Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Going Deodorant Free

So, I know what you are thinking.... Deodorant free? No way!
Let me tell you, it is awesome.
Like my arm pits have found freedom!

I am not a terribly sweaty or stinky person, but I also used deodorant quite religiously. I always used Arrid Extra Extra Dry... which has been pretty good to me, but I am forever searching for ways to take some of the nasty chemicals out of my daily routine. When my mother told me about an article she had read that mentioned not wearing deodorant, I am not going to lie... I was skeptical.
But, I flipped my normal deodorant stick over and quickly scanned the ingredients. Not only were there several ingredients that took me several tries to pronounce (i.e. cyclopentasiloxane: a silicon based ingredient used for making the skin softer.) The majority of the ingredients were alcohol based or derived; Diisopropyl Adipate, Stearyl Alcohol, and PPG-14 Butyl Ether. (And then there were some others including Talc, and coloring. <-- Which I don't really understand, why does my deodorant need to have artificial coloring in it?)

So, I set out to do some research.

Why do our pits get stinky in the first place?
"Apocrine sweat glands secrete a milky, viscous, odorless fluid which only develops a strong odor when it comes into contact with bacteria on the skin surface." -Thanks Wikipedia!

Bacteria. Our sweat actually does not really have a smell all by itself. Bacteria thrives on the warm wet space under our arms, like their own personal jacuzzi. Gross. So how do we get rid of stink? Kill the bacteria! Traditional deodorant does this by using those alcohol derived ingredients. But they also add stuff to keep you from sweating in the first place. The problem with this is that it also clogs the pores in your underarms, which can not only cause irritation to the skin, but it prevents the body from secreting pheromones (which will help attract the opposite sex *wink wink*). It also keeps the body from expelling the toxins that it has filtered out of the blood stream.

So after a while reading various homemade solutions, I decided that rubbing alcohol seemed like the most popular. (One person suggested Vodka, which  I vaguely remember them testing on Myth Busters and it working. But I decided that going to work smelling like Vodka is probably not the best idea if I want to keep my job.)

Week One: I grabbed the only rubbing alcohol I had in the house, and splashed away. Feeling nervous and slightly self conscious about this no-deodorant thing, I went about my day. I did a little sniff-sniff smell check every few hours or so just to be sure. After a few hours, I noticed my B.O. was starting. (not horrible) Just a little funky. Perhaps I didn't use enough? Maybe I didn't get ALL the bacteria.

So the next day, I splashed even more under there.
Same results.
Stink free for a few hours, and then it started coming back. Hmm.... Everything I read online said it worked like a charm. I am not a super smelly person, so why is this not working for me? I did some more reading, and realized what I was doing wrong! I had been using 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol because that is what I had around the house.

The KEY: Using 90% or HIGHER solution of rubbing alcohol. The higher the percentage, the better.

Week Two: I zipped down to the local grocery store, and picked up a bottle of 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. It was super cheap, like less than $2. Then, while I was there, I made a pass through the health food section, and picked up some essential oils, because I figured I could add some to the alcohol and when it evaporates on my skin, it will leave a nice scent behind.
I picked up Jasmine essential oil, and Sweet Orange essential oil.

I mixed my solution in a spray bottle for easy application. And I am now proud to tell you, almost a week has gone by, and I have not gone back to deodorant. The first day with the new mix had me nervous again so I smell checked every few hours. NOTHING! To my utter surprise, it was like night and day compared to the first round.
Next day, same thing! No stink, just a very light trace of scent from the essential oils.

I have been out running, working in the garden, working my regular job, and working out this week. And after each thing, I was sure I would start to smell... NOPE.  No stink whatsoever.

I am sold. So, if you are feeling like you want to make some changes in your life that don't require a lot of time, money or effort. This is a great place to start. Rubbing alcohol is really cheap. The essential oils were kind of pricey, but they last a long time, and go pretty far. (Jasmin was around $13, but the Sweet Orange was only $4) You don't have to add the essential oils, you can just use the alcohol.

Now, the only downside is that this is not an antiperspirant. It will not keep you dry. But when I did need to keep the pits dry because of what I was wearing, I sprinkled a little bit of cornstarch baby powder under there. Dry for hours.  I will say though, I have noticed that I am not sweating nearly as much as I would have if I had just skipped deodorant one day before. Now scientifically, I have no real basis for this statement... but I believe that it may be because my pores aren't all jammed up with gunk, and my body isn't struggling to get rid of the stuff it is supposed to.

My underarm skin is nice and soft, it doesn't get irritated after shaving anymore. **be careful putting on the alcohol right after shaving, it does sting a bit. So just wait a little while first, unless you are tough and can take a few moments of pain. **

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by this experiment.  I really suggest you give it a try!

You will need:
1 spray bottle (I used an 8oz one)
1 bottle of 90% or higher isopropyl rubbing alcohol

Optional: your favorite essential oil. (Although I would stay clear of things like cinnamon, because that would burn! But seriously, use your common sense!) 
50 drops of Jasmine essential oil
50 drops of Sweet Orange essential oil
(I did 25 drops of each first, and then did a smell test. It wasn't quite strong enough for my liking, so I doubled it. But you can adjust yours according to your preferences.)


  1. I CANNOT WAIT TO TRY THIS!! I've been on the natural-deodorant-that-actually-works hunt for YEARS!

    1. YAY! I hope this works for you! I would love to hear how it turns out! Here is a little tip I have figured out over the course of my being deodorant free: Stick to small batches of your mixture. I think after it is in a container for a while, it starts to loose it's potency, and doesn't work as well, and then you have to throw it out and make more. So, just be sure to only mix up enough for a month or so at a time, or else you will end up wasting it!