Friday, October 5, 2012

Why Your DIY Baking Soda Deodorant is Causing a Skin Reaction

An overwhelming amount of comments and mails from readers prompted this post. There are far too many people experiencing problems and serious skin reactions from homemade deodorant. You've written me about everything from 'a slight discoloration of armpits' to 'ending up in hospital with a 6 month recovery period.' Yikes!

Why is this happening?

Because misconceptions about deodorant ingredients have taken on a life of their own. Some of these untruths are scaring people away from commercial deodorants and prompting them to experiment with all manner of alternatives – the most common (and damaging) being DIY baking soda deodorant.

There are 2 misconceptions about baking soda that have been circulating for so long they are beginning to be perceived as truths.

Calling it 'Naturally Procured' Doesn't Make it A Different Ingredient
Baking soda is baking soda. There isn't one type that is more natural than another. Regardless of the production process, all sodium bicarbonate has the same chemical formula: Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2 NaHCO3

Even if it starts life as 'a naturally mined soda ash', it isn't milder, gentler, less effective or a different grade of sodium bicarbonate. It has the same properties, the same chemical formula, the same strength, and can therefore be equally damaging.

The Detox Hoax
Many people have somehow gotten the idea that it is necessary to go through a 'detox period' when you switch from commercially made deodorant to a DIY baking soda deodorant. This 'detox period' is described as having the following symptoms:

  • rash 
  • redness and/or discoloration
  • leathery skin

The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for sodium bicarbonate warns of the following symptoms with prolonged exposure of baking soda to the skin:

  • rash 
  • redness 
  • dry, cracked skin 

Sound familiar?

If you are experiencing rash, discomfort or any other reactions to your DIY baking soda deodorant, it is NOT because your body is detoxing – it's because you are applying an unhealthy concentration of baking soda to your armpits!

But There Are Commercially Made Baking Soda Deodorants (I hear you thinking)
You're absolutely right, but there is a reason the industry hires professional cosmetics chemists/scientists to formulate their products. They know which ingredients will work with others, which ingredients will be well tolerated and they know how to dose each ingredient.

Let's Compare, Shall We?
Just for fun, let's dissect the ingredients list of a commercially made baking soda deodorant and compare it to a typical DIY baking soda deodorant.

Below is the ingredients list for Arm & Hammers Ultra Max Baking Soda Deodorant. I've listed the ingredients in descending order (read: the first ingredient is what there is most of, the second is what there is second most of, etc). I've also added a super short description after the INCI name of each ingredient.

Arm & Hammers Ultra Max Baking Soda Deodorant 

  • Dipropylene Glycol: mixture of 3 chemical compounds with low toxicity that is often used as an additive to skin and hair care products
  • Aqua: water
  • Propylene Glycol: a chemical made by reacting propylene oxide with water that is often used as the main ingredient in commercial deodorants. (It does not cause sensitization and it shows no evidence of being a carcinogen). 
  • Sodium Stearate: the sodium salt of stearic acid - keeps the product from separating and has lubricating properties
  • Fragrance 
  • Sodium Bicarbonate: Baking Soda
  • Triclosan: an organic compound that can also be synthesized – an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent. (Its safety is currently under review by the FDA and Health Canada)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: binds to metal ions which inactivates them. Helps prevent deterioration and rancidity of the product.
  • Allantoin: Comfrey Root Extract 
  • Ext D&C Violet 2 (CI 60730): pigments/coloring 
  • Green 5: coloring

Note that the baking soda is listed after the fragrance. Fragrance is usually 0,5% of any product. Let's be generous and say they've really poured on the fragrance and gone up to 1%. That would still place the baking soda at or around 1% of the product. 

Now Let's Look at a Typical DIY Baking Soda Deodorant Recipe

- 75 grams (about 5 tablespoons) coconut (or other) oil
- 32 grams (about 1/4 cup) baking soda
- 32 grams (about 1/4 cup) arrowroot (or cornstarch or clay)
- essential oils of choice

This recipe has a whopping 23% baking soda. I'll lay money that it is going to cause irritation to just about every armpit it is applied to. This isn't even the worst one I've seen. Some recipes call for up to 50% baking soda.

The amount of each ingredient matters – most particularly when you're talking about active ingredients!

The International Journal of Toxicology writes this about baking soda in cosmetics:
"The cosmetic use of sodium carbonate at high concentrations is mainly limited to products designed to be diluted before use and in products where pH is buffered to near neutrality". (find more info here)

The pH Matters Too
The pH of sodium bicarbonate is around 8.3
Neutral pH is 7
Skin friendly solutions are between pH 4.5 - pH 5.5

Still Want to Do Your Own Baking Soda Deodorant?
Check your formula (recipe). If necessary, adjust the amount of baking soda and the pH. If you introduce liquids to your formula, be sure to add a broad spectrum preservative.

And if You're Making DIY Deodorant Because You're Worried About Aluminium Salts
Aluminum is another ingredient in the scaremongers spotlight these days. I've read this same 'claim' many times and in many places: "Aluminum in deodorant is dangerous! It causes all kinds of serious conditions!"

No. It doesn't.

Fact: Even if you applied a deodorant containing aluminium salts every single day of your life, you would still be getting less aluminium through your deodorant than you get naturally through your food and water. Read more about aluminium and deodorant here.

It's All About You
Going the natural route and doing DIY products is great. But please please gorgeous and wonderful people – before you start experimenting with your health – check and double check your facts.
If in doubt – ask.
If still in doubt – ask again, and then once more to be sure.
When you think you're ready – proceed with caution.
It's YOUR health – and you deserve the best and safest care.

If you are interested in trying a DIY deodorant recipe that is baking soda free, I have made a recipe for one (with easily obtainable ingredients) here.

Thanks for listening to this 'old mother hen'.

Now, take good care of yourself!

Other posts about deodorant ingredients
No sweat - how does deodorant work
No sweat - the basic makeup of deodorant
No sweat - Potassium alum
No sweat - about baking soda deodorant
No sweat - Lemon ester

Visit the Deodorant FAQ Page


Bajan Lily said...

Right on the money! Thanks!

Lise M Andersen said...

You are most welcome Bajan Lily :)

Karen Martin said...

I'm willing to make some DIY products, but deodorant just isn't one of them. I'll leave it to the people at Dove when it comes to deodorant.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Karen. You are right about this. Deodorant is actually not all that easy to get right. It is one of the things that took me longest to develop.

alicyn said...

lise, thank you for the reminder to think! :) it's funny how sometimes we need that.

this is a tangent, but still related to baking soda use. i have been using a "sorta-poo" for a few months now: 5 mL coconut milk, 15 mL castile soap. i have hard water, so i started adding 0.625 mL baking soda as a water-softener (following this advice: that comes out to ~3% baking soda, but it does get rinsed out plus followed by a diluted acv rinse, however my scalp is itchier/has more dandruff. (my hair is soft/healthy/shiny, though!)

let me admit right now that i have never felt comfortable with chemistry and i am getting all of these molecular formulas from wikipedia. :)

hard water ~= Ca(2+) + 2HCO3(−) + H2O
soap ~= C17H35COO(-)Na(+)
soap scum ~= (C17H35COO)2Ca
i get how hard water + soap = soap scum.

baking soda = NaHCO3... how exactly does that prevent the calcium ions from joining the soap molecules? i am about 99% sure that Ca and Na will not bond together (could have slept through that class :P), but adding baking soda doesn't seem to add any new players to the mix, just more carbonate and sodium ions...

let me distill my confusion into a question: does baking soda work as a water softener / soap scum preventer? how?

alicyn said...

also, sorry about the ridiculously long, only slightly on-topic comment. :)

Lise M Andersen said...

