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Play it safe, make your own deodorant

By Dennise Smith

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One obsession I freely admit to is with my armpits. Until the past five years, I was obsessed with keeping them dry as the desert and smelling like a floral bouquet picked from grandma's garden.

Then, after coming across numerous articles documenting the serious health risks of using traditional antiperspirants (with aluminum zirconium), my obsession became finding THE natural deodorant that worked. (Check out Autumn Hopkins's article and her links to scientific articles regarding the issue.)

After spending an estimated $150 on trying out all-natural deodorants over the past several years, I found that most were a fail and many epic fails at that.

I had pretty much given up until two to three months ago when I came across a recipe for homemade deodorant in a super-awesome DIY site called "Crunchy Betty." I used an essential oil deodorizing scent recipe from another favorite DIY website, "One Good Thing by Jillee."

 I expected this deodorant to end up in the "epic fail" category, too, but I was feeling rather alchemical that day and happened to have most of the ingredients.

Not only did it work far better for me than all of the store-bought brands I tried, but it was completely effective. I ditched the Secret and Mitchum and now use my homemade deodorant on a daily basis.

I have tried this deodorant camping out in the desert for three days, hiking in Fayetteville, and even recently in spin class. No stinky pits in any of the test scenarios! All results were boyfriend-verified. Shaaaabanga!

So, dear readers, the obsession with my pits continues. Only now it is focused how great my homemade deodorant works! So, here it is (Thank you, Crunchy Betty!):

All-Natural Deodorant Recipe

5   tablespoons coconut oil*

1/4   cup arrowroot or cornstarch. (In my opinion, arrowroot is far superior and has a silkier feel.)

1/4   cup baking soda.

Essential Oils* -- Ones with antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities, such as Tea Tree, Lavender and Frankincense. Also good to add is Lemon or Lemon Verbena essential oils

* I prefer refined coconut oil because the coconut scent is completely removed. Unrefined (type most people use for cooking) works just as well.

* Unless you completely abhor the smell, try to include at least some Tea Tree oil. Most researchers agree that it is a great anti-bacterial substance. Because bacteria is what actually causes odor, not the sweat, you want this in your deodorant.

All of these oils, with the exception of Verbena, can be purchased at Drug Emporium in Charleston. (Warning: Frankincense is very pricey.)

SPOON out 5 tablespoons of coconut oil and put in a small microwave-proof dish. If your house is warm enough that your coconut oil is already liquid, skip this step. Microwave for 20-30 seconds. Set aside for a minute to cool.

COMBINE in the arrowroot and baking soda, stirring with a fork to make sure any baking soda clumps are dispersed. Use a metal or glass bowl and metal fork because a plastic bowl will retain the odors.

PUT about 10 drops of frankincense and 15 drops each of the tea tree and lavender into the melted coconut oil.

STIR the oils into the dry mixture until the mixture is liquid. The consistency should be a little runny. Don't worry, the mixture will harden up later.

POUR the mixture into a container for storage.

I like using a soap container or an empty lotion tube. If you plan on taking this deodorant on travels or if your home is very warm (i.e. your coconut oil stays liquid), pick the tube because it does not leak. A funnel is really handy if you are using the tube.

After you pour the deodorant, wait a while for it to set up and solidify. If your home is warm, pop it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. I like my deodorant to be soft so I leave it semi-liquid when possible.

How to apply

While you can apply with your fingers, I find the best way is to use a makeup sponge. Simply run it across the deodorant and apply a thin layer over the entire armpit area.

Remember this is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. You are still going to sweat, but deodorants will keep you smelling fresh. This is why the essential oils are important. The baking soda and arrowroot are to help keep you dry, but don't expect all-day complete wetness protection.

To really amp up the effectiveness of this deodorant, I use a powder over it after it dries. I make my own: 1/2 cup arrowroot and 1/4 cup baking soda with the same essential oils. Just make sure you allow the deodorant to absorb (few minutes at most) before you apply the powder or it will clump up on your underarms.

Other tips and reminders

• Wait for the deodorant to absorb into your skin before dressing. Just like your antiperspirant, the deodorant can stain your clothes.

• Don't use if you nicked yourself shaving or have a razor burn.

• The scent of the essential oils will fade throughout the day because they are natural versus synthetic, but this doesn't mean they stopped working.

• Wear breathable clothing, where possible. Any clothes with polyester fibers are going to make you smell because the fibers trap and retain your sweat and any bacteria. Even the best deodorants and antiperspirants won't work that well with man-made fibers.

• Use rubbing alcohol to clean your bowls and equipment as it removes the coconut oils and essential oils.

Some users of homemade and natural deodorants have reported that your body needs a few days to transition and cleanse itself of the pore-blocking chemicals (i.e. the deodorant won't work as well the first few days). I didn't find this to be an issue at all.

Peace out and may your pits be fresh and fragrant!

Dennise Smith is a Charleston lawyer, fashion designer and co-founder of the local arts group Nomadic Tribes Collective.


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