The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 17, 2012

Great Big Plastic-Free, Non-Toxic Deodorant Review

What’s with all these “natural” deodorants in plastic packaging?

Four years ago, I found the perfect plastic-free deodorant solution for me.  But after discussing the issue with others, I came to realize that deodorants are not one-size (or smell) fits all.  We each have different body chemistries and what works great for me might leave you stinking like a cat litter box and feeling like you’ve been rubbing your pits with poison ivy.  Or barbed wire.  So, after discovering that my own personal plastic-free deodorant solution doesn’t work for everyone, I set out to find some other options.  I wrote about several of them in my book, and since then, have discovered a few more.  So, here is a whopping big list of plastic-free, all-natural deodorant solutions.  Maybe one could work for you.  Or maybe your favorite is not on the list.  Please leave a comment below!

Plain baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with a few drops of tea tree oil

This is my choice.  It works better for me than any other store-bought deodorant I have ever tried.  I keep it in a metal tea tin in my underwear drawer and apply to dry underarms with a powder puff or reusable cotton round.  It works so well, I would use it even if I weren’t trying to avoid plastic.  And it’s cheap, cheap, cheap.  Note:  I have tried the plain baking soda without the tea tree oil, and it doesn’t seem to work quite as well.

The trouble is that plain baking soda doesn’t work for everyone.  I have heard reports of red rashes, burning itchy pits, and even pits turning brown.  Some people cut the baking soda with cornstarch or arrowroot powder and find that it helps.  Some people can’t even tolerate those alternatives.  If dry deodorant powder doesn’t work for you, here are some other options:

Natural Deodorant Creams in Glass or Metal Containers

I’ve discovered several small, ethical companies offering deodorant creams that are not packaged in plastic.  I’ve tried three different brands.  They all smell great, and all include coconut oil, some amount of baking soda, various essential oils, and other ingredients.  All of them worked for me, but none were as effective at keeping armpit smell at bay for as long as plain baking soda does for me.

BALM! Baby PITS from THinc (Taylor House Inc) comes in a glass jar with a metal lid.  It smells great and feels good going on.  The ingredients are: shea butter, olive oil infused with calendula & chamomile, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, baking soda, arrow root, essential oil blend of tea tree, lavender, orange.  “THE” products are made in Hawaii, and most of the ingredients come from a local, organic farm.  I actually met the owners of THinc when they came to visit the SF Bay Area a few weeks ago, and I’ll be excited to write more about the company in a future post.  They have a lot of great ideas about reducing waste.

Aquarian Bath Unisex Natural Deodorant Balm comes in a metal container with a metal lid.  It has a more solid texture than the others because it contains Candelilla Wax.  If your house is cold, rubbing the balm with your fingers will soften it up.  The scent is primarily a refreshing lemongrass.  The ingredients are: Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Organic Cocoa Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Arrow Root Powder, Candelilla Wax, Vitamin E, and a blend of essential oils, including Ravensara (AKA clove nutmeg with action similar to Tea Tree), May Chang (lemony), Lavender, Spearmint, Lemon, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, and Lemongrass.

Chagrin Valley Coconut Silk Deodorant also comes in a metal tin with a metal lid.  The company makes several different scents to choose from:  Natural, Mist, Citrus Blossom, Woodland Breeze, and Summer Rain.  I chose to test the one called Mist because the combination of essential oils appealed the most to me.  Ingredients in Mist deodorant:  Organic Virgin Coconut Oil; Organic Jojoba Oil; Organic Cornstarch; Baking Soda; Organic Beeswax. Organic essential oils: Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Spearmint, Lime and Tea Tree.

As I mentioned, I enjoyed the scents of all three brands, and they did work for me… just not for as long as plain baking soda.

Homemade Deodorant Recipes

If you don’t want to spend money on someone else’s concoction, try making your own natural deodorant.   Recipes abound across the Internet.  Google is your friend.  Most include combinations of coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, and essential oils.  Here are a few from bloggers I trust:

Crunchy Betty is chock full of natural DIY cosmetic recipes, and Leslie, the author of the site, is fastidious in making sure the ingredients she recommends come from reliable sources and are not toxic or environmentally harmful in any way.  The girl knows how to research.  Here are a few of her posts on making your own deodorant:

Leslie said that she recommends Tropical Traditions coconut oil, which is available in a glass jar.  Other brands of coconut oil I have found in glass are Dr. Bronner’s, and Artisana, and Spectrum Organic, although it has a plastic lid.  What brand of coconut oil have you found packaged in glass instead of plastic?