Yay Alicyn! I love long and complicated questions! You have put me to work on this one, and I will probably have to do a blog post on this..
Meantime, here's the short answer.
Calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese are divalent minerals in water (divalent = can bond with either other ions or molecules). They are usually also associated with scale formation and 'hardening' of the water.

To soften water, these mineral ions need to be replaced with 2 sodium or potassium ions. This process creates a byproduct .. are you ready? It's baking soda!

If you add baking soda to water of any hardness, it will feel soft.


Bubblefairey said...

Woah! This is so fantastically timely!
I have been digging around the internet for the last few weeks trying to not only figure out a good DIY deodorant recipe, but sift through all the "aluminum will KILL YOU" posts floating around. Thanks for posting this!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Bubblefairey
Thank you so much for your kind words. I have been so saddened to experience how many people are being harmed by DIY baking soda deodorants.. I had to post this.

Liza Mendez said...

Hi Lise,my armpit got irritated when i used deodorant,there's a product called rexona and i've been using that for a year but i noticed that my armpit became reddish,right now i am using dove.Have you ever use Tawas?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Liza - I'm afraid I haven't used any commercial deodorants for years and years, so the only way I would be able to comment on what might be causing an irritation would be if I could see the complete ingredients list. Also, you may have a reaction or sensitivity to something as 'simple' as perfume. (It's not really simple, but it's often overlooked).
If you send me more detailed info, I'll be happy to take a look. :)

Anonymous said...

Our whole family plus our children and many of our friends have used homemade baking soda deodorant similar to the one you posted without any negative effect. Actually, my grandmother told me about using baking soda, and its been used for a long time as a BO buster. It really depends on your body chemistry... some people use magnesium, some potassium, and I think you're blowing this way out of proportion. For us, it really is the most effective deodorant we've ever used. Also, there are people who use magnesium and baking soda for facial cleanses and whole body baths.
Also, your reference to the data sheet you provided "SKIN EFFECTS: Non-irritating to intact skin. Minor irritation may occur on abraded skin". It can be a problem after shaving, but one should never put anything on your skin after shaving.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anonyomous - thanks for your input. I'm glad to hear you have never had problems with baking soda deodorant. You are one of very few I have heard from who can say that. As I wrote in one of my earlier posts, there are some folks that are able to use baking soda deodorant without problems, but these do belong to a minority. You say it depends on your body chemistry, but it also probably has a whole lot to do with proportions in the mix being applied as well.

I wrote this post because I have had a worryingly huge amount of questions from people who have had all kinds of negative reactions to DIY baking soda deodorant, so I can't quite agree with your comment about me blowing this out of proportion.

As for your reference to the MSDS, I am referring to the listed potential health effects on page 2:
"POTENTIAL HEALTH EFFECTS: Direct contact with the product causes irritation of the eyes and continuous contact may cause skin irritation (red, dry, cracked skin)."

You mention using baking soda as a face cleanser. I have seen this many places on the net, and have actually been meaning to do some research into the pros and cons of it. You may just have inspired a new blog post. :)

Anonymous said...

Aluminum combine with parabens cause CANCER (to be more specific breast cancer and prostate cancer)! This fact bin proof by sients. If you do not believe in it, or you do not read alternative research results it does not mean Aluminum safe for everyone. Skin and digestive system two different organs of our body, so they absorb and digest things different ways. Prepaid science, prepaid bloggers, veb. Booo

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Booo,
Your statement about parabens and aluminum is incorrect. It sounds very much to me like you are quoting some of the misnformation that has been circulating the net. You are correct about aluminum not being good for everyone. There are some people who are allergic to it. I'm not quite sure what you mean by prepaid science and prepaid bloggers, so I'm afraid I can't comment on that.

Anonymous said...

You believe that "There are far too many people experiencing problems and serious skin reactions from homemade deodorant. What studies can you cite to back up "too many". I would say that too many people are actually circumventing the big corporations by using baking soda. Yes, some people rash, some people rash a little, sometimes, some people rash and can't user baking soda. The rest of us - and who knows how many? It isn't like anyone would make money on a study of the safety of baking soda. By the way, The Material Safety Data Sheet on propylene glycol says that it "May cause mild skin irritation" just the same thing it says about baking soda. However, the propylene glycol MSDS - first ingredient you list in Arm & Hammer, says somewhere that it "may be toxic to central nervous system".

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anonymous,When I say there are far too many people experiencing skin reactions from using baking soda deodorant, I am referring to my first hand experiences: I have gotten a disturbingly huge amount of communications from readers detailing skin rashes and reactions to baking soda deodorant that prompted me to write this post.

My point with this post is to advise DIY'ers to pay attention to amounts and proportions in their recipes. Just because an ingredient can be found in the kitchen cupboard doesn't necessarily make it safe to apply to the delicate skin of the armpits in a large dose. Baking soda is an active ingredient. Putting 23% of any active ingredient into a product for application to the skin is an outrageous amount by any measure.

If you read the comment from Anonymous from Oct 18 along with my answer, you will see my comments as to what the MSDS on baking soda says about potential health hazards.

m a x i e said...

Thats a good post Lise, thanks for that...i've been using baking soda (baking soda only, dip wet finger to baking soda and apply to clean dry armpit) as deodorant for 6th day...the main reason i change from my normal deodorant to DIY deodorant is not because of aluminium etc...i've tried many deodorant before, they work for few weeks than off, i start getting stinking (deodorant + sweat, imagine that smell), and countless ruined shirt...from my 6 days experience, the good thing using baking soda is, even i sweat, but it wont smelly (big plus for me), and i no need to worry about my shirt getting stain. well, like other people, i do experiencing skin rashes and reaction especially on the 1st day (thats how i found this post)..than i start putting some BHA cream + talc on clean armpit at night to reduce the rash...and its getting better (still experience slightly rash sometime). Its there anywhere to make baking soda's pH more friendly to human skin?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Maxie thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm afraid there is no other type of baking soda that is more skin friendly.

Have you ever tried natural deodorant crystals? These are solid potassium alum and often sold as 'natural deodorant stone'. They are not antiperspirants, but will keep the smell away (some say for longer than others). Just a suggestion you may want to try.


m a x i e said...

Thanks Lise, i will buy a small bottle to gv it a try!

David_Spector said...

I'm very glad that this article gives a clear warning about the side effects for those sensitive to sodium bicarbonate. However, there are also many who are not sensitive to it!

I have used PURE sodium bicarbonate and water paste in my armpits for about thirty years. It has no smell, and kills the bacteria that cause odor. Once those bacteria are gone, a very small maintenance amount of sodium bicarbonate paste, once a week, is enough to continue the complete prevention of any underarm odor!

Again, let me emphasize that I one of those (are we in the majority or minority?) who have no skin reaction to sodium bicarbonate.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi David - Thanks for your input. I am glad to hear you have never had problems with sodium bicarbonate. You are a member of a minority, but it is nice to hear that some people can actually use it without irritation.

Nyx said...

Hi, I found your post really interesting. I have been using pure baking soda for months and months now, and so has my husband. We just mix a little bit with water in the palm of the hand and apply it as a thin film. I don't think he has ever had any irritation. I have only had irritation when my armpits were shaved, and especially if they were freshly shaved. Since it's winter time I have been lazy about shaving my armpits, and I have to say this has meant zero irritation. When I was shaving, I found that if I avoided putting it on freshly shaved skin, and also was careful not to use too much, I did not have noticeable irritation. anyhow, just sharing.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Nyx - Thanks for sharing! It is obviously not everyone who is sensitive to baking soda, and I'm pleased to hear it works for you. :)

L.A. Jones said...

