Natural deodorants are better for you and for the environment. Find out what your options are.
Learn how to generate less trash and live a healthier and more sustainable life in The Zero-Waste Lifestyle (Ten Speed Press, 2012). Author Amy Korst offers hundreds of ideas for throwing away less in all aspects of your life. In this excerpt taken from chapter seven, “The Zero-Waste Bathroom,” learn what options there are for natural deodorants.
You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: The Zero-Waste Lifestyle.
Deodorant, like toothpaste, lasts for so long that it doesn’t create a ton of waste. On the other hand, a bottle of roll-on or stick of solid deodorant every three months, or four a year, adds up over a lifetime. Most plastic deodorant containers are made from several different types of plastic. Because recycling facilities cannot take the time to separate plastic A from plastic B, deodorant containers are not generally recyclable. (Even if the two types of plastic were separated, the type of plastic isn’t always identified, so recycling plants couldn’t know how to sort the materials anyway.)
The Speed Stick deodorant website addresses the issue of recyclability: “All of our antiperspirants and deodorants are packaged in polypropylene, polystyrene, or PET packaging. Since they are made of mixed materials, they are not recyclable. Currently it is necessary to use these mixed plastics since the container is exposed to extreme temperatures during the manufacturing process.” The Tom’s of Maine company does manufacture a deodorant with a case made entirely from number 5 plastic, though you need to either live in a community that accepts this plastic for recycling (most don’t) or mail the container back to the Tom’s company for recycling.
Aerosol containers, if completely empty, are often recyclable wherever you take scrap metal (but call to check, and remove plastic parts first).
As with every other bathroom product, there are a number of natural deodorants you might try to reduce your deodorant waste. One benefit of trying an alternative method is eliminating your exposure to a number of questionable ingredients contained in conventional deodorants. Many deodorant/antiperspirant sticks contain aluminum-based compounds as their active ingredient. They also contain parabens. Both of these ingredients have been linked to serious diseases such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Although the National Cancer Institute states that “there is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer,” it also notes that “research studies of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer have been completed and provide conflicting [emphasis mine] results.” If there is any possibility that conventional deodorant contains ingredients that are unhealthy, I’d steer clear.
Salt crystal deodorants are another product I was wary to try. The idea of a naturally occurring mineral being able to control body odor seemed so far-fetched. Well, because the crystal deodorant is touted to last for a year and its case is made from a plastic I can recycle, I decided to give it a test-drive. I was quite pleased with the results. The crystal deodorant, which is made from the mineral alum, is applied like deodorant to the underarms after showering. It is not an antiperspirant, so it won’t stop you from sweating, but it will stop you from smelling. April has also used this deodorant. It took some getting used to, she says, describing the resulting smell as not stinky but “earthy.”
Pure baking soda (the kind that comes in a box in the baking aisle, and sometimes unpackaged in the bulk section) is about the most natural deodorant there is. Find an old powder puff or powder shaker, fill with baking soda, and brush on after showering. Like the alum crystal, baking soda is unscented and does not prevent sweating, but it will prevent odor. Some people find that pure baking soda can be harsh on underarm skin; if you find this is the case, you can cut it with cornstarch. I’ve also tried adding a few drops of essential oil to my baking soda to give it a little scent.
Making homemade deodorant is simpler than you might think. For the essential oil, I prefer to use lavender or tea tree oil. And you can find coconut oil with other oils in natural foods stores. When you apply this deodorant, I’ve found you don’t need quite as much as you’re used to because it rolls on a little thicker. It also crumbles more than store-bought varieties, so put it on in the shower or over the sink. Yield: Makes 1 (2.5-ounce) roll-on deodorant
10 drops essential oil (optional)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Empty plastic stick deodorant container
In a small bowl, mix together the essential oil, cornstarch, and baking soda. (If you have particularly sensitive armpit skin, decrease the baking soda by half and increase the cornstarch to 1/2 cup.) Add the coconut oil and stir until the mixture has the consistency of cream cheese.
Wind back the central stick in the empty deodorant container. Spoon the deodorant into the empty deodorant container. Press the mixture down with the back of your spoon. Let it firm up for a day or so, or, if you’re rushed, put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.
More Zero-Waste Bathroom Tips
For more from The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, check out the article: Zero-Waste Lifestyle: The Bathroom
Reprinted with permission from The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less by Amy Korst and published by Ten Speed Press, 2012. Buy this book from our store: The Zero-Waste Lifestyle.