Why Your DIY Baking Soda Deodorant is Causing a Skin Reaction

(POST UPDATED: September 12, 2018) 

An overwhelming amount of comments and mails from readers prompted this post, and since it was first published in 2012, it has been visited by almost half a million people – all looking for answers as to why they are experiencing skin reactions from using deodorant with baking soda.

The skin reactions you've written me about have consisted of everything from 'a slight discoloration of armpits' to 'ending up in hospital with a 6 month recovery period.'

If you are looking for tips to relieve your rashy pits, please scroll to the bottom.
If you are looking for explanations as to the whys and hows, please read on.

Deodorant Ingredient Misconceptions

Misconceptions about deodorant ingredients have taken on a life of their own in recent years. Some of these misconceptions have frightened people away from commercial deodorants and prompted experiments with all kinds of alternatives – the most common (and damaging) being DIY deodorant (or purchased 'natural' deodorant) featuring baking soda as the active ingredient.

How it has become generally accepted that a deodorant with baking soda is more 'natural' and 'chemical-free' than a deodorant using other active ingredients is a bit of a mystery to me, but let's leave that discussion for another post.

There are 2 main misconceptions about 'natural deodorant' with baking soda that have been circulating so long, they are perceived as truth.

Natural Deodorant Misconception 1: Naturally Procured Baking Soda is Safer/Better/More Natural than Industrial Baking Soda

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 is neither milder, more gentle or a different grade of sodium bicarbonate. It has exactly the same properties, same chemical formula and same strength.

Natural Deodorant Misconception 2 : The Detox Hoax

Many people have gotten the idea that it is necessary to go through a 'detox period' when you switch from commercially made deodorant to a deodorant with baking soda. 

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 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.

A professional knows which ingredients will work and how to combine everything so it is best tolerated. A professional will create a functioning product that doesn't require 'a detox period'!

Let's Compare, Shall We?

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 Ingredients

  • 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. (under review by the FDA and Health Canada)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: chelating agent that works by binding to metal ions and thereby inactivating 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.

This is important, because fragrance is commonly about 0.5% in any leave-on product. For a deodorant, it would not exceed 0.5%.

But, let's be generous and say they've really poured on the fragrance and gone up to 1%. That would 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 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 of these DIY '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 of the Deodorant 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 Make Your Own Deodorant Using Baking Soda?

It's understandable why baking soda is such a popular ingredient for deodorants. It is an excellent deodoriser, is cheap, and easily accessible.

The downside: it is an irritant with prolonged skin contact.

If you still want to make and use your own baking soda deodorant, check the percentages of each ingredient in your formula (recipe). If necessary, adjust the amount of baking soda to under 1%. If you introduce liquids to your formula, remember to add a broad spectrum preservative.

It's All About You

Going the natural route and doing DIY products is great. But 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.

Thanks for listening to this 'old mother hen'.

Now, take good care of yourself!

Make Your Own Natural Deodorant 

Make your own baking-soda free deodorant - there's a FREE how-to right here.

100% Botanical Preservative-Free Deodorant

If you want to try making a 100% botanical, preservative free deodorant (with a 6 month shelf life!), I've developed 3 formulas that are included in this E-book (a complete natural cosmetics-making course-in-a-book for beginners).

Is The Damage Already Done From Baking Soda Deodorant?

Find some FREE helpful tips to treat your tender pits right here
Visit the Deodorant FAQ Page


Bajan Lily said…
Right on the money! Thanks!
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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: http://www.bubbleandbee.com/shampoofaqs.html). 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. :)
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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
LisaLise 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".
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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!
Anonymous 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.
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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
LisaLise 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!
Unknown 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!!!
LisaLise 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...
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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 :)
LisaLise 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.
Julia 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?
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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

LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon. If you read this post, there are several links to documentation at the bottom. http://www.lisaliseblog.com/2012/06/no-sweat-about-aluminium-and.html
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)
LisaLise 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....
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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. http://www.lisaliseblog.com/2013/10/skin-and-ph-whats-natural.html

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!!!
LisaLise 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. :(
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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?
Unknown 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!
LisaLise 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.

LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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..
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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?

LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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.

LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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 !
LisaLise 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
LisaLise 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!
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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.
LisaLise 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?
LisaLise 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. :)
Laura said…
Thank you for providing this information! I wanted to share my experience when I tried out this recipe, using unrefined shea butter. The substitution caused the deodorant I made to be much darker than what your have pictured as the finished product. Unfortunately, this decision meant that I ended up with a few dark muddy armpit stains on my clothing.. not attractive. I look forward to trying this recipe again with refined shea butter! Loved the smell, it was very earthy and the deodorant seemed effective while I was wearing it (I tried it out for a few days, and reapplied it about halfway through my day). The batch I made did seem to be a little tacky, but perhaps this was due to poor measurements on my part. I may add a little arrowroot powder to my next batch to try and lighten the color more. I mixed peppermint and basil essential oils and loved the combination! I found the peppermint to be rather cooling during application. Again, thanking for making this such an easy process! It has been a struggle to find an effective, natural deodorant.
LisaLise said…
Hi Laura - thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I think you will find working with refined shea will give you a lighter result. Tip: always measure by weight and be accurate for the best results. Best of luck with it!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this information Lise! I wish I had read this blog before attempting homemade deodorant a few months back. In the last week, my armpits finally became horribly red and painful after a few months use of the DIY deodorant. I'd like to note that I'm not the type of person who is overly sensitive and allergic to things. The recipe I used was exactly the one you listed with 23% baking soda. I will continue to make it at home (it really worked in terms of deodorizing and even kept my armpits fairly dry,) but will use much less baking soda. Thank you for your work and dedication to issues such as these, and more importantly, your presentation of BOTH sides of the issue. I really appreciate that, and I hope your readers do too. Have a wonderful day - Tina
LisaLise said…
Hey there Tina, Thanks for sharing your experiences with BS deodorant. I hope lowering the amount of BS in your deodorant helps, and would love to hear back from you on how it works out. Alternatively, you might consider using potassium alum (also called deodorant crystal) to see if this is an acceptable alternative. Best of luck with it!
Anonymous said…
I wish I had of read this page before I started using this deodorant. I've been using for about a month now and like you describe - I am covered in this awful rash, my skin went really crusty and hard. My lymph nodes have come up to fight the rash which is slowly going down now! Oh my lordy I wish I'd read this first! I was so excited about this natural solution and just did not expect this result!

LisaLise said…
Oh Kylile you poor thing! I hope your pits heal quickly and that you can continue your life without any more problems. Thanks for sharing this experience - perhaps your story will help others. Best of luck!
Anonymous said…
Follow-up: So it's been about a week since changing the recipe for the baking soda deodorant. I liked the idea of using coconut oil as it is believed to have anti-bacterial properties, and I think it's the bacteria that causes armpit BO, correct? I don't mind rubbing it on with my fingers like a lotion because I recently found a mass very near my left armpit and this type of application is a little more exploitative than just using the stick type. So I only used a fraction(1/2 tsp. to be exact) of baking soda and filled in the gap with the arrowroot powder. It does not work nearly as well and with the 1/4 cup baking soda amount as in the original recipe. As far as replacing potassium alum in the recipe, isn't the aluminum one of the metals that we try to avoid in commercial deodorants? Thank you in advance for your thoughts on this.

Unknown said…
I thought that I finally found a natural deodorant that actually worked and a few days later, my armits got darker, leathery feeling and started burning. I thought it was due to me being freshly shaven.

I went two days without it and at the end of the 2nd day, the redness was starting to go away.

I used it yesterday and only one of my armpits burned all day and is really red. Baking soda is listed as the second ingredient.
LisaLise said…
HI Jacquelyn, It sounds like you are also amongst the majority of people who react to exposure to baking side. I am a bit curious-- with baking soda listed as the second ingredient on the list, I cannot imagine this is a commercially made deodorant. Best of luck finding a suitable alternative. If you want to try making your own, there is a DIY deodorant recipe on the How To page of this blog :)
LisaLise said…
Hi Tina - so cool that you posted a follow-up! Thanks for sharing.

You asked about aluminum and if it isn't something we are all trying to avoid in our deodorants.

If you use an aluminum-based antiperspirant every day of your entire life, you would still be getting less aluminum from your deodorant than you are getting from your natural intake of food and water.

Aluminium chlorohydrate and Aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrate gly – commonly found in deodorants – do not cause cancer, alzheimers, or anything else. There is no factual, tested, or documented evidence of any kind that aluminum salts in deodorant are dangerous.

In short: the aluminum scare is quite comparable to the paraben scare - there is far more fear mongering involved than actual facts.

I wrote a post about aluminum and deodorant here http://www.lisaliseblog.com/2012/06/no-sweat-about-aluminium-and.html

Carl said…
Do you know how to help clear up a rash caused by a natural deodeorant with baking soda? It's been two weeks since the last application and I only used it twice. The itching is unbearable and doesn't seem to be letting up. Any advice?

Itchy Carl. :)
Anonymous said…
Hi there, I want to share my experience in case it is helpful, especially for those who really wish they could continue their baking soda deodorant. My experience is similar in that I got a rash like others have described from using a DIY deodorant with:
8 tbsp. of coconut oil
4 tbsp. of cornstarch and
3 or 4 tbsp. of baking soda.

