Deodorant That Won’t Give You Cancer


Clever and effective marketing strategies have developed a very odd armpit culture in America.  Everything that an armpit is, it should not be. No sweat! No smell! No hair!

As a result of this brainwashing, I have a long history with deodorant. From my first stick of Teen Spirit at age 9, deodorant has been as much a part of every single day of the last 20+ years as eating and drinking. That seems pretty silly, since the application of deodorant is certainly not essential to sustaining life, but my actions would indicate otherwise. If a hiccup in routine somehow saw me out the door without any, it would be on my mind all day, similar to the nagging hunger after accidentally skipping a meal. But why? Because I might sweat? Because I might not smell like freesia? Because I might end up in a heated confrontation about violating a social norm?

In addition to those pressures, both internal and external, to wear deodorant at all, I’ve spent way too many of my life’s precious minutes considering the product itself. My first concern involved the co-title of virtually all women’s deodorants: antiperspirant. I noticed as early as high school that something was weird with that. The human species spent eons evolving the ability to maintain body temperature through perspiration. And, for some reason, we decide that not sweating is better? Our evolutionary alternative would be panting. And that would just be gross. Sweat is just not something I want to stress over.

Then there are the questionable ingredients, and the ample evidence for their horrific effects.  Studies show that aluminum increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, breast and prostate cancer, and dermatitis, phthalates and parabens increase cancer risk, and triclosan use has been correlated with increased asthma. I’ve been really liking the body care philosophy of only slathering yourself with products that you would be willing to eat, and the alleged toxicity of traditional deodorants certainly puts it far out of that category.

So then what’s wrong with just using the natural deodorant sticks? Well, in my experience, they just don’t work. I’ve experimented with a few, and discovered, by the end of the day, they are about as effective as not wearing anything (which I’ve also experimented with), and sometimes they’re even worse.

With all that in mind, I wasn’t hugely optimistic about homemade deodorant. I expected a few weird, hard-to-find, expensive ingredients, a messy and unwieldy consistency, and stinky pits by the end of the day. So I was extremely pleased to discover a recipe that included only 3 ingredients, all of which I already had in the kitchen. They mixed together smoothly, and were easily coaxed into a creamy dollop which rubbed in well.  The real test came next: the end-of-the-day stink factor. Twelve hours after application, the sniff test ensued and revealed armpits that smelled like, of all things, skin! Clean skin at that. It was a whole new concept to me. After years of pretending to smell like a peach or sprig of lilac, I smelled like nothing. Yet more proof that less can be more.


Still skeptical? Luckily, this recipe is designed so that you can make up a trial size to start.  Once you’re a believer, it’s a cinch to whip up a weekly or monthly supply, or even  a jumbo serving. Just choose a scoop size (teaspoon, tablespoon, 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, etc.) and follow the recipe below.

Homemade Deodorant

3 parts coconut oil

2 parts baking soda

2 parts arrowroot powder

Scoop the appropriate number of each ingredient using your chosen size spoon or cup into a glass jar. Mix with a spoon until smooth and well incorporated. If the oil is too hard to mix, microwave for a few seconds to soften (it will be liquid at 76 degrees).

To use, scoop out 2-3 pea sized chunks and massage with fingertips to warm and melt. Rub into pits.

Store in the lidded jar in a coolish area. Avoid allowing it to reach melting point (again, just 76 degrees), because that would just be a mess to use, and the solids will settle out.

Happy stink-free sweating!