Homemade Bentonite Clay and Baking Soda Deodorant

 

After stopping using shampoo, the next stop on the hygiene-crunchy-train was deodorant.  This was the first time that I read somewhere that a fairly ubiquitous product (in this case, antiperspirant) could have a negative effect on health (in this case, slow your metabolism) and decided to switch it for something with fewer chemicals.

Deodorant is one of the first grown-up products my mom started buying for me. I can still remember how my ballet bag smelled like the Secret Deodorant with the yellow label. To this day I cannot stand the smell of baby powder because on my first day of my new junior high in New Jersey I put on powder deodorant and was sick to my stomach with nerves. In college, I banned baby powder from our dorm room, and two of my roommates obligingly switched scents so I wouldn’t gag when I hugged them. And I fell in love with Evan’s old spice deodorant smell at the same time I did his kind heart and thoughtful mind.  So switching deodorants can be momentous, like a new scent era.

 

Homemade bentonite clay and baking soda deodorant and ingredients

 

Four years ago, when I decided to switch to natural deodorants, I wanted something good. I tried a number of off the shelf products, most of which failed to do what they said, and one of which made my armpits smell like pickles. After going to church smelling like kosher dills, I gave up for a while. About a year and half later I started reading recipes for making your own deodorant. They were a lot less expensive than my shopping-spree in the natural beauty care isle, and I didn’t smell like pickles!

It took another year to refine my recipe, balancing the needs of my crazy-sensitive skin and active walk-everywhere life-style. Generally most home made deodorants have four parts:

 

Clay, and other ingredients

 

1. An element to adjust the PH of your armpits and absorb odors. This is usually baking soda. It’s very effective. But the reason that most people don’t just shake straight sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) on their armpits is it’s a bit abrasive. After a week or two, you’ll have raw underarms. So, there are two choices: one, use a less abrasive material like bentonite clay, and/or you can add moisturizers to your baking soda to reduce the irritation.

 

Shea Butter

 

2. An element to bind the first element together and reduce irritation. This is usually coconut oil. It helps the baking soda stick together and stay in place and soothes the skin. It’s naturally anti-microbial, which helps in deodorant, and it smells nice. The reason that some people don’t just stop at coconut oil is two fold. One, it melts at 76 degrees, which in the summer means your deodorant can be a bit of a puddle in the container and has a harder time staying where you put it, and two, you might have such sensitive skin that coconut oil alone isn’t enough to soothe the areas. So, you can add oils that are solid at room temperature, even in the summer, like beeswax, shea butter and/or cocoa butter.

 

Clay, Baking Soda and Arrowroot powder

 

3. An element to absorb moisture. This is not really a full blown “antiperspirant” like Aluminum zirconium found in commercial products, but it does help a little. Most people use cornstarch, sometimes making sure it’s non-GMO cornstarch, and the other alternative is arrowroot powder. You might consider using arrowroot powder if you have eliminated corn from your diet. A general rule for making topical personal hygiene products is to only use on your skin what you could put in your mouth.

 

Tea Tree Oil

 

4. An element to smell nice. These are usually essential oils, although depending on the oils they could have anti-microbial properties or be more or less abrasive to the skin. Tea tree oil is one of the most antimicrobial, and even if you don’t like the smell, as Kathleen at Becoming Peculiar has recently written, it really does help with keep the bacteria at bay. I like adding lavender and peppermint essential oils, but some people really like rose, sweet orange, yang-yang, or sandalwood. Another nice element about home made deodorant is that you can make it fairly smell-neutral, meaning it will not clash with another scent you might want to wear.

 

So armed with the four elements, you can embark on your own deodorant making journey. Generally you want about 1/3 more moisturizing element to the odor and moisture absorbing element, and you’ll want to measure your essential oils in drops between 5 and 50 depending on the batch-size and your skin and nose sensitivity.

 

Coconut Oil

 

Some other thoughts on natural deodorants are that they sometimes can get on your clothes more than store brands. You can apply it thinly and carefully, to avoid this, but you may have to treat the armpits of your favorite shirts with extra soap to prevent the oil build up. The other thing to keep in mind is that really strong body odor can also be caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, like a magnesium deficiency, something Katie at Wellness Mama has written more about. We love our Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement, and take it daily.  Remember personal hygiene is a combination of good diet, sleep, exercise, stress management, along with good soap and healthy topical products. So, for us, while we are certainly not about to give up using deodorant completely, we both feel that we need it a lot less that we used before we went Paleo. As proof, Evan used just coconut oil for a week or so a little while back to help with some skin irritation, and even just that worked fairly well against odor. But normally, since we have such sensitive skin, the recipe at our house is a bit involved.