BEFORE the DIY deodorant I wasn't shaving at all because of a rash I had gotten a while back after shaving so I was taking a long break from shaving. I am very strong smelling and for the longest time the only deodorant that worked was mitchum, then I switched to Kal Crystone roll-on and was doing well for a while. Then I got that shaving rash and I could not tolerate ANYTHING.

After healing for a week I decided not to return to stoe bought deodorant because I really dislike them, and how hard it is to wash them off of me and my clothes etc. I started the DIY deodorant with the proportions I wrote above. After I realized I was probably reacting to it, I tried to go back to regular deodorant again but it was worse than before.

I decided to change the proportions on my recipe and for the last week have been using it.
I made a smaller batch since it was just an experiment to see if it would work.
I used
5 tbsp. of coconut oil
3 tbsp. cornstarch
ONLY 1/2 (HALF) tbsp. of baking soda.
I decreased percentage of baking soda from 20% to only about 3%.

The rash I had has pretty much completely healed this week even though I've been applying the new one that still has a little baking soda. I sometime itch a little bit but only later in the evening after getting home from work. What I've been doing is in the evening after work I wash my underarms to wash off deodorant and I just apply plain unrefined coconut oil. The next morning I wash up like usual and apply the deodorant. AND the deodorant still works to control the smell like before. The first day of changing to new deodorant the smell was bad after I washed it off but not anymore.

I will keep this up if it continues to work well as long as I don't get that rash again. I will consider trying your non baking soda recipe if this deodorant starts causing trouble.
LisaLise said…
Hi Carl -ooh that itchiness sounds uncomfortable. Try applying aloe vera gel or spritzing with aloe vera in liquid form- that should help alleviate some of the discomfort. best of luck!
LisaLise said…
Hey there Pati - Thank you for sharing this! I hope it continues to work for you over an extended period of time.
Jackie said…
Interesting! Baking soda deodorant has been amazing for me. The one I bought in South Africa contains shea butter, coconut oil, bicarb, corn flower and essential oils in that order. I have never suffered a reaction and it works far, far better than any other deo I have ever tried. You literally need a tiny amount. So maybe your post applies to those with sensitive skin or perhaps a lot of the recipes out there are just wacko.

As an aside, my friend's mother got breast cancer and her oncologist actually advised her to stop using regular deodorant.
LisaLise said…
Hi Jackie,

Thank you for sharing this. I can't help wondering how long you have been using baking soda in your deodorant, because I have heard similar stories from many people. Some can go for quite a while before their skin reacts. I hope you are one of the hardy ones who never has a negative reaction to baking soda deodorant.

Anonymous said…
I bought a DIY-style coconut oil deodorant from Amazon because I wanted to switch to something more natural. Within a week of using it I broke out in a terrible rash. My underarms have red bumps all over and they burn. Ouch! I found this site looking to see what might be causing it and now I know it must be the baking soda. It's such a shame because I was amazed at how well it worked. I had zero odor, even if I had to skip a shower. Nothing has ever worked so well for me before. :(
Anonymous said…
I never had a problem. Just use Baking Soda. Nothing else. Duh
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon - I can't help wondering how long you have been using baking soda straight up as deodorant. I've heard from some who used it for several years before getting a reaction. Let's hope you are among the small percentage of people who never get a reaction to it. Best of luck.
Anonymous said…

when i read about harm from baking soda, mostly ph is used as an argument. But seawater has also ph around 7,5-8,5 and there are people swimming there for hours daily... And a lot of ill people get adviced to spend more time at the sea because its healing.
Doesn't make sense to me :/
I use baking soda as bath for feets bcz i used to have hard and dry skin and these baths are awesome!
That's why i was thinking to use it as deodorant and whole body baths.
Are you sure baking soda is so bad?
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon -

Baking soda has many uses and is a very versatile ingredient. I am not saying it is bad. As a foot bath - dissolved in water as you are using it, is an excellent use for baking soda.

Baking soda mixed into an anhydrous (water-free) formula is creating a double-problem: introducing an unfriendly pH but also direct contact with the chemical on the skin. Baking soda is an abrasive and irritant with direct contact.

melwein said…
Thanks for posting this. Finally, someone with actual sources pointing out the hazards in homemade products!
LisaLise said…
Thank you Melwein - I hope I have been of some help :)
Heather in NY said…
I am so relieved to read your post and the comments on this issue of baking soda causing a negative reaction, especially from home crafted deodorant. What an eye-opener!

I experienced the most unexpected underarm darkening and irritation from a home crafted deodorant with baking soda in it. I had not used any deodorant whatsoever for approximately six months prior to purchasing my first (well researched) home crafted deodorant.

