I have very sensitive, eczema prone skin, and often get a rash when using store-bought deodorant. This was especially true when I used antiperspirant, but also ‘natural’ versions that didn’t contain aluminum. A homemade deodorant has proven to be more effective than store-bought, and produces much less waste, too.
This shea butter deodorant has a couple of benefits – using the butter helps to provide a more stable, creamier texture, both in colder and warmer temperatures, and it’s better for sensitive skin than pure coconut oil. This makes the deo much nicer to use.
Essential oils should be used sparingly as they require a lot of plant matter to distill into tiny amounts of oil. They add both scent and odour-reducing elements here, but can be left out if you prefer. Don’t be tempted to add more than listed, as they can be irritants if used in too high of quantities (and if you’re not certain, leave it out altogether).
This has been my go-to deodorant for over a decade and I’m still going strong with it! I’ve never been told I smell bad in that time and it works well if you have underarm hair, too.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Arrowroot powder: or use cornstarch, in an equal amount. Tapioca and other starches work too but I find them less effective.
- Baking soda: an important active ingredient, but used very sparingly here as it is usually what irritates the skin.
- Coconut oil: solid up to 24°C, it should keep things solid unless it’s very warm in your home or you’re travelling in warm weather.
- Shea butter: adds skin-nourishing elements and is solid up to about 35°C, so it helps to keep the deodorant from melting in warmer weather.
- Essential oil: for scent and some anti-bacterial properties. Use sparingly and see below for some scent combinations.
Step by Step
Step 1: mix the dry ingredients and add essential oils if using.
Step 2: add the coconut oil and shea butter.
Step 3: mix with a fork – it will be dry and crumbly at first, but don’t add extra oil.
Step 4: keep mixing until it’s very smooth and about the consistency of buttercream.
If it’s you’re first time using a natural or homemade deodorant, please note that there is a transition time your body needs to adapt to this new method, particularly if you were using antiperspirant. You might be a bit smelly for the first little while, so it might need to be reapplied often at first.
This is deodorant and will not stop you from sweating. You’ll still perspire, but it shouldn’t smell. I find this recipe to be effective for both me and Graham, who’s very active and sweats a lot.
The amount of baking soda can be increased up to a maximum equal to the arrowroot or cornstarch. It is significantly less here because baking soda is often what will irritate sensitive skin, but it’s also part of what keeps unpleasant smells at bay, so you need to find a balance that works for you.
If you want to travel with this in hot weather, use a tablespoon of melted cocoa butter in place of an equal amount of coconut oil. It’ll make it more stable in very hot temperatures.
I don’t recommend using lemon oil for your deodorant as it can be an irritant and cause problems if your skin is exposed to sunlight. Avoid other citrus oils like orange and bergamot if your underarms will be seeing a lot of sun, too.
- cedar and rosemary
- bergamot, lavender, and rosewood (my favourite)
- balsam, peppermint, eucalyptus (Graham’s favourite)
- lavender, eucalyptus, and cedar
- eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree
There are many options, but these are some of my preferred choices. Even unscented it will smell slightly and pleasantly of shea butter, and if you do have very sensitive skin, I would recommend omitting any scents.
- Soften the oils: don’t melt them, but room temperature or slightly warmer will make it easier to mix everything together.
- Keep in a glass jar: if you want to change up the scents based on season (which I do) a glass jar is ideal as it won’t absorb any smells and can be washed very easily.
- Reapply when needed: this isn’t antiperspirant, and can’t be applied once and be done with it. Deodorant might need to be added on to a few times a day, especially when it’s warm or if you’ve been active.
- Don’t worry about exact measurements: for the shea butter and coconut oil, these can be about the amount listed, but you don’t need to level off a tablespoon or anything like that. Eyeballing it is good enough.
More Homemade Beauty
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Homemade Deodorant for Sensitive Skin
- 40 grams arrowroot or cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 10-15 drops essential oils optional
- 2 tablespoons shea butter
- 1 tablespoon solid coconut oil
- Add the arrowroot powder and baking soda to a shallow bowl. Mix, using a fork, until combined.40 grams arrowroot or cornstarch, 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Add the essential oils (in any combination you like) to the arrowroot mixture. Stir to combine.10-15 drops essential oils
- Mix in the coconut oil and shea butter, using the fork in a mashing motion. This will take a minute or so – the mixture will look too dry, but keep mixing.1 tablespoon solid coconut oil, 2 tablespoons shea butter
- Once finished, the deodorant should be smooth, creamy looking, and homogenous in colour.
- It can be used immediately but will improve after resting for a couple of hours.
- Store at room temperature and use as needed. It will last up to six months.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was originally published in October 2014. It has been updated with slight changes to the recipe and new images as of May 2021.
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