If I put too much on and got a horrible reaction what should I do? Is there a way to cure my underarm rash or do I just have to wait it out?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi L.A.
A rash can be everything from a slight itchiness and redness to a more serious reaction that needs the attention of a doctor. It's hard for me to say what the best thing to do is, except to tell you not to ignore a skin reaction from DIY deodorant with baking soda. If it is a slight/small reaction, just waiting it out may be enough. For itchiness, aloe vera can offer some relief. I hope this was some help

Anonymous said...

Hi, Have you heard of Apple cider vinegar deo? I mean you put small amount of the vinegar to a cotton ball then you dab it onto your underarms. I've been a rexona user forever and i'm just sick and tired of the strong awful smell whenever i sweat hard and the chemicals from rexona somewhat reacts to the sweat and i stink very badly. That's why i decided to try those DIY deos.(i just bought the baking soda deo ingredients a while ago).After using the apple cider as an alternative (i just started using it 3 days ago actually),It really helped me lessen the sweating and it really eliminated the awful smell. (I'm gald!) But i was planning to try the baking soda until i saw this. I'm afraid i will have that kind of allergic reaction since i am born with a super sensitive skin. Should i proceed on using the baking soda deo? should i test it on my wrist first? What should i do? thanks!! i'm ica btw

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Ica, Thanks for your input! It sounds like you have found something that is working for you with the ACV. I've never heard of anyone using it solo like that, but if you are not reacting to it, then it must be working for you. As for baking soda: I'd be very cautious if I were you. There are some people who can use it without problem, but it is not a majority. I would suggest trying the deodorsant stone (potassium alum, also known as deodorant crystals). This is deodorizing and tolerated by even the most sensitive skin. Let me know how it goes!

Felicia Stanley said...

So I wish I had read this sooner! I HAVE a rash from using DIY deodorant purchased from an all natural company. I didn't have any itching but I looked any my armpits have turned black and the skin is leathery! How do I get them back to normal? ??? I'm freaking out!!!

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Felicia,

I'm so sorry to hear you have had a reaction to using baking soda deodorant. First: stop using this deodorant immediately. If possible, you should really have your doc have a look to be sure it isn't serious. Sometimes the reactions can develop into more serious matters. Meantime, try and stay completely away from deodorant while your skin is healing. If you have itching, you can try and apply pure aloe vera after gently washing with a very very mild soap. - or just water water and more water. You should consider contacting the company that made this product to tell them about your reaction. This kind of reaction should most definitely NOT happen with any commercially made deodorant! Please do let me know how you get on with this.

Anonymous said...

You mention more serious reactions; care to share what some of these might be? I started using a baking soda DIY deo about a month ago. It really seems to work great for me but I've started noticing that my armpits are slowly becoming discolored. At first it was a sort of clay red color and it's darkened over the past few days. However, I have no other side effects; no itching, no stinging, so pain whatsoever. Now I'm worried that more bad stuff is going to start happening. After reading this post, I will discontinue the use of the deo to see if the effects start to clear up. It just saddens me because I find that it works even better than commercial deos for me. Not sure what to do now...

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Anon - I'm sorry to hear you are having a skin reaction to using baking soda deodorant. You ask about more serious reactions. I have had letters from people who ended up in hospital because of a very serious rash with itching and pus-seeping sores. One person who wrote me had such a terrible reaction that she experienced a 6 month recovery period after having to be hospitalized.

The quest for natural alternatives to commercial deodorant has unfortunately created a lot of casualties as well. I have seen far too many people jump straight into making and selling homemade products that are a health risk. An example: I have seen DIY deodorant for sale on ETSY (some even offer to 'give away the recipe with each purchase'). EVERY one I have checked out has a dangerously high amount of baking soda in it.

Just because an ingredient readily available in a supermarket doesn't mean it's not a chemical or safe to put on your skin. Sorry for this speech. It just saddens me to see so much misinformation circulating and causing so much damage. I hope your skin reaction lessens and disappears quickly.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about all the unfortunate ones who had mishaps with deodorants and/or baking soda.

From my soap making business, I've have had nothing but amazing positive feedback from everyone except one person who has used my deodorant, which is made from only 4 ingredients: 50% organic cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, 25%arrowroot powder, 25 % regular A&H baking soda and essential oil.

Turns out the one person who had the reaction was rubbing it in too vigorously and the grain was irritating her skin. She took a months break and tried it again and it was fine.

It's too bad you're giving deodorant with baking soda such a bad name because it (in the words of my customers) has been a miracle deodorant for them! Probably the people who had bad reactions were not doing enough research and mixing it with less effective ingredients.. And, quite possibly, rubbing it in too vigorously as well!

People certainly shouldn't be experimenting randomly with ingredients until they do a ton of research from different sources, research individual ingredients themselves and then use common sense.

Lise M Andersen said...

HI There Anon,

Thanks for your input. I have heard from many people who have had all kinds of reactions to baking soda deodorant bought from from DIY'ers who sell their products online, some react almost immediately after use, some don't react until after months of use.

I am quite certain you mean well, but unfortunately, every DIY'er I have come across selling baking soda deodorant is doing far more damage than they realize.

There are several things that concern me with what you write.

1. You write that your deodorant has 25% baking soda in it. This at least 24% too much. According to your listed ingredients, there are no pH adjusting ingredients in your recipe. If your deodorant recipe is as you write, then you are selling a product that risks causing all kinds of skin reactions and problems, and is probably doing just that.

2. You write that I am giving baking soda deodorant a bad name. I cannot agree with you. I am merely reacting to the thousands of communications I have received from people that have had skin reactions to using baking soda deodorant - some after making their own, and some from using a baking soda deodorant bought online from a DIY'er.

3. You write people shouldn't experiment randomly with ingredients until they do a ton of research. I absolutely agree with that. If you had done the research, you would not be making (and selling!) your product with such a dangerously high amount of baking soda in it and without any pH regulating ingredients. My guess is you are not getting any complaints because people are looking elsewhere for answers after they have gotten a reaction to it.

4. You have chosen to remain anonymous. This indicates to me that you are not willing to stand by what you write.

Please have another look at your recipe and consider taking it off market until it is safe for use. If you were a registered cosmetics company, it would most certainly not be approved for sale.

Kiatrisse said...

Once again, thank you so much for this information. I feel so dumb because I've been using plain Baking Soda mixed with water or Organic Coconut Oil as a deodorant for about 3 weeks. I noticed redness after about day 2 or 3, but I foolishly thought (after reading several articles on Google) that I was "detoxing" from the Crystal deodorant I had been using for over 7 or 8 years! I found this informative blog yesterday and stopped using the Baking Soda immediately. My underarms are irritated, dark, starting to look leathery and itchy. I think what prompted me to continue using Baking Soda despite the irritation was the fact that it works incredibly well, but now I understand why it works so well and why it's not healthy to use. I've been using only coconut oil, aloe vera gel and A&D ointment to allow my skin to heal. Once it's healed, I'll return to the Crystal Deodorant. I hope I don't have to see a doctor for this!! Live and Learn! Happy to have found your blog though, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i know this is an old post, but i had to comment. Lise your article is very well layed out hand i commend you for the efforts to research the hard facts for the slap-dash DIYers (lol!).

i have to comment on your majority VS minority opinion. Just because you have heard from an 'alarmingly' high number, this is a vague 'gues-timation' of whether this represents a majority or minority as it only focuses on one side. This is also the 'negative' side, that you have focused on.
IF you had not experienced any negative effects, remaining in a neutral standpoint or even a positive one where the expected results where obtained (making it kind of neutral because you were expecting it to do what was told).