I responded wonderfully to this first product; the ingredients were of high quality and even included baking soda. Unfortunately, it was out of stock, due to high demand, go figure :), and I purchased an alternative, with what appeared to have the same ingredients. Within a few days I noticed slight irritation. Assuming my body was adjusting, I used it for a few more days.

After 5 days, I was left with very dark underarms and a rash that rivaled the itching of a yeast infection. Within days of stopping, I was relieved of the itching but now have very dark underarms and had no idea what to do about it or what had actually caused it. Until now, that is. :)

Needless to say, I went back to the original product I was using with great success and have been very pleased. Thanks again to all for the great comments and information that has been provided. Now I'm off to rid myself of my pits of darkness lol
LisaLise said…
Hi Heather - Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm glad you are on the road to itch-free and happy pits!
Anonymous said…
I would like to say the commercial deodorants are really not good. Did you see the ingredients in the Arm & Hammer...and they have a nerve to call it natural. Nothing commercially made is natural. Propylene Glycol by itself is bad for your body. I cannot use solid or roll-in dedorants because it causes a rash and turn my armpits dark. Theerfore, just like with some of the food that I eat, I'd rather make things myself because at least I can control what goes into it.
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon,

I'm not sure I quite agree with you about commercial deodorants being bad. Of course there are some people with allergies to some ingredients, and there are some commercial deodorants and cosmetics that are superior to others, but all in all, I think we can assume that the manufacturers of cosmetics are not out to kill us off -- they would loose all their customers! That said, I also understand wanting to DIY - because the control factor is a great thing. :)
Anonymous said…
Hi! Thanks for the article!

About 4 months ago I wanted to switch to a natural deodorant (without aluminum), so I went from using an antiperspirant (scented secret gel) for years without irritation to Tom's. I immediately developed red, itchy & stinging underarms. I then switched to Arm & Hammer's deodorant and my condition didn't improve. The stinging stopped, but my armpits remained red and felt...wrong. So then I switched to a homemade coconut oil & baking soda deodorant that my friend's daughter made. The stinging stopped, but my armpits are still discolored - kind of a light brown hue and they randomly turn bright red. No real itching or stinging anymore. I assumed that sodium stearate was the culprit, because Tom's and Arm & Hammer both contain that...baking soda isn't in Tom's, so I thought it was okay. I also read an article about "detoxing pits," and felt relieved...man do I feel like a tool! After reading this I will stop using any baking soda or sodium stearate, and go back to an antiperspirant.

In the meantime, should I avoid using any deodorant, or is it okay to use secret right away? Is it okay to continue shaving? :( I workout about 5x times per week, so not using deodorant would be ugly, I'm sweat quite a bit!

Thanks again! ;( xx
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon - thanks for sharing this! If your pits are still irritated, perhaps you can refrain from using any deodorant until just before your workout - then wash off again immediately afterwards. It's a good idea to let your armpits return go normal before applying any deodorant - but I realize that is easier said than done. Also, go easy on the shaving -- gently does it! If you try applying aloe vera gel to clean pits - it should help soothe and encourage the healing process. Best of luck with it!
Anonymous said…
I pour liquefied organic, unrefined coconut oil into an empty deodorant container ( cheap on amazon ) put it in the fridge and use it as my deodorant before bed. it keeps my pits soft and me feeing fresh all night.also its cold from the fridge and feels refreshing and goes on easily. during the day I use it also as a " protective base " and then soon after I put on a little regular deodorant. This makes me feel better about the chemicals in deodorant. I tried the baking soda DIY kind even with just a tiny bit of baking soda and it made me itch to much so plain old coconut oil it is!
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon - I love this idea! Have you tried using just the oil during daytime as well? I've read that some find it 'the perfect deodorant'.
Unknown said…
Hi, Ms. Andersen. :)