The Clean Bin Project is the blog of a Canadian couple who attempted to rid their lives of waste.  There’s also a fun documentary about them.  Jen has tried both powdered and solid forms of homemade deodorant.  Here are her posts:

Mommy Footprint is the site of blogger Suzanne who is passionate about getting toxic chemicals and plastics out of her home.  Here is her homemade deodorant experiment, along with information about why conventional deodorants are so bad for us.

My Healthy Green Family is another blog committed to finding ways to reduce toxic chemicals.  This recipe also includes cocoa butter and beeswax.  I have found beeswax in bulk bins at Whole Foods.  However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen cocoa butter in glass.  Have you?  If you know of a source, please leave a comment!

Other Options

Vinegar: Some people swear by plain vinegar sprayed or dabbed under the armpits or vinegar mixed with essential oils.  I tried it.  First, I smelled like a salad, and within an hour, I had bad B.O. again.  Your mileage may vary.

Vodka or Grain Alcohol:  Same as vinegar only stronger.  But didn’t work for me.  B.O. came back in a few hours.

Lavendar Essential Oil:  Some people swear by it alone or diluted.  Didn’t work for me.  Might for you.

Deodorant Bars:  LUSH Cosmetics makes naked deodorant bars (Aromaco and T’eo) with no packaging.  I have recommended them in the past; however, LUSH seems to be adding more and more toxic baddies to their products, so I can’t endorse them with as much enthusiasm as I once did.

The Crystal: Crystal deodorant stones are made from potassium or ammonium alum mineral salts.  Many people love them.  However, most of the ones I’ve found come packaged in plastic.  How environmentally-friendly is this?

I have found one crystal stone deodorant that appears to come without plastic from The Natural Bath Company.  I haven’t tried it because I tried crystal deodorants years ago and they didn’t work for me.  But if they work for you, maybe check out the version from The Natural Bath Company and let us know about the packaging status.  Email the company first and make sure they don’t include any plastic in the shipping box.  But also, be aware that crystal deodorants do contain a form of aluminum.  Read The Smart Mama’s post about them to learn more.

66 comments
DeCrafts
DeCrafts

Thank you so so much for this! 

I have struggled with all but one of the natural deodorants in either they don't work, or 99% of the time they make my pits break into an angry rash.  

The only one that's worked for me is a tiny roll-on encased in the thickest and worst plastic, and I've been trying to compile a list of alternatives to try out to break myself off of it. 

I am so glad that you put these out there.  Friends of mine swear by the crystal, and I learned recently that the reason why it just doesn't work for most people (myself included) is that we are only applying it to the hair line, and not all of our sweat glands around the arm pit. I have also heard that spraying with rubbing alcohol before using it intensifies it's workability.

 I'm giving it a try again and I'll comment here when I learn more.

Genevieve Abedon
Genevieve Abedon

Fat and the Moon makes an amazing natural deodorant that actually works! And comes in a glass container with metal lid


 Assilem
Assilem

Hello! What do you out the baking soda mix in when you travel? I put some in an old badger balm container, but it has made it hard to open. I'm trying to find something small and lightweight (so maybe not glass).

Lori S
Lori S

I started using just baking soda (just pat it on with a dry washcloth) a week ago.  I figured it was worth experimenting with while I have a stick of my usual Toms of Maine deodorant on hand as a backup.  I am amazed!  This works SO MUCH BETTER than any of the 'natural' deodorants I have tried.  I apply once in the morning and don't stink at all during the day!  I was worried that the baking soda would leave white marks on my clothes but it hasn't.  If I spill some on my clothes when applying, I just brush it off.  No white powder seeping through my clothing, either.  Even feel okay about sleeveless shirts -- the baking soda isn't really visible on my pale skin.  Next it's going into my shoes to combat stinky feet :)  Thank you, Beth, for sharing this!

Daniel
Daniel

Well, you know Tom's of Maine, since 2006, has been a division of multinational conglomerate Colgate-Palmolive. Hence, the plastic packaging.

Brigid
Brigid

Careful with the crystal deodorants--alum = aluminum, and recent research confirms how bad that is.I'm a fan of Herbalix deodorants. Their standard sizes come in Plastipure non-estrogenic plastic, but if you contact them they have glass bottles for their larger sizes of moisturizer, detox creams, etc.

Lisa Watson
Lisa Watson

I have the Chagrin Valley Deo in Mint Mist and LOVELOVELOVE it!!!

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Melissa, just a few drops shaken into the baking soda container. Put on the lid and shake it up. The oil doesn't make the baking soda clump. You really only use just a few drops.

rockyplayful
rockyplayful

A question for those of you who suggested witch hazel:  Where do you get it without plastic packaging?  Every place I've checked so far only has it in plastic bottles.  Thanks! 

