No Sweat - The Basic Makeup of Deodorant

Welcome to the second in this series about deodorants and their ingredients. In this post, we're going to look at the basic make-up of a deodorant. Even though there is a wide variety of types (stick, roll-on, cream, gel, aerosol), a deodorant consists pretty much of a base, texturisers, active ingredients, and a few 'extras'. Let's examine each part.

The Base

The base is the 'main carrier' of all the other ingredients. A stick deodorant can be fashioned from everything from cocoa butter to a mix of waxes and silicones. Roll ons, creams and gels are generally water-based.

If you're using an aerosol, you'll often find butane mixed with the most popular base ingredient of all – the common denominator of many commercial deodorants – alcohol. A large percentage of deodorants carry quite a hefty percentage of it. Alcohol is popular because it also partially acts as an active – temporarily killing bacteria. Unfortunately, alcohol also dries and irritates the skin, and – perhaps less desirable – encourages perspiration.

Is That Safe? 

With normal use, yes. Most people tolerate alcohol-based deodorant just fine. Unfortunately for my husband and me, alcohol-based deodorants bother our skin (which caused me to get serious about developing my own).

LisaLise Deodorant Base

Looking for gentler solution led me to ingredients such as hydrosols, floral waters, and aloe vera as the base for my deodorants containing water.

Texturizers and Helpers

A texturizer does just what it sounds like: helps create the desired consistency and feel of the product. Emulsifiers – texture-givers and emollients – are what make a cream deodorant creamy.

Your cream deodorant may have emulsifiers such as (petro-chemical based) disodium EDTA, (coconut-based) cetyl alcohol, or (coconut or palm oil-based) cetearyl alcohol on the ingredients list. Gels will have gelling agents such as (petro-chemical based) polyacrylic acid, various vegetable gums or even petroleum jelly.

Is That Safe? 

Yes. I have as yet to come across an emulsifier (even a petro-chemically based one) that has any substantiated health hazards.

LisaLise Deodorant Texturizer

My deodorants are at the moment all roll-ons with a slightly gel-like consistency. I use a seaweed called carraghen (INCI: chondrus crispus) or xanthan gum to create the desired texture.


Extra moisturising agents, any kind of added extract, and scent comes into this category. In commercial deodorants, you'll (unfortunately) often find that an advertised extra ("now with Aloe Vera!") is actually just a tip-in.

How to tell: if the advertised ingredient is listed after the preservative on the ingredients list, then it comprises under 1% of the product. It may well be much less. Legally, it may be as little as 0,05% of the product. (check this posting for more info about tip-ins).

LisaLise Deodorant Extras

My deodorants all have essential oils as extras. These function not only as scent, but as supplemental active ingredients. Doing bespoke cosmetics enables me to personalize a mix of essential oils (or leave them out completely). For example: last year, a regular client requested a deodorant with a citrus-like scent.

A Word About Preservatives

Preservatives are necessary in any product that contains water or, with its use, may come into contact with moisture. You will therefore find preservatives in deodorants. Some preservatives commonly found in deodorants – such as parabens – have been the subject of concern and fear. I have written several posts on parabens (please check under the topics list for preservatives if you are interested in reading more).

Long story short: although I have no concerns about most of the parabens (quite the contrary), you will not find parabens in my deodorants – at this time.

The Controversial...

The Breast Cancer and Deodorant Question

There are quite a few scare sites that warn of getting breast cancer from using deodorant. I will continue to research this, but from what I've found so far, science isn't ready to pull the trigger on deodorant as a cause of breast cancer. For example, The National Cancer Institute states
  • There is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.
  • Research studies of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer have been completed and provide conflicting results.
Find more info in this article.

What About the Actives?!

I didn't forget the active ingredients. They need a bit more space, so they each get to star in their very own post. Next we'll start looking at the active ingredients I use in my deodorants and – depending on how many questions you wonderfully inquisitive readers ask me – cover a few of the active ingredients commonly found in commercial deodorants.

Stay tuned!

Where it all Began

See the first part of the deodorant mini-series here.

Visit the Deodorant FAQ Page


Anonymous said…
Ok, I must admit -I'm super intrigued Ms. LisaLise! I too jumped on the DIY deo wagon, I too use baking soda in my deo recipe, but by work of the Almighty or idk, I got just enough in it to not irritate my skin lol. I didn't use anyone's recipe online, I researched for weeks and came up with my own. I wanted to know exactly what oils to use. I literally used a pinch for baking soda (must have gotten the pinch wrong in my aunt Liz 's batch because she broke out bad! I thought it was the oils, so I made her a new batch, changing one of the EO and she was good to go. Now, I know it was probably the baking soda, I also now know the exact amount to a recipe. I cannot thank you enough. Ok, about what's got me so intrigued- seaweed in deodorant huh? Would you be willing to share a diy recipe with us all, or at least, would you consider sharing the make up of a deo. Example: ingredient should make up this # or % for a base for deo, oils should make up this % of the recipe, powders, butters, etc.!? Thanks, Di
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - Thanks for your kind words. I like your question about sharing the basic makeup of a deodorant. Yes, I will put this on my to do list! Meantime, I do have a DIY deodorant recipe on this blog. Check the how to page. :)
LisaLise said…
Di - an afterthought - can you tell me what you want to include seaweed in a deodorant?