I am Jam, 21, from the Philippines. And I just recently started using baking soda as a deodorant. Like, 2-3 weeks ago. After taking a bath, I put baking soda directly to my underarm. But just a small amount of baking soda. I'm using my index and middle finger just enough to get a small amount of baking soda from its container. However, it doesn't lighten my underarm skin. But in all fairness, it doesn't make any bad smell even if I'm getting sweaty. But why is it not lightening my underarm? :(
LisaLise said…
Hey there Jamaica,
Thanks for your input. Baking soda does not lighten the skin. If anything, it may cause a darkening or reddening of the skin. I cannot recommend applying baking soda directly to the skin and leaving it on as you are doing. I hope you do not experience any reactions to it. If you are looking to lighten the skin, then C-vitamin-rich skin care products are a better bet. Best of luck to you.
Anonymous said…
Aluminum does not serve any known purpose in the human body, is potentially hazardous to our health, and is bioaccumulated. Eliminating antiperspirants from our daily routines isn't about the amount of aluminum that they contain but rather the possible dangers of unnecessarily using them when we're already getting so much of this harmful and useless element from various other sources and stockpiling it internally.
Kim said…
Hi. I have been using a mixture of about 2 parts baking soda, 1 part cornstarch, and a sprinkle of my favorite smelling powder under my arms for over a year now. It's still amazing to me how it prevents (and takes away) all odor! I am a person who doesn't sweat that much, but develops smelly pits almost as soon as I get out of the shower, no matter how I scrub. Baking soda has been like a miracle to me, as all the high powered antiperspirants had pretty much quit working as if I had become immune to them. I am very fortunate in that baking soda has never irritated my arm pits in the least, and I use it daily. I have sensitive skin on my face, but my pits must be bullet-proof! But is it possible that it's something else in the DIY deodorant that could be causing so many people to have irritation and discoloration?
LisaLise said…
Hey there Unknown - thanks for your input. I believe science is not quite in agreement with you about aluminium not serving any known purpose. There are so many aspects of aluminium that have not yet been studied, so I'm not sure if it is correct to call aluminium 'harmful' and 'useless'. There are indeed studies that indicate high exposure to aluminium is not healthy, BUT - science cannot even agree on how much is too much. Again - lots of blanks when it comes to information and studies in this area.

As for your baking soda deodorant and 'bullet-proof pits', I think you can indeed count yourself among the lucky few who do not react to direct prolonged skin contact with baking soda. Mind you, I have heard from folks who didn't react until after years of use, so it's hard to say if you will be 'hit' at one point. Let's hope not, because you are quite right about baking soda being an excellent deodoriser.

You ask if it is possible that it is something else beside the baking soda that could be the culprit causing irritation and discolouration in folks. Nope. It's the baking soda. If you check the MSDS for baking soda you'll find these exact symptoms described with prolonged skin contact.

Thanks again for sharing!
Kim said…
Hi Lise -- I hope I don't develop the skin irritation after time! If you get the discoloration, will it go away eventually after you stop the baking soda? By the way, I think you have me confused with another poster about the aluminum -- wasn't me. :)
LisaLise said…
Hey there Kim - my apologies! I did get 2 comments that were both signed 'Unknown' and assumed it was from the same person. As for your question: yes, if there is discolouration from using baking soda, it will go away again if you discontinue use.
Unknown said…
This happened to my armpits. I noticed they got darker and were left rough. How do i fix this problem. Do i stop using it for a while. Do i go back to regular deodorant. Plz help
LisaLise said…
Hi Leeanna - I'm sorry to hear you've had trouble. Stop using the deodorant immediately, and soothe your pits with aloe vera (juice or gel). If you can stand it, try to go without deodorant for a few days. You might try a crystal deodorant stone - but do wait until your pits heal. Best of luck!
Anonymous said…
Sorry, what deodorant do you recommend then ? I've used the basking soda formula for a day and it's wreaked havoc on my pits.
Unknown said…
Hi Lisa
Thanks so much for your article! A few weeks ago I bought a natural deodorant with baking soda and I already had slightly dark armpits so I read somewhere that mixing lemon with baking soda can lighten my dark armpits but I have recently noticed that my armpits turned darker!! And leathery ugh! So I stopped using the deodorant and now just applying an olive oil lotion to heal the leathery dry skin and I'm hoping my skin lightens a bit too..do you have any suggestions on how to get rid of dark armpits? Once my skin heals I'll go back to using regular deodorant. Luckily I don't sweat too much so I can go without deodorant for a while :)
Thanks again for this article!
LisaLise said…
Hi Wanda, Thank you for your kind words. I think you need to sooth your pits with aloe vera and let them rest for a spell. The darkening should disappear on its own if you keep the baking soda (and lemon juice) well away from them. They should heal and return to normal on their own. Best of luck with it!
Unknown said…
Lesson learned. I need to get some aloe vera.
LisaLise said…
HI Jessica - May your pits heal quickly :)
Unknown said…
I've read somewhere also that baking soda and lemon will help to lighten dark armpits but I did my research first before trying and came across this blog. Glad I did! I feel for Jessica! :( Do you know of any products that work to lighten certain areas of skin Lisa? I read that Swiss L-Glutathione soap bar works great but I can't seem to find it anywhere.
LisaLise said…
Hi Natimah - I cannot recommend using baking soda to lighten skin. It will do nothing of the sort. Lemon juice does have a bleaching effect, but don't expect fast results. If you want to lighten skin, vitamin C is the way to go. The closest thing to a home remedy I can recommend is lemon juice. If you're looking for products to buy, look for those containing vitamin C. Best of luck with it!
Nick Duvall said…
What are you talking about? Propylene glycol, or any other ester of glycol is absolutely carcinogenic. There are hundreds of tests that have concluded so. The easiest example is to look up the msds for propylene glycol. Did you research at all before posting this?
LisaLise said…
Hi Nick - yes indeed I have researched propylene glycols properties. In order to come even close to being carcenogenic, unusually high dosages in a short period of time would have to happen - far beyond any kind of normal usage.
Roua Krimi said…
I am so glad I found this! I have an irritation after having used the deodorant for a couple of days. How long would it take before my armpits return to normal? Thanks.
LisaLise said…
Hey there Roua - The healing of pits is dependant on how serious a reaction you have had. If you stay away from deodorant entirely for a few days and instead apply aloe vera gel, you should be giving your pits the best possibility of returning to normal. Best of luck with it.
Unknown said…
Exactly. Aluminum is bad for the body. It can clog the pores thus, tge sweat and bacteria cannot easily cone out. The result is that some develop cyst on their armpits, worst, cancer. Its better to have a product with few natural elements than "formulated products suited for the skin".
LisaLise said…
Hey there Borloy Buang - Aluminium IN EXCESS is bad for the body. The main problem is, science at this point in time still unable to agree on how much aluminum is 'normal' or 'tolerable'. So, this is indeed an area that is being studied in earnest.
Anonymous said…
Me and all my friends have been using baking soda as deodorant for years now.
No need to make one. Just dust your armpits. That's all.
Yours is one very smart post about nothing.
LisaLise said…
HI Anon - I really wish I could agree with you, but communications from tens of thousands of people who have experienced everything from mild discoloration to rash serious enough to pout them in hospital beg to differ.

