Natural deodorant: the stank has left the building.

This post was originally published in April 2011. It has been updated and republished.
I have high expectations for my natural deodorant: when I use it, I want a full day of  not smelling like the couch cushion of a Vegas nightclub after a series of exposures from the cast of Vanderpump Rules.
As devoted as I am to natural, safe skincare, I do not want to take a cue from the Grinch and stink, stank, stunk. While many natural skincare options, like the oil cleansing method, seem relatively foolproof, I’ve found natural deodorant to be a little more challenging.
So challenging, in fact, that I had to make some art about it so I could truly process the situation. Allow me to present my Stink Bomb Scale. Unofficially dubbed “the stank scale.” The unwitting judge of Stink (or Stank) was to be my husband, and his options as follows:

So, if we’re being honest, a few weeks in to my quest for a natural deodorant that works, I lost cuddling privileges to my dog. Who drools. And has species breath.

Let’s be honest: most natural deodorant SUCKS, particularly the store-bought kind (enzymes, schmenzymes). For 7 weeks I tried enzyme deodorants, homemade deodorant made from crazy combinations of castor oil, beeswax, cocoa butter and baking soda, mineral stick deodorants and beyond. But none of them worked. Not even when I gave them ample time to fix my noxiousness.

I got sick of shelling out 10 bucks for a block of organic whoozit in this futile search for the B-O Cure.

I also lost faith that I’d ever be able to write an awesome book by that same name. Picture it: The B-O Cure: a guide to making everyone not hate you or breathe through their mouth when you’re within a metre. By Liz. With Foreword by Paula Abdul.

Yeah, I said “metre.” I’m feeling a little Canadian today.

So a few days ago I quit my search. Officially called off the dogs. But since I didn’t want to chloroform anybody at CrossFit, I knew I had to figure out something, at least temporarily, since I didn’t have my old conventional aluminum deodorant stick any more.

So I went super duper basic: coconut oil and baking soda.

This had never worked for me before. See, several years ago I began to think my skin was sensitive to everything. I couldn’t use shea butter because it made my skin red and bumpy. I’d tried baking soda under my arms once before and it scraped the dickens out of me.

Once I used them both at the same time and ended up looking like I’d just given a noogie to a cactus.

While many of those “alternative” deodorants I’d tried had also contained coconut oil and baking soda, they also had lots of other fancy ingredients stuffed inside, too.

But between then and now, something else changed. In fact, I think switching to a Paleo/Real Food lifestyle has changed the way my skin reacts. I don’t have the same sensitivities. I tried shea again, and it turns out shea is A-OK. Could my skin be hearty enough for baking soda, too? I’ve used it with great success in going “No ‘Poo,” so why not give it a whirl?

I simply put a little BS in my hand (see amount below), then mixed it with coconut oil to form a paste. Not too thick, not too thin.

 

I used nothing on my right armpit (the Control Group – sorry, CrossFit) and dabbed the baking soda/coconut oil mixture on my left armpit (the Experimental group) and gave it the day. The pits got hit with CrossFit, an exceedingly warm afternoon, a roadside car breakdown, and an encounter with a child below the age of two (kids make me nervous).

Oh. My. Gosh. While I had a frustratingly normal level of “stank” in the Control Pit, the Baking Soda pit was absolutely odorless. Even slightly pleasant and coconutty. The natural anti-bacterial properties of coconut oil combined with the odor- fighting baking soda created the perfect, simple, cheap, easy, odor-killing combo.

Win! I don’t even have to buy anything extra – I already use coconut oil for cooking and baking soda for just about everything else. (Amazon prime, baby!)

No more lonely corner at the gym. No more competing with the pooch for cuddles. No more stank scale.

Of course, if you want something similar that you don’t have to make every single time, you’ve got options. Steer clear of the multi-ingredient, enzyme fancy-schmansz. Grab Primal Life Organics’ Pit Stick, Bubble and Bee’s Pit Putty, any of the options I recommend in the Purely Primal Skincare Guide, or let me know in the comments if you’ve got other natural favorites.

Thanks for reading!

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24 Responses

  1. I’ve heard of people adding a few drops of tea tree or other oils to this too. I’m definitely going to try this! So now that you’ve conquered this, here’s a new challenge for you-are there any natural ways of getting the stubborn BO smell out of my shirts-a few of mine never seem to smell clean after so long on natural deoderants!

    1. I actually recommended giving the oils a miss for a while because I found them very irritating (especially tea tree oil) and the irritation made me stink worse.
      Glad to have been of help!

  2. First…of all the great paleo/primal blogs out there, I must say – you have to be my very favourite (note the “u”, props from Canada and thanks for the Cdn shout out ;-)! The writing is delightful.
    I’ve been gradually getting more and more natural with my products and really appreciate the great tips here.! Could there be two more versatile and glorious ingredients than baking soda and coconut oil? They can do no wrong. I just finished cleaning my bathroom with baking soda, does a super job.

  3. Nice. I use equal parts coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch and am stank free. I was a little nervous about using it when I did tough workouts, but it was no problem. Glad you found what works for you!

  4. Hey Liz! On a whim I bought the Crystal deodorant thing a little while back (yes, it’s basically a whitish-gray rock made of mineral salt) and have been stank-free since using it. It did cost extra to ship, but the rock itself is supposed to last for a year…I’ve had it over a month now and it’s not wearing away. So while clearly you have found a solution that works for you (never a doubt in my mind), it may be worth noting that some mineral salt options do work, at least for some people. 🙂

    1. I think you’re right, James, and I’m going to keep trying for the sake of Paleo Magazine and my “Paleo Body” column! Got to find multiple options that can work for people 🙂

  5. Does this work as an antiperspirant as well, or just a deodorant? I’m a heavy sweater…
    SN: I’ve been no-pooing for over a year and LOVE it!

