Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let's Get Crunchy...

Many people are aware these days of the potential toxicity of household products. We work to reduce the toxins we are aware of in our food and in our cleaning supplies but what about... deodorant??

Commercial deodorant / antiperspirant does two things: prevents odor and moisture. Sweat is a natural process of cleansing the body, it doesn't actually smell. Foul body odor is created when the moisture reacts with bacteria on the skin. Many scented deodorants (like other fragranced items) don't eliminate the odor but simply overpower it. People like the feeling of staying "dry" because they associate sweat with stench. If  there are toxins in your body they will come out through your pores and it will probably smell. If a person consumes adequate amounts of water throughout the day and limits the bacteria causing "junk" they ingest the sweat will be odorless.

Aluminum is the targeted ingredient in many antiperspirants because it has been linked to skin allergies, cancer and alzheimer's disease along with other ailments. Preventing the release of sweat can cause a buildup of sebum inside the sweat gland resulting in a painful and unsightly cyst. The yellow stains in the pits of your white shirts are not from sweat but from the reaction of the sweat with the antiperspirant. 

Another common but known dangerous branch of ingredients called parabens are widely used in cosmetics to increase shelf life. Nobody wants to smell bad, and when the thought of giving up deodorant is mentioned certain images come to mind; it doesn't have to be like that.

You can make a powerful yet gentle deodorant with ingredients from your kitchen. If the ingredients are safe to eat, you can bet they won't increase your risk of cancer or degenerative diseases. 
You will need:
  • Coconut Oil (found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking Soda
  • Fine ground salt (optional)
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • A container to put it in

To Prepare:

Start by measuring out the coconut oil (CO). You will need different amounts depending on the size of the container you are working with. I'd start with 1-2 Tablespoons. 

Coconut oil is used because it is an easily accessible plant based oil that is solid at room temperature. It is very gentle and moisturizing on the skin. Side note: also great for cooking at high temperatures and is full of healthy fats!

Coconut oil with baking soda and cornstarch added
Heat the CO in the microwave for 15 - 30 seconds until softened. It doesn't have to be completely melted. Add equal amounts of both cornstarch and baking soda i.e. if you used 1 Tbsp CO use 1 Tbsp each of baking soda and cornstarch.

Baking soda works as a natural deodorizer while cornstarch absorbs moisture. This will not keep you 100% dry, however, I have found it works much better than the "natural" deodorants I have tried.

If you'd like to add a little salt at this point you can add about 1/2 tsp per 1 Tbsp of the other ingredients. Too much will be too drying and it will have a grainy feel. You can stop the process here if you prefer an unscented deodorant. Most likely you won't stink, but you won't smell nice either. 

Salt is also a natural deodorizer, it helps absorb moisture and has antibacterial properties - further neutralizing odor. 

After the dry ingredients are well mixed with the CO you can add a few drops of pure essential oil. I like to start with a drop or two of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender because of their soothing scent and antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Remember: if there's no bacteria, there's no stink. 

 You only need a few drops! I use about 2 drops of each oil because they are very powerful and too much can sting or irritate your skin. 
Voila! Let the mixture cool to room temperature and its ready to use. This 2 oz container lasts me about 2 months. I apply a small amount with my fingers after I shower and I'm good. I haven't timed the longest it has worked for me but I'd say at least 12 hours. 

I put it to the test a few weeks ago when I sat at an outdoor tennis match in the Florida heat and humidity; I was sweating like crazy and was sure the deodorant wouldn't hold up but it did. I was definitely hooked after that. 

It even helps soothe razor burn and irritation so there's no reason not to try it. It melts quickly in the heat and becomes very solid in the cold but neither affects its effectiveness. You can always move it from fridge to microwave to find what works best for you.

More information on aluminum, sweat, and deodorant can be found here and here

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