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Funk Killers: Natural Deodorants That Actually Work!
There is no doubt that conventional deodorants and anti-perspirants are effective odor-beaters, but the chemical cost is high. Anti-perspirants actually block the pores of the armpits to reduce sweating, while deodorants just kill odor. From a simple common sense perspective, blocking off the sweat glands in an area with a high concentration of lymph nodes - that is designed to release when the body is overheated or working hard - is a bad idea. Both types of commercial deodorizers contain a long list of ingredients which range from the questionably safe to the downright ugly, like aluminum or phthalates. But body funk is a bummer and most of the natural deodorants on the market that use safe, gentle ingredients just don’t work.
What’s a sweaty guy or gal to do? The first thing is to clean up your diet. Eating clean (fresh, whole foods, naturally grown and raised) and drinking a lot of water will, over time, gently detoxify your system and your sweat will smell a little sweeter. Another tip is to rinse the excess sweat off of your body right after exertion. Quickly removing the sweat and grime from working out, even with a plain water rinse, will help prevent the buildup of the bacteria that cause armpit odor.
The next level of defense is to use a natural deodorant that is truly antibacterial. My favorite store-bought deodorant is the Thai salt crystal. These come in different shapes and prices, but the basic idea is to wet the surface of the salt crystal and swipe your pits with it. The salt is naturally antibacterial and can be reapplied safely throughout the day, as necessary. You can pick them up at any natural food store and they last for months.
You can also make your own deodorants using either alcohol or baking soda – two excellent deodorizers. The clean deodorant spray recipe uses 190 proof grain alcohol and witch hazel as an antibacterial base with a few essential oils known for their anti-microbial properties and great scents. Both salt and alcohol can sting just-shaved skin, but only for a couple of moments and the effect isn’t harmful. The second recipe is a stink-busting paste made from baking soda and coconut oil that will be harder in chilly temperatures and softer in warmer climes. This concoction is a very effective odor-tamer and quite easy to make. I like to make 2 smaller jars and keep one in my travel case. See the notes under each recipe for different blends of essential oils for men and women and also a few cautions and substitutions.
As always when making your own skincare products, it’s wise to test them for any reactions on a small area of skin for a few days before full use just to rule out any potential issues. The essential oils suggested here are well-tested for their topical use and effectiveness, but all essential oils are very potent and it’s just good practice to have care when working with them. If you are pregnant, swap out the rosemary essential oil for another choice.
Clean Deodorant Spray
2 tablespoons grain alcohol (Everclear)*
Essential oils for women or men (see note below)**
2 tablespoons witch hazel (available at a good drugstore or natural food store)
¼ cup distilled water
Using a funnel or spout for the liquids (except for the essential oils), combine the grain alcohol and essential oils in a 4-ounce spray bottle (glass is preferable) and shake well to combine.
Add the witch hazel and distilled water.
Shake again and store in a cool, dark place.
Shake before each use and apply to clean underarms once or twice per day.
*You can find Everclear at a good liquor store. If they don’t carry grain alcohol, choose the highest-proof vodka you can. Don’t use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) because you can become sensitized to it with regular use. If you want a stronger, more disinfecting mixture, double the alcohol content and eliminate the witch hazel.
**Essential oil combination for women:
7 drops pure geranium essential oil (or more lavender and/or tea tree)
7 drops pure lavender essential oil
4 drops pure tea tree essential oil
3 drops pure sandalwood essential oil, optional (sandalwood essential oil is pricey!)
Essential oil combination for men:
7 drops pure tea tree essential oil
7 drops pure rosemary essential oil
5 drops pure geranium essential oil (or more lavender and tea tree)
Clean Funk-Buster Underarm Paste
3 tablespoons pure baking soda*
5 tablespoons arrowroot powder (available in natural food stores in the baking section)
3 tablespoons just-melted coconut oil (pure, raw, organic)**
7 drops pure tea tree essential oil
5 drops pure rosemary essential oil
5 drops pure lavender essential oil***
In a small bowl whisk together the baking soda and arrowroot.
Add the essential oils and drizzle in the coconut oil. Mix thoroughly with a fork to form a thick paste.
Spoon the mixture into one 2-ounce or two 1-ounce jars to set.
Scrape a tiny finger-full of the mix and massage it fully into each clean armpit until it melts.
*Because baking soda is highly alkaline, it can be irritating to some people’s skin. It is the “active” deodorizing ingredient in the recipe and the arrowroot is there to mellow the potential irritating effect. You can increase the proportion of baking soda to arrowroot for a stronger paste, or decrease it for less irritation – just keep the total powder content to ½ cup (8 tablespoons).
**Coconut oil can leave a stain on clothing (it does wash out), so be sure to use a very small amount of paste – don’t heap it on!
***Because tea tree oil has such a strong scent, the lavender oil is not so noticeable in this blend, but it you’d prefer a “manlier” scent, skip the lavender and use 7-8 drops each of the tea tree and rosemary oils.