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How to Make Homemade Natural Deodorant

These days my life looks pretty crunchy. I’m a vegan who lives outside Asheville, one of the biggest wellness meccas on the East Coast. I mostly use herbal supplements instead of mainstream medications. I don’t wear much makeup. I teach yoga. I compost. I stopped using paper towels. And I make my own natural deodorant.

What? Yes. I make my own natural deodorant. If you’ve met me in real life, you’ll know I don’t stink! My husband Sam also wears my homemade deodorant — and he works a corporate job and can’t go in smelling like a dirty hippie. (He’s already known for wearing crazy socks and having long hair!) In fact, while I also use two commercially made natural deodorants, he exclusively uses homemade — and he was the reason that I began to make it in the first place!

The Stinky Truth: Most Natural Deodorants Don’t Work

I spent more than five years searching for a potent natural deodorant. I am an anxious person, and that means I sweat a lot. I don’t necessarily stink, but I sweat. I need my deodorant to last all day, so I stuck with my conventional deodorant because most natural deodorants don’t work for me.

I didn’t want to give up on natural deodorant. After all, I had transitioned to sulfate-free shampoo, mineral-based makeup and five-free nail polish. I had a drawer full of half-used sticks of natural deodorant that let me down at the worst possible moments, like when I was teaching yoga or in a meeting at work. Tom’s deodorant was sticky and wore off within hours. J.A.S.O.N. tea tree oil deodorant was the best, with Earth Science tea tree and lavender deodorant coming in a close second. I tried the crystal kind, too, but it was not strong enough and too drying. Reluctantly, I kept going back to the drugstore brand.

Why We Make Our Own Natural Deodorant

Finally, as I greened my life one step at a time, that drugstore deodorant stick was the product that just didn’t belong with the others on my dresser. I stuck with J.A.S.O.N., as did Sam, until he started to have a reaction to tea tree oil. That’s why we make our own natural deodorant.

If Sam hadn’t started to have a reaction to the tea tree oil in his deodorant, we likely would have been content with the “good enough” stick we were using. But about three years ago, he started to have irritation in his armpits. It got so bad that he developed a dry, itchy, scaly rash, and he had to stop wearing deodorant temporarily. He dusted his armpits with baking soda and wiped them with a soapy washcloth whenever he could, but he was working in customer service at a teahouse and couldn’t risk being stinky since he was working for tips.

We had to find a solution.

He found a recipe for homemade deodorant online, and I made him a batch. As soon as his armpits healed, he started using it — and he loved it! He hasn’t used anything else since. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, making it in larger batches and playing with the ratio of ingredients. We go light on the essential oils to keep it from irritating the skin.  

Why Choose Natural Deodorant

If you don’t stink and have no issue with your conventional deodorant, you might wonder why you should consider switching. One word: aluminum. Notice how I didn’t use the word “antiperspirant” to describe the product I make or those I currently buy. That’s because they aren’t antiperspirants, which usually contain aluminum salts. They are only deodorants.

The aluminum compounds in antiperspirants block sweat ducts and help prevent odor by inhibiting bacteria that feed on your sweat. That’s why products that contain aluminum are called antiperspirants. Those that only absorb odor or neutralize it are called deodorants.

Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s and kidney disease, and though the link has been called weak, that’s not a risk I’m willing to take with my health. For the same reason, I no longer use aluminum foil (if it’s unavoidable, I use parchment between the food and the foil), aluminum pans or baking powder containing aluminum. (You can buy aluminum-free baking powder.)

There’s also a connection to breast cancer; some studies have said shown “a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant of the breast.” Think about how close the breasts are to the underarms, and when you shave, you open all those pores. We also spend much of the day with our arms down. Then we block a natural detoxification function of the body — sweating. Maybe I’m playing it too safe, or this is too “hippie,” but that’s fine by me.

In addition to aluminum, conventional antiperspirants contain endocrine disruptors like parabens, not to mention artificial fragrances and petroleum-based ingredients. No, thank you! That, my friends, is why I choose natural deodorant.

When I returned to 9-to-5 life in 2014, I picked up a “natural” antiperspirant from Tom’s of Maine. I wanted to have it on hand just in case I needed something stronger. Big mistake! I wore it once, and my armpits broke out. My pores couldn’t handle being clogged, and they swelled, along with my lymph nodes. I had to skip deodorant and bras for three days! (Thankfully, it was winter, so I could layer up.

OK, are you ready to make your own?

How to Make Homemade Natural Deodorant

Once you learn how to make homemade natural deodorant, you’ll see how affordable and easy it is. I bought shea butter over a year ago, and I still have plenty left. I like to switch up the essential oils based on the season or my mood. (Sam often prefers unscented, but I like lavender.)

