DIY Beauty Bar: Pit Stop

queer-beauty-bar-graphicContrary to popular belief, lots of hippies aren’t dirty. In fact, many of them smell pretty sweet, thank you very much.

I like to think that I smell positively floral. And a lot of that is thanks to my homemade deodorant. I’m gonna level with you here and let you know that the reason I initially switched to homemade deodorant (or any beauty products, really) wasn’t so much about my health as it was about a whole constellation of other things. Let me lay them out for you.

+ Cost: I find it really hard to part with my money when it comes to stupid things like toilet paper or tampons. Deodorant was just one more thing that I hated buying every month or so. But then buying the materials to make deodorant expensive too. $30 for a pound of cocoa butter? You’ve got to be kidding me. So I started with a cheap, easy recipe: coconut oil, arrowroot powder and baking soda. When I started making more of my own things, though, I started to realize that investing in raw materials wasn’t as expensive as I thought. Here’s let’s break it down:

2T of cocoa butter @ $30/pount (whole foods) or $14/pound (mountain rose herbs) = $1.80 or $0.84
2T of shea butter @ $18/pound (whole foods) or $14/pound (mountain rose herbs) = $1.08 or $0.84
4T of coconut oil @ $6/jar (trader joe’s) = $0.80
1 T vitamin e oil @ $3/bottle (trader joe’s) = $0.38
8 T of arrow root powder $6/bag (whole foods) = $.54
15 drops of essential oil @ $10/bottle (whole foods) = $0.10
7 T of bentonite clay @$5/jar (vitamin shoppe) = $1.09
OR
7 T of baking soda @$1.75/box = $0.38

Total = $3.88 – $5.79

And it lasts me 9 months. That is a thing that makes me very very happy.

+ Product: The real thing that drove me crazy about store-bought deodorant was how sticky it made me feel. I didn’t like that I had to scrub under my arms every time I took a shower and I didn’t like how I could literally shave it off my skin.

+ Consumerism: Call me a crazy anti-capitalist lesbian feminist, but I like when I don’t have to buy something that’s been researched and marketed to me. I like not putting money in the hands of giant companies. And yes, I know that Whole Foods is just another one of those companies that does things like base prices for their healthcare on discriminatory pseudoscience. You can’t win them all, you know? As soon as I can find cocoa butter somewhere else, I’ll be running in their general direction.

+ DIY nerdiness: In the words of Angry Chicken, I understand that there are plenty of people who would read this and say “why would I bother making that?” And to those people I say: I feel you. I have never in my life felt any need to knit or make my own pickles. But this is a thing I enjoy making!

+ Health: Last but not least. So I’m not quite sure what I think about aluminum and cancer because scientists aren’t quite sure what they thinks about aluminum and cancer. But hedging my bets on that is a nice little bonus of making my own deodorant.

+ + +

This stuff works differently from traditional deodorant and, as such, takes a little getting used to. Because it doesn’t block your sweat glands, you won’t feel quite as dry as you’re used to and this can be a little unnerving. I’m happy to report, though, that I’ve gotten nothing but positive reviews from my friends who I made smell me and assure me that I didn’t stink.

Even though it doesn’t prevent you from sweating, the powder added will absorb moisture, meaning that you won’t soak through your shirt. And if you’re worried about the oils and butters in this stuff staining aforementioned shirt, don’t worry! As long as you let it soak in for 30 seconds or so, you’ll be fine. I’ve been using this for months now and I haven’t noticed any oily (or sweaty) marks in my clothes.

Moisturizing Deodorant

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Ingredients

2 T of cocoa butter (melting point  100°F/38°C) Cocoa butter is moisturizing and, as an added bonus, smells like chocolate. It helps keep the delicate skin of your underarms soft and prevents razor burn and ingrown hairs. It’s also incredibly shelf-stable and stays good for anywhere from 2 to 5 years.

2 T of shea butter (melting point  88°F/31°C) Shea butter does pretty much the same thing as cocoa butter moisturizing-wise. It’s anti-inflammatory and can help soothe razor burn.

4 T of coconut oil (melting point 76°F/24°C) Besides being moisturizing, coconut oil is antibacterial and anti-fungal. Which makes it perfect for deodorant. It helps fight the bacteria in sweat that cause odor.

