You probably try to be mindful of what you put into your body, but what about what you put on it? Your skin is an organ, after all -- and it’s easy to forget that a significant portion of skincare product gets absorbed into your body.

The OG way to know what ingredients go on your body? Make it yourself. Homemade deodorant is an easy -- and important -- place to start.

Many conventional deodorants contain aluminum-based compounds, which basically plug your sweat ducts to temporarily stop sweat and prevent odor. Studies have investigated a possible link between these compounds and breast cancer because they mimic estrogen in the way they interact with the body’s hormones.

While there isn’t conclusive evidence one way or the other, Dr. Philip Harvey, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, said it best: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” 

What if you could make your own deodorant with simple, effective ingredients you know won’t give you a disease? What if you could do it with minimal time, money, and effort? Fortunately, you can. I got my DIY on and put homemade deodorant to the test on a very hot day. Here’s how it all went down. 

First Things First: The Recipe

coffee, milk, tea
Ally Hardebeck

In my very scientific deodorant-making research, I learned that homemade deodorant typically takes on one of three forms: powder, liquid, or cream. For simplicity’s sake (and because I lacked both a spray bottle and the desire to apply a powder to my underarms), I went with the cream. 

There are tons of recipes floating around the Internet using lovely ingredients like shea butter and arrowroot powder, but I decided to use what I already had on hand. My creation is based off of this recipe, which uses baking soda, cornstarch, and coconut oil.

I did add tea tree oil because research suggests it helps prevent the bacteria that causes acne. Considering sweat only smells because of the bacteria on our skin breaking it down, tea tree makes a good addition to deodorant, but if you want a certain scent, any essential oil works. 

Making the actual deodorant was definitely easier and faster than going to the store to buy the commercial stuff. I combined equal parts baking soda and cornstarch, mixed in coconut oil until I found a nice consistency, then topped it off with a few drops of tea tree oil. Pro tip: mix everything together in the container you want to use (a wide mason jar works well) and you won’t have any dishes to clean. 

Putting It to the Test

milk, yogurt, cream, dairy, dairy product, sweet
Ally Hardebeck

 With my jar ready to go, I patiently waited for the ideal day to see how legit this stuff really was. At last, it arrived: 90 degree heat coupled with my busiest day of the week. Freshly showered and sans perfume, I applied the deodorant with my fingers. It was super weird at first, but then I realized I use my fingers for most other cosmetics, so why should deodorant be any different?

First stop: 8:45 AM barre class, where I was generously drenched in sweat by 8:50. During the class, I didn’t notice anyone glaring at me for emitting foul odors, so it’s safe to say the deodorant passed the first test. I did a quick sniff test after, and while I didn’t smell amazing, I definitely didn’t smell like I had just worked out for the past hour. I smelled surprisingly... normal. 

Next up? My internship. I didn’t have enough time to shower after barre, so I made my half hour commute with all the car windows down, hoping some air circulation and dry clothing would freshen me up before I got to the office. Given my job doesn’t require much physical activity, I didn’t have lots of opportunity to sweat. Basically, I thought the deodorant was holding up well and no one asked me to leave, so I’d say it was a success.

After work, I ate dinner at home and went out for ice cream with my boyfriend. After an hour, I asked him if I smelled different today and he replied, “You don’t really smell like anything, but that might be because I think I have a sinus infection.” Fair enough.

In conclusion, the homemade deodorant passed the test. It didn’t make me smell like a goddess, but that’s not why I wear deodorant anyway. Hello, perfume. It also didn’t prevent me from sweating, which might bother some people, but take comfort in the fact that sweating is actually really good for you

A disclaimer if you choose to go the natural deodorant route: the process of getting there is not always so pretty. When you start using a product without aluminum, your body often undergoes a detox period of 1-3 weeks as it learns how to sweat without aluminum clogging up your pores. Since I’ve been using aluminum-free deodorant for a year, this wasn’t a huge adjustment for me because I had already detoxed.

Above all, remember that everyone’s body is different. The ingredients that work for me might not be suited for you. Experimentation is half the fun of making your own products. And knowing exactly what you’re putting on your body? That’s pretty rewarding, too.