DIY Natural Deodorant: Why We Chose Our Ingredients


In our previous blog post we broke down the basics of the natural deodorant formulation, explained the difference between natural deodorants and antiperspirants, and revealed that its actually bacteria that’s responsible for putting the B in B.O!

Now, it’s time to talk about the ingredients found in some common DIY deodorant formulations, and why our ingredient choices are a bit different. Armed with a better understanding of each of the clays, oil derivatives and actives we used and why, you’ll be able to understand what makes our flexible formulas a bit different! Wether or not you're using our DIY Make This Natural Deodorant Kit, these tips can be used for formulating at home regardless.

In order for homemade natural deodorant to be effective, it needs to do three things:

  1. Absorb moisture
  2. Control odor
  3. Use scents to cover any residual odor!

Personally, we set out to create a DIY deodorant that would go on super light and feel luxurious. This is an effect that is very hard to achieve using common ingredients like coconut oil, beeswax and shea butter, but with the help of our Cosmetic Chemist, Jen Novakovich, we came up with a base that ensures no matter what, this homemade natural deodorant is truly going to be the stuff dreams are made of. If your pits could dream. And if those dreams were made of velvet!

So, here is a detailed breakdown of our ingredients, compared to some alternative but popular choices. We hope this information helps you make your own homemade DIY Deodorant, or opt for one of our kits– both of which can be a super fun way to start learning what does and doesn't work for you!


Our Natural Deodorant Base: Cetyl Alcohol, Candelilla Wax, Tapioca Starch.

Consistency is key– in life, as it is in DIY natural deodorant.  Because we didn’t set out to make pit paste, deodorizing powder or DIY deodorant spray, we needed to introduce some key ingredients to keep the deodorant stick consistency stable: thick enough to apply in any temperature, thin enough to leave no residue. Plus, we wanted it to feel luxurious, because who are we kidding, you DIYserve it!

We achieved this velvety feel with a mixture of Cetyl Alcohol, Candelilla Wax (yes, it's vegan!) and Tapioca Starch, which work together to thicken the other ingredients, while still providing maximum moisture and minimum residue with less stickiness, more silkiness. Here's a detailed description of each of our Deodorant Base Ingredients:

What does Cetyl Alcohol do in Natural Deodorant?

First up let us introduce you to Cetyl Alcohol. This “fatty alcohol” is actually a white, wax-like solid that naturally occurs in plants. It works like a traditional wax to provide a thickening effect to the other ingredients, but is far less “sticky” with the added bonus of improving the glide of the stick due to its moisturizing effect. The big win for this ingredient is that it has a high HLB (Hydrophile-Lipophile Balance).

Without going into the details, this allows you to create a very light-feeling product, which wouldn't be possible when using high percentages of low HLB ingredients such as other plant waxes and/or beeswax.

If you've ever made a deodorant with a fair amount of Beeswax, it probably felt heavy, thick and balm-like– which is not good news when you're trying to keep things dry! Low HLB ingredients create a seal to lock in moisture– so although those ingredients are great for your lips, keep ‘em away from your pits!

MTU Pro Tip: Before incorporating a wax into your own DIY Deodorant formulations, check it's HLB to get an idea of wether it will create a balm-like effect or not! 

What does Candelilla Wax do in Natural Deodorant?

Derived from the leaves of a shrub native to Mexico, Candelilla Wax has a lower HLB (unlike Cetyl Alcohol). The best formulations achieve a perfect application feel by mixing ingredients to achieve a specific HLB, which we did by pairing Candelilla with Cetyl Alcohol.

Unlike a very soft wax like Beeswax, which melts at a low temperature and goes on thick, Candelilla Wax has a higher melting point, allowing thinner application. Unlike a very hard wax like Carnauba Wax, Candelilla is able to melt easily in a double boiler, making the it perfect middle ground for our DIY Deodorant formulation!

We added Candelilla Wax at a small percentage: it further thickens the rest of the ingredients so that the deodorant doesn’t lose its consistency in different temperatures– creating a solid, residue-free stick deodorant that can be quickly rolled on before you’re out the door in the morning. Like we said: Stuff. Of. Dreams. 

Really efficient, hassle-free dreams!

MTU Pro Tip: Always think about the consistency when formulating for yourself. If you want a stick product, waxes and fatty alcohols are your friend! For a pit paste, omit or reduce the percentages of these thickening and hardening ingredients. 

What does Tapioca Starch do in Natural Deodorant?

In our formulation, we have used clays and powders to absorb any excess moisture from naturally sweating, which is why all our Deodorant Base formulations include Tapioca Starch. We chose Tapioca Starch because even as a raw ingredient, it feels so silky and smooth, we felt it added a luxurious feel whilst providing a small amount of moisture-absorption– one of the key goals of any DIY homemade natural deodorant!


What Dry Ingredients Do in Natural Deodorant

If you’re going to embrace sweating, you don’t necessarily want your colleagues to have to embrace it too (although, quite frankly, we’d prefer it if they did). That's why, we chose these specific dry ingredients to really suck up that excess sweat. 

Dry absorbing ingredients do just what you'd think: absorb excess moisture. They occur at a higher percentage in our formulation as this is one of the main roles of any deodorant that doesn't take the antiperspirant route.

