Learning From Failures

While finishing this book, I have been working on a 'side-project' throughout most of this year. So far, it hasn't been much of a success.


It has been a series of stinky failures.

(you'll get the little subtle pun I threw in there in a moment)

The entire experience, however, has been quite educational, so I thought you might like to read about some of the interesting bits.

But let's start at the beginning, shall we?

It Begins in Armpits 

Over the years, I've developed several stick and roll-on deodorant formulas. They are a little fiddly and time consuming to make, but every one works beautifully – even if I do say so myself. As a matter of fact, it's been so long now, I can't even remember what it's like to use a commercial deodorant.

In truth, I could just sit back and be eternally pleased with myself and leave it at that. But unfortunately, I just can't.


Because this post continues to be the all-time, number one most visited on this blog. The number of people experiencing some degree of baking soda burn and finding their way to this post has now surpassed 400.000.

Yes, you read correctly: four hundred thousand.

That's a lotta armpit rash.


So, while my pits are pleased, deodorized, and quite comfortable, other pits are suffering, red, itchy and rashy. 

The Self-Appointed Quest

After convincing myself I might well be the only person on the planet with the necessary skill and know-how to crack this (yes, it is indeed possible to get that swell headed), I set out to create an 'acceptably natural' DIY deodorant that would be able to eradicate baking soda burn once and for all. 

And, while believing I could walk on water, I set up the following requirements for the formula:
  • has to be easy to make – even for absolute beginners
  • has to use only easy-to-get ingredients
  • has to deodorize longer than half a day - preferrably 12 hours or more
  • may not stain clothes, skin, towels or anything else it comes in contact with
  • is composed entirely of 'acceptably natural' ingredients (read: preferably using nothing that could risk freaking anyone out)

Next, we'll examine why I can't walk on water – yet.

Meantime, here's an earlier attempt at solving this problem (from 2013) DIY deodorant stick formula.

 Do Tell

Have you ever worked on a formula for so long you felt like throwing it out the window and stomping on it and banishing it from your life? What were you working on? Did you solve it?


María said…
I have to say that to me, the alum stone may be close to be the 8th wonder, but it's true it may not suit everybody.
I've read on the internet that manufacturers of natural organic cosmetics are using compounds based on farnesol and triethyl citrate. Our lovely French provider AZ has in stock an active that may work for you (I haven't entered the link here as I was not sure, but I can give it).
I haven't tried myself, but maybe it would work for you or your clients :)
LisaLise said…
Hi María -

Thanks for your comment! I agree with you about the alum stone – I have never had a problem with it at all and have also used it for many many years.

If lemon ester and farnesol have once again become acceptably natural, then that is all kinds of good news. I use these in one of my own deodorants – an excellent combo that has never failed me either.

This new deodorant exercise is a quest for minimizing and creating a formula that is DIY friendly enough for newbies, which none of my existing formulas are.
Anonymous said…
I'm still fairly new to formulating, so I've not reached that level of frustration yet. But I'm obstinate enough to do the same as you. If I think it's possible to do, then I'll keep trying.
Jennie Widdicombe
Unknown said…
Lise: I never use anything under my arms and, so long as I bathe daily (which I do), I have do problem with odors. Is that just me, or is it possible that, as I've suspected, going completely natural allows the skin to breath, thus not accumulating whatever it is that can smell so bad. Essentially, avoid clogging the pores and thus the smells. I kind of hope I'm wrong, since it would against your project. My other "theory" is that some folks just such as I just a chemical makeup that prevents odors.
LisaLise said…
Hi Jennie - Good for you for being the tenacious type. It's the best way to learn!

Hi William - Your theory about people having different chemical make-up is correct. If everyone had exactly the same chemistry, we would all do equally well with the same personal care products. I know a gent who sweats a lot yet never gets stinky. He says he uses deodorant 'because it's the norm to use deodorant'. He wears only natural materials (cotton, etc) because he gets terrible body odor when he wears synthetic materials. So many factors play in. What you are doing works for you. Stick with it :D