 

Amy’s Clay & Baking Soda Natural Deodorant for Sensitive Skin Recipe

 

Ingredients for homemade bentonite clay and baking soda deodorant

 

Ingredients

1 oz (28 g) beeswax (pelts are easier to melt, but anything cut up small is fine)

1.5 oz (42 g) shea butter (either natural or deodorized)

1.5 oz (42 g)  cocoa butter

2 oz (56 g) coconut oil

1 T (15 mL) castor oil

3 T (62 g) baking soda

2 T (30 g) bentonite clay

2 T (20 g) arrow root powder

5 drops tea tree oil

10 drops peppermint essential oil

15 drops lavender essential oil

 

Directions

 

Put the Oils into a 2 cup Pyrex container

 

1. In a 2-cup Pyrex container, melt the beeswax, shea butter, and cocoa butter with the castor and coconut oils. You can do this in a double boiler on the stove, or I just put mine in the microwave for about 4 minutes (I don’t have a powerful microwave, so if you do, you might want do 30 seconds increments).

 

Melt the Oils in the Microwave or in a doubleboiler

 

2. Stir in the baking soda, bentonite clay, and arrow root powder. Make sure it’s all mixed in on the bottom.

 

Stir in the baking soda, arrow root, and clay

 

3. Wait until the mixture is cool enough for you to put a finger in it comfortably, or it’s under 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your essential oils.

 

Tea tree, lavendar, and peppermint oils

 

4. Pour the mixture into a container. We use old chocolate tins. You can use an old deodorant container, but once we got used to putting deodorant on with our fingers, it is a lot easer to control the amount and rub it in completely. Some people like to use a spoon. There is also the advantage of being able to bring a small container on a plane with you, rather than having to worry about your deodorant dispenser being over the size limit.

 

Pour Cooling Mixture into Tins or Other Container

 

There are a lot of great resources out there that have good recipes for homemade deodorants and a lot of other personal hygiene products. My favorite resource is Crunchy Betty, but there is also great recipes at Frugally Sustainable, Kitchen Stewardship, Little House in the Suburbs, Mommypotamus and Passionate Homemaking.  Not everyone has time to make their own deodorant, although once you have the ingredients it can be quite quick. Also the ingredients are so versatile. You can use them to make lotions, balms, bars, powders, and rubs. Or if making your own is too much you could buy a pre-made baking soda version: Primal Pit Paste. And Stacy from Paleoparents is a big fan of Lavanila deodorant.

 

Finished homemade bentonite clay and baking soda deodorant

 

Have you tried natural deodorants? What’s your favorite?

 

 *Note* This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*

 

46 Responses to Homemade Deodorant For Sensitive Skin: Bentonite Clay and Baking Soda

  1. What a fantastic post!! Your pictures are lovely, your explanation is detailed, and your directions are thorough. PLUS, I loved your memoir-ish introduction and reflections on deodorant, fragrance, and memory. A “new scent era” — love it! You’re right — switching deodorants is rather momentous, when you think about it!

    Your recipe sounds lovely, and I happen to have all of the items in my pantry. (You know you’re crunchy when you can “yes, yes, yes . . .” to ingredients like bentonite clay, shea butter, and beeswax!) I’d never thought to try clay instead of cornstarch, but I really like the idea, since you’re right — baking soda is kind of abrasive. I don’t have very sensitive skin, so my pits can tolerate it; but clay sounds more soothing.

    Thanks for this fabulous tutorial.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Kathleen! The clay has been a great addition, it does turn the whole thing a green/gray, but it’s been worth it. And you’re right, those ingredients definitely mark me as crunchy. Most of them I didn’t buy originally for this recipe. Thanks for the reminder about the tea tree oil in your post. I love your blog!!

  2. (Just a little note: your very last link [for Lavanila] doesn’t work — somehow, you got the URL to this post mixed up in there! :) )

  3. LB says:

    I think you forgot to list the addition of the castor oil in your directions. I assume it goes in with all the other oils in Step 1? Thanks for this recipe, I’m making it right now!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Opps! Thanks for catching that! I’ll update those directions! Yes, the castor oil goes in with the other oils. Actually, since it doesn’t turn solid at room temperature so you could add anytime before the whole thing cools, but I do normally put it in with all the oils. I’m so glad your trying it out! Let me know how it goes!

  4. Liz says:

    This is such an amazing Post!! I just happened to find it while searching bentonite clay which I tried as a facial with oatmeal last night and is truly amazing!
    Knowing now that this clay can be used in another way is just fantastic! Thanks for the post!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Liz! Clay is really so versatile. I also use it on burns (wet with saran wrap) and as diaper powder. An oatmeal clay facial sounds awesome!