For the flexible formulations of our DIY kits, we offer the option of choosing between Kaolin Clay and Bentonite Clay as the main dry absorbing ingredient. With these additions, even your lightest grey t-shirts won’t be giving too much away. Kaolin clay is a very gentle clay that won't pull too much oil from your skin, whereas Bentonite can absorb at least its own weight in moisture, making it a harsh but effective choice for a moisture-control deodorant.

MTU Pro Tip: When formulating at home, feel free to experiment with Arrowroot Powder, which is a readily available alternative to our clays. We also tried Activated Charcoal but found that it stained even at 1%.


What Oils Do In Natural Deodorant

So, you may be wondering - “Why would you introduce oils into a deodorant if you’re trying to absorb moisture?”

For one, oils play a vital role in any solid natural deodorant. Carrier oils do just what they claim to: they carry the other ingredients to your skin. Carrier oils popularly found in DIY deodorants are either too heavy, too greasy or (as we regretfully found out!) they end up staining your clothes.  But, they're necessary to give you the ultimate stick product, when paired with thickening ingredients like Cetyl Alcohol and Candelilla Wax.

Popular carrier oils like Coconut Oil and Shea Butter don’t do a great job, neither at staying solid, nor at going on easy without a greasy residue. This is a key part of what makes our DIY natural deodorant formulation principles unique. We set out to give you the option of much lighter carrier oils: like Squalane Light and Meadowfoam Seed Oil

MTU Pro Tip: If you're curious about making your own deodorant at home, we'd recommend trying out Broccoli Oil too, often touted as the silicone of natural oils!


What Actives Do In Natural Deodorant

Remembering that odor is caused by bacteria, it's time to start adding "active" ingredients associated with odor control to the rest of your formulation.

The ingredient we chose for odor control has great antibacterial properties as well as acts as a natural deodorizer. Our odor controlling ingredient of choice is Zinc Riconoleate, derived from Castor Oil, which works to chemically trap the odor molecules which form when you are sweating, and does not interfere with the flora of your skin.

MTU Pro Tip: As alternative to Zinc Riconoleate, we would recommend Labrador Tea and Sage Extract as two different active options if your formulating at home! Adding antibacterial Essential Oils wouldn't hurt either!


The Role of Essential Oils in Natural Deodorant

In our upcoming DIY kits, we’ve included the option to choose your own blend of essential oils. Essential Oils makes finding the perfect DIY natural deodorant recipe tricky, as it can be hard to understand the percentages at which essential oils should be safely incorporated when you’re reading a recipe written in "drops" and "tbsps". Also knowing which essential oils have a higher likelihood of causing a skin reaction, what essential oils may be unsafe for certain populations are all factors to take into consideration.

Scent is personal, and it can be tough to find blends that feel right for you. We would recommend just one tip when creating an essential oil blend: follow your gut, have fun, and try a few different combinations out! Oh, and try to include a Base, Middle and top note for a well-rounded scent!

Since there is no “best smelling essential oil blend” that will work for everyone, we chose to give you the flexibility to choose between a few unique blends in our DIY Kits. At our workshops, you will have full control over both the percentage and base, middle and top notes!

MTU Pro Tip: To prevent adverse reactions, when formulating at home always dilute your essential oils in a carrier oil! The rule of thumb is to have essential oils occur at no more than 2% (for topical use on adults). We don't recommend essential oils if you're pregnant or breastfeeding!

So there you have it – we’ve had a closer look at what goes into our base, we’ve covered your options for dry absorbing ingredients, oil base ingredients, actives and essential oils! The rest is up to you! Oh, and don’t forget to add vitamin E at around 0.4% to get that long shelf-life you’re looking for.

Too much info? Try one of our pre-formulated DIY kits here.


I was wondering what percentage of zinc ricinoleate to use. And would you use this with magnesium hydroxide in a recipe?
I’ve been using diatomaceous earth for some of my recipes. It’s very absorbent and antibacterial. What are your thoughts?
Thank you very much.

Al September 06, 2022

Thank you for the good information. I just found this and you guys are awesome.

Al September 06, 2022

Thanks so much! You’ve mentioned some ingredients that I haven’t even heard about.

Olive April 16, 2022

Thank you for the very helpful information. Is it possible to provide a recipe for your homemade deodorant. I have all ingredients on hand but I have only ever made my deodorant with beeswax and I have not liked the consistency. Can I simply substitute beeswax for candelilka wax? How about cetyl alcohol, how much should I add as I have never worked with it before? Fibally, should I add water to the deodrant stick?

Lisa April 30, 2020

Hey Poorva! We are currently working on a way to make our recipe available so that everyone can benefit from our formulation. My suggestion is to just start playing around- and look at ingredient lists you like online. Keeping in mind ingredients are listed in the order they are used in, you can usually get a sense for how much each ingredient is used that way! Keep an eye out on our emails as we will update you as to when our formula becomes available or when we start shipping internationally!

Jessye July 18, 2019

Hi Jessye, fantastic guide to DIY deodorant making! So much more scientific than others available on the internet. I love MTU’s vision and wish we had your workshops here in India! I am about to try out your tips and wanted to know what you would recommend as ratios between ingredients – like absorbing powder:butter:oil:wax:cetyl alcohol. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

Poorva Shrivastava July 18, 2019

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