Soothing, yet effective, this natural homemade deodorant stick works without baking soda nor coconut oil and uses zinc to help combat odors for those with sensitive skin.
I’m so excited to finally be able to share with you a natural, homemade deodorant for sensitive skin that actually works!
(Before I tell you about my homemade solid deodorant, I wanted to let you know that I now have a roll on deodorant recipe too!)
Over the years, I’ve tried so many different natural homemade deodorant recipes, but all of them were either ineffective, irritating to my skin, or just plain too messy to use daily for the rest of my life.
Can you relate?
Let me start off by telling you…
Natural homemade deodorants that don’t work (for me)
I’ve been on the search for a decent natural homemade deodorant for years now. Long, long ago, even before I started trying to live a more natural lifestyle, I even had issues with a lot of “normal” deodorants not working for me.
I tried everything from detoxing and eating mostly fruits and veggies for awhile after hearing that often body odor is diet related. I tried supplementation, but that didn’t seem to help me much either.
For awhile, I was even buying some strange sort of special 2-3 day deodorant that I found here in Spain. It was a conventional deodorant, made to last for several days without needing to reapply, but I was using it daily. That, of course, concerned me a bit.
I wanted something more natural, so I turned to those weird crystal deodorants that you have to get wet with water and then apply under your arms. Unfortunately, not only did I find them messy, and not 100% effective, but I ditched the idea when I learned that the active ingredient was an aluminum salt. I mean the whole reason I was ditching the conventional deodorants was to try to avoid as many toxins like aluminum as possible, right?
Many will call me irrational and argue that they are perfectly safe, but why take the risk, especially when I have cancer and Alzheimer’s running in my family?
Coconut oil + baking soda
I wanted something that was aluminum free, so I turned to the internet and began using a mixture of mostly coconut oil and baking soda. At first it seemed to be working out well for me, but when I started to try to exercise while wearing it, or even just at certain times of my cycle, the baking soda would become way too irritating for me and I’d end up with very red and sore, chaffed armpits. If I ditched the baking soda and just used coconut oil, whose antibacterial properties are supposed to work as a deodorant alone, it was if I hadn’t applied anything at all. Coconut oil did absolutely nothing for me, and only left me feeling a bit messy.
Baking soda free deodorants
Because the baking soda irritated my skin, I began to try out numerous baking soda free deodorant recipes that I found on the internet. Most of these recipes again used coconut oil, but either replaced the baking soda with clays (like bentonite clay), essential oil mixtures, or both. I guess the clays are supposed to help absorb the moisture, something that I wasn’t as worried about, and the antibacterial qualities of the essential oils are supposed to help combat body odor. While they did help somewhat, they definitely weren’t enough to keep me smelling fresh, and my husband was only all too willing to tell me how ineffective they really were!
At one point, I even spent a small fortune buying the ingredients to try out a natural homemade deodorant recipe that used neem oil, and it smelled so bad that just by wearing it I smelled worse than the body odor that I was trying to avoid! Plus, it didn’t work, and the mixture of neem oil and body odor was nauseating enough that I couldn’t sleep well the first night I applied it. My husband was, once again, happy to make sure I knew. Sigh.
Back to the drawing board…
Baking soda + water
Baking soda was irritating to my skin, but it did work for me, so I decided to try again. I figured that it was probably the abrasive nature of the powdered form that was causing me problems. For several months, I filled a rollerball deodorant container with baking soda dissolved in water. I sometimes added a few drops of an essential oil like tea tree oil to help with its antibacterial qualities.
Baking soda and water actually worked pretty well, and most of the time wasn’t even irritating to my skin! I did have an occasional flare up, but usually months would pass between them.
The real problem, though, was that it was very messy to apply. The baking soda solution was completely liquid, so it usually ended up all over the place, leaving a white powdered mess behind once it dried. I got sick of always having to clean up afterward, and my husband started to complain about the white stains everywhere when I unwittingly left a few drops behind. It also left white marks on my clothes like spilled toothpaste. They were easy enough to clean, but I got sick of the white spots showing up on my clothes all of the time.
Why does baking soda work as a natural homemade deodorant?
Baking soda is an effective deodorant because it alters the pH under your arms, making it a hostile environment for bacteria to form. In the case of baking soda, a base, the pH is raised enough to help combat body odor.
Do acids like Vinegar, lemon juice, and citric acid work as natural deodorants?
Lowering the pH is another great way to prevent body odor. That’s why vinegar is another natural deodorant that is used by many, and I was effectively using it myself for months at a time.
There were several problems with using vinegar as a deodorant, though. I had to apply it when my husband wasn’t around because he can’t stand the smell of it. Fortunately, the scent of vinegar goes away when it dries, so it can be an effective deodorant that doesn’t smell bad.
Unfortunately, although it worked, for the most part, there were days that midway through the day I could tell that it was no longer working. I reapplied, when I was able, but when I started applying too often, I ended up with red, sore armpits again.
I tried using lemons, but didn’t like “wasting them” as a deodorant, plus I had similar issues with lemons as I did with vinegar.