  5. gudrun says:

    Hi there! What a great post! I’m going to shop for the ingredients right away :)I really need a new deodorant, and I was adviced to check out Your page here. Smart Choice :)But a somewhat nerdy question from the other side of the Atlantic.. – What does the “T” stand for in Your recipe? Tablespoon perhaps? Looking forward to testing it!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Gudrun! Yep, T for Tablespoon which is about 3 times as big as t for teaspoon. It’s a silly system really. I’m getting low on my summer batch, so maybe when I make the next one at the end of the month I’ll measure out the Tablespoons in grams. Thanks for the idea!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Gudrun! I just measured out my recipe with my scale, so the mL and the grams are up there now!!

      • Gudrun says:

        Hi again! Thanks for the update on measurements :) I’ve made a batch now, and tried it, and I’m about to make a new one. I really love it, so soft and smooth, just want to keep rubbing it on, ha ha :)It also feels great on my sensitive skin, so thank you for that! I just Wonder, how do you think I can change the recipe if I want it to last a bit longer? I mean, the odor comes sneaking up on me a little bit earlier than I want to take a shower ;) Do I add some extra baking soda? If so, how much?

        • Amy Rogers Hays says:

          Hi Gudrun! I would definitely try add another tablespoon of baking soda (about 20 grams), and maybe a couple extra drops of tea tree oil (but not more than 4). You can always heat up your current batch and mix in the new baking soda (although it might be more concentrated if you’ve used up a significant portion of the original batch). If it works but it’s too much of an irritant, I’d add more clay (like a tablespoon, 15 grams) and maybe some shea butter. I’m so glad you like it! Let me know how the stronger one works!

  6. […] with more sensitive skin might prefer this recipe from Stories and Thyme, using bentonite clay. Crunchy Betty has a number of recipes you can try. I also know some people have had great success […]

  7. Susan Dyess says:

    I just have to tell you that I absolutely love this deodorant. Really, really love it. I was so not expecting it to work so well. It is the best deodorant I have ever used! Smells wonderful and really works! Thank you so much!

  8. Leah says:

    Hi I just came across your recipe when googling clays in deodorant. I’m wondering how the consistency of this deodorant is? I have made some in the past that are real sticky, and others too wet. I also put mine in a deodorant tube like these http://www.elementsbathandbody.com/2-oz-Natural-Twist-up-Tube-pr-486.html and I’m wondering how this recipe would hold up. I noticed yours are in tins that you apply by hand. I recently had 2 friends breakout horribly from using a Lemongrass deodorant I made that had baking soda in it, and I’m wondering if I should omit that all togther and use arrowroot powder and bentonite clay? I appreciate any feedback or suggestions you have. Thank! :)

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Leah! Actually, I find that the deodorant tends to be mostly hard. It softens up, and becomes sticky, when your body warms it up (either your fingers or on your arm pits). It’s getting colder at our place, and I’ve noticed it’s taken longer to soften up. I used to put it into old deodorant containers, but it didn’t spread all that well on my arm pits and had a tendency to sort of fall out of the container in great chunks if it was screwed up too high. (I’m not sure that’s a very clear description…but the result wasn’t good :) You can just skip the baking soda, but it might not be as effective against odor. If you were going to make it for your friends who had the bad reaction to the lemon grass one, I’d make sure their arm pits were really healed (like just coconut oil for a few weeks) before trying something new. Also, even with my recipe, I don’t apply it more than once a day, and often it’s every other day. You could try to ramp up the amount of baking soda slowly too as they get used to it. Also I’d check out Crunchy Betty (http://www.crunchybetty.com/solving-the-worlds-deodorant-crisis-a-new-soothing-recipe) and the comment section of her 3 great recipes. She’s the expert!!

  9. Leah says:

    Thanks for your reply Amy. I actually made this in the waiting time for you to reply and it was actually very moist. More moist than the one I currently use that I made a few months ago. I’m in Florida though and it’s just now starting to get cool here. I will check out that link you sent me.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Leah, I just finished up making another batch of my deodorant. It firmed up quickly for me, but we keep our apartment pretty cold :) I’d add maybe another 1/2 oz of beeswax and/or coco butter to make it harder in the warmer climate. Enjoy the weather down there for me!

  10. Nikki says:

    Thanks so much for this! I just recently started making my own and tried out a simple recipe that I had all the stuff for and it made me sting and raw. So I was really discouraged thinking I couldn’t use homemade because I was too sensitive to it. Now reading this I realize I didn’t have enough moisturizer to neutralize the baking soda (my recipe had just baking soda, arrowroot, coconut oil, and lavender oil) so now I’m excited to try this and see how it works :)

  11. Annie says:

    Hey Amy – nice article :)

    I use Lavilin. Have been for years and years – I’m a big fan! My husband was actually the one who convinced me to try it and I’ve never considered switching back since then. Any experience with Lavilin?

