Want to be able to make your own natural deodorant like a pro formulator? Grab a seat and get out your pen and paper, it’s time to open the first chapter on the basics of DIY Natural Deodorant, provided by the team at Make This University!
Our Cosmetic Chemist, Jen (a.k.a our Secret Ingredient) has enlightened us with her scientific expertise and helped us to crack the code on safe, effective homemade deodorant. With her deep-founded knowledge in cosmetic chemistry, we worked with Jen to bring you a handy DIY Deodorant Guide below that includes all the information you need to start measuring up effective DIY deodorant in your kitchen (spoiler alert: it doesn’t involve ingredients you’ll find in your fridge).
We've given you our basic formula, a breakdown of our ingredient categories and a comprehensive ingredient list to start experimenting with.
Intro to DIY Deodorant: The Difference between "All Natural" and Antiperspirants
Before we board the spaceship that will get you making out-of-this-world homemade natural deodorant, we need to go over some cabin rules. Firstly, we need to understand what natural deodorants are designed to do, so you can get a better grip on how a cosmetic chemist formulates an "all-natural" deodorant.
Commercial deodorants like antiperspirants "work" by using aluminum salts to prevent sweat. With aluminum getting such a bad rap for blocking pores, you've probably started to consider all-natural ways to deal with all that natural sweat. That's why the main formulation challenge for any natural deodorant revolves around the very real realities of sweat, which can be summarized by three main goals.
Since sweat means bacteria, and bacteria means B.O, an effective homemade natural deodorant formulation needs to:
- Absorb moisture
- Fight Bacteria
- Use scents to cover any residual odor!
Once you've included ingredients to achieve these three goals, the trick is to tweak the percentages of ingredients included to achieve your desired application and texture, which will impact your packaging.
Since we can all agree that DIY deodorant should also be quick and easy to apply, leave no residue or stains, and be shelf-stable (i.e. not go rancid after a few weeks of sitting in a steamy bathroom!), we've given you some tips and tricks below for our dream deo: an anti-bacterial, low-HLB stick deodorant that won't be prone to oxidation.
A Basic Natural Deodorant Formula for Every Body
By outlining the basic formulation challenge, it's easier to distill our DIY Natural Deodorant Formulation into a few basic elements which, when added together in certain quantities, make for a great DIY Deodorant! Our basic formula can be summarized using the "equation" below, in order of ingredient quantities.
oil base ingredients + dry absorbing ingredients + thickeners + actives + essential oils = basic natural deodorant formula!
Oil base ingredients carry everything to your skin, where dry absorbing ingredients help absorb moisture. Essential oils work to cover residual odor, and can also be anti-bacterial. Active ingredients further increase the anti-bacterial action of your formulation, whereas your choice of carrier oils and thickeners will help you achieve your desired texture and application.
MTU Pro Tip: If you'd prefer to make a pit paste instead of a stick, increase the percentage of dry absorbing ingredients while decreasing the percentages of oil base ingredients. Experiment with removing thickeners like waxes to keep your product from hardening.
List of Natural Ingredients To Formulate Deodorant With
Now that we've truly given you all of our formulation secrets, we will be walking you through the role of each of the main ingredient categories, and giving you some options to try formulate and experiment with at home. Ingredients indicated with an asterisk (*) are currently offered at our Toronto workshops.
If formulating a stick product, an oil will likely be your "main" ingredient. Since it's the job of the oil base ingredients to carry the clays and other ingredients to the skin, choosing the right oil or oil derivative is essential when formulating a deodorant.
The perfect oil will allow the deodorant to go on light, but absorb well – so the key to happy pits is choosing a lightweight oil. In our experience, popular natural oils are too heavy to do a good job in a natural deodorant stick- so opt instead for the lighter oils. Options for carrier oils would be:
- MCT Oil*
- Sunflower Seed Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Squalane Light*
- Meadowfoam Seed Oil*
Once you've picked your oil, you'll want to achieve your desired "stick" consistency by using waxes, natural fatty acids and fatty alcohols, all of which which act as thickeners. The best formulas will contain blends of these to perfect a smooth and luxurious feel. It's important to use 'high HLB’ waxes to ensure a light application that doesn't feel too heavy. The ‘high HLB’ options tend to be ingredients like cetyl alcohol or stearic acid as opposed to plant oils. Other thickening and stabilizing ingredients you could try would be:
- Cetyl Alcohol*
- Cetearyl Alcohol
- Shea Butter
- Cocoa Butter
- Candelilla Wax*
- Carnauba Wax
If making a stick product, your second ingredient by weight will likely be a dry absorbing ingredient, or a blend of a few different clays or powders. The more absorbent the clay or powder is, the more moisture control you'll achieve. Some popular dry absorbing ingredients include:
- Tapioca Starch*
- Arrowroot Powder*
- Bentonite Clay*
- Kaolin Clay*
Before finalizing your formula and choosing your scent, don't forget about the actives! Active ingredients in this context would be any ingredient that is considered to be a natural deodorizer. The mechanisms of how these ingredients work may be very different, from providing antibacterial action to physically trapping odor molecules, you really get to experiment with your actives. Some popular "actives" include:
- Baking Soda
- Sage Extract
- Magnesium Hydroxide
- Activated Charcoal
- Zinc Ricinoleate*
For covering up any residual odor not tackled by the natural deodorizers, essential oils are added to your formulation to add some much-needed odor-covering scent. Essential oils are generally considered safer than fragrance oils, although there is currently insufficient evidence to prove this, the way that most brands talk about essential oils has led to an increase in their popularity. Since essential oils are naturally derived from plants, people tend to feel safer using them, which is why they're often a popular choice for natural deodorants! Always remember to use essential oils at their recommended usage rate of 2% for healthy adults, and not at all if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or will be using this deodorant on children. When you aren't able to use a scale for accurate measurements, just know that a little goes a long way: 10 drops per 60g or 2 oz. should be enough to do the trick.
Some more sustainable choices for essential oils would be:
- Cedarwood V.*
- Tea Tree*
- Benzoin Resinoid*
And finally, a note on shelf life. Even though natural deodorants are anhydrous (i.e contain no water) and can be safely formulated preservative-free, the presence of an antioxidant is important to extend the shelf life, especially when making your own products at home.
Since oil derivatives and essential oils can oxidize and go rancid without the presence of an antioxidant like Vitamin E, always remember to include tocopherol in your homemade deodorants if you want to prevent oxidation. We have an entire blog post about it here if you're curious to learn more about this must-have DIY ingredient.
And there you have it folx- a comprehensive guide to formulating your very own DIY Natural Deodorant, from the comfort of your own kitchen. To learn more about which ingredients we chose to formulate with, head over to our blog post here.
Have a recipe you'd love to share, or a secret ingredient we should know about? We have a facebook group just for that!