If you have been using banking soda straight up as a deodorant with no skin reactions, then you can count yourself among a lucky few percent.

I can't help wondering how long you mean when you say you have been dusting your armpits with baking soda 'for years now', because I have had mails from people who used DIY baking soda for up to 10 years before experiencing a reaction.

I hope you never have a problem with it, and wish you the best.
Sally said…
Today was my second day using my DIY baking soda deodorant. My arm pits felt like they were on fire all day!! Burning and itching!! I couldn't wait to get home to cool them off. I also had a bit of a red rash.
I did not have any odor, matter of fact, it smelled nice like the lavender essential oil I used in making it. However !!, I was completely uncomfortable .., the burning was near unbarable, and I will throw out the remaining deodorant. So..., with that.. I will never try baking soda DIY deoderant again. I'm positive the % was too high in my recipe. I do ha e a recipe for a DIY Bentonite Clay deoderant... Any thoughts on that?
Thank you for your post!!
LisaLise said…
HI Sally - I'm so sorry to hear you are having a reaction to baking soda deodorant! You will probably do much better using bentonite clay, as clay will not cause this kind of skin reaction. Best of luck with it!
Brandon said…
Hi Lise. Other than "skin rashes" and "dried/cracked skin" I would like to know what these adverse health effects are from using baking soda as deodorant are. You seem to make it sounds like it is a dangerous product to be using and I would like to know what is dangerous about it from you.

I have been using bakind soda and water (pour a bit in my hand, mix with water and spread under arms) after each shower for the last 5 years without any real adverse effects aside from the occasional acne bump (once in a blue moon) and, as you had mentioned, a slight discoloration (darkening) around the under arm area. Appreciate your feedback.
LisaLise said…
Hey there Brandon - Thanks for your input. If you are not having a problem with baking soda, then you are one of a small percentage who do not react to it. The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for baking soda cautions about prolonged direct contact with skin (among other things). Baking soda is an irritant to skin. Its pH is also not skin friendly, so all in all, it is not advisable to use it as a 'leave-on' for skin. That said, if you have been using it with only minor problems, then count yourself among the very lucky few. I wish you the best. :)
domster said…
So I guess it isn't for everybody... But it DID work for me, for which I am thankful for. For those who are interested, this is what I am doing:

I don't know about diluting it, but I've been using pure baking soda, with a powder puff directly onto my underarms (and under some places i would rather not say) and i have to say it is a miracle worker. it softened the dead dark skin on it, caused by rubbing, and i was surprised that in just one night that i was rubbing off dark unwanted skin.

The skin on my underarms also have gotten so dark from using Crystal Deodorant (and this product is already free from any aluminum (or whatever the ingredient is). I don't shave, I use an epilator, so the darkness definitely didn't come from that). But my underarms are already peeling! And some really big chunk of dead skin peeled off after the second day. I actually got scared I thought it was a bad reaction, but it wasn't itchy, and it wasn't irritated either, so i just let it be.

