Pit Chemistry 101: A Guide to DIY Deodorant


Want to be able to make natural deodorant like a pro? Grab a seat and get out your pen and paper, it’s time to open the first chapter on the chemistry basics of DIY Natural Deodorant, provided by the team at Make This University!

Our Cosmetic Chemist, Jen (aka 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 Guide below – down to the molecular level – that includes all the information you need to start cookin’ up effective DIY deodorant in your kitchen (spoiler alert: it doesn’t involve ingredients you’ll find in your fridge!)


Intro to DIY Natural Deodorant

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 brush up on what natural deodorants are designed to do, so you can get a better grip on how our cosmetic chemist formulated our DIY Deodorant Kits. So, get ready for liftoff, here we go!

For a homemade natural deodorant to be effective, it needs to succeed at doing three things:

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

As an added bonus, your DIY deodorant should also be easy to apply, with no extra residue, and be shelf-stable (i.e. not go rancid after a few weeks of sitting in a steamy bathroom!).


Natural Deodorant vs Commercial Antiperspirants: Whats the Difference?

Traditionally speaking, commercial deodorants, like antiperspirants, didn’t have to perform all three of these tasks because their formulations used aluminum to prevent you from sweating. With aluminum getting such a bad rap for blocking your precious pores, natural deodorant formulators have had to find a way to control odor without removing your sweat from the equation, using only naturally-derived ingredients. To read more about the mysteries behind B.O, head over to our blog post here.

So what’s the basic formula for a natural deodorant? Time to cut to the chase. Our DIY Natural Deodorant Formulation is a simple combination of dry absorbing ingredients, oil base ingredients, thickeners, actives and essential oils.


Back to Basics: A Natural Deodorant Formulation for Every Body

For dry absorbing ingredients, we use clays and powders to absorb moisture and help the deodorant application feel silky smooth. Then, it's the job of the oil base ingredients to carry the clays and other ingredients (hence the name “carrier oils”) to the skin.

Choosing the right oil and 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 option. In our experience, popular natural oils, like coconut oil, are too heavy to do a good job in a natural deodorant stick or pit paste. 

Waxes, natural fatty acids and fatty alcohols act as thickeners to control consistency. 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. The other ingredients – usually natural deodorizers – are what we shall call “actives”. These can provide antibacterial and odor controlling properties.

For covering up any residual odor not tackled by the natural deodorizers, essential oils are used to add scent. Essential oils, like lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus 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 popularity over fragrance oils. Since essential oils are naturally derived from plants, people tend to feel safer using them, which is why we include them in our formulation, giving you the choice of oils to combine and make your own custom scent.

And finally, a note on shelf life. Even though natural deodorants are anhydrous (i.e contain no water) and fall under the category of cosmetics that don’t require preservatives, the presence of an antioxidant is important to extend the shelf life. Oil derivatives and essential oils can oxidize and go rancid without the presence of an antioxidant like Vitamin E. That’s why you’ll always find it on our labels.

Next week on the blog, we will be diving even deeper into each of our ingredient categories, so make sure to check back soon for some hot tips for dry pits!


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