Would you research and comment, wondering about why it WORKED? no you accept it did what it was supposed to and go back to having a happy life. :) as usual the louder group tends to be the negatively affected group so going by how much fuss they kick up is not a fair way to guess that they are the majority.

Just a friendly comment i hope i caused no offense (or confusion! i am no writer! :) ) best regards!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi there Kiatrisse,

Thank you so much for your kind words. Please don't feel dumb about trying baking soda deodorant - there are so many places on the net echoing the same misinformation that it is understandable many would feel this is safe and OK to do. Now, please heal quickly and take good care of yourself :)

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi there Anon - Thanks for your comment. I'm guessing that it is the first and only post you have read on this blog. You will find a whole series on how deodorant works, why we sweat and articles on each of the most common deodorant actives as well as individual articles on each of the deodorant ingredients I work with if you click Deodorants under the TOPICS on the right. Among those posts you will also find a dedicated article about how and why baking soda works as a deodorizer.

If you read the MSDS (Material safety data sheet) on sodium bicarbonate, you will find there are warnings of skin reactions with prolonged use on skin. Baking soda is not made for direct contact with skin. It also needs buffering before being used in anything with direct contact to skin. I haven't seen a single DIY baking soda deodorant recipe that comes close to living up to these requirements.

Still, it could be fun to put up a poll on the blog and ask people if they use baking soda deodorant and if they have or have not reacted to it.. I may do that. Thanks for the inspiration.

Cheryl said...

Well I am experiencing a rash and pimples under my pits after 2onths of using baking soda and water. Not sure what to do to let heal. I tried bentonite clay with acv this morning as my skin does well with this. Wil not be shaving until heals. Help any suggestions?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Cheryl,

My best suggestion for you is to try and use nothing while waiting for healing. I know that doesn't sound like much fun, but perhaps you will be able to speed the healing process by applying pure aloe vera (gel or spray on).

Maybe the crystal deodorant stone will be an option to try while healing.. This is pure potassium alum - and it is sold as 'crystal deodorant stone'. I hope this is some help, and I hope you heal quickly!

Lisa said...

I used a DIY deodorant 1/3 cup coconut oil, 1/3 cup arrowroot and 2 tablespoons baking soda. I liked it at first, told many people about it. I did get irritation after showering so I made sure not to apply until I was completely dry.

Within the first week I noticed some redness butt didn't think much of it. It wasn't until the end if week 2 I noticed my armpits turned brown and they seemed dried out, wrinkly. I stopped using my deodorant and went back to dove for a week and a half. My armpits are finally back to normal.

I'm glad I found your post. I thought I may be the only one with this reaction since there are so many of the same recipes out there. The search continues for something that'll work for me.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Lisa,

First, THANK YOU for posting a name! It is somehow so much easier to reply to a name.

I'm so pleased you have healed properly and are no longer struggling with 'baking soda burn'.

Have you ever tried using the crystal deodorant stone? This is potassium alum - is a natural mineral and quite safe for use. I wrote a post about it in the deodorant series (see under topics on the right). You might find this useful. There is also a recipe for a DIY deodorant on the blog as well. When I use that in conjunction with the crystal deodorant stone I get all day protection. Just a suggestion.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,
I attended the 10th Keele conference on aluminum toxicity in England Feb. 2013 an was really Scientifically satisfied along with other scientists that find antiperspirants and crystal style stone(yes they are in the aluminum world)are truly harmful to the function of the lymphatics(also linked to affecting MC-7 cancer cells). Today one can plainly see the effects using Thermography to detect the changes in the body especially to the cellular waste impeded from draining from the breast to the axilla(underarm). Dr. Darbre and Dr. Chris Exley are two of the most notable authors to aluminum toxicity in deodorants. In my investigation there is a link to using crystal style stone and thyroid health. Ever notice two horizontal lines in some people's neck and a slight sagging, that is because the thyroid lymphatics are linked to draining into the the underarm and stagnation of waste fluid create a buildup of mineral waste such as alums salts.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anon - thanks for your input. You are correct that large amounts of aluminum are dangerous to health. There have indeed been studies on this in conjunction with people who were massively overexposed due to accidents, spills etc. I believe this is one of Dr. Exley's specialities. As far as I understand, Dr. Darbre is not focused on the effects of aluminum as much as preservatives as possible carcinogens. However, your comment reads a little like you are mixing scientific study results from massive overexposure with some of the classic scare-campaign mistruths that have been circulating the net in later years. It is a common misconception that ingredients in deodorant and other personal care products can penetrate the skin to a much greater degree than is actually possible.

You are incorrect about potassium alum. I encourage you to check out the deodorant section on this blog for posts about aluminum and deodorant as well as other ingredients that have been spotlighted in later years. There are links in these posts to documentation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lise,
In response to your opinion, I would like to say Dr. Darbre paper at the 10th Keele Conference focus on aluminum and MC-7 cells, as a attendee we had first hand knowledge from her that a small amount of aluminum in antiperspirants increases cancer cells proliferation. We have the list of studies from the 10th Keele with her work included available for anyone that is interested. Darbre other studies includes the concentration of alumunium in breast cyst and tumors. In another study Dr. Exley found that the alum in antiperspirants was found also in the urine(1%) of the subjects tested, leading one to believe aluminum in antiperspirants travel within the human body. Exley's opinion as well as other leading Scientist such as Darbre, Mannello, that study the connection to aluminum and breast cancer, agree potassium alum is an aluminum and if you purchase it from a manufacture they will ship it as an aluminum product(MSDS)required. Our company even had a stone lab analyze the several crystals and their results show that the potassium alum belong in the aluminum category (AL 26.982).
The testing today is so superior to the old methods that the aluminum manufactures used and avoided detection for tissue and DNA damage and now antiperspirants and crystals deodorants are grandfathered. The FDA gives the crystal deodorant a "drug" status and as long as these are marketed as "cosmetics" they are allowed.
What I'm currently working on is the concentration of aluminum in liver and it association with breast health. It would be best not to use aluminum products as they tend to lodge in tissue(DarbreDOI10.1002/jat.1384) such as breasts and given that radiation from mammograms tend to absorb into metals such as aluminum salts. If the underarm are clogged with alum salts how does the lymphatic fluids from the breast exit the underarm?
How would one know these issues if they were not aware of the facts already. I would welcome a discussion of these issues if your interested. Given the social cultural pattern of using antiperspirants and crystals I understand the idea that many of us are unwilling to change but there are better scientific proven healthier alternative deodorants available today.
Mike Fessler

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for writing your name.
I'm sorry, but you are still mixing science with some of the more popular misinformation that scaremongers have so successfully spread.

You write as if it is a given that aluminum is readily absorbed through the skin by using deodorant containing aluminum. This is not a given. It is a given that humans are exposed to aluminum throughout their lives – a large part via the food and drink that they consume, but also through physical contact (aluminum objects such as cans/tins are an everyday thing).

Even if a person applied a deodorant containing aluminium salts every single day of their life, they would still be getting less aluminium through their deodorant than they get naturally through the food and water they consume.

