I Smell (not anymore)


I can’t believe it. My very first post is about BO. My BO, in fact…

Not a topic I usually discuss with strangers, but then I guess that’s why I started this blog. To share the behind-the-scenes stuff that we all deal with in our daily lives. Not that I’m saying you stink.

To set the mood, here’s one of my favorite songs about smelly things:

Let’s face it, bad body odor is the pits. Ha ha, very funny. But it’s true. I remember those distinctly embarrassing days where I forgot to put on deodorant, where I was sure I was offending everyone in sight with my rank underarm smell.

But those days are gone. And it’s the perfect first post for Alice and the Rabbit Hole, because I found the solution quite by accident while surfing online. I was researching the virtues of coconut oil – to use as a remedy for my cat’s scabby skin – when I stumbled upon several DIY deodorant sites using said coconut oil with a variety of other ingredients.

I’m not afraid to try home remedies. I’ve been doing it for years, with varying degrees of success. And I’ll have to admit I was skeptical about this one. I’d tried every natural deodorant in the store and always ended up disillusioned and odoriferous. I cannot prove that commercial (aluminum-based) deodorant is unhealthy, I just know that I never liked the stuff and have always sought an alternative.

Since puberty I’ve had stinky pits, and most of the commercial deodorants I tried did nothing to erase the stink. I could find only one brand/type that would keep the smell at bay, and even that didn’t work too well.

Here’s what I don’t like about the typical store-bought deodorants/antiperspirants: they only mask my smell with artificial scents and inhibit sweat; they leave yellow pit stains on my clothes that never come out; they irritate my sensitive armpits, especially after a shave. And the bottom line is, I find I’m still at least a little stinky by the end of each day.

So I jumped right in. Due to my sensitive skin, I chose a minimal list of ingredients: coconut oil, shea butter and baking soda. These were all things I had on hand. I eyeballed my first batch, not really paying close attention to measurements. More coconut oil than shea, a sprinkling of baking soda.

Lo and behold, no smell. No pits stains. No bad BO whatsoever, and it hasn’t come back, even when I skipped a day. Shaving no longer hurts (my left armpit used to be especially sensitive to a razor). I’m not having a problem with wetness either. BUT, so far this little miracle has had a downside….

My left armpit (you know, the Sensitive One) started turning dark after a couple of weeks. And then the right one joined in. No irritation, mind you, just a light shadow (kind of like a healing bruise of yellowish-brown hue). Not pretty. My husband said, “What is that?”  Dunno.

I researched all the threads I could find, and it turns out I’m not the only one with this reaction. I’d say maybe about a third of the posters were having some darkening issue and the corresponding bewilderment. The culprit seems to be baking soda (perhaps having something to do with pH levels in the body). Not one member of this Shadow Pit Clan had any intention of giving up. Neither do I.

It feels too good not to be stinky. To stick my nose right in my armpit and not smell a thing. It’s been 5 weeks now. I’ll keep tinkering with the de-stinkering and let you know what happens. I may try a batch with no baking soda, though I fear this is probably the most active ingredient. Some people have had great success with just the coconut oil. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try a smaller amount of baking soda.  If I still have the darkening issue, I’ll try a pH balancing spritzer of Apple Cider Vinegar and water before application (I’ve read this can solve the problem).

Image 10

3 simple ingredients and final product in a Go Toob container

For now, I’m content to stick with this second (carefully-measured) batch:

1.5 TBSP organic unrefined coconut oil
1 TBSP organic shea butter
.75 TBSP baking soda (mine is Whole Foods brand)

No melting it down in a pan for me – I took the lazy route and just mixed it all together in a small jar. You only need a pea-size amount per pit. A tiny amount, really. I put this batch into a small Go Toob to make it easier to store and travel with (still experimenting with this part, too). The other day I added a crushed up bay leaf. Smells even better. Maybe I’ll add some fresh lavender from the back patio garden. Oooh, yes! The adventure continues….

A note about the products I used (see photo): the L’Occitane Pure Shea Butter is fantastic – while the $42 price tag may seem steep, this 5.2 oz tin has lasted me a long, long time.  I like that it is so thick and has no smell.  The coconut oil pictured is from a local SF company, VitaminExpress; I have used several brands of organic coconut oil – Trader Joe’s has a good one for a great price. The baking soda is, well, just baking soda. Make sure your box contains no other ingredients. If you’re concerned about purity, I’ve heard that Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one.

Already using a homemade deodorant? I love to hear what ingredients have worked for you!


Update: I have made two more batches since this post (each lasting about 2 months). I decreased the baking soda to half a tablespoon. Less darkening than before, but it reappears occasionally (more so after shaving). Nonetheless, I’m still thrilled with my homemade deo!

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