One more thing, I also use Baking soda as a scrub/exfoliant on my face. I use a Tablespoon of baking soda and a teaspoon on water mixed on the cover of my soap dish and use my fingers to pick it up and just massage it on my face. I do this every other day in the morning. It's so fine in texture that it doesn't irritate my skin and dont enlarge my pores.

Please take note that i have combination skin, and i now live in super humid weather. I have not tried doing this in winter so please take note of that. But so far I am loving it to bits! Goodbye buying commercial stuff for deodorant and for a facial scrub! And its safe for when you're pregnant and breastfeeding! Wahoo! I wish I knew about this before I ever picked up deodorants when I was in puberty.
LisaLise said…
Hi there Domster - My goodness it sounds like you have had a few issues with baking soda as a deodorant! It is because baking soda is not meant for prolonged skin contact that most people get a reaction to it. I'm impressed that you are continuing to use it as such.

As for using it as an exfoliant-face-wash, this is less 'risky' if you do not rub too hard or leave the mixture on for very long. I'm not quite sure I would recommend using it as every other day though - perhaps only once a week. It really is an effective exfoliant and your skin needs time to regenerate. Best of luck to you and thanks for sharing your experiences :)
StaceyJass said…
I used baking soda for my armpit for about 2 months. I was so amazed at first because i didn't have a body odor and i feel like my armpit whitens. But as days passed by, it gets darker and darker and darker. Huhuhu I AM VERY WORRIED! Please help me. I started itching right now and my underarms are really black (like when you are closing your eyes. ��) I wish I was able to read this blog before I tried it.
LisaLise said…
Hi StaceyJass-- I'm so sorry to hear about your trouble! First: stop using baking soda on your armpits immediately. To ease any irritation and let your skin heal, try washing with very gentle soap and then applying some pure aloe vera. Let the skin air dry. This is not going to work as a deodorant, but should soothe the skin. You are going to have to babysit your armpits for a bit while they heal, so I'm afraid there is not much else to do in the meantime. I hope you heal quickly.
Amanda said…
I'm one of those with a delayed reaction! I purchased a natural creme deodarant with the following ingredients:
Butyrospermum parkii Butter (Shea)*, Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Arrowroot, Sodium Bicarbonate, Natural Tocopherol (Vit E), Essential Oils Of: Agonis fragrans, Lavender and Lemon*

I used this with great results for about 3 weeks. No smells, armpits were beautifully moisturised. And then after 3 weeks suddenly I broke out in pimples (some like big boils) all over both armpits, and the surrounding areas, even were the deodorant was not applied.

I've stopped using it now for over 2 weeks and I still have these pimples. So I was wondering if maybe it was caused by something else and not the deodorant. Or is it normal to take a long time to recover from a reaction to baking soda?

I also wondered whether it was not the baking soda but the essential oils in it that caused the reaction, because I had tried a different natural deodorant (a spray) that did not have baking soda but did have essential oils and I had a reaction within a week - broke out in a sore rash (but not huge pimples/boils like this time). Could it be the essential oils instead? Or both baking soda and essential oils that Im reacting to?
LisaLise said…
Hi Amanda,

It does indeed sound like you might be reacting to something in one (or all) of the essential oils as well as the baking soda. I can't say for sure how long it takes to recover from a reaction to baking soda because every person is different. There are some who don't react to baking soda at all, while others break out a short time after applying. I would stay clear of both the baking soda and any essential oils near the armpits until you are completely healed. If you are feeling adventurous after that, you could try reintroducing one component at a time. Meantime, to soothe the skin, try applying a pure aloe vera gel. I wish you the best.
manona said…
i heard that lemon and baking soda whiten armpits i used it for three days but suddenly my armpits turned far darker than before, what should i do and would it return to normal

LisaLise said…
Hi Manona - baking soda is an irritant with prolonged skin contact. One of the possible side effects of prolonged exposure is darkening of the skin. Your armpits will return to normal if you stop applying baking soda to them. Try some pure aloe vera to soothe the skin and help it return to normal. I hope your pits return to normal soon.
Anonymous said…
I recently tried using just plain baking soda as a natural before reading; boy how i wish i had read this first. My armpits have these bumps that are itching and hurting and burning. Boy am I in pain learned my lesson
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - Oh, I am so sorry you had to experience baking soda burn! I hope your pits heal quickly (pure aloe vera helps).
Unknown said…
Hi Lisa, just read someone's email chain letter on how bad commercial anti-antiperspirants are for us and started poking around for a little more information. I just got done reading 3 years, 6 months, and 2 weeks of comments on your blog post and must say I am impressed you still find time to answer every single post! I couldn't help but notice a few things. Most of the anti-aluminum crusaders seem to post their comments as Anon, which means they will not see your response unless they make a conscious effort to come back and check. Booo on them. AND that most of the pro baking soda people (I affectionately call BS'ers) who do post their name appear to be men. The unscientific mind (like mine) might conclude that men are less likely to have an adverse effect from BS than women. Perhaps because they don't shave their pits? If you ever get around to figuring out the online poll thing make sure you distinguish between guys and gals.

