Pit Chemistry 101: The Role of Each Ingredient


In our previous blog post we broke down the basics of the natural deodorant formulation, explained the difference between natural deodorants and antiperspirants, and that its really bacteria that’s putting the big B in B.O. Now, it’s time to talk about the role of each ingredient in our DIY deodorant kits. Armed with a better understanding of each of the clays, oil derivatives and actives we offer, you’ll be able to go about formulating your very own homemade DIY deodorant like a pro - with the help of our DIY Make This Natural Deodorant Kit, of course!

Remember from our previous post, that 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!

It was our mission to create a DIY deodorant that worked well and felt amazing– one 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 dry absorbing ingredient, oil or active you choose to add, 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. There, we said it!


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 (although, let us know if we should!), 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 deserve it after doing anything involving a double boiler (which making deodorant does!)

Our Cosmetic Chemist 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 no stickiness.


What does Cetyl Alcohol do?

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 (such as beeswax) to provide a thickening effect to the other ingredients, but is far less “sticky” with the added bonus of improving the slip and 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 plant waxes (like carnauba wax) and/or beeswax. If you've ever made a deodorant with a fair amount of beeswax, it probably felt pretty darn 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!

What does Candelilla Wax do?

Next up, we have Candelilla Wax. Derived from the leaves of a shrub native to Mexico, this ingredient has a lower HLB (unlike Cetyl Alcohol). As mentioned in our previous post, the best formulations achieve a perfect application feel by mixing ingredients to achieve a specific HLB, so Candelilla wax was paired with the Cetyl Alcohol. Unlike a very soft wax like beeswax, which melts at a low temperature and so 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.


What Dry Ingredients Do in Natural Deodorant

Once familiar with our base, it’s time to start choosing which dry ingredients to add. Because, 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).

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. 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 ingredients– so you can rest easy while you sweat freely. With these additions, even your lightest grey t-shirts won’t be giving too much away. 

What Oils Do In Natural Deodorant

So, you may be wondering - “why do things like coconut oil and shea butter end up in so so many DIY natural deodorant recipes and blogs? Why would you introduce oils if what you’re trying to do is absorb moisture?”

For one, oils play a vital role in any solid natural deodorant: they act as carriers. Carrier oils do just what they claim to: they carry the other ingredients to your skin. Yet, carrier oils are often why DIY deodorants feel like a compromise to store-bought versions– they’re either too heavy, too greasy or (as we regretfully found out!) they end up staining your clothes.  They also work with the thickening ingredients to give you the ultimate stick product.

Although easy to find, 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, and simply more effective. We set out to give you the option of much lighter carrier oils: like Squalane Light as well as Meadowfoam Seed Oil

Usually not accessible in smaller quantities, we also won’t stick you with a whole pound in case a particular oil isn’t speaking to you! 


What Actives Do In Natural Deodorant

So now that we know oils carry clay to the skin for sweat absorption, it’s time to start thinking about odor control. Remembering that odor is caused by bacteria, 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.

As alternative to Zinc Riconoleate, we would recommend Labrador Tea and Sage Extract as two different active options if your formulating at home!


The Role of Essential Oils in Natural Deodorant

Finally, we’ve included the option to add your own blend of essential oils. This is again where finding the perfect DIY natural deodorant recipe gets tricky - it’s hard to understand the percentages at which essential oils should be incorporated when you’re trying to figure out drops as percentages against tablespoons of oils and cups of clays. 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. The best guide to creating an essential oil blend is to follow your gut, have fun, and try a few different combinations out. There is no “best smelling essential oil blend” that will work for everyone, so we give you the flexibility to create your own unique blend.

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 to get that long shelf-life you’re looking for.

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

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