Judy

 

LornaS
LornaS

For the last couple of weeks I have been using coconut oil only for deoderant. Even I can't believe is works, but it does. It is supposedly anti-bacterial.

 

The first few days it worked ok , but after that it was great. Maybe it needed a few days to detox or something like that. All I did when the smellies struck at midday was smear a little more coconut oil under my pits and the smell went. Now it lasts all day.

 

And into the bargin, I use it for brushing teeth, and has a mild sun protection factor (anything from 4-10 SPF), which has been fine for my semi-mediteranean skin tone in this anything but mediteranean English Summer. Oh, and I also use it to condition my hair, as a make-up remover, hot oil cleanser, turning my mineral face powder to a cream foundation, even polished my shoes in an emergency, oh yes, and I eat it quite a bit too...

 

For extra yum, I've sunk half a vanilla pod into the jar, so it smells amazing.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

For those asking about mixing the tea tree oil in with the baking soda, I just add a few drops, close the lid, and shake up the baking soda.  A little goes a long way.  The oil does not make the baking soda clump up at all.  Really, just a few drops.

retrohousewife5
retrohousewife5

I use baking soda with a little corn starch and several drops of tea tree oil. Works well!

Cee
Cee

First, Thank you for all of this - your commitment, your communication, your research and all your experimentation. For years I've been talking to my own family and friends about the fact that plastic is an addiction foisted on us by the oil companies. I remember being in India in the late '70s and being horrified to see street vendors whose stalls were chock full to the gills with nothing but brightly colored plastic *everything*. My illusions about a nation living close to the land and nature were shattered. I'll leave the political/corporate/social discussion aside.

As for deodorant, here's a tidbit of info most of your readers won't find useful but may find interesting. Admittedly, I was a hippie and stopped shaving my armpits quite young. Living overseas for a good chunk of my adult life made that unremarkable. A mostly vegetarian, dairy-free diet meant that an occasional dab of essential oil for fun was all I needed under my arms.What *was* remarkable to me was that when we moved back to the states and summer (i.e. sleeveless weather) rolled around, I succumbed to the corporate American pressure and shaved for the first time in ages. And for the first time in ages, I had B.O. I was stunned. Over the years I've repeated this experiment and found that, contrary to advertising hype, hair under the arms does not "trap odor causing bacteria" and produce "offensive" perspiration. Make of it what you will, but IMHO the North American obsession with hair removal (which has spread, I'm sad to say, to Europe and South America too) may be a bigger cause of body odor than sweat is.

Malena from THinc
Malena from THinc

Great write up!  Thank you for doing this!  We started making PITS (from our "THE" BALM line) b/c not only were all the deodorants in plastic, but they just plain didn't work.  Even the crystal.  I'll bet a powder like Beth uses would be nice (:

JessicaVanMeter
JessicaVanMeter

Being a dancer by trade and living in Texas has made finding an effective and reliable natural deodorant very challenging for me. Here's the best combination (yes, I'm a sweaty girl so I need more than one thing to not be stinky) that I have come up with. Upon exiting the shower with clean, shaved pits I : 1. Spray pits with lavender witch hazel to combat razor burn 2. rub vigorously with crystal deodorant (got mine in a little velvet bag -no plastic) 3. spray pits lightly with a blend of 20 drops tea tree oil, 20 drops lavender oil, 10 drops rosemary oil, 2 tbls vodka, and 1/2 cup water (originally meant to sanitize counter tops...) 4. dust pits liberally with baking soda. I know it sounds like quite an ordeal but it is very effective even in 105 degree temperatures and through 10 hours of dancing. Tried Tom's of Maine at first; made me smell like kitty pee. Anyways, thanks for such a great comprehensive anti-stink article!

Eve Stavros
Eve Stavros

I was lucky enough to find a crystal totally unpackaged at a small natural foods store when I visited a friend in Madrid two years ago.  Not the usual souvenir to bring home, but I like poking around in local groceries, natural shops, etc.  especially in Europe, where it seems easier to find healthier, more enviro friendly choices.  The rock hardly looks worn - should last for years!  I plan to look for more alternative goodies when I visit a friend in Italy later this year. AND find a plastic-free pasta maker!

Emma
Emma

I'm actually in the, probably minority, camp that doesn't really get why most people feel that they need to use deodorants at all.

 

Some people, I'm sure, feel a particular need for it as they have the misfortune of sweating more than most and need to always stay within a socially acceptable body odour range. But I doubt most of us really need it. Want it is another matter (I'm all for having a bit of fun with something you like), I'm merely talking about feeling like it's a must.

