No Sweat - How Does Deodorant Work?

Welcome to the beginning of a new mini-series – all about deodorant.

Yay! (I hear you thinking)

As we examine what exactly goes on in armpits (and in the products we apply to them), we'll meet such fascinating ingredients as potassium alum, aluminum chlorhydrate, aluminum zirconium, farnesol and triethyl citrate. I promise not all of these are as scary as they may sound. As a matter of fact, I'm betting you may find yourself falling for one or 2 of them before we're done.

Deodorant? That's Not Very Sexy!

I am a reluctant developer of deodorant. It didn't interest me to work on such an 'unsexy' product, and wasn't until my husband and I had exhausted all of the available commercial and 'natural' brands with absolutely no satisfaction that I got serious about developing my own. At the time, all of the 'natural' brands we tried were too sticky, or didn't work for more than a hour, or both. The 'non-natural' brands had even less going for them – they were too sticky, far too perfumed, and all seemed to irritate our skin in one way or the other. There was nothing for it but to get cracking. Today, I'm glad I did. Not only do I have something that works really well for me (and my husband), but deodorants are among my most popular sellers.

The Quest For The Perfect Pit
One would think it a matter of simple chemistry to put together a non-sticky, effective-yet-mild, mildly-scented, skin- and planet-friendly deodorant. In theory – it is.

In reality, it has been a bit of a quest that has taken me several years and countless batches to develop. (Well, not countless, but I'd have to dredge up a lot of notes to get exact numbers. Suffice to say – it's a whole heck of a lot that borders on countless).

Going Green
I work with plant-based ingredients, using as many organic and planet-friendly ingredients as I can source (and there you have my definition of green). To make a 'green' deodorant, there is a fairly limited range of choices as to active ingredients, yet more than one might imagine. The ideal green solution for me has been a question of combining several different actives in just the right proportions. 

But before we get to the make-up of a deodorant, let's take a peek at what it is that makes us use deodorant in the first place.

Sweat is Unscented by Nature
Human sweat is actually pretty odorless – until it meets bacteria – the kind that thrives in hot, humid environments – like armpits. When bacteria moves in and starts partying on sweat (which it really loves to do), it releases a substance called trans-3-methyl-2-hexonic acid. It is this substance (that you can now practice saying out loud) that causes sweat to smell bad = body odor.

Washing isn't All That, But it's All We Have
We wash our armpits to remove body odor, but washing also causes the skin to loose its acid mantle. It actually disrupts the skins barrier – opening the door for a bacteria party. Even though washing the armpits helps create the perfect bacteria-growing area, it also provides a clean base for applying a trans-3-methyl-2-hexonic-acid fighting substance – like deodorant.

Coming Up
Next time, we'll start looking at some of the basic ingredients that make up a deodorant.

Stay tuned!

Do Tell!
Do you prefer deodorant or antiperspirant?

Visit the Deodorant FAQ Page


Noaa said…
Deo, as anti-p. makes me sweat more in the end...
LisaLise said…
Interesting, Noaa! Is it every anti-perspirant you've tried that gives you this reaction?
LisaLise said…
Thanks chaylife.. seems we have the beginning of a pattern here! :)
K said…
Definitely deodorant, and of the homemade variety! Even as a kid, I sweat like crazy... and every antiperspirant seemed to make it worse. Even the clinical kinds! My doctor was about to remove my sweat glands, but I decided to go the homemade route instead.

Ever since, I've been pretty much sweat free (even at the gym!), and odourless. Blisssss!!
LisaLise said…
Wow K!!
Sounds like you have something amazing that is working for you. I'd love to hear more. :)
K said…
Ah! Well, it's quite simple...

Mix together in a large bowl:

1 part baking soda
1 part cornstarch
2 parts melted (but not hot) coconut oil

Then, stir in your favourite essential oil blends, pour into a sterilized glass container and stick it in the fridge for a few hours so that it hardens up!

It's seriously so simple, and super cheap! The baking soda acts as a deodorant, the cornstarch absorbs any moisture, and the coconut oil makes it nice and nourishing for the skin. For the first little while it presented some very minor irritation when applied right after shaving, however even that has gone away.

It's even passed the sweaty man test! My partner uses it, also, and the very best part for him is that there are no yellowish-deodorant sweat stains on his business clothes anymore!

LisaLise said…
awesome! thanks so much for sharing! I've heard about the irritation from using this combo, and it has lept me from trying it, but maybe it's about time I gave it a try.
Anonymous said…
thank you so much for this! very informative
LisaLise said…
You are most welcome, Anon. :)