This is a fact, not my opinion.

You mention people should steer clear of aluminum in products and that studies are ongoing. Wouldn't it seem most logical to study the aluminum that is consumed as this is where the majority of the exposure comes from?

It has has already been established that the skin is not as readily permeable as many of the scaremongers touting the dangers of 'chemicals in cosmetics' would have everyone believe. Science has not yet been able to state categorically how much skin absorbs of any ingredient, because it depends on a plethora of factors. Even applying the same product to the same skin at 2 different times of day gives different readings. Why do you think most medicines are delivered internally? Because topical delivery of most active ingredients has not been successful or consistant enough to be reliable.

As for potassium alum, you will find that the only toxicology warnings there are consist of : 'a weak irritant to the skin'. Again, you are mixing fact with misínformation.

I'm afraid the only thing we can agree on is that overexposure to aluminum is not healthy. On that point, we most definitely do agree.

Anonymous said...

hi thank you so much for posting this, I started using baking soda in my pubic region to avoid b.o and my under arms, my underarms haven't been burning but have turned black the public region however has turned beat red and look like my skin has peeled it also burns, the skin has turned a dark brown in some places, will this go back to normal eventually?

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Anon - thanks for your question. It really sounds to me like you need to have your doctor look at this. It will go back to normal eventually, but from your description you may need some medical attention here. Meantime, stop using the baking soda deodorant and try applying some aloe vera neat to calm any itching. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for publishing this. I have been using a 1/3 baking soda, corn starch and coconut oil recipe for a few weeks after I had a bad reaction to Tom's of Maine Lavender DO. I was fine for a while but then my pits started to itch. Now they are dark and there is some real read parts and it is spreading to above my breast. I have an aloe plant in the bathroom. I am going to try applying that and also will get some crystal DO in the mean time. Thanks so much for helping me. Frannie.

Lise M Andersen said...

H Frannie,

Ouch!! Itsounds like you need to visit the doctor to be sure things aren't getting our of hand. It worries me that you write the irritation is spreading. As for using Aloe directly from the plant, you must be a bit careful here as there is a skin irritant in between the aloe and the fibrous plant part, so extracting the aloe must be done carefully. I hope you feel better real soon!

amanda said...

Hello Lise! Love your blog.

I noticed in a previous comment that you had the idea for a poll on reaction/non-reaction. I would kind of like to see that! I'd be interested to see the results.

I use a DIY deodorant that has around a tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of finished product. (The rest is coconut oil and cornstarch.) I love it and have used it for over a year with no ill effect. I *think* that is more than one percent if my math is correct (which it may very well not be!), but I have had no problems with redness or itching, etc. Of course it is nowhere near twenty-five percent!

I would also be interested to know how many of the sellers online get repeat orders. That would be one way to gauge how well people like it!

I do totally get your point about too much being bad for your skin. I do wonder, though, if each person has a different toleration point since individual chemistries can be so different? I have one friend who uses about a half-and-half ratio of shea butter and baking soda and loves it (and has done so forf a long long time), and I have another friend who can't use baking soda at all (she ended up using a crystal instead).

I'm not trying to be attitude-y or anything. I just wonder if more people love it than it seems.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Amanda - Thanks so much for your kind words and your input! I am so pleased you brought up the poll idea again. It had completely slipped my mind.

I think I got stuck last time I considered it because I couldn't figure out how to put a poll together so it would give a truly neutral result. My conundrum: most of the people who find their way to my blog do so because they have had a skin reaction to baking soda deodorant. (This is evident from my blog stats). Therefore, my main worry is: if I poll people on this blog, I would most likely be polling mostly people who have had a reaction to using baking soda deodorant.

I'd love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have as to how to tackle that one.


amanda said...

Maybe do a multi-site poll? I don't know if you could talk Wellness Mama and Crunchy Betty into posting a similar poll? That might draw a more evenly representative crowd.

Or perhaps ask some of the more popular online sellers if they have repeat customers? (I don't know if they share that kind of info. I am not a blogger or a seller, just an avid reader. And I love to DIY products.)

Just a thought!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Amanda - yeah, I considered a multi-site poll, but I think this would not give a neutral enough result either.

To be completely fair, I think a poll would need to be placed with a third party...

I think asking any online sellers to share how many repeat sales they have wouldn't give a clear picture either (and I think they would be hesitant to divulge this kind of information).

I shall put my thinking cap on once more and see if I can't come up with a solution here.
Thanks for your input!

Anonymous said...

Lavilin is really good if you have sensitive skin. I am allergic to most deodorants and anti-perspirants out there but Lavilin is perfect for me. Smells really great as well and lasts 7 days!

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Anon - thanks for the tip! I don't know this brand, but am going to check them out.

una said...

So, I shouldn't even think on making a facial scrub with baking soda, right? Can you give me some suggestions of ingredients to make a scrub that would not damage my skin. Thanks.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Una - thanks for your question. If you are looking for gentle exfoliation that is also good for the skin, I can recommend using oats. Whiz them in a blender until it looks like flour, then use as you would a 'dry grain' scrub: add a bit of water and make a paste in your hand, then apply and massage onto face and neck. You can also add almond flour to this mixture if you like.
Also, if you want a little extra herbal action, grind and add dried herbs of choice (lavender, calendula, chamomile, etc). Let me know how it goes!

L. A. Howard said...

Wow! This post is awesome! I've been looking into more natural/vegan products for my skin and beauty needs, and just stumbled upon the whole "make your own deodorant" thing today. First time I saw baking soda as an ingredient, I didn't think it was a good idea. Thanks so much for the detailed info! It *really* helps me to understand what's going on out there! :D

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi L.A. Howard - I'm so glad this was of some help to you ! Have a great weekend


Anonymous said...

If you are going to say that aluminum is totally fine, you must provide scientific proof. Aluminum has been linked to some awful stuff like Alzheimer's in proper studies. I would honestly love to see the articles that have led you to your conclusions.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anon. If you read this post, there are several links to documentation at the bottom.

Boo Redux said...

Hi, I use diy baking soda deodorant with no issues. Since I am not getting any rash or irritation, is it safe to continue use? (i've been using it for about 2 years with no problems and am very happy with it's effectiveness)

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Boo, I think it's great that you have been going 2 years without a reaction to your baking soda deodorant. If you are not reacting to it at all, then you might be one of those lucky few who don't react to it. I have however heard from some folks who went up to 5 years before getting any kind of reaction. You ask if it is unsafe to use. As long as you are not reacting to it at all, I see no reason to stop using it.
I'm curious: have you had no skin discoloration or no thickening of the skin at all?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've used baking soda + cornstarch for some. I've experienced the rash thing but on my the second week of usage the rash disappeared. But now im having this weird smell with baking soda when i sweat, it's like ammonia... Is this normal? I wonder if baking soda expires or is sensitive in heat... Maybe i should replace my DIY deo now....

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Anon - Thanks for sharing this! The fact that you are experiencing a worrying smell as pungent as ammonia has me concerned enough to where I think you should see your doc. There is no reason to gamble with your own health - please have this checked out and do let me know how it goes for you. I absolutely agree you should leave your DIY deodorant on the shelf until this is sorted out.

Stephanie said...

Hi there - I've been using a DIY deodorant made from coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch and arrowroot for almost 2 months. I didn't start to react until about two weeks ago so initially I was blaming anything but my great new deodorant -- which really worked well aside from the scary painful rash. I truly hesitate to go to my family practitioner because I know he's going to open the rx pad and send me on my way. Why do you think a doctors visit is necessary? I stopped using my deodorant and I plan to wait and see if the rash goes away. What could be so bad that I need a doctor?

