Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why this post is the pits

I interrupt this sparse posting schedule of nothing-much-going-on with something I hardly ever do: a health & beauty post. Wait wait wait, there's more: it's a DIY health & beauty post. I know, I know, what's next? A Pinterest board? (Never!) But today I wanted to talk to you about an issue that is near to my heart. And actually a bit to the left of my heart...and to the right. That's right, I'm talking about my pits. Wait, come back, I'm really talking about deodorant. We all use it, right? We all have our favorite go-to stuff, decided on after a long period of trial and error, and as long as it's doing the job we don't really think about it much.

Recently I stumbled across a recipe for homemade coconut oil deodorant, and while normally this wouldn't be something I would be interested in trying, the comments on the post, and other similar posts I found, were all very encouraging. To hear them tell it, this stuff was nothing short of miraculous. Not to mention healthier for you, cheaper, blah blah blah. But still, I remained skeptical. It couldn't possibly work as well as real deodorant, could it? As it happened, I had a jar of Trader Joe's coconut oil in my cabinet, and my curiosity got the better of me. At this point, I went all in and ordered arrowroot powder and grapefruit essential oil from Amazon, as well as some organic beeswax, which I thought it might need for texture (but it turns out it didn't). Baking soda and corn starch I already had on hand, so as soon as my shipment arrived I got a-mixin'. 

Now here's where it gets interesting. Coconut oil is a solid in temperatures under 76 degrees, and liquid above that. Since my apartment is hot hot hot, summer or winter (not my choice, just the way it is), my coconut oil is nearly always in liquid form. Hence the reason I bought the beeswax; I thought without it the resulting mixture might be too "liquidy." It turns out that once you get all the baking soda, arrowroot powder and cornstarch mixed in, though, the texture is thick like frosting, and not runny like liquid. However, since I mixed it up on Sunday, there has been a bit of a cold snap here, and since the heat in the building has already been turned off, my apartment finally cooled down a bit. And my coconut oil is solid! So my homemade deodorant, which was a mushy paste on Sunday, is now hard. Which is fine--I just dig out a small piece with my thumbnail and rub it in--it softens with the heat of my skin.
"Frozen" solid
 But I'm getting ahead of myself. Liquid, solid, who cares? you're saying. Does it actually work? Right. First I need to tell you that before this experiment I was at a crossroads with my current deodorant. Wait, let me back up. A bit of my deodorant history: as soon as clinical strength deodorant came on the market a few years back, I was totally on board. Gimme the hard stuff. This is all I will need until the end of time, thank you. Then my sister came to visit once and brought some fancy shmancy Kiehl's deodorant with her. 


And I tried it, and I liked it. I even, actually, liked it more than the clinical strength stuff I had been using. It was unscented and didn't dry out my skin like the other stuff, and I felt that somehow it was more "natural" (which is totally a lie, since it has just as much bad-for-you aluminum than any other storebought deodorant). And ever since then I have been shelling out an ungodly amount of money for the stuff. I don't even want to tell you what I've been paying for it, but ok, I will. It's $19.50 for a 2.5 oz. tube. Plus shipping! I know. But it lasts me about three months or more, so it's really not that bad, right? However, lately I haven't been completely happy with it. It seemed to not be working as well as it once had, or maybe it had never actually worked that well and I was blinded by marketing and natural fruit extracts. Anyway, by the end of the day, every day, hot yoga class or no, I was feeling...ok, smelling...not so fresh. Not terrible, but also not like nothing. And I wanted to smell like nothing. And if there was something I could make with ingredients from my kitchen, I was willing to give it a try. Even though I was sure it definitely couldn't work. (I mean, how could it possibly?) Here are my findings.

Day one: Mixed up a first batch, with beeswax. Moment of truth: slathered it on. Horror and revulsion. It looked like my armpits were made of wax, and they were melting. The stuff wouldn't rub in and it just looked...awful. Decided it must be the beeswax. Mixed up a second batch without it. Second verse: same as the first. Almost chucked the whole thing in the trash in a fit of rage, but decided to check with Professor Google first. Determined that I had been using waaaayyyyyyy too much. Scrubbed it all off and started over, this time using a dab about the size of a pea and rubbing it all in until it disappeared. Oh. Much better. I could deal with this. Laid about the (blessedly cool) house all day in a mostly hungover stupor. Sniff test: no smell to speak of, but then again, I had barely moved at all. Not a good day to judge.
One with beeswax, and one with none (of your)
Day two: The ultimate test--a full day at the office, followed by a vigorous 80-minute yoga flow in a 90-degree room. I came home tired and, ahem, glowing (ladies glow, ya know) and prepared for the moment of truth. Sniff test: nothing. Nothing, not even a hint of a whiff of a smell! I could have been smelling my wrist, or my elbow, or a blank sheet of paper. Incredible!

