Smell coco-fresh!

I can’t lie, when I go to buy beauty products, smell is important!

I look at the ingredients to make sure that they are organic, plant-based, and free of additives, but who would I be kidding if I didn’t say that smell was important too?! I want to put good things on my skin, but I want to smell lovely – fresh and clean – too.

So, this year, I decided start experimenting with homemade beauty product recipes using homegrown herbs and plants, essential oils, and common “grocery store” ingredients. I began by making a lavender body scrub using lavender from my garden (recipe will be posted soon!) as holiday gifts for friends and family. It really leaves my skin soft and smells wonderful. Plus, there is this incredible sense of pride knowing that the lavender came from my garden!

Just a few weeks ago, however, I was in the drug store looking to replace my deodorant. I have tried a number of “natural” products and have never found that they can withstand my active lifestyle. After looking at the ingredient lists on the drug store options, I set about decomposing the common components found in deodorants on the market in order to understand what I have been putting on my underarms for years.

I took a deodorant I had in my cupboard, and did some research into each ingredient. This is what I found…(note: this is a LONG post, scroll down if you just want the recipe!)


– this is a clear, odorless silicone

– as an unmodified silicone, it has a cyclical chemical structure with large molecules and thus, is too big to physically penetrate cell membranes. They stay on or near the surface of the skin.

– they evaporate quickly after they serve as carriers of oils/nutrients into the top layer of the epidermis (skin) where they can be absorbed. By taking the oil away from the surface of the skin they leave the skin dry and silky (due to the lubricating qualities…think silicone layer on the skin).

– bioaccumulation (or buildup of this) is a concern

Stearyl alcohol

– a compound produced from stearic acid, is a naturally occurring long chain fatty (saturated) acid found in animal and vegetable fats

– it is an emollient (or skin softener/lubricant), emulsifying, and thickening agent, and is a white, waxy substance used to harden solids, e.g., candles, soaps, plastics, oil pastels, cosmetics, and to soften rubber)

– considered an irritant for the skin, eyes, and lungs, and considered toxic to non-reproductive organs at moderate levels, and suspected to stimulate tumour formation at high doses

– RANDOM FACT – it is even used as a liquid solar blanket in swimming pools because it forms a layer on the surface of the water to lower the evaporation rate of the water!

Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY

– active antiperspirant ingredient in deodorants, as it clogs pores in the skin and thus, prevent sweat release from the pores

– it absorbs moisture since it is hygroscopic (attracts and holds onto water molecules)

– it helps to reduce the body odour, since it inhibits the sweat release and therefore the bacterial breakdown of the released sweat

– this is the cause of the yellow stain on clothes – the sweat + this compound mixed together creates a yellow stiff residue (I’m sure we all have seen this on our clothes at one time or another!)

– strong evidence suggests human neurotoxicity (i.e., developmental/reproductive toxicity of the nervous system)

PPG-14 butyl ether

a poly ether alcohol, with 14 repeating units of ethyl ether and a butyl end group

– it is a synthetic compound PETROLEUM (lubricant) derived from propylene oxide

– emollient, reason deodorants (lip sticks, creams, lotions, etc) feel smooth on

– evidence suggests human neurotoxicity (i.e.,  toxicity of the nervous system and brain) at moderate doses, and toxicity of the organ system at low level exposure


– a naturally forming metamorphic mineral, talc is a soft, white, grey or green mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate (the loose form of talc is known as talcum powder)

– it is non-soluble (resistant to moisture), and thus, if often used as a lubricant and for preventing rashes on sweaty (aka wet) skin

– talc particles have been found to move through the reproductive and respiratory systems, and have been linked to tumour formation and cancers in the ovaries and lungs. The particles become imbedded in the linings and tissues after inhalation and repeated use in the genital area

Hydrogenated Castor Oil

–  hydrogenated Ricinus communis (Castor) seed oil

– this oil is meant as an emollient and skin conditioner

– this means it’s processed, i.e., not natural, but there are no suspected risks


– a generic term to refer to a synthetic chemical compound that gives the product scent