I think it would be really interesting if our "scientists" could simply bind some kind of trace element to the aluminum molecule so that if someone were using the commercial AP for some time it could be tracked in the persons body. Or, maybe make some nanobots that go in and stick their finger in our sweat glands like a little dutch boy.
LisaLise said…
HiJerry - Thanks for your kind words and astute observations! I agree with your assessment of the pro-baking-soda users rarely posting their names, and that more iften than not it is a man who isn't reacting to the baking soda.

As for the poll, if you check the sidebar under TOPICS you'll find a post among the deodorant posts with 'almost poll' in the title (maybe quicker to find if you just use the search function). That's as close as I got to a poll. It got tge attention of a few scientists though, so who knows, maybe we'll see an actual scientific study on this one of these days.

Thanks for reading :)
CatConcierge said…
Hi, I recently ditched my long time use of Arm & Hammer baking soda deodorant for a DIY solution. I have had very different results from what you report but there may be a reason.

Here's what I do (very simple): Right after showering and patting dry my armpits, I rub coconut oil (organic unrefined) all over my pits. Then I dip my fingers into some fresh baking soda I keep in a small glass container and very lightly dust my pits, over the coconut oil. It's just a dusting and I don't rub it in.

I not only have absolutely no oder (even if I occasionally skip a day showering!) AND my underarms are much softer and the pores are now clear, not plugged up as they were while using the the Arm & Hammer deodorant.

Just wanted to report that at least in some cases, baking soda works and isn't damaging. I think it's 1) the combination of ingredients and 2) the fact that the coconut oil is the main ingredient and goes on first, rather than being combined with the baking soda.

Thanks for your post on this!
LisaLise said…
Hey there CatsinSongs - Thanks for sharing this. You mention you recently switched to using this new method. I hope it continues to work for you - it does for some, but not most. At least if you do start to experience any reaction, you'll know why. I wish you the best and ever-calm pits!
Unknown said…
I just wanted to comment on your argument that we ingest more aluminum than gets absorbed by the skin with antiperspirant use. Only 0.01 percent of *ingested* aluminum reaches the blood stream. So more may be ingested through food and water but it is not more being absorbed into the blood. The problem is that it bypasses the body's natural route of elimination and enters through the skin. When the body burden is overloaded and the kidneys can not eliminate the metal fast enough it deposits into vital organs, such as the brain and lungs, where it can cause oxidative stress and damage.
LisaLise said…
Thanks Anon - This is an interesting point and you have inspired a bit of additional research for me.
Jo Rupz said…
I would not use the product Propylene Glycol under my arms or any other place on my body as it is the product used in car radiators.
LisaLise said…
Hi Jo - With this logic, you could also argue that water is not good as it is also used in car radiators. I have heard this kind of argument about many ingredients, and it's oftentimes actually not a fair argument.

You have inspired me to do a blog post on propylene glycol - perhaps it will be possible for me to shed a little light on this ingredient so people can make a choice based on whether or not they will use products with propylene glycol based on fact and information. Thanks for your input. :)
D Smith said…
There were so many posts to read and so little time that I apologize if I am repeating info...

Initially, I had the same issue with baking soda deodorants. After a few days of use I would get redness and rashes under the arms. However, I've been trying many things with it over the years and have found that the reason baking soda deodorants (and other uses of baking soda) irritate the skin is I believe because of the concentration. You don't really need so much baking soda to deodorize and if you use to much it cause dryness and irritation.

One of my techniques is to use a baking soda and water paste while in the shower. Let it sit for a few minutes under the arms, then rinse off without rubbing. I let my under arms air dry so that the water will leave a light residue of baking soda which is plenty of all-day protection for me (even while exercising). No irritation or rashes whatsoever and no moisturizers are necessary.

On more sensitive skin though, I have a different technique. For example, I also use it as a facial scrub and it cleans better than any other scrub I've ever used. The technique I use here works without the need for a moisturizer afterwards (although natural oils may be used if desired). I do my facials in the shower and on the final rinse I make sure to place my face in the running water and gently rub all over my face while it is in the running water to gently remove any residue from the baking soda. I make sure to cover every part that had baking soda on it. None of the baking soda facial recipes mention this step. This was crucial for me to remove the redness/dryness after doing a facial and my face has never felt better!
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