Day three: Just in case the first two days were a fluke. I skipped yoga and went to a French meetup after work instead. I was drinking wine and trying hard to appear friendly and social, so I already had a bit of a warm flush going. Not to mention the fact that also in attendance was a guy who had asked me out on a couple dates a year ago, and then when I asked him out on a third date, he said no. So yeah, there was a (teensy) bit of nervous sweating going on. Forget hot yoga--this was the ultimate test. Once again I came home, stripped down, and took a good, long sniff. Again, there was nothing. I know, I can hardly believe it myself. 

So far the only downsides, as I see it, are a small amount of powdery white residue left on the underarm area of my shirt when I take it off (from the baking soda, etc.), but it brushes off easily, and it's not visible from the outside. Also, some people in the comments mentioned dark spots in the underarm area of their shirts from the oil, and that potentially those dark spots might not come out in the wash. But other people said they didn't have that problem at all. I'm still waiting and seeing on this one. I think it might depend on the shirt. With knits I've had no problem. The other day I wore a silky fabric in a dark magenta color, and when I took it off I thought there might be slightly darkish circles under the arms? But it definitely wasn't very noticeable, and I am going to wait until the shirt goes through the wash to see what happens. If it turns out that it does stain, then I could see how that would be a definite deterrent. But so far I am nothing but enamored. How could I not be? It's cheaper than regular deodorant. It's more effective than regular deodorant. And it doesn't contain potentially cancer-causing ingredients!  I am not saying I am going to go out and start making my own homemade toothpaste, shampoo, and household cleaning products (I don't think?), but after this I feel like I've inadvertently stumbled upon the internet's cleanest dirty little secret. Seriously. You should try this stuff.

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I'm definitely going to try it.

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  2. is it an anti-perspirant as well?

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    1. Apparently you can use just plain coconut oil as a deodorant if you want, and adding the baking soda and corn starch make it function as an antiperspirant too.

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  3. I actually don't wear deodorant, because when I was younger and asked for deodorant my mom gave me a crystal. True story. And I was not interested in wetting said crystal and using it in my pits. (For the record, the crystal DOES NOT WORK).

    However, I've recently been trying coconut oil as a lotion, and also apparently it can be used to help keep your hair healthy using the smallest amount (it even contained my frizz a little bit, which as you know first hand, can be intense!).

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    1. Coconut oil is magic! And also pops some mighty fine popcorn. :)

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  4. You inspired me and I made this. I'd seen it elsewhere and somebody mentioned how it irritated their skin but after adjusting proportions it was fine, so I did that, too. I used about 1/4 cup coconut oil to 2 tablespoons arrowroot and about 1 tablespoon bicarb soda. I left out the essential oil entirely, given that my skin is very sensitive.

    It made it liquidy rather than solid but it rubbed in fine and didn't irritate and it worked. Not only did it work but it worked in a very disconcerting way: I am used to deodorants stopping me sweating but still letting me smell of 'me', if you know what I mean. With this, there is no smell of 'me'. It's weird.

    Thanks so much for passing this on. I already use my own home made hair conditioner but I never would have thought that home made deodorant would have been effective enough to use. And cheap. So cheap!

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    1. Happy to inspire! I did see comments about irritation but haven't experienced any myself. And yes, you're right, it is kind of weird to smell like *nothing*, but I am not complaining!

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  5. I might have to break down and finally try this. Also, if it does leave stains, I recommend getting The Laundress' Wash and Stain Bar. That thing is magical.

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    1. You should! Also, an update: no stains.

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  6. Thanks for your homemade-deodorant findings! I am definitely going to try this, and happy that you haven't noticed any oil stains.

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  7. I have been having some major deodorant doubts myself lately. Seeing this post comes at a perfect time. I think I'm going to finally go ahead and give it a try! Thanks for the inspiration.

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