Homemade Deodorant

Weather-wise, this week has been brutal here in the Mid-Atlantic. We kicked things off with last Friday night’s derecho, which I had the pleasure of driving through, and which knocked out power to millions of residences and businesses. This during the middle of a record-setting heatwave. The storm happened around 11 p.m. and the temperature was in the 90s during the storm. There were a lot of miserable, very, very hot people for many days this week. We were fortunate to not lose power at our house, but the raccoon sanctuary was not as fortunate. Without power, they also have no water. So last weekend I was one of the miserable people, cleaning indoor and outdoor raccoon cages in 100+ degree heat with no water but what I was able to stop and buy on the way there.

I can’t think of a better test for my homemade deodorant! It passed with flying colors. I’ve been using it for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised, or even actually testing it as it’s already proven itself time and time again, but even with restored power, working at the raccoon sanctuary today when the heat index was 115 degrees got me thinking how grateful I am to have discovered it. So today’s post is on how to make your own deodorant, and why you should.

I stopped using antiperspirant years ago when I realized how terrible it is to stop your body from perspiring, a function it performs for a very good reason (to keep you from overheating). But I never found a deodorant that I liked. Despite my hippie-ish ways in many things, I often find that so-called packaged “natural” products don’t always perform very well. (I generally find that many commercial products don’t work particularly well either, of course.) But then I found Funk Butter, a natural deodorant made by a small company in Baltimore, my hometown. Not all of Oyin Handmade’s products are vegan – their specialty is using honey as an ingredient – but they are clear about which products are (see their FAQ page). Funk Butter was a revelation. It works really, really well. I used it for years. I have to occasionally ship some to Fortinbras, who loves it too. In fact, if you simply have no interest in making your own deodorant, I urge you to try Funk Butter instead.

The only reason I stopped using Funk Butter daily was, well, kind of perverse. I liked it too much. I was worried that as a very small business, one day in the future they may go out of business. I don’t think this will happen soon because I think they’re doing pretty well for themselves, but I was looking 10, 20 years down the road and worrying I’d be pretty upset if they suddenly weren’t around any longer. I realize this is a ridiculous thing to worry about, but it’s tied to the fact that I hate relying on others. Feeling self-sufficient is very important to me. I have to be able to make everything I use regularly by myself. For example, the only reason I can bring myself to buy the super-wonderful Twin Oaks Tofu (if you live in an area where you can get it, I highly recommend it) is I know I can make tofu of a similar quality myself.

I had to make sure I could replicate Funk Butter on my own, so I searched the internet and found lots of information on homemade deodorant. This was a while ago so I’m not sure every website I visited, but I know this was one of them. The “recipe” is nearly the same in all of them, though most people suggest experimentation to find the right mixture for you. Basically, you just mix equal parts coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch. I’ll turn it into a recipe though, because why not?

Homemade Deodorant

1 part coconut oil
1 part baking soda
1 part cornstarch

Mix together. Apply to underarms. The end.

Okay, more detail. The blog post I linked to suggests mixing the ingredients together while the coconut oil is in a solid state. I do it a little differently. I buy this brand of coconut oil from my local Indian grocery, just because it’s really cheap. This huge jug cost me $13 and even though I also use it as a body lotion, lasts me probably close to a year. (It’s a bit beat-up looking because I also use it as a doorstop; so useful!)

The only problem with this is unless it’s quite warm in the house, you have to warm the bottle in order to pour the oil. (This is not a problem right now.) To do this, I set the bottle in a high-sided pot, then pour boiling water into the pot. This usually gets the coconut oil liquidy enough to pour within a few minutes. This also means that my coconut oil is liquid when I mix it with the baking soda and cornstarch, and frankly, I think this makes it a lot easier to stir anyway. After combining all three ingredients, I pour them into storage containers, then I refrigerate them for a while until they’ve solidified. In the hottest days of summer this cooling stage is just reversed right away as it then melts again, but application is the same whether it’s solid or not.

This is what it looks like now, in my bathroom that doesn’t get much cold air from our A/C, when it’s 105 degrees outside:

It would look almost the same in a photograph if it were more solid. Either way, to apply, just scoop out a small amount and apply to your underarms. I’ve used a little jar that used to contain pimentos above. I also use empty Funk Butter containers like this one (I noticed on their website they’ve changed their packaging since I’ve bought Funk Butter):

It works great. In fact, I used to keep a commercial deodorant on hand for “emergencies”, times when I thought I would really need some sort of extra deodorizing power. Well, the emergency backup deodorant got chucked pretty quickly for being way less effective than the homemade. Some backup that was.

According to some sources, some people may require a transitional period before an all-natural deodorant like this will work as well as claimed. I’m no expert on the matter, but I would imagine this has more to do with your body purging chemicals and gunk from your commercial deodorant than it does the homemade deodorant not “working” right away. The only issue I have with this homemade deodorant is I wouldn’t recommend it for traveling because its solidity is so volatile. For that reason, I use Funk Butter when I travel, because it does not melt. This is what Funk Butter looks like:

Baking soda is fairly abrasive, so some people may experience some discomfort from this recipe. I find that the coconut oil balances the abrasiveness of the baking soda perfectly and I’ve never experienced any redness, rashes, or discomfort whatsoever. But I don’t want to be held responsible if you do.

A little more about how freaking awesome coconut oil is. Again, except when traveling, I use coconut oil all over in place of lotion. When I step out of the shower in the morning, I put on a light coat of coconut oil, including on my face instead of moisturizer. I keep it in a jar, just like the deodorant. I used to mix in some essential oils for scent, but I stopped doing that because Gomez likes to lap the oil out of the jar while I’m applying it. Which is fine with me because how many body lotions or moisturizers would you let your cat eat? I feel much better putting stuff on my body that I’d be fully prepared to put IN my body.

So yeah, here’s my beauty routine:

No wonder I’m so glamorous.

In what may be far more interesting news than how my underarms smell, we just got in two teeny, tiny late-ish baby raccoons. They are the tiniest raccoons I’ve ever seen! In fact, one of them still had its umbilical cord attached! They were found at a construction site. When they were discovered, the mother raccoon retrieved their sibling but did not claim this little brother and sister. They were just a a day or two old when they arrived on Thursday, so today they are about three or four days old. They are smaller than the palm of a hand. OH MY GOSH are they cute!!

Look how tiny compared to the baby bottle!!

We call this “hallelujah hands” – many raccoons hold their paws out in front of them like this while feeding from a bottle. I suspect it’s a reflex because they expect to latch onto their mother’s belly, but I love it because I find those dexterous little hands fascinating.

Their eyes will probably remain closed for another couple of weeks.

All the others are getting so big now – about a third of them have graduated to the huge outdoor cages, a move we generally make when they are about 5 pounds – and they are soooo playful and rambunctious and trouble-making, that by comparison these teeny tiny little things are extra-precious. My heart, it melts. (Of course, it’s 105 degrees here, everything in, on, or near me has melted.)

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