For awhile, citric acid dissolved in water was my go to natural deodorant recipe of choice, but, again, it was hard to find a concentration that would be effective without irritating my skin. Still, it was what I was using up until recently, when I made a discovery by accident!
I told you I tried a lot of different natural homemade deodorants!
Zinc as a natural deodorant
Unlike aluminum, zinc is an essential trace element that your body needs to maintain health. Instead of irritating the skin, it can actually help with wound healing. Zinc in topical formulas is also thought to help with acne, eczema and psoriasis. (Just think of the zinc oxide in many diaper creams.)
How does zinc oxide work as a deodorant?
Zinc oxide has antibacterial qualities. In fact it works against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. If you have no idea what that means, don’t worry. It just means that it’s effective over a wide spectrum of bacteria, so no matter what bacteria is causing your odor issues, you should be covered.
As I mentioned before, body odor comes from perspiration combining with the bacteria on your skin, so if you can create a hostile environment for the bacteria by either altering the pH (baking soda, vinegar), or by using something with antibacterial properties (essential oils, zinc oxide), you can prevent body odor from developing.
Zinc oxide alone in a deodorant works fairly well which I found out by accident one day when I applied a homemade sunscreen (post idea?) to my red, irritated armpits when I had no other creams or lotions on hand. Not only did it help calm my irritated skin, but I was surprised to find that I had no unpleasant body odor, despite not wearing any deodorant of any type.
Zinc Ricinoleate as a deodorant
I really started to look into zinc for deodorants, though, when I noticed that zinc ricinoleate, a zinc salt that I had bought to prevent acne in a homemade facial cream, was also sold as a deodorant additive. Zinc ricinoleate comes from ricinoleic acid, a fatty acid found in castor seed oil.
If you saw “ricin” in the name and were concerned about it, you’ll be happy to know that although they come from the same place, castor oil and ricin don’t mix. Ricin is water soluble, so it doesn’t get mixed into the castor oil. Any leftover ricin that may enter the castor oil when it is extracted will no longer be an issue because the proteins in ricin are deactivated by the heat used in the process of castor oil extraction.
The mechanism for zinc ricinoleate working as a deodorant isn’t exactly known, but it is thought to absorb the odors somehow without inhibiting natural perspiration.
When I received my package of zinc ricinoleate, it stated on the package that zinc ricinoleate “covers (I’m translating from Spanish, here, so I’m not sure I’m using the perfect translation, but…) the bad odors that are caused by the bacterial decomposition of sweat so that they aren’t perceived as unpleasant.” I’ve tried to research the exact mechanism of “covering” the odor, but it seems like it isn’t well understood. Most places that talk about it just say that it has a way of absorbing the bad odors.
If you don’t have zinc ricinoleate, you can most definitely try to make the recipe without it. As I stated earlier, my homemade zinc oxide sunscreen was enough to combat body odors without any. Because I had it on hand, and it is an ingredient specifically purposed to deodorize, I figured I may as well add it to my recipe to give it a little extra strength, especially now in the summer when I’m sweating a lot more. Zinc ricinoleate, though, is a very inexpensive ingredient, and it shouldn’t be that difficult to find if you intend on making deodorant in the future. It comes as a sort of waxy bead that you melt along with the beeswax into the other oils. If you omit it, there is a chance that your deodorant stick will be a little less solid, but you can avoid that problem by adding in an extra gram or two of beeswax.
How well does this homemade natural deodorant with zinc oxide work?
I’ve been using this homemade deodorant ever since I got home from the US last month. It’s been hard for me to keep it off the blog because I’ve been so excited about how well it’s working for me, but I wanted to make sure that I gave it a good try for long enough before sharing it with all of you.
Not only has it worked through many-a-workout and walking outside on hot summer days, but it hasn’t caused any irritation at all. In fact, I think it has helped sooth my armpits and has kept me from getting chaffing when I walk or run without any sleeves. In the past, despite the heat, I’d have to wear short sleeves when walking or running to avoid friction rashes, but I’ve been able to workout in tank tops and sports bras lately! You can’t even begin to know how happy I am about that!
So, are you excited to begin?
Let’s make some deodorant!
Natural Homemade Deodorant for Sensitive Skin
Makes around 75 ml (5 small 15ml tubes, or one larger 75ml tube)
- Melt together the shea butter, almond oil, beeswax, and zinc ricinoleate in a double boiler until the wax and zinc ricinoleate melt. Remove from the heat.
- Add in the zinc oxide, matcha powder, vitamin E drops, and essential oils, and whisk together well until the zinc oxide is well incorporated into the oils and wax.
- While still warm, pour the mixture into deodorant containers. You can also pour it into tins, or pour any excess into storage containers, for applying the deodorant by hand.
- Allow the mixture to cool off and set without disturbing it. Once it has set, you can use it immediately!
- Matcha is optional for antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties and a bit of color.
- Use the essential oils of your choice for scent. (Or leave them out completely for unscented.)