– there are concerns surrounding the environmental and health effects of these as they are synthetic (usually derived from petroleum) and non-biodegradable and are thought to lend to neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity (aka allergies)

Bambusa vulgaris Shoot Extract

– in a nut shell, this is an extract of the Bamboo plant shoots

– it is included in deodorants as a antioxidant, astringent, emollient, and skin conditioner

Persea gratissima (Avocado) Oil

– extract from the fruit of the avocado tree

– cosmetic properties are skin conditioning


– another long chain fatty alcohol; it is a clear and colourless liquid

– acts as a lubricant

– organ system toxicity at moderate doses and skin irritation at low level exposures have been documented

Glyceryl stearate SE

– a white or cream waxy solid, this compound is the self-emulsifying (in other words, it is a allows for the formation of a stable mixture, an emulsion, of two or more unblendable substances, e.g., oil and vinegar) mixture of glycerin, stearic acid, and sodium or potassium stearate

– acts as a lubricant, lending to soft and smooth skin by repelling the water from the skin

– it has no known environmental or health risks

Butylene glycol

– this organic alcohol is a clear, relatively colourless liquid

– it is used as solvents, a substance used to dissolve other substances, and a viscosity controlling agent (maintaining desired the thickness of the product)

– it is associated with developmental and reproductive toxicity as well as an irritant for skin, eyes, and lungs at high levels of exposure

Propylene glycol

– is an organic compound that is colourless, virtually odourless, clear, and viscous liquid

– it is hygroscopic (water repelling) and therefore, lubricating/moisturizing, as well as a solvent/emulsifying agent and humectant (moisture stabilizer)

– it is biodegradeable, and metabolized in the human body into pyruvic acid, acetic acid, lactic acid, and propionaldehyde, all typically found in the body, however, in large doses toxicity is a concern and has been linked to an increase in mutation. Concerns have also arose surrounding immunotoxicity (allergies), skin irritation, and respiratory toxicity with moderate exposure

– RANDOM FACT: it is also a component in antifreeze and de-icers


– as natural as an ingredient can be!


– butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a “super-preservative” (Office of Science and Society, Department of Chemistry at McGill University) used as an antioxidant additive which preserves products (specifically the fats) and maintains their freshness against free radicals – oxygen reacts with BHT rather than oxidizing the fats and so the products last longer

– the synthetic analogue of vitamin E – supresses autoxidation

– research supports that exposure to this is toxic for the immune system, nervous system, and has had some evidence to support biochemical changes, developmental/reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, and higher levels of mutations (cancer) and varies based on the level of exposure

Yikes! After reading all of this, I found that even while each individual ingredient might not have be deemed dangerous, as a whole, I was very turned off by having so many synthetic compounds on my skin. I found myself determined to find a homemade recipe using a small number of ingredients and those that were natural (or minimally processed).

And, that I did.

Coco-Fresh Deodorant

7 T coconut oil (solid)

1/4 C baking soda

1/4 C arrowroot powder

a few drops of any essential oil (optional)


Mix ingredients together until homogeneous. Use your hands to kneed together, if need be (I did!).

Store in any size wide-mouth container or empty deodorant container.

Use hands to apply, or apply as you are accustom.


What I love about this simple recipe is that it relies on baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3) for those chemically-inclined), a white soluble neutralizing agent to absorb odours caused by strong acids, helps to relieve itching, and softens skin.

So far, it’s stood up during my various walks, active days, and even during HOT yoga. Pretty impressive for any deodorant, let alone a vegan and chemical-free one. Plus…it smells great!

Hope you try making your own…let me know what you think.


For another interesting read about the toxins in deodorant see this post on Making Love in the Kitchen!

~ kaia in balance ~

References for this post:




4. http://www.specialchem4cosmetics. com




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