their very nature. These properties allow several essential oil components to readily penetrate the naturally oily nature of our skin’s micro-biotica. Another bonus is their overall anti-bacterial nature. Used correctly, (e.g., proper dilution) essential oils may help eradicate harmful bacteria while also being harmless to tissue and lack secondary effects: in a nutshell they may help support your “pits” complex microbiome.
Essential Oils for DIY Deodorant
Listed below are essential oils known for their astringent & deodorant properties. Recall that essential oils by their nature are antibacterial–this isn’t to say they work equally on and across all of the gram negative and positive bacteria out there BUT the idea behind this post is to give guidance and ideas. SEVERAL essential oils would be helpful with bacteria management however it is also important to consider whether or not an individual finds the oil “pleasant.” So although Tea tree, Clove and Oregano would be amazing, they may not be olfactory pleasing for body care AND they can be QUITE drying or irritating to sensitive underarm tissue!
Another thing to consider is the link between stress and sweating, especially via the apocrine glands. Essential oils impact the nervous system through many paths (e.g., emotional response, physiological response). Working with essential oils by their very nature may mitigate stressors that amp up “stress sweating.” To really capitalize on this, it is best to work with oils that are known to help soothe the “fight flight” response and promote states of calm or pleasantness. And remember, these chemicals will enter the blood stream.
|Aromatic Botanical||Latin Name||Therapeutic Properties|
|Cedarwood||Cedrus atlantica, C. deodora||Regulating for oily skin|
Emotions: centering, stabilizing
|Cistus||Cistus ladanifer||Astringent, oily skin|
Emotions: sexy, animalic, energizing, clarifying
|Clary Sage||Salvia sclarea||Stress and hormone related sweating, regulates sebum Emotions: euphoric, antidepressant|
|Cypress||Cupressus sempervirens||Toning, astringent|
Emotions: calming, centering
|Geranium||Pelargonium graveolens||Balancing, astringent|
Emotions: nervous tension, calming but uplifting
|Juniper berry||Juniperus communis||Detoxing/flushing works with lymph *caution if kidney issues/water retention issues.|
Emotions: energizing, cleansing, fortifying, protective
|Myrrh||Commiphora myrrha||Astringent, great for dry irritated skin|
Emotions: fortifying, heart centering, grounding
|Patchouli||Pogostemon cablin||Astringent, deodorant|
Emotions: antidepressant, grounding, sensual
|Petitgrain||Citrus aurantium var amara||Tonifying, balancing to sebaceous glands|
Emotions: stabilizing, uplifting
Aromatherapy Deodorant Blending Ideas
Sparkle: Sprayable Deodorant
This blend is one I have used for the past year or so. I use it after work-outs, between bathing and whenever I feel the need to freshen up. It makes 2 ounces and I prefer putting it in a glass or stainless steel spray bottle. All I need are 1 to 2 sprays per under-arm and I’m good to go!
|Essential Oils and Carrier/Base Products||Amount|
|Organic ethanol or similar product like Everclear||60 ml|
|Cypress essential oil||9 drops|
|Clary sage essential oil||5 drops|
|Bitter Orange Petitgrain essential oil||9 drops|
|Myrrh essential oil||6 drops|
|Cistus essential oil||2 drops|
Balancing Act: Aloe Deodorant
Here’s an easy recipe with aloe as the base. I’ve made it for clients and myself and am overall satisfied with the results. Below is what you need to make ~1 ounce by volume:
|Essential Oils and Carrier/Base Products||Amount|
|Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) Gelly*||22.5 ml|
|Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) hydrosol**||7 ml|
|Optional ingredient: Vitamin E||0.5 ml|
|Juniper berry essential oil||12 drops|
|Bitter Orange Petitgrain essential oil||5 drops|
|Geranium essential oil||2 drops|
|Cistus essential oil||1 drop|
**Feel free to substitute the hydrosol with any others such as Rose and Neroli.
How to make: Measure out the essential oils into your container, cap the container and shake to incorporate the oils. Let the oils sit for a few hours for the aromas to merge if you have time. Measure out the aloe gelly, hydrosol and vitamin E, add them to the container, cap and shake vigorously to incorporate. Label appropriately.
How to use: Apply a very small amount to each under-arm as needed. Take time to rub the mixture into the under-arm and think about how you are stimulating your lymph! Store capped. Re-apply as desired.
Other Essential Oil Blending Ideas for DIY Deodorant
Need a little Sexy in your day? Try blending 15 drops of Patchouli, 10 drops of Clary Sage and 3 drops of Cistus.
Looking for a more Stabilizing & Balancing blend? Try 8 drops of Myrrh, 8 drops of Cypress and 12-13 drops of Cedarwood.
Have fun on your under-arm-biome journey! If you made it this far in the article I want to share that I gave up commercial deodorant and antiperspirants in 2015 and my adjusting period was minimal. This being the time period when our under-arms acclimate to the new environment you are creating for them. I am never going back to traditional under-arm care if I can help it! Stay in-touch with your experiences & stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Callewaert, Chris & Lambert, Jo & Van de Wiele, Tom. (2016). Towards a bacterial treatment for armpit malodour. Experimental Dermatology. 26. 10.1111/exd.13259.