I Slathered Coconut Oil Under My Armpits To See If It Worked As A DIY Deodorant

by Ana Luisa Suarez
Ana is an Associate Editor who loves animals and food. A good taco and a snuggle with her dogs is all she needs.

For the last 15 years of my life, I have personally struggled with deodorant.

As a kid, I did not understand why I needed to wear it.

I didn’t smell! I knew plenty of kids in fifth and sixth grade who smelled, but I wasn’t one of them. Yet I still had to wear it because I was “active.” I was either playing basketball or cheerleading with my friends.

After I got over the initial annoyance of having to wear deodorant, I quickly learned that it didn’t work very well for me. By the time I was 15, I had to stop wearing light-colored clothing, for fear of the dreaded sweat stain.

I’ve tried so many different deodorants and antiperspirants over the years, like clinical strength, men’s deodorant, and the kind you only put on at night.

Nothing lasts long enough for me.

So I knew I wanted to try something new, in the sheer hope that one of them might stick. With that in mind, I also wanted to look at options that were safer for my body. I’ve heard that deodorant can cause cancer, so I wanted to go the natural route, using ingredients for natural deodorant you can find at home.

Scroll below to read more about deodorant risks and to see my results with natural deodorant remedies!

Does Deodorant Cause Cancer?

<u>Does Deodorant Cause Cancer?</u>
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Deodorant contains aluminum-based compounds, which can act as plugs within the sweat duct that stop the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. “Some research suggests that aluminum-containing underarm antiperspirants, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and have estrogen-like (hormonal) effects,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

But the NCI says, “Because underarm antiperspirants or deodorants are applied near the breast and contain potentially harmful ingredients, several scientists and others have suggested a possible connection between their use and breast cancer. However, no scientific evidence links the use of these products to the development of breast cancer.”

Is Deodorant Toxic?

<u>Is Deodorant Toxic?</u>
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If you Google search the phrase “is deodorant is toxic,” a few articles will pop up that may scare you off ever using a stick or aerosol can again.

An article written by Organics breaks down some of the biggest active ingredients in a stick of deodorant, and they don’t sound pretty. Deodorant has parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl), which, the article points out, were linked to breast cancer in a 2004 study from NCBI. Studies suggest that deodorant being applied being so close to the breast tissue is how it seeps into the body and causes harm.

However, an article written by WebMD tries to put down this fear of paraben-based and aluminum-based deodorants.

“There is no convincing evidence that antiperspirant or deodorant use increases cancer risk,” Ted S. Gansler, MD, MBA, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society, said in an e-mail interview with WebMD.

Best Natural Deodorants

<u>Best Natural Deodorants</u>
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While the medical evidence seems to back up the fact that deodorant does not cause breast cancer, I was still curious about looking into some natural alternatives, so I lined up some alternative deodorant options to see which is best.

Luckily, the internet isn’t just a scary place where I can learn about all the bad things in my food and products. It also has easy-to-use DIY solutions! Apparently, you can make a ton of DIY and natural deodorants at home. Things you can find in the kitchen — like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and more — can all go under your arms to eliminate sweat.

Natural Recipe #1: Coconut Oil Deodorant

Natural Recipe #1: Coconut Oil Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Coconut oil fixes everything, right? I mean, you can use it on your skin for acneeyelashes for growth, or even replace your moisturizer with it. Coconut oil is antibacterial, which is why it is suggested as an alternative to deodorant.

“Coconut oil does have some mild antibacterial properties, so it’s not inconceivable that it could act as underarm deodorant,” Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist, told Allure.

Using a recipe I found on Wellness Mama, my coconut deodorant consisted of:

  • 3 tbsps. coconut oil
  • 1/8 cup baking soda
  • 1/8 cup organic cornstarch

The deodorant dripped down my armpits after applying, which meant I had to pat it dry right away to avoid ruining my clothing. I’m not sure if that impacted this deodorant’s protection, but I really doubt it. I just don’t believe it was meant to be.

The Verdict

Sweat control: It does not control sweat. Within an hour, I felt very sweaty.

Odor control: I didn’t smell bad; I just smelled like coconut oil.