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Stephanie - Thanks for sharing. If you aren't super worried about the skin reaction you may not need to visit your doctor. I always recommend folks see their doc if they are in doubt. I hope your pits heal soon! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Drew.
I turned to the DIY deodorant because of the aluminum scare. While your blog post puts me at ease over aluminum somewhat, I'm still skeptical of it. I have been using this for a few months, 3 Tbsp virgin coconut oil, 3 Tbsp Baking Soda, 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder, 2 Tbsp Shea butter, and essential oil. I originally suspected the essential oil for the rash I get at times but thought to myself look into the baking soda. I find the deodorant works great until I become very active. Hot days, lots of sweat, and lots of movement really seem to trigger the rashes but they usually go away by the next day. Sill I am concerned that I could hurt myself if I continue to use the current formula. I was going to modify the formula and try a lot less baking soda. 4 Tbsp virgin coconut oil, 4 Tbsp Shea butter, 4 Tbsp Beeswax, 4 Tbsp arrowroot powder, 1.5 Tbsp Baking soda, and essential oil. I do like the DIY deodorant but can't continue to use in its current state. Am I playing with fire?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Drew- thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like you are indeed playing with fire with the amount of baking soda you are using in your recipe. If you want to use baking soda, adjust the amount to under 1%, and you will also need to adjust the pH of the product so you are not applying such an alkaline mixture and leaving it on your skin for hours on end. Baking soda is a skin irritant, and if applied to skin - particularly in a leave-on product - the pH has to be adjusted.

drew said...

what ingredients do you recommend to balance the ph of a deodorant with 1 percent baking soda?

drew said...

what ingredients do you recommend to balance the ph of a deodorant with 1 percent baking soda?

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Drew - to adjust the pH in a water-based formula, citric acid is inexpensive and useful. Many soap making suppliers sell citric acid in a solution so you can add it by the drop.

drew said...

that sounds great. thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

ALUMINUM/ALUMINIUM and ALUM (=natural mineral salt bought in powdered form or as a crystal or present in natural deodorants) are two completely different things. If you really want to ignore the dangers of ALUMINUM/ALUMINIUM (i.e. its contribution to Alzheimer, etc) please know that there is a more immediate side effect: it blocks perspiration. Sorry, I often read your blog but this specific post is kind of 100% misleading.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Anon - You are absolutely right about alum and aluminium not being the same thing. I'm a bit confused as to how you think this post is misleading?

Chris said...

Since using coconut oil and then applying baking soda with a make-up brush I HAVE TO SHAVE LIGHTLY.

If I SHAVE TOO CLOSE then the BAKING SODA causes a rash.

Anonymous said...

Lisa - If I use up 20 oz of deodorant then it is not absorbed? It is clearly going somewhere and it is not on my clothes? It has to be absorbed - it works so well, afterall.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Chris - Do I understand correctly- you are applying coconut oil to your armpits, then a light dusting of baking soda with a make-up brush? It's pretty lucky that you haven't had any other reactions than a light rash if shaving closely. I wonder if you have been using this method for very long.. I hope it continues to work for you, and if it does, you are among the very few who can tolerate baking soda straight up on the skin like that. Best of luck

Hi Anon - deodorant works by maintaining a bacteria-unfriendly pH on the skins surface. Our skin's job is to be a protective barrier - and it's very good at its job! Getting ingredients ( like some medicines etc) to be absorbed through the skin is something scientists have worked on for years. The simple fact is, we don't absorb nearly as much as we think through our skin. So to answer your question, you are spreading a thin layer of product on your skin with a deodorant - not absorbing it. :)

Dave said...

Hi Lisa, interesting post, you do come accross as quite biased maybe with good reason, i guess without as many polls as possible posted online in a variety of places we can only go on experience and scientific research. I dry myself off after a shower then dust my armpits with sodium bicarbonate and it works really well for me, no bo, no irritation & no change in colour, i will keep a close look on it, i find the European comission have funded excellent scientific research on endocrine disruptors and choose to stay away from all suspected hormone mimicing nano particles, take a look at the research, it is very informative. As for the pH of sodium bicarbonate, i prefer a slightly alkaline (like the natural pH of our body) material to come into contact with it rather than the acidic levels you recommend as those are more likely to cause rritation. You mention balancing the pH sodium bicarbonate with acid, this will simply react producing water, salt and carbon dioxide so there is not really any point recommending people do this unless you think using salt is a good thing? Thank you for the very biased post, it makes for great debate and interesting comments section!

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Dave - Thanks for your input. I find it interesting that you see this as a biased post, when I am merely stating facts. You have not had any reaction to using baking soda as a deodorant. That's great, but if you can continue to use it without issue (some people go up to 10 years before getting a reaction), then you can count yourself among the lucky approx 11% that don't get reactions to it.

Our skins natural pH is not alkaline, as you write, but acidic. The average pH is around 4.8. There is a reason the skin is referred to as the acid mantel. May I suggest you check out this post (and the links to documentation) about the skins pH.

Naomi Quiles said...

Hi, I started using a homemade deodorant and it's made my under arms black. I have stopped using the deodorant but I would like to know how to remove the large black spots on my arm pits. Please help!!!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Naomi - Oh dear that doesn't sound good at all. If stopping using the deodorant doesn't make the problem go away, I think you should visit your doctor for a look. I really hope it disappears quickly!

K. Reed said...

Thank you so much for this post. My family has been plagued with breast/lymph node cancer, and someone told me (or maybe I read it on the INTERNET...) that aluminum can cause cancer, so I tried using baking soda. Straight up baking soda, applied with a makeup brush. at first, it seemed great. No odor, etc., and much easier and cheaper than even making my own or purchasing expensive "organic" ones. After about a week tho, I started to itch like crazy, and I noticed that my armpits had darkened to a pretty deep brownish purple color. It was horrifying. I could see exactly where I had been applying it too, because it was in a perfect brush swipe area and all the rest of my skin was perfectly normal. I'm waiting things out and just applying baby powder with cornstarch (it's summer and sooo hot). The itchiness is gone, but the discoloration remains. I hope it goes away, it's really pretty awful looking. :(

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there K. Reed - ouch! Sounds like you had a less than satisfying experience with baking soda on the skin. Have you tried using aloe gel to soothe? I've heard several mention they had luck with aloe to stop itching and redness. I'm sure your armpits will return to normal given time. If it seems too long though, don't hesitate to visit your doc for a professional opinion. I've heard from folks who have had some pretty serious reactions...

K. Reed said...

Since my last post, the itching has subsided completely and the skin that darkened is peeling off, revealing normal colored skin beneath. Thank goodness!!! Thank you for this post, it made me feel so much better.

Cathy said...

I had similar bad reactions to the DIY baking soda deodorant, coconut oil, and peppermint oil. My underarms turned dark brown to black, red, bumpy, and it was peeling. It was scary looking. This was 2 weeks ago and I was using it for maybe a month. I found this DIY on Alternative Daily website. Well right now, I'm in the healing process where the bumpy red rash is gone but the discoloration is still there. Right now, i'm using hydrocortisone for the redness and a mixture of the ACV and water for the body odor. I was wondering once it all heals, will there be any reoccurrence with these same symptoms? I'm so scared. I also want to combat the b.o. naturally. Any suggestions? Please help!

Lise M Andersen said...

hey there K. Reed -
I'm so glad you are getting better! Thank you for updating - now stay healthy and happy!