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      I haven’t! But I think that might want to get it as a back up. Like right now, I’m out of my deodorant and am being lazy about making more. I wonder if it would last a long time if I just used it super infrequently.

      • Joyce says:

        Hi Amy. I’m also a Lavilin gal and I’m obsessed. I recommend it to anyone looking for a reputable, all-natural alternative. I’m currently using it about 1-2 times a week, and that’s enough! I don’t exercise a ton, but I’m still pretty active so I’m impressed :)

  12. […] Homemade Deoderant for Sensitive Skin: Bentonite Clay and Baking Soda – Stories & Thyme […]

  13. Elle says:

    Hi Amy- I’ve been trying to find a deodorant recipe that works for me and I was so sure this was going to be it…but my skin is still sensitive to it (itchy, though less so than other recipes I’ve tried). Any suggestions?

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Elle! Oh I’m so sorry that you’re still itchy. How frustrating. Well I have a couple suggestions. First, you probably want to make sure that your armpits are really healed from their exposure to the deodorants that have made them irritated. I would give them at least a week where you put nothing but coconut oil on them. (Sometimes people carry soap and a wash cloth with them through out the day to help combat BO during this detox week.) Then once your skin is good and healed, I would try the recipe again with just clay, and no baking soda. I would only apply it once a day, and wait at least 30 minutes after shaving your armpits. Another suggestion would be to apply diluted apple cider vinegar to your armpits before as Crunchy Betty outlines in her post on PH Balancing with homemade deodorant. (Also look at the comments section of her other deodorant posts for some additional ideas) If you can get your arm pits to be aright with just the clay version of the recipe, and you want something with more BO coverage, I would slowly add baking soda in (just reheat the recipe) a 1/4 teaspoon in half of the recipe (that way if adding the baking soda isn’t ok, you still have half the recipe to use). And remember if you really struggle with sensitive skin and itchy skin, it might be a sign that something you are eating is causing some inflammation and an eczema like skin condition. For me grains, legumes, and night shades make my skin supper itchy. I hope that helps a bit. Let me know if you have success!

  14. Val says:

    I live way down in the Everglades, so I will definitely be adding more beeswax :-). I am not a castor oil fan. Have you a suggestion for any other oil in its place? Thank you, and I CANNOT wait to try this recipe.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Val! I’d just skip the castor oil if you’re trying to make it firmer, and definitely add a bit more beeswax (and/or cocoa butter, starting with an extra 1/2 oz more), but if you make it and find it’s not sliding that well, I’d try jojoba oil in place of the castor oil. Let me know how it goes!!

  15. Shalimar says:

    Hi! Your recipe looks great, and I am looking forward to trying it or something similar when I get the money. But I have something more important to thank you for! Thank you SO much for mentioning the possibility of magnesium deficiency, and including the link to Wellness Mama’s article. You may have literally helped save my life! I never post on these things, but this was such a dramatic help! I’ve been having severe heart problems that had worsened to the point of never having a normal heart beat 24/7. I had been praying for wisdom, and then came across this site. Come to find out, ALL of my multiple health problems of the past 20 years were listed as complications of magnesium deficiency, which I’d never heard of before! I stopped taking calcium (excessive amounts further lower magnesium), and started using the magnesium oil, and within 12 hours my heart beat had begun to improve. It’s now been 5 days, and my heart hasn’t had one abnormal beat, or any pain or breathing problems AT ALL today. I am SO thankful! I’ve got to stick around so I can raise my kids! Other symptoms (like insomnia) are also beginning to slowly improve… Thanks again! :) I already feel so much better!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      I am so glad that the magnesium is helping. It’s pretty amazing stuff, and it effects so much of our bodies. It made my day to read about how helpful that little mention of magnesium was to you! (Sorry for the delayed reply, I’ve been relocating from Maryland to Wisconsin and haven’t had reliable internet!) Peace and Blessings on you and yours!!