 

I stopped using deodorants years ago and I don't smell unless you catch me between a workout and a shower. I don't shower every day either, mostly just on days when I work out. But on warm days, when I do get a bit sweaty, I wash with soap and water. The smell and bacteria are gone instantly. Feeling sweaty and going out in public? I take off my shirt and, in my vest or bra, I wash my arm pits and elbow pits. If it's really hot (and I'm wearing a skirt) I'll even wash my knee pits.

VivienneDownes
VivienneDownes

Having only just got started on living "Plastic Free" I'd love to try the baking soda/ essential oils approach to deodorant but how does it affect your clothes ? I work with the public & often take my jacket off so I'm concerned about stains.

 

Mary Katherine
Mary Katherine

Great post! Thanks for all the suggestions. Baking soda works really well for me too but it makes my razor burn worse. I've found that witch hazel is a really good option for me because it controls odor and helps soothe razor burn at the same time. It comes in a plastic bottle, but you can make it yourself apparently. Here some instructions I found if anyone is interested in trying it: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art48232.asp

AngryButterfly
AngryButterfly

I've been using the same crystal for so long that I've never had to buy another one. Years and years, I've had it three I think...

 

Ada Mangoes
Ada Mangoes

I've tried pretty much every DIY option on your list and none have really worked for me. I initially LOVED the bicarb/coconut oil/arrow root starch/EO recipe, but then I got a HORRIBLE red rash that made my underarm skin thicken and slough off in a day or two, leaving me with super tender and sensitive underarms for almost an entire week. I don't usually shave my armpits but maybe once a month, if that, so it wasn't shaving irritation of any kind. I wanted it to work for me so much, for so many reasons, that I made mini batches using variations of the ingredient ratios and almost every EO I owned (quite a few since I have them for making and scenting my own soaps) as well as adding things like cocoa butter and shea butter (again from the soaping materials) trying to rule out irritation culprits and I still could never get it to work out for me. Super bummed about that. I've gone back to using whatever I can on super clearance in the mean time until I can afford to purchase something from one of the places you've mentioned in this post to try out instead as one of the reasons I've tried so many of the DIY options is super tight finances.

Melissa Brown
Melissa Brown

How do you add the essential oil to the baking soda powder? I've been using the rock followed by a baking soda dusting with a powder brush. Where do you get the powder puff?

AdaMangoes
AdaMangoes

You can usually get alum for super cheap at Vietnamese and similar markets. It is used to prevent oxidation of cut fruits and vegetables. Some people use it as a form of deodorant the same way as the Crystal brand you mentioned only purchasing it from the Vietnamese market is a fraction of the price. You'd have to mix up a concentrated solution of your own to use it in liquid form as it usually comes in crystallized rocks varying in size from small pearl tapioca to US 50 cent piece. I also use it as a mordant for naturally dying silk and wool fabrics.

Jeanne Bruner
Jeanne Bruner

Ever Clear or vodka..ole time perfume sprayer.. :)

Jessy V Mills
Jessy V Mills

making my own is 100% satisfying, eco friendly, cheap, EASY and smells/works great. it's 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup corn starch, 2 tablespoons coconut oil and 20 (ish) drops of whatever essential oil you prefer, my favorite is red mandarin! I keep it in glass baby food jars :P ENJOY!

Cross My Heart Fitness
Cross My Heart Fitness

Thanks for the great info. I have been using the LUSH but good to know I can make my own. thanks;)

RC
RC

I know it has a plastic top, but Dr Hauschka Deodorant (glass bottle) is hands down the best product I've ever tried. 100% effective, no side effects. Everybody I know who has tried it likes it. A little pricey but I find  the bottle lasts a long time. Also, I agree with the posters who say that using pit products less often really does cut down on the body's "need" for them.

 

Nobody has mentioned witch hazel applied with a cotton pad - it works for days when I don't expect to get very sweaty. 

agnus2
agnus2

Yardley Lavender body powder for me, metal can.

Jessie
Jessie

I sweat a lot, and used to use the clinical strength anti-perspirant. After trial-and-error, I discovered a combination approach that worked for me. It doesn't keep me from sweating, but I RARELY smell.

 

I rub coconut oil under my arms, then apply the 50/50 combo of baking soda & corn starch (plus sometimes a little tea tree oil). I've tried the coconut oil alone, and I've tried the baking soda by itself too, but neither one worked solo for me. I also mix water with a bit of baking soda in a spray bottle, and spritz the liquid into the inside armpits of my shirts. (If I don't do this, I won't stink, but my shirt will.)

 

The only issue is that I have very sensitive skin, and would already have irritation under my arms from shaving. The baking soda would basically be like rubbing salt into wounds, causing a patchy red rash that burned like crazy. I had a simple fix though, I just stopped shaving my armpits.