1 T of vitamin E oil (liquid at room temperature) Surprise! Vitamin E oil is moisturizing. It’s also an antioxidant, which is great if you understand what that means. I don’t, but I like how the oil feels on my skin.

15 drops of essential oil (liquid at room temperature) Essential oils add a scent to your deodorant and, depending on which ones you choose, can also help fight bacteria. Lavender, tea tree, lemon, peppermint, grapefruit and rosemary are good choices because they’re antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Just a word to the wise if you’ll be exposing your underarms to the sun: citrus essential oils are photosensitive. Don’t use lemon or grapefruit (or orange, tangerine, lime, etc.) if you’ll be sunbathing as they’ll make your skin burn faster.

8 T of  arrowroot starch or corn starch (solid, obvs. but just for fun: melting point 329°F/165°C) Arrowroot starch absorbs moisture and helps keep you less sweaty. If you’re concerned about GMOs or don’t like supporting the corn industry, arrowroot starch is a good alternative to corn starch, which does pretty much the exact same thing.

[7 T of bentonite clay:  Bentonite clay is a weird, semi-magical substance that makes sure any possible smells stay away. A word to the wise: don't store your deodorant in a metal container or stir it with a metal spoon if you use bentonite clay. I didn't heed the warnings that somethingsomethingchargessomethingmetal and couldn't figure out why I smelled so much worse when I travelled than when I was at home. After a little reading, I discovered that the metal travel container I stored my deodorant in was deactivating the bentonite clay. 

OR

[7 T of sodium bicarbonate/baking soda: Baking soda absorbs odors and moisture. I used it in my first batch of deodorant but found it to be incredibly abrasive. The skin under my arms turned red and it looked like I got some kind of weird sunburn that only affected my armpits*. Avoid this if you think your skin might be affected my it.]

Optional: 1 T of beeswax (melting point 146°F/63°C) If you live somewhere that’s incredibly hot or if you just want a more solid final product, add a little besswax. It won’t do much for your body, but it will help the deodorant set up. If you don’t want to use beeswax but still want the benefits, try carnuba or candelilla wax.

Instructions

1. Sterilize your container. If it’s plastic, just wash it in really hot water. If it’s glass, boil it or run it through the dish washer. Pro tip: if you’re using a mason jar, either find 1 piece lids (good luck, I keep failing miserably) or hot glue that shit together. Otherwise you’re going to be annoyed every single time you go to open this stuff and have to lift off the disc part of the lid and end up getting goo all over your hands and your countertops. I speak from experience so just trust me here.

2. Set up a double boiler situation by placing a pyrex measuring cup or really any glass thing with a handle in a pot full of hot water. If you put a washcloth below the cup, it won’t jingle so I’d recommend doing that. Alternatively – if you’re not a massive hippy who care about things like potentially zapping the magic powers of cocoa butter – you can just melt everything in the microwave.

3. Measure out the cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil and stir them together while they melt.

4. Once they’re all melted, add the vitamin e and essential oil.

5. Stir in your powder(s) of choice.

5. Pour it into your container, screw the lid on and put it in the fridge to harden. The consistency of the deodorant will depend on where you live, what season it is, if you have heating or air conditioning and how much sunlight it gets. I’d recommend keeping it out of direct sunlight to discourage anything exciting and disgusting from growing in there. If you live somewhere really hot and don’t want to use beeswax, you can even keep it in the fridge so that it feels cool and refreshing when it use it. It’ll melt on your fingertips and you’ll be able to spread it on.

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6. Use it. You’re going to have to get a little friendlier with your underarms than you might have been in the past since you’ve got to rub it on, but this is actually a good thing because it means that the moisture gets fully rubbed in (meaning your skin gets all its benefits and your clothes won’t get stained) and that you won’t end up with little white lumps nestled in the folds of your skin half way through the day.

Sources: Hey Fran Hey, Crunchy Betty (a lot), Angry Chicken

* I really really really hate this word. I almost made it through the whole article without saying it once but I caved.

Avatar of Laura

Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 324 articles for us.

43 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    I made my own last year with just the coconut oil, arrowroot powder, and aluminum-free baking soda, warmed it, and poured into two empty deodorant containers and then cooled it in the refrigerator.