  16. […] with more sensitive skin might prefer this recipe from Stories and Thyme, using bentonite clay. Crunchy Betty has a number of recipes you can try. I also know some people have had great success […]

  17. Amanda says:

    Hi Amy!
    I love your photos and breakdown of the elements of deodorant! I have just begun my DIY body products adventure and after looking over many deo recipes, I made a version of yours. For various reasons, I swapped out the beeswax and butters for 60g of kokum butter and I didn’t have baking soda so I used diatamaceous earth, since I read that it was a possible sub. After it completely cooled, the result was fairly hard and a dark grayish brown (think cardboard in shadow). Do you think that is from the bentonite clay or does the DE become dark when moistened? Also, before it warms up enough to be spreadable, it’s pretty crumbly (although from reading the previous comments, your seems quite firm too?). I thought I might remelt it with some more coconut oil to make it a little more pliable, but what amount would be appropriate? Thanks, in advance!!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Amanda! I’ve never used kokum butter, it sounds wonderful though. If it harden up to a usable consistency, then that would seem to be just as great as beeswax and butters. I’ve never worked with diatamaceous earth before, although it sounds cool. The bentonite clay definitely makes it a brownish/green color, maybe a little lighter than what yours is. If you really don’t like the color, you could try using a kaolin clay. I think that might less brown/green color. As far as the coconut oil I’d try maybe like a tablespoon or an oz (29 ish grams), although if you think the temperature in your bathroom is going to get significantly warmer in the coming months, maybe half that amount to start with. Let me know how it goes!!

      • Amanda says:

        Hi Amy!
        I just wanted to give you a quick update. My deodorant became more brittle as each day passed. When I held it to my skin, it did warm up and became spreadable, but after about 8 or 9 days, it got to the point where it was taking me a full five minutes to put deodorant on (between pinching it between my fingers, holding it to my underarm to warm it, and then cleaning up all the little crumbs that fell everywhere). So I melted it all down and added 2 T of coconut oil. Since I was afraid remelting might have cooked out my EOs, I also added another 5-7 drops each of Tea Tree and Peppermint. Not only did the additional coconut oil make it more pliable, but I think just the act of remelting it, mixed everything in together really well. It’s a lot smoother than the first time around. It has been almost a week since the remelt and I can see that it’s starting to become a little brittle again (I keep it in a bale wire jar, btw), but I only need to hold it for a few seconds before it’s soft and sticky enough to smoosh around my armpit. So far, I really like the result. If I take a sniff of myself in the late afternoon, I can sometimes smell armpit, but when I do the sniff test again at night, I can’t smell anything. My skin hasn’t had any adverse reactions to it either. The best part (besides not smelling, of course), is when I shower the next morning, there’s no residue or junk to scrape off (like from when I was wearing store A/P & Deo). Oh… the other bonus is that I also don’t get the white deo lines on my clothes. Hooray for less laundry! Thanks for your great inspiration and help with this recipe!

  18. Elsa says:

    is it possible to use grapessed oil instead of the castor oil?

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Elsa! I think that grapeseed oil would work just fine. I’ve never tried it, but the castor oil isn’t a very essential part of the recipe, so i think almond, or grapeseed, or jojoba would all work well in its place. Let me know how it goes!

      • Elsa says:

        Forgot to ask about the clay…
        I cannot find it anywhere in Portugal, all I can find is green clay…
        Is it possible to use it, instead of the bentonite?
        And can I add more clay and arrowroot and cut back on the BS? It makes my skin rash a bit, after a few days of use..

        • Amy Rogers Hays says:

          Yes! I’ve never worked with green clay, but I think that it probably be similar. And definitely I would up clay and arrow root to baking soda ratio if you’re getting irritation. But I’d also probably increase the shea butter (or whatever medium hardness oil you are using) and make sure you give your skin a good break, so it’s totally healed, before trying the new version. Best of luck, Elsa!!

  19. Tracy says:

    How come your bentonite clay and arrowroot of 2T are different weights 20 and 30 g??

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Tracy, you know, when I weighed them I was surprised too! The clay is denser than the arrowroot powder, so even though it looks like it takes up the same amount of space on the spoon, it actually weighs more. I guess that’s probably why chefs are always weighing their ingredients on scales instead of just using measuring spoons, because it’s a lot more accurate! I think this recipe is pretty forgiving, so approximating with measuring spoons is fine, but I put the weight in grams for someone outside the US who doesn’t use tea & tablespoons. Hope that helps!

  20. Jeany says:

    Thank you for your post Amy. Lately I’ve been using just coconut oil & tea tree due to my armpits becoming extremely sore and discolored. I believe it was contributed by the baking soda.

    I’m going through the healing process using emu oil. But I hope to incorporate this new plan once the healing is complete. Do you have any suggestions for my healing process?

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Jeany! My main advice would be to be very patient. Make sure you’re really totally healed before you go putting anything with baking soda on your armpits. I’d even suggest making this recipe without the baking soda and use it for a week or two, and if that works for you, then re-melt it and add the baking soda. Let me know how it goes!

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