  6. I’ll have to try this!
    I’ve been using Herbal Magic roll-on deodorant in Jasmine scent and then when that dries, I sprinkle a deodorant powder from Honeybee Gardens (has baking soda, cornstarch, and a few other ingredients I can’t recall). Both are available through Vitacost.com . They are the ONLY natural products I’ve tried that keep the stank and sweat away…and I am a stinky, sweaty girl admittedly who has tried everything as well!

  7. So glad this worked for you – I forgot all about leaving a comment on your last post & never saw your question. ” Question: When I did the baking soda/coconut oil thing, I found that the soda sank to the bottom of the jar as the coconut oil cooled. Did you have that experience?” So finally, an answer! Yes, I have had that happen, I try to use as small amount of coconut oil as possible, for example, if I mix 2TBSP each of baking soad & cornstarch, I try to only use a few teaspoons of coconut oil. These measurements are approximate as I just grab a spoon out of the silverware drawer to mix it all up with – I’m very much a “keep it simple” kinda girl!
    Warm weather has finally arrived here (at least some of the time) and this mixture is still working.
    Still love your blog!

  8. Thank you for this! I’ve found some deodorants online I really love, but the cost WITH shipping has become a problem…recession be d*mned!
    I’m going cavegirrl !

  9. I decided to dump my “natural crystal deodorant” after I found out it was just another source of aluminium (Very misleading!). I have tried baking soda and coconut oil separately with success, but after a while the smell turns a little sour- though only if I get stuck right in and take a whiff! I was wondering whether the two together would work and now I’ve found this, so I will definitely be experimenting with this.
    One thing I liked about the crystal deodorant was it cut the bacterial smell but maintained a pleasant, sort of sweet natural odour – like pheromones or something. I would rather ditch the aluminium though, unfortunately.

  10. I finally tried the baking soda/coconut oil combo last week after hearing about it on the balanced bites podcast. I too have tried every natural deodorant under the sun and all of them have resulted with my boyfriend telling me I stink and that I need to use normal deodorant. Also, the most recent all natural deodorant I used (unscented Hugo Naturals) gave me a painful rash. The baking soda/coconut oil works wonders!!! I finally don’t need to worry about being the stinky girl in ballet class and on crowded subways.
    I do have a couple questions for you, Liz! Can you post a picture of your baking soda/coconut oil “paste”? Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m using too much or too little baking soda. Also, do you wait for the stuff to dry before you out on clothes? I am noticing faint oily deodorant marks on my clothes. Does this happen to you?
    Thanks!!

    1. Sarah – first of all, you made me laugh 🙂 Thanks for that! Second, I could post a picture (and I promise I will soon!) but in the interest of quick reply, I’ll tell you: what I’m using now is 2 separate little tiny mason jars, one filled with coconut oil (so I can also use it for other things too) and another filled with baking soda. I just take enough CO to put a thin layer in the pits, then a pinch of baking soda in my palm that I pat over the CO. I hope that helps! So far I haven’t had the problem with CO on my clothes, but come to think of it I always put the CO/BS on straight out of the shower and usually wear my body wrap for at least 30 minutes after that as I’m getting ready.

      1. Liz, the CO/baking soda has been working great, the only thing is the rash from the all natural deodorant I was using has been replaced with painful, red bumps/pimples. My underarms are not looking too cute. I don’t know what to do to clear it up. Is it an allergic reaction to something?

        1. Some people are just too sensitive for baking soda! I find if I go au-naturale for awhile, my pits get sensitive again for the first few BS/CO applications. Big pimples. But it doesn’t last for me. You could try the non-baking-soda Deo from Bubble and Bee, but they do contain alcohol so if the skin is really just too sensitive, they might not be too helpful.
          You could design-a-spray using their suggested essential oil blends that don’t include BS (scroll down) http://www.bubbleandbee.com/servlet/the-230/Design-dsh-A-dsh-Spray%21/Detail
          Or check out their other stuff: http://www.bubbleandbee.com/servlet/the-Organic-Deodorants/Categories
          Let me know what happens!

  11. OK, I know this is a really old post but curious if anyone has any advice/opinion. I have been using a coconut oil/baking soda/cornstarch blend for about 7 months. I actually heard about it on Wellness Mama (one of my other favorite blogs). While I still sweat, I really felt that I was pretty stink free all winter long. Honestly thought it worked better than some regular antiperspirants as far as odor goes.
    Unfortunately, my husband has THE MOST SENSITIVE NOSE IN THE WORLD. And just lately he has beent telling me that I stink. The weather has just gotten warmer and I have been very active. I truly don’t think I stink, but I’m wondering if maybe a tiny bit of essential oil might help…just to give it a scent. The baking soda doesn’t irritate me as long as it is mixed with the coconut oil. Just wondering if essential oils would be irritating, and what might work best.

    1. Essential oils should work great! Some of them are awesomely anti-odor. Lemongrass is my favorite, but lavender is good too. The oils from Young Living are my favorites. Sweet orange is another good one! Let me know how you do with that!

  12. To tackle underarm stains/odors
    On clothing use a combo of one third Blue Dawn dish soap, two thirds hydrogen peroxide in spray bottle.
    Spray onto area
    And leave a day or 2 prior to laundering.
    Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t discolour clothing , however do a test patch to be safe rather than Sorry!
    Chlorphyll tabs taken orally or liquid in water helps the liver to detoxify and decreases sweat odor, for people with a very strong odor like most men. Hope this helps have a great Canadian spring.

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