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 MisconceptionsMisconceptions 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.
Baking soda is baking soda. There isn't one type that is more natural than another.
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
This 'detox period' is described as having the following symptoms:
- 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:
- dry, cracked skin
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
- Aqua: water
- Sodium Bicarbonate: Baking Soda
- Allantoin: Comfrey Root Extract
- Ext D&C Violet 2 (CI 60730): pigments/coloring
- Green 5: coloring
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
- 32 grams (about 1/4 cup) baking soda
- 32 grams (about 1/4 cup) arrowroot (or cornstarch or clay)
- essential oils of choice
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 pH of the Deodorant Matters TooThe 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 YouGoing 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 DeodorantMake your own baking-soda free deodorant - there's a FREE how-to right here.
100% Botanical Preservative-Free DeodorantIf 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).
Find some FREE helpful tips to treat your tender pits right here
Is The Damage Already Done From Baking Soda Deodorant?
Visit the Deodorant FAQ Page