Hi Cathy -

Oh dear - it does sound like you've had a pretty nasty experience with baking soda deodorant. I'm pretty sure the symptoms wont reappear if you stay away from baking soda deodorant. As for alternatives - there are a couple you might want to try. Potassium alum (otherwise known as deodorant crystal) is safe and quite efficient. If you want to do your own deodorant, there is a recipe for a DIY deodorant without baking soda on this blog - check the how to page. I wish you the best of luck with it. Please do check back and let me know how it goes with you-- ok?

Amanda King said...

Apparently I am one of the many who is sensitive to baking soda. I did not make my own deodorant, instead I used the product in my hair. I recently stopped shampooing my hair and started using a mix of castile and coconut oil instead as I was having so much trouble finding a good shampoo for myself. I had not used heat on my hair or colored it in years and yet it was so dry and just horrible. After a few days, I could hardly stand how oily my hair was! Someone told me to use baking soda to wash it and, against better judgment, I did. I thought maybe it would be okay (despite what I know about it) and I was desperate! I broke out in a horrible rash across my shoulders, back, arms and around my underarms. I was interested in finding out if it was a common reaction for other people, too, and found your post (along with MANY others) advising against it or in moderation. I would never recommend using baking soda for ANY skin or hair care use. I am all for the "natural" and homemade products, but people should definitely take care and remember that everything is made of "chemicals".... Thank you for your post and good luck to other ladies and guys looking for their own best skin and hair care!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Amanda - Thanks for sharing this. You are not in a minority - most people have a reaction to baking soda with prolonged skin contact. I must admit though, your experience with it sounds really painful. It must have been a bit of a shock as well. I hope you are well over the reaction and doing well!

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, i didnnt come across this article before using pure baking soda as a powdered form of deodorant. and over the past couple days my armpits have turned incredibly dark and leathery and somewhat red. i want to cry over them, it's that horrible. do you know if it will go away or what i can do to fix it?

Thank you in advance for your help.

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Anon - I'm glad you have found some help in this post. Your armpits will return to normal if you keep them away from the baking soda. In the meantime, applying aloe vera can offer some relief from any burning or itching that may occur. I wish you the best of luck.

Caitlyn said...

Hey there--just wanted to say that you really handled a lot of negative comments with grace and poise, and I appreciate that (its usually an additional "brownie point" in favor when I am weighing the points and research mentioned).

There were so many responses that I did not read them all, so I apologize if you've answered this question specifically, but as someone who's made a few DIY deodorant version now, I was hoping for your recommendations on how to modify my current recipe (which I love, and have only started to have the barest "maybe-thats-a-reaction-maybe-I-shaved-too-close" reaction to, but after reading your article I'd like to change it now before I do have a bad reaction).

I've made variations of the 50% coconut oil, 25% arrowroot, 25% baking soda + essential oils recipe a few times now, and any time I've had reactions(nothing as bad as some others have described, but itchiness and some zits even) I've chalked it up to the fact that it's a liquid I have to mix around and I wasn't great about washing my hands before.

My questions are: 1) how reasonable of a theory is that (the having dirty hands theory, that is, that I have been introducing bacteria into the deodorant), and do you have any recommendations for the best way to apply less-solid deodorants?

2)I did some math, and realized that I would have to make a huge batch to "modify" my current deodorant to weaken the baking soda enough, so can you tell me instead why there aren't more recipes that use 2:1 coconut oil and arrowroot powder, with only a small amount of baking soda? Is arrowroot powder just not that effective, or only effective when used with baking soda?

Everything you've said about baking soda makes sense, but I haven't read much about why arrowroot powder is usually included in tandem. Does it do anything by itself or is it just filler?

I know this was a super long comment, your thoughts are greatly appreciated and I apologize if you answered this and I didn't see it!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Caitlin,

Thank you so much for your input and kind words! Let's have a look at your questions:

1. The dirty hands theory. This is always a relevant question. As your deodorant is anhydrous (contains no water), there is nothing in it that bacteria can thrive in. However- if you've been dipping wet fingers into the solution, then there is a risk of contamination.

As for applying less solid deodorants: how about the back of a tablespoon? Dipping a spoon into the mixture and letting it drip off before applying might work. I often use the back of a teaspoon to apply a face mask, and they work surprisingly well. I imagine it would be just as useful for a liquify-type deodorant.

2. Your question about arrowroot is quite interesting.

Arrowroot - applied topically, is said to help heat rash and sunburn, so the assumption may be that the arrowroot will help counteract irritation from the baking soda. Unfortunately, there are no studies on this. I have heard from many who have excellent results using clay (kaolin), which is quite neutral and skin friendly.

Try mixing some clay in with the arrowroot. You can pretty much mix and match the powders to your preference, as long as you keep the baking soda at or under 1% of the total weight of the product. If your mixture weighs 100 grams, you'll want max 1 gram of that to be baking soda.

You could also consider adding potassium alum (in powdered form) to your mix. This is also known as 'deodorant crystals' or 'crystal stone deodorant'. This does have deodorising power and can actually be used solo as well.

I hope I have answered your questions. best of luck with your deodorant!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I really need your advice.
I’m using only baking soda as deodorant for couple of months now. I apply it mixed with water on my skin. My problem is that I get rash and pimples on my armpits. I think I have quite sensitive skin prone to pimples. I also tried mixing baking soda with olive oil but it’s not getting any better. I shave my armpits a couple of time on week, because my hair grow fast. I never apply it on fresh shaven skin, at night I only use baby powder. What should I do? Stop the usage? How to get rid of rash? Baking soda works very well for me, I don’t stink at all. That’s why I'd love to use it further more.
Thank you in advance for your help.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Laura,
It sounds like you need to try and find an alternative to the baking soda. Even though baking soda functions well as a deodorizer - it is a skin irritant and not made for prolonged skin contact - most especially unbuffered. In other words: your rash and pimples will most likely disappear if you stop using baking soda on your armpits.

Have you tried natural deodorant crystals? also known as crystal deodorant stone, this is a natural deodorizer that is much more skin friendly. It can be bought as powder or as a stone. The INCI name is potassium alum.

Best of luck with it!


April said...

I just want to say thank you very much for this article! I've been using a baking soda deodorant for the last year. It's 25% baking soda. It works great, but a few weeks ago I noticed that my underarms were suddenly getting dark and the skin looked thickened and strange, like chicken skin. Then two weeks ago I woke up and the dark areas were red and itchy. I've been doing online research trying to figure out what is causing it. The natural deodorant did cross my mind, but I was still using it off and on until today because I didn't want to smell. My skin has been getting better but not completely and it is still red, itchy and dark in places. I'm fairly certain now that is my deodorant, so I'm going to stop using it completely, try the aloe vera and the crystal deodorant.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi April,

Thanks for sharing this. You are not the only one to have a 'delayed reaction' to using baking soda directly on the skin. I hope you will be happy with the aloe and crystal deodorant. I have heard form many who do very well with this method (I use it myself in between testing my own deodorant products)

best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! I have been using the baking soda, coconut oil etc mix for about a month now and only recently noticed I started having some quite painful boils, how does baking soda cause boils?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anon - Baking soda is a skin irritant when applied directly to skin. Some people react violently to it, while a lucky few don't react at all. If you have gotten boils from it, it sounds like you are one of the folks who react violently to it. I cannot tell you why you would get build and some others don't react, as it is an individual thing..

Omega said...

