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Deodorant: Easy Greening

Deodorant: Easy Greening

In ancient Egypt, long before the cosmetics industry hijacked personal care, body odor was disguised with citrus oils and spices. By the 20th century marketers had convinced the population that social success was a stretch unless body odor was quashed. The problem is that the products promoted in this scheme may not be the best for our health.

The Issues
Body odor is the result of bacteria (naturally found on skin) which feeds on sweat. Antiperspirants work by plugging your pores with aluminum salts, blocking the route for sweat to exit your body. Deodorants don’t reduce the amount of sweat, but make the skin acidic and thus unfavorable for the odor-generating bacteria.

The problems with non-natural, commercial products start with aluminium compounds (particularly Aluminium chlorohydrate) which are easily absorbed through the skin. Aluminum compounds can accumulate in the brain and have been linked to Alzheimer’s.

Next are parabens (short for para-hydroxybenzoate) a class of preservatives widely used in cosmetics and personal care products that are being investigated for their possible role in breast cancer. Parabens mimic the activity of estrogen in the body. Since estrogen promotes the growth of breast cancer cells and a woman is eight times more likely to develop breast cancer in the part of the breast closest to the underarm, scientists are studying the connection. A 2004 study found parabens in 18 of 20 samples from breast tumors. The research is considered inconclusive in linking the use of deodorants to breast cancer, but it has sparked further studies and is enough to have us breaking out in a sweat.

And then there’s propylene glycol—a humectant originally developed as an anti-freeze. Found in many commercial deodorants and antiperspirants, it is a neurotoxin known to cause contact dermatitis, kidney damage, and liver damage. In propylene glycol’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), published by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, workers are urged to avoid skin contact with the toxic chemical as it may cause eye and skin irritation. (Yes, the same ingredient commonly used in products applied to the skin.) In addition, it states, “chronic exposure can cause gastro-intestinal disturbances, nausea, headache, vomiting, and central nervous depression.” Well alrighty then, how about some nice wholesome alternatives?:

In addition to using plain witch hazel, or baking soda, here are some refreshing recipes inspired by Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair by Dina Falconi (Ceres Press, 1998). These should be mixed and applied with a cotton ball.

Witch Hazel Tea Tree Double Whammy
10 drops tea tree essential oil
1 ounce of witch hazel

Ken’s Deodorant
4 ounces witch hazel
8 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops rosemary essential oil
2 drops patchouli essential oil

Woodland Deodorant
1/4 cup 80 proof vodka
1/4 cup distilled water
10 drops tea tree
16 drops cedarwood essential oil
20 drops sandalwood essential oil

Exotic Deodorant
1/4 cup 80 proof vodka
1/4 cup distilled water
10 drops geranium Egypt essential oil
10 drops patchouli essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil

Choose Green Products
You can check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to see the hazard score of your current products or an alternative you might be considering. Here are a few other suggestions:

Crystal Body Deodorant is hypoallergenic, fragrance free, non-sticky, non-staining, and is made of 100% natural mineral salts with no artificial coloring or ingredients.

Avalon Organics Deodorants come from a company whose “Consciousness in Cosmetics” principle guides the formulation of all of their yummy products—for deodorant, that translates to no aluminium compounds, parabens or propyelene glycol.

Cleure Body Spray Deodorant provides 24 hours of natural deodorant protection.

Read more: Beauty, Eco-friendly tips, Holistic Beauty, Skin Care, , , , , ,

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Earthly Bodies and Heavenly Hair

Natural and healthy personal care for every now


+ add your own
5:05AM PST on Feb 18, 2015

wow. i didn't know all of this. thank you so much! my deoderant will be disposed of. thank you for these alternatives.

7:10AM PDT on Sep 27, 2014


7:11AM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

Do we anteaters need them?

9:25PM PDT on Aug 2, 2014

Great information. Thank you.

2:52PM PDT on Mar 14, 2014


4:08PM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

Make your own! Its so easy, effective and inexpensive! 1/4 cup each baking soda and cornstarch, 6 Tbsp. coconut oil and essential oils (optional). You'll wonder why you didn't try it sooner!

11:18AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

I've seen another recipe: baking soda and essential oil - you put it on with your fingers and pat it enough to dry

8:27PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

some of these recipes sound good. Sugar scrubs are easy, and make your skin softer and smells oh so good. Making deodorant with vodka, sounds harsh, and I'm wondering if it really works. alcohol is still alcohol.

5:00PM PST on Feb 9, 2014

HELP PLEASE - I'm a bit confused about the baking soda - do I use it in powder form? - If I need to add liquid and disolve it (for spraying on) do I use whitch hazel, distilled water or vodka?
Is there a recipe please? - smile.

1:31PM PST on Feb 9, 2014

Very interesting article about coconut oil...will definitely try out some of the deodorant recipies.

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