You’ve probably noticed that there has been a big push in the beauty industry lately for more natural products, and some people are even making their own non-toxic products at home. Coconut oil deodorant is one particularly hot topic – and I’ve got the scoop for you on natural coconut oil deodorant, including a DIY recipe!
Why Natural Deodorant?
Some researchers are concerned that certain chemicals in deodorants may be absorbed through the skin into the blood stream. In large doses, there are some worries about toxic effects, specifically with endocrine disruptors (chemicals that affect your hormones).
Here are a few of the ingredients that some people worry about:
- Aluminum – This is a widely used anti-perspirant, thanks to aluminum’s ability to plug up sweat ducts and reduce sweating. Some people are concerned about the absorption of aluminum into the body, especially in close proximity to breast tissue.
- Parabens – These are used in makeup, skin care products, and foods. There is a concern that parabens exhibit weak estrogenic properties. Though most brands of deodorants do not contain parabens, there may be some that do. You can look for these on the label as they typically list the word “paraben”, such as methylparaben.
- Fragrance – Legally, a manufacturer can list “fragrance” and not include the specific chemicals used, making it unclear what the ingredient actually is. This can be problematic for people with chemical sensitivities. Even among the lay population, a recent study found that almost 35% of people reported an adverse health effect (like a headache or respiratory issue) from fragranced products, including personal care products, cleaning supplies, and air fresheners.
Research about natural deodorant
Now just to be clear – most research has not supported any connections between deodorants/anti-perspirants and major health issues like cancer. A 2016 review found no association between breast cancer and deodorant risk.
The downside is that this review was only able to include two reliable studies. In fact, the authors concluded that there is currently an “insufficient number of studies to conduct a quantitative review and obtain reliable results.”
That said, the American Cancer Society states “There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim.”
Different people will have different levels of concern regarding these ingredients and the available data. If you’re personally concerned, then it may be worthwhile to take the “precautionary principle” and use a natural deodorant instead of a commercial one with these ingredients. Do what you feel is best for you!
Why Is Coconut Oil Used in Natural Deodorants?
While there are many natural deodorants on the market, several use coconut oil as a base.
Coconut oil is not only lovely smelling, but it also contains lauric acid. This fatty acid has natural anti-bacterial properties. A very early study suggested that lauric acid was one of the most effective anti-bacterial fatty acids. And another study found that coconut oil had anti-fungal properties as well. Research has shown similar beneficial effects for reducing harmful oral bacteria, and inhibiting a gastrointestinal pathogen.
So what does all this have to do with deodorant? When you sweat, that icky body odor smell is caused by bacteria in your armpits breaking down the sweat. It would stand to reason that if you can reduce the bacteria there via coconut oil, it would help to control the smell.
DIY Coconut Oil Deodorant
If you’d rather go the DIY route, it’s actually quite easy to make a homemade deodorant.
There are lots of variations of homemade coconut oil deodorant on the internet, and most use the same basic ingredients – coconut oil, arrowroot powder or cornstarch, baking soda, and essential oils. Mine has those same basic ingredients, though I increase the cornstarch/arrowroot powder and decrease the baking soda, as I find it’s less likely to irritate the skin.
Which brings me to an important note – natural does not necessarily mean gentle. Many DIY deodorant recipes contain a relatively high amount of baking soda, which can be abrasive on the skin. This recipe has a lower concentration, but still may irritate some people.
In addition, some people may not find the odor protection ideal with a lower baking soda formula. This is highly individualized, so just keep in mind there are other DIY recipes or store-bought products if this upsets your skin or does not work well for you.
DIY Coconut Oil Deodorant
Coconut Oil Deodorant Recipe
- 5 tbsp coconut oil
- 5 1/2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 2 1/2 tbsp baking soda
- 10-15 drops grapefruit essential oil (or another essential oil of your choice)
Warm the coconut oil just a bit so that it’s melted and it’s easier to blend everything together. Stir in the cornstarch or arrowroot powder and baking soda until well combined. Stir in the essential oil. Pour into a clean small jar and keep in a cool place.
To use, take a small popsicle stick and remove a pea size amount. Rub into your armpit. The warmth of your fingers will help it spread on smoothly and absorb into the skin.
You might also like: 9 DIY Sugar Scrubs for Year Round Beautiful Skin
Coconut Oil Deodorant FAQ
Do you sweat more with a natural deodorant?
You may feel like you are sweating more if you are used to using a conventional antiperspirant.
For some background: in the personal care market, there are deodorants (which mask odor and often have ingredients to absorb sweat), and antiperspirants (which reduce actual perspiration).
I don’t believe there are currently any scientifically proven “natural” antiperspirants on the market right now. Instead, the products are deodorants. This means that if you are used to an antiperspirant, you may experience more sweating when you switch to a deodorant. However, it does not mean you’ll be smellier.
Does coconut oil deodorant stain your shirt?
It can, depending on the brand, fit, and type of fabric. I have not had any problems with the NOW deodorant mentioned above, or the DIY recipe.
If you do have problems with staining, you can:
- Try a different coconut oil deodorant that you can buy
- Try a DIY recipe with a higher proportion of powder ingredients (baking soda, arrowroot, cornstarch, zinc oxide, etc)
- Give a natural deodorant that does not have a coconut oil base a try
- Return to conventional deodorants
Do natural deodorants cause skin darkening?
This is a common problem reported by some people who use various types of natural deodorants, including those with a coconut oil base. I decided to do a little digging into this phenomenon.
For the most part, the skin darkening appears to be a result of the baking soda that is present in certain natural deodorants. The alkaline nature of the baking soda alters the pH balance of the underarm skin, and this can result in darkening (and sometimes altered texture).
Here’s the good news – if this is happening to you, it should resolve itself when you quit using a deodorant that contains baking soda.
Do natural deodorants cause rashes or irritation?
Similar to above, this is generally caused by a sensitivity to baking soda in products. Baking soda is abrasive and it can irritate the skin – either in high concentrations and/or if you are sensitive to it at all. If you bought or made a product that contains baking soda, switch to one without baking soda (like the NOW or Kopari products above).
Natural deodorants, like these coconut oil-based deodorants, can be a great choice for someone looking to reduce certain chemical exposures. However, keep in mind that natural products may still irritate the skin, particularly if they contain baking soda.
Using a DIY recipe with a lower baking soda concentration (like the one included here) or selecting a store-bought product without baking soda may be beneficial if you are sensitive to it.