    Downside: To prevent melty-ness in hot weather I keep it in the condiment shelf of the fridge; applying in the kitchen can be a little weird… and cold.

    Upside: Works so well I only need to use it every other day and my gf and I have only used half of what I made last year so far.

    When we do finally run out, def give this moisturizing kind a try.

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      I made my own a couple of weeks ago – same, but without arrowroot (it’s not available where I live). Just coconut oil and baking soda, and I crushed up a probiotic pill in it for kicks and giggles. It’s worked pretty well so far for me, too.

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        yes! i made this too, kass. it worked awesome, but it started making my skin go crazy when i moved (although honestly, i think it had more to do with my horrible apartment and water than with the baking soda).

        and claire, the probiotic pill is a genius idea. i’ve fallen in love with those things lately because it turns out they’re really good at getting rid of yeast infections.

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    I just spent $7.50 on deodorant earlier this week, so this is very timely. Seriously considering making some of this before I have to buy it again!

    Laura, do you have any good recipes for shaving cream? I am having the hardest time finding something that doesn’t give me razor burn or make my legs feel sticky. Thinking about just trying to make that myself, too.

    Great article!

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      I recently mixed Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap with some coconut oil, and I used it as shaving cream. Granted I’m not picky about shaving cream and am used to shaving without it, but I thought it worked pretty well. I had to be careful to clean the razor well though because of the oil building up on the blade.

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          ooh claire, that’s sounds awesome.

          steph, i use one of two things: thing number one is and olive oil and sugar or salt scrub that i scrub on my legs to get rid of dead skin. i rinse off the salt/sugar and leave the oil on for shaving. thing number two is homemade soap (i’ll post the recipe in a few weeks) that is really moisturizing and suds up perfectly for a razor to glide over.

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    I love this idea but coconut oil is murderous on my skin. I figured it out when Dr. Bronner’s starting making me itchy ALL OVER (any of the varieties).

    I buy deodorant from effoffbodycare.com (a cool queer in Colorado). She makes a salt based roll on that I think is like the deodorant crystals some people have tried. When I order it and ask her, she’ll put some bay rum fragrance in mine so I smell fancy. It’s not the best for staying dry, so I back it up with a strange combo that’s basically half Gold Bond powder and half baking soda with a little bit of tea tree and peppermint oil mixed in. I’m weird, but also usually I smell pretty okay. I’ve been doing this for about six months and unlike commercial deodorants, it still works for me and hasn’t starting smelling completely terrible.

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      “I’m weird, but also usually I smell pretty okay.”

      you continue to do your part in making sure our love grows.

      (is it a thing that commercial deodorants, after you’ve used them for a while, start to smell weird/not work? this has happened to me but i thought maybe i was just getting sweatier.)

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        <3

        I don't know why this happens but it is DEFINITELY a thing for me. It's usually near the end of a stick or beginning of the next stick, I suddenly start to smell really funky. Like, not just that it's not working, more like some sort of bizarre chemical reaction is going on to make an uncomfortable floral-y chemical-y smell. But also it seems like it's not working. This seems to be a relatively common problem but I don't think anyone has figured out why.

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        I first tried one of the recipes with starch and baking soda, but the starch left white powder on my dark shirts and the baking soda burned (especially after shaving). The lack of any smell in my armpits convinced me that this was still an awesome idea, and coconut oil is supposed to be mildly antibacterial, so I smeared it on and it works too. ONCE in a while I do have some stinkiness coming through, though – I don’t know what factors into this (not having used enough? The oil soaking into my shirt and leaving my armpits as the day progresses?) at any rate it’s all been more effective than commercial deodorants, where subtly stink like floral sweat no matter what (except with old spice – if there is one commercial deodorant i will recommend it is old spice)

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      could be your body adjusting, could be dietary. when i drink coffee i get stinky. likewise when i don’t drink enough water/after a night of boozin’.

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      I have tried commercial aluminum-free deodorants and they basically didn’t work at all. I started making one with coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch about a month ago, and it actually works better than regular deodorant for me. I’ve heard from others that baking soda irritates their skin, and that this type of deodorant is less effective without the baking soda, so it may not work for you. Still – all the ingredients are inexpensive, so it’s worth a try!