- If you prefer a roll on deodorant, I have a new recipe for a natural roll on deodorant that also uses zinc.
I’m allergic to beeswax or I am vegan and don’t want to use it. What can I use instead?
I haven’t tried it yet, but am in the process of ordering some candelilla wax to try it out. It’s a vegetable wax that is supposed to make a great substitute for beeswax in natural recipes. I’m going to try using it in some of my future homemade makeup recipes too.
I don’t have zinc ricinoleate. What can I use instead?
I’d suggest adding it to help with the deodorizing abilities of this homemade deodorant, but if you are in a pinch and want to give it a try without it, you can leave it out. Because it is a waxy ingredient, you should replace it with an extra gram or two of beeswax to help keep the deodorant solid. If you just leave it out, you’ll end up with more of a cream than a solid deodorant.
I personally always use the zinc ricinoleate because I need the extra odor fighting. I’ve heard from several people who have made the deodorant without it. It has been effective for some, and not so much for others. Using them together, though, I have yet to hear from someone who says it doesn’t work for them. So, if you can find it, add it!
I don’t have almond oil, but do have coconut oil. Can I use that instead?
Yes, you can use coconut oil or another carrier oil instead. As much as I love coconut oil, I like to try to leave it out of my homemade beauty products because it solidifies at around 76ºF. The problem is that the consistency of the products can greatly change depending on the temperature outside. This recipe works best with a liquid oil, so coconut oil will work great in the summer, but I’m not sure how solid the deodorant will feel in winter.
To avoid having that issue, you can either use a fraccionated coconut oil, which doesn’t solidify, or use a little less beeswax when you make your winter batches with “regular” coconut oil.
Why the matcha? Can I leave it out?
I’m so glad you asked. If you don’t have any matcha, you can most certainly make this deodorant without it, but I think it’s a great addition to this homemade deodorant.
I started using matcha in my first homemade deodorant, a recipe that I almost posted on this blog last year. I had determined that dissolving the baking soda helped me to avoid the sensitivity issues with baking soda deodorants, but I hated applying a liquid solution of baking soda, so I made a deodorant stick recipe using a combination of baking soda and water combined with oils.
Lotions and creams are made by emulsifying together a water solution and an oil solution, using a wax or other emulsifier to help keep them together. Adding water and other liquids to your lotions and creams makes them lighter and hydrating, but it has the disadvantage of being a breeding ground for bacteria. (Just think how quickly a fresh fruit or vegetable goes bad in comparison with a dried one whose moisture has been removed.)
I was mainly relying on the high pH from the baking soda to help make my homemade deodorant last longer without needing to add preservatives. To prolong the shelf life further, though, I added vitamin E to the oily part, and I added matcha powder to the liquid part. Honestly, that isn’t necessarily a great idea because it isn’t a preservative, but I figured anything that would make the deodorant more inhospitable to microbes would be welcome.
Green tea, in the form of matcha powder, has lots of antioxidants, it’s anti-inflamatory, and it makes the deodorant a beautiful shade of green! I loved it so much in my old recipe that I had to use it again here. Powders in anhydrous products like this one (something that only uses oils and waxes, and no water) also seem to help with the glide factor. All of that said, you most certainly can leave it out of the recipe!
As for the old recipe with baking soda that I wanted to share with you once upon a time…
It worked marvelously for months, but I occasionally got irritation, something I didn’t want if I were to share this as a recipe for sensitive skin!
For those of you that prefer a deodorant with baking soda, though, I’ll share my old recipe with you here.
You’ll notice several things that make this recipe not so ideal. First of all, there are oils and water without any emulsifiers or preservatives. I surprisingly never found any separation when using the mix. Perhaps because the water lever was so low? Beeswax isn’t really an emulsifier, but perhaps it was enough to incorporate the small amount of water in this recipe.
This is a small batch, and it’s probably a good idea to keep it that way because it incorporates water without any real preservatives. (Baking soda will raise the pH which does serve to inhibit microbes from forming. The essential oils, matcha, and vitamin E don’t really preserve at all, but may help it last a bit longer. I can’t be sure that the pH is high enough to prevent bacterial contamination here because I’ve never tested it.) I had mine last a couple of months without any issues, but if you decide to try this recipe, and it starts smelling funky, don’t risk it and throw it out!
Baking Soda Deodorant for slightly sensitive skin
4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. matcha
2 tsp. water
2 Tbsp. shea butter
1 Tbsp. almond oil
1.5 Tbsp. Beeswax
10 drops vitamin E
10 drops tea tree essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
- Dissolve the baking soda in water over a double boiler.
- Add in the shea butter, almond oil, and beeswax and whisk over the double boiler until the wax and shea butter have melted, and all of the ingredients are well combined.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the matcha, vitamin E and essential oils.
- Pour into deodorant containers and allow to set.
This deodorant worked well for me for quite some time, so it may be worthwhile to those who are sensitive to zinc oxide, but that can handle baking soda when it isn’t so abrasive. That said, I now much prefer the zinc oxide based deodorant and no longer use this recipe!