In case someone already has a skin reaction from using sodium/natrium bicarbonate / baking soda and it's already too late to irrigate with cool water. Using an 5% acetic acid (vinegar) as a neutralizing agent might be the next best thing, but not better than seeing a doctor.
See the links below for more info about alkaline skin injuries:

By the way thanks for this blog Lise!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Omega - great input and thank you so much for sharing. :)

Mel said...

Thank you for posting this.
i am currently sitting here with two frozen corn cobs wrapped in dish towels stuffed in my arm pits after a horrible and immediate reaction to a diy baking soda deodorant. (Go ahead; picture it and have a giggle - I had no ice packs or peas available).

Nice to read a post that recognizes the limitations of the ' fix-all ', ' suits everybody ' mindset that many individuals have of ' going natural '. It doesn't work for everybody. I use baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash my scalp and hair, without any issues thus far, but I'll be thinking twice about it now.

Lise M Andersen said...

Ohmygosh Mel! I am so sorry to hear you had such a violent (and immediate) reaction to the baking soda. I can't help picturing the corn cobs and must admit you definitely did give me a g´bit of a giggle with your description. I hope you heal quickly and are soon back to having perfectly normal pits.

Out of curiosity - how long have you used the baking soda and vinegar method for your hair?

Mel said...

Haha, glad you got a chuckle out of it. I think you have to recognise the humour in these types of self-inflicted situations. I only wish I'd found your site sooner!

I've been washing my hair this way for about 6 months now. However, I dissolve the baking soda completely in boiling water first, as I found that making a 'paste' as some people describe made my scalp feel tight, although it didn't hurt. This probably removes a lot of the benefits that some people get from washing their hair with baking soda, but it is working exceptionally well for me. I have had chronic psoriasis on my scalp for about 16 years. I've tried all the lotions and potions, both prescribed, and those that claim to be natural/ organic etc., to no avail. This is the first time since the age of 10 that I haven't had embarrassing, giant yellow flakes through my hair, coupled with a red, itchy, irritated scalp. So I'm sure you can understand why I'm hesitant to stop using it.

Do you have any suggestions for alternatives that may not cause a reaction further down the track?


Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Mel - Wow, that is really interesting! I think you can probably worry a little less about your hair washing method for a couple of reasons:
1. You are not - as one does with baking soda deodorant - leaving this mixture on your skin/scalp. Rinsing it off immediately makes a huge difference.
2. You are following with an acidic rinse to pH balance.

If you are a little worried about possible reactions 'down the road', you might try to periodically use one of the products you used to use - one that seemed to help some - just so you have something to alternate with.

In general, it's never a good idea to continually use the same personal care products for extended periods of time - and that goes for cream, shampoo, soap, serum, face wash, face oil etc etc. If you can find 1 or 2 other alternatives to switch between, you'll probably do better in the long run.

Have tried any tea tree products? If there is a basic shampoo you like/can tolerate, you could even try adding a combination of tea tree and lavender essential oils to the shampoo to boost the effect. Commercially made products rarely have maximum doses of the active ingredients. Again - this is just so you have something to alternate with.

Also, have you ever tried a rhassoul scalp mask? This can also be 'pumped up' with added tea tree oil. This both washes the hair and soothes the scalp. Check the How To page on this blog for a recipe and step by step instruction.

You are welcome to email me directly if you have any further questions - I find your hair washing method and how it is helping you quite interesting and would love to hear more. My email is lise(at)lisalise(dot)com.

Thanks again for sharing.

Lynn P. said...

I have used the Crystal stone deodorant for years, and had marvelous luck with it. No smells, no irritation, and the stone lasts for about a year. For regular deodorant users it takes some getting used to, but it works great. I ran out, and started using baking soda, dry. My first time I rubbed too hard and the grains irritated my skin, but it passed within minutes. On the Arm and Hammer website it suggests "dusting" it under the arms. I agree. Today is my third day. I am careful, and gentle, using a pinch. I have no irritation yet that I know of. If I get any, I will return to my Crystal stone, which can be bought at health food stores and some regular stores, too. I think many reactions are not from the baking soda per se, but the essential oils which can be caustic and toxic, depending on which ones you use.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Lynn,

I agree with you about the crystal stone being reliable and long lasting. I hope you continue to have luck with baking soda as a deodorant. If you do, you are indeed among a small percentage of people who can tolerate it without getting a skin reaction.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Felicia -I got a partial comment and tried to publish it but it wouldn't go through. I apologize fro the trouble and hope you will try again. If you can't post a comment, feel free to email me- Check the sidebar for my contact info.

Anonymous said...

I use this homemade deodorant and have for about 5 years. I didn't realize any of the stuff about baking soda which you mentioned and I have experienced this irritation 3 or 4 times in 5 years however, this is the BEST and most effective deodorant I have ever used. If it is not irritating me on a regular basis, is there any good reason to stop using it? I only apply every other day usually (because it works that long). Thanks!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anon,

You are right about baking soda being an excellent deodoriser, and this is of course why so many choose to use it in their DIY deodorants.

You can count yourself among the lucky ones to not have experienced any more irritation than you have. The fact is though, the pH of baking soda is not in the least skin friendly. Baking soda is a documented skin irritant.

I have heard from a person who used DIY baking soda deodorant for 10 years before experiencing any kind of reaction. You also seem to be one of those lucky few who can tolerate it for a long period of time.

As for whether or not you should continue using it: this is something only you can decide.

I wish you the best - whatever you choose to do. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. It really helped me. I made a diy deodarant and it's been 2 weeks and my arm pits became discolored and very dry and leathery looking . I stopped immediately and now I need to figure out how to get them back to normal .thank you for your recipe I'll try that instead !

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Anon - to get your pits back to normal, try spritzing pure aloe vera juice - and staying away from any deodorant for a while. Best of luck with it!

Anonymous said...

You know, I've been using baking soda for about a week now and it's awesome. I actually feel cheated no one told me about this before

(It's funny, but I even went an extra day, just to experiment, and still smelled like nothing. Nothing)

Just straight baking soda. I use olive oil as a 'body lotion' (after reading about Bernando LaPallo) and sprinkle a little baking soda on my armpits with a little rub. Presto

Rashes? Really? It literally takes a sprinkle, people. I'm going to clean out an old Mrs. Dash shaker and it will be my deoderant for life. Best ever

Lise M Andersen said...

Best of luck with it Anon - perhaps you are one of the few percent who won't experience any problems.

Anonymous said...

This is my story!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi anon - thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

But I have eczema (in my genetics). And just plain Baking Soda has caused my skin to burn and harden. Every deodorant I've used has caused me to break out under my arms. What should I do?

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Anon - thanks for your input! It sounds like you are struggling with more than one person should need to! If every deodorant you have tried makes you break out, I'm wondering if potassium alum (crystal deodorant stone) might be a possible route for you. SInce the stone must be wet when applied, I would suggest wetting the stone with aloe vera juice. I hope this was of some help!

Anonymous said...

I tried making my own baking soda deodorant and have never been in so much pain! My armpits were on fire, full of bright, red irritated skin. It's a shame because I had noodour for days after one application.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anon - I'm so sorry to hear that! I hope your pits healed quickly and that you have found a useful alternative deodorant that works for you.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to replace deodorant with aloe vera gel?

Lise M Andersen said...

hey there Anon - that's a great question. Aloe Vera has a low pH and is quite skin friendly. it will most definitely not irritate the pits, but aloe has no built in deodorizing action. It might however, work in some respect, due to the pH. My best suggestion: give it a try and see how you do with it. Best of luck. :)