Other observations: All day, my armpits felt greasy and sweaty. I wanted to take a shower ASAP. In general, I love and use coconut oil at least once a week, but I can now safely say that it is not meant for our armpits!

Natural Recipe #2: Baking Soda Deodorant

Natural Recipe #2: Baking Soda Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

I have pretty exclusively used baking soda to make cookies my whole life. I forgot it has many other uses. One of my coworkers washed her face with it for seven days to help her skin!

For this recipe, I followed a suggestion from Mother Nature Network:

  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • a little bit of water

As I expected, I hated the way this felt. I added enough water into the baking soda to form a paste that I could rub on my armpits. It felt very strange but went on fairly easily. I learned the hard way that this will stain your clothes when you pull them on, so I’d advise applying after you’ve put on your clothes.

The Verdict

Sweat control: After a few hours, I knew this wasn’t really an ideal swap for deodorant in terms of controlling sweat. Within the first hour, as I commuted to work, I could sense I was sweating a little bit.

Odor control: It did, however, keep me from smelling bad. But given that baking soda can be used to eliminate foul odors, I was not that surprised to find I smelled fine at the end of the workday.

Other observations: After wearing this DIY deodorant, my armpits started to feel very sore and tender after about nine hours. It felt almost like I’d burned myself shaving my armpits, but I hadn’t used a razor in days.

Natural Recipe #3: Tea-Tree Oil Deodorant

Natural Recipe #3: Tea-Tree Oil Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

I know virtually nothing about any oils other than coconut, olive, and canola. Tea-tree oil is something I’ve heard of, but until taking on the natural deodorant task, I didn’t even know what it looked like, which meant I had no previous thoughts on how it would work. My boss, Lina, warned me to dilute the tea-tree oil before using, and given how strong the smell is, I’m glad she did!

The recipe I found combined tea-tree oil with my first two deodorant options, baking soda, and coconut oil:

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/8 cup baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. tea-tree oil
  • a splash of water

The Verdict

Sweat control: I wasn’t instantly drenched, but my armpits also weren’t bone-dry. I’d say it was like I’d put deodorant on the night before and had forgotten to before leaving the next morning. Not bad, but not amazing.

Odor control: I didn’t smell bad using this natural deodorant. According to Dr. Axe, “Tea-tree oil has antimicrobial properties that destroy the bacteria on your skin that causes body odor.” I personally felt like the strong scent of tea-tree oil masked any other odors.

Other observations: This could have been the world’s best natural deodorant, but I cannot handle the smell. Tea-tree oil is so strong, I could not use it on my body on a daily basis. All day long, as I began to sweat, I kept smelling this deodorant and became slightly nauseous from the scent.

Natural Recipe #4: Witch Hazel Deodorant

Natural Recipe #4: Witch Hazel Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Witch hazel is one of those things I’ve had in my house for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never actually used it. I didn’t even know if it had any scent. But we had a big old bottle in our bathroom, so I was willing to test out!

Witch hazel has antibacterial properties in its active ingredients, calcium oxalate gallotannins and safrole, but it also works great as an anti-inflammatory agent, which is great for razor burn.

According to Livestrong, “Scientists at Japan’s Shiga Central Laboratory studied 65 plant extracts for their potential anti-inflammatory applications as an anti-aging treatment for skin.”

Unlike all of the other deodorants I’d tried so far, this didn’t need to be mixed with anything. I just poured a generous amount into a bowl and used a cotton ball to apply it, as this Mother Earth Living article suggested.

The Verdict

Sweat control: I really put this deodorant to the test by wearing it on a near-90 degree day. It proved to help a bit with sweating, as I only had light sweat stains on my shirt.

Odor control: I didn’t smell as fresh as a daisy by the end of the day. But I also didn’t totally stink after a 60-minute walk in the sun, so I would have to say this wasn’t a bad option.

Other observations: Witch hazel is nice because it isn’t odorless, but it goes on clear, and the scent isn’t strong enough to distract you.

Natural Recipe #5: Apple Cider Vinegar Deodorant

Natural Recipe #5: Apple Cider Vinegar Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Much like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar is revered by my friends and family. I know quite a few people who swear by it for weight loss, but the smell alone was enough to keep me from ever trying it out.