Kathryn Grace
Kathryn Grace

Thanks Beth! I finally found a homemade deodorant recipe I like, but it's a lotta work!

Mary Jane Pace Owen
Mary Jane Pace Owen

Plain baking soda works great for me. But recently mixed up a deodorant recipe from Crunchy Betty with coconut oil, baking powder, and cornstarch. That works great too. I really love the low cost! It really works! And NO PLASTIC! Woohoo!

Jenn Satter
Jenn Satter

How do you add the tea tree oil to the dry baking soda?  Do you apply the tea tree oil after apply the baking soda?

Beth DeRoos
Beth DeRoos

We use a Thai deodorant stone and have for a good dozen years. No packaging. And if you eat whole healthy foods, drink plenty of water and get good exercise and then take a shower you shouldn't smell.

MotherLodeBeth
MotherLodeBeth

We use a Thai deodorant stone and have for a good dozen years. No packaging.  And if you eat whole healthy foods, drink plenty of water and get good exercise and then take a shower you shouldn't smell.

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Awesome, Laura Kathleen Quinn Bouma. Will you please also leave this comment on the actual post so others will see it? That way it will be archived for when people read the post in the future.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@ Assilem I just use the same metal tea tin when I travel. The cap fits pretty tight and hasn't come off in my suitcase.

Daniel
Daniel

Notice they switched from aluminum tubing to plastic a few years ago?

VivienneDownes
VivienneDownes

 @rockyplayful I live in the UK & buy Witch Hazel in a glass bottle (but with a plastic top) from my local supermarket ASDA which is something to do with Walmart. The bottle brand label is "Care + " manufactured by Thornton & Ross Ltd., Huddersfield, HD7 5QH, UK i don't know if this will be any help ? But witch hazel works for me too !

Jenn Satter
Jenn Satter

@retrohousewife5 Do you mix everything in a jar? Does the tea tree oil dry or form a paste?

K
K

I bought the Pits balm based on this review- love it for the feel, and smell and it seems to be equally effective as regular deodorant. Only two complaints- 1) They came delivered in a bubble mailer (non recyclable) and 2) I bought two jars and each was only about half full :(

MotherLodeBeth
MotherLodeBeth

 @Eve Stavros  I have found that the natural food stores in the more 'green' areas and near universities here in the states tend to be the most package free minded.  Its where we got our deodorant stone years ago.   So you are spot on per Europe and how many areas are far ahead of us here in the states.

MotherLodeBeth
MotherLodeBeth

Also wanted to note the type of laundry soap you use can also affect sweating issues.  If you add one cup of plain vinegar to the rinse water cycle you will remove all soap/detergent residue and this helps a lot, because soaps have salts in them and if they stay in the fabric, next to the skin they can become like a wick and draw moisture out of the body and thus you find you have moisture under the arms, around the waist, in the crease areas of the legs etc. 

Daniel
Daniel

Sorry. was referring to their toothpaste tubes in that last comment.

retrohousewife5
retrohousewife5

 @Jenn Satter  Like Beth says above, just a few drops and shake and it won't be a clump. I keep mine in a little spice jar. 

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi K.  I will forward your comment to THinc and see what they say.  I'm guessing (hoping) the mailer was something they reused.  I'll see if someone will reply back to your comment here.

Malena from THinc
Malena from THinc

 @BethTerry Aloha K & Beth!  This is Malena from THinc. (:

 

We are actually working on a FAQS page to address these exact questions/concerns & more.

 

[1]  We never buy plastic shipping supplies.  The mailer you received would have been recycled.  We even pick up bubble wrap from stores that have excess amounts that would otherwise go straight into our ocean, so please keep it recycling if you can (since' it's already been produced).

 

On that note, we will soon have an option on our website that allows you to choose "ship with recycled materials" or "ship with NON-plastic materials."  We also have a large supply of recycled paper &  boxes & other non-plastic shipping supplies to respect such wishes, as well as have on hand in case we ever do run out of recycled supplies (& hopefully one day we WILL!)

 

[2] To address your other concern; we use shea butter for the base of our PITS & unfortunately, in the hot months it can melt.  You would have still received 2oz., however, instead of looking "full" it now is just concentrated & dense; so we advise using a little less to make up for this.

 

However, we are VERY committed to our supporters (we're all in this together, after all) & if you feel you just didn't get enough, please contact us @ thincskin@gmail.com & we would be more than happy to do what it takes to make you feel you got your $'s worth!

 

Thank you for your time in writing this, it's always helpful for us!

 

Mahalo!

 

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