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        My knowledge of chemistry etc. is highly limited so I’m not quite sure how valid this is, but I’ve heard recommendations on staying away from using corn starch in this context as it might cause yeast/other bacterial stuffs to form?

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    i am totally into natural deodorant/body products in general but can i just say that i swoon for old spice sport?? it’s such a thing with the masculine queer ladies around these parts. do these people have a lesbian sponsorship contract or something?

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        thanks, marika!

        sophie, since nothing here is in fractions of tablespoons, you can just consider T to be any old unit (from a ml all the way up to a pound) and adjust according to how much you want to make. if you don’t have tablespoon measuring spoons, just use any spoon and make sure you’re filling it to the same point every time.

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    Just for everyone’s info… The only essential oil I had was cinnamon, so I added it to the mixture along with virgin coconut oil (the kind that still smells of coconuts) and now my armpits smell like freshly baked cinnamon buns. And everyone wants to date me because baked goods, duh. I even want to date myself. THANKS AUTOSTRADDLE!

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    You rock.

    I have coconut oil, arrowroot powder and baking soda sitting in my kitchen right now because I have been considering making this very thing. I hadn’t made any yet because I figured these were the “base” necessary ingredients, and was wondering how other things like shea butter, beeswax and certain essential oils might come into play here. Thank you for breaking it all down.

    I have some questions, and some notes to add based on what I’ve read up on this already:

    ———————–
    Q’s:

    Regarding the beeswax: this might sound kind of stupid but…can I just use the beeswax you’d find at an arts and crafts supply store (like Michael’s)? And if you were going to use it as an ingredient, would you recommend adding it as part of step #3, #4, or between #4 and #5?

    ———————–
    Notes:

    Regarding sensitivity and baking soda in diy deo, I’ve seen this issue tackled via two approaches:

    1. From this person, who said they used a lower amount as outlined at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-UDEXeqDSCEJ:www.fortheloveoffoodblog.com/2012/05/diy-deodorant.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us, and
    2. This person, who [essentially] said their substitute of lavender flower powder worked out for them: http://www.minimalistbeauty.com/diy-lavender-coconut-deodorant

    ———————–

    Another potential source of raw shea butter (and virgin coconut oil, depending on how deep your pockets are), if you do online orders could be through Agbanga Karite’s website? They’re the same people who’re behind Alaffia products, I believe (Agbanga = wholesale, Alaffia = retail, I believe), which are sold at health food stores such as Whole Foods. I’m *not* affiliated w/them by any means, but buying stuff from either Agbanga or Alaffia means you’re, at a minimum, empowering women in Togo, according to their website/copy (more on that here, especially starting with the second paragraph: http://www.agbangakarite.com/about.php). AK’s product page can be found here: http://www.agbangakarite.com/

    I can say I’ve been happy with the quality of the two Alaffia products I’ve used so far, which I continue to use (but I’m initially going to try a really small amount of shea and/or cocoa butter, so I eBay might be the first place I hit up for, say, 2-4 oz for either/both product(s)).

    ———————–

    Finally, as mentioned to Dialethia above I’ve heard of the possibility of corn starch potentially causing yeast/other bacterial stuffs to form if used this way (?) – not 100% sure about this though.

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      no prob!

      re: beezwaxxxx. i totally use this. it’s not special or organic or anything special, but it works. my rule of thumb when it comes to this kinda stuff is use what feels comfortable to you. e.g. if you like organic, make sure it’s organic, etc.

      sodium bicarb: these are great! i’ve also seen bentonite clay used.

      shea butter: thank you!

      corn starch: i’ve never heard about this, but it’s definitely something i’m going to look into. i’m all about avoiding the gross stuff.

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    Man, coconut oil is like the word of the week for me. I’ve never used it for anything, but a friend left theirs at my house and I’ve been using it on my chapped lips and love it. The way it smells, the way it melts right at body temperature…I think I’m gonna try using it straight under my arms and see how that works before mixing it with anything.

    I also actually got a comment yesterday from someone at work that I smelled nice and it made me uncomfortable because I don’t even use soap in the shower and don’t like my body to have strong fragrances other than its own. I realized he must have gotten a whiff of my deodorant so this is the perfect time to make the switch. Thanks for being so relevant to my life!

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