Its uses are virtually limitless; you can use it for a sore throat, stomach ache, a stuffy nose, and that’s just the beginning.

For this remedy, I needed:

  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • A pinch of baking soda
  • A pinch of corn starch

I mixed the water and apple cider vinegar in a bowl, then soaked a cotton ball in it. After applying that mixture to my armpits, I combined the baking soda and cornstarch together and dabbed it on my armpits.

The Verdict

Sweat control: This did not help much with sweating, and I wasn’t even doing anything active.

Odor control: By this point in my seven-day experiment, I knew that I wouldn’t smell bad if baking soda was mixed into the recipe. I smelled OK at the end of the day.

Other observations: Thank goodness this was diluted with water, because it smelled awful at first!

Natural Recipe #6: Lemon As Deodorant

Natural Recipe #6: Lemon As Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

After years of hating lemon, I now drink lemon water, hot or cold, at least once a week. Still, I was skeptical about using lemon as a deodorant.

Out of all the natural remedies, this was by far the simplest: Just cut a lemon in half and rub it on your armpit.

Or, if you’re like me and forgot to buy a lemon, you can use lemon juice. Simply apply a liberal amount to a cotton ball and pat it on your armpit.

Ellen Marmur, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, told Allure that lemon juice can be used as a natural deodorant because the citric acid in it kills bacteria and odor.

The Verdict

Sweat control: I didn’t find myself sweating, even as temperatures reached 90 degrees. With some of these methods, I was sweating before I left my front door. It took well over six hours before I realized I’d begun to sweat.

Odor control: While I didn’t sweat much, I did, unfortunately, begin to smell not-so-pleasant.

Other observations: I used one cotton ball for both armpits. After I began to smell, I wondered if I should have used a cotton ball per armpit.

Natural Alternative #7: Hand Sanitizer As Deodorant

Natural Alternative #7: Hand Sanitizer As Deodorant
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

I would never have thought to use hand sanitizer as a deodorant, but it makes a lot of sense after trying it. It cleans your hands and freshens them up, so why not your armpits?

To keep with the natural theme, I purchased an alcohol-free, natural hand sanitizer. Much like the lemon, I simply applied it directly to my armpit. It came in a spray bottle, so it was a simple application.

Three sprays to each side and I was on my way for the day! I liked this method a lot because of the simplicity. I didn’t really think it was going to work — but I was quickly surprised.

The Verdict

Sweat control: I am used to feeling all hot and sweaty on my commute to work or on my walk to Starbucks during the day. I did both of these in 85 degree weather and, while I was uncomfortable, it had nothing to do with armpit sweat.

Odor control: I was sure that by the time 5 p.m. rolled around, I would smell. Yet my pits were still as fresh as they had been before I left my house in the morning!

Other observations: I used this on a day that I had shaved my armpits and because the product was alcohol-free, it didn’t hurt at all to spray directly onto my armpit.

Final Thoughts

<u> Final Thoughts </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Best natural deodorant: Without question, my favorite was hand sanitizer. It was the one I expected to be the worst, yet I wound up smelling good all day, and I didn’t sweat! I think reason hand sanitizer was such a success is that I purchased the all-natural, alcohol-free kind that came in a spray bottle.

Worst natural deodorant: Lemon/lemon juice. I don’t know if my odor and bacteria were too strong for the lemon juice that day, but I was so embarrassed by 5 p.m., because I knew I smelled bad.

Would I recommend DIY deodorants to a friend? For any friend that is not a fan of the compounds found in deodorant, yes. In a pinch, hand sanitizer is an amazing alternative to deodorant.

I would not suggest trying all of these alternatives back-to-back, however, especially if my friend has sensitive skin. (I did experience a few rashes along the way.) Alternatively, purchasing an aluminum-free deodorant is also a strong option.

Will I ever try these methods again? I will certainly try a few of these if I am in a bind. I’m already keeping the hand sanitizer in my purse — to use as intended — but also just in case I forget to apply deodorant in the morning!

Please SHARE this article with all of your Facebook friends if they’ve ever considered using natural deodorant!

If you are afraid of the active ingredients used in deodorant and wish to use a natural option, please consult with your doctor to find the best remedy for you.