I still need to experiment with putting this in a recycled deodorant stick. I am weird about getting my hands dirty (except for cooking!), so I don’t like having to put my fingers in the jar all the time. If you try it let me know. I think you may need a little less coconut oil for it to be thick enough for the stick.

As with the PPP stick (see below), this one will soften but not fully melt in summer. Just be sure to use a jar or container with a tight lid. We first used a one-cup Pyrex container, and it leaked a bit in Sam’s bag. We store ours in small canning jars.

Keep in mind that you’re using this on a very sensitive part of the body. You may not want to use very hot or cooling oils, like peppermint or eucalyptus. If you want more strength, add a drop or two of tea tree oil. Too much may irritate your armpits.

Yield: almost 2 cups

Time: 5 minutes of prep work, 1 hour to let cool

Ingredients

½ cup coconut oil

⅓ cup shea butter

½ cup baking soda

½ cup cornstarch

5-10 drops essential oil

Directions

  1. Melt the coconut oil and shea butter together in a small pan over low heat. Once the mixture is about ¾ melted, remove from heat. The residual heat from the pan will be sufficient to melt them the rest of the way.
  2. Carefully stir in the rest of the ingredients. I like to use a whisk and then a spatula.
  3. Divide between two jars with tight-fitting lids.
  4. Let cool on the counter for an hour, then stir to combine again. You can refrigerate it overnight if you want it to be very firm, or you can store it in the bathroom.

This amount will last us about six months.

My Favorite Natural Deodorants

I mentioned that I still use two commercially available natural deodorants in addition to the homemade one. (Not all at once — I’m not that stinky!) My favorite natural deodorants have ingredient lists similar to the one I make, and you may have most of the ingredients at home right now! I did, except for the shea butter.

Primal Pit Paste Royal & Rogue

$10.95

What they say:

Royal & Rogue Primal Pit Paste Deodorant Stick is a natural deodorant that actually works! Swipe away your stink with this convenient, easy-to-carry stick.

  • Neutralize body odor without aluminum
  • Get long lasting pit protection for the gym or workplace
  • Clean finish so your pits feel fresh and light
  • Handcrafted with real, natural, and organic ingredients
  • Jam-packed with natural goodness so you’ll be stink-free for all your adventures!

Royal & Rogue is warm and earthy with hints of Rosewood, Frankincense, Black Pepper, and Sandalwood. Great for men and women who like that “royal” feeling.

Deodorant should be simple — and good for you — with ingredients you can pronounce. That’s why our deodorants are natural with no harsh chemicals or aluminum… ever!

Royal & Rogue Primal Pit Paste Stick contains 8 ingredients.

What I say:

Full disclosure: This deodorant contains beeswax, so it’s not vegan. I didn’t realize that when I bought it (and I didn’t read the label — #veganfail!). I am using up my current stick. I like the smell of this deodorant, but it’s a little thick. If I had a stressful day in the office, it sometimes wore off around 4 p.m. It softens slightly in summer, but it won’t melt completely.

Schmidt’s Deodorant Charcoal + Magnesium

$12.38

What they say:

Schmidt’s Charcoal + Magnesium Deodorant is designed to help combat underarm odor. This deodorant features a blend of beneficial plant-based ingredients, including shea butter, jojoba oil and arrowroot powder.

What I say:

I wanted to roll my eyes at this deodorant when it showed up as a sponsored Instagram ad. I thought it would stain clothes or just be weird. Then I met the team at Expo West last year, and one of their employees gifted me a stick. I fell in love! It lasted alllll day at the trade show, and I didn’t have to do a pit test. I just bought another stick. I carry this one with me when I go to yoga or the gym. If you want to buy a natural deodorant instead of making one, choose this one. It looks and performs just like a conventional one.

And while I haven’t tried PiperWai yet, I want to based on the clever video featuring JP Sears:

How to Naturally Deodorize from the Inside Out

During my last yoga anatomy workshop, I realized how many muscles attach under the arm. Since then, I’ve had new respect for my underarms. They contain lymph nodes and are crucial to our natural detoxification systems. Here are some ways to keep your pits in peak shape and naturally deodorize from the inside out.

You are what you eat. A friend of mine once commented that she smelled better when she was vegetarian. I agree. Once I stopped eating meat, I smelled better. I wasn’t as sweaty. You may notice the same if you adopt a plant-based diet.

Keep the lymph moving. As I mentioned, your armpits are the attachment points for several important muscles: latissimus dorsi, subscapularis, pectoralis major, teres major and serratus anterior. They also contain lymph nodes, whose job it is to filter what the lymph transports throughout the body. (Lymph is fluid, and it helps transport nutrients and waste as part of the immune system.) Massaging the muscles and lymph nodes under your arms not only feels good, but it can stimulate lymphatic flow, which is a natural way your body detoxifies itself. After a shower, dig your thumbs into your pits and give yourself a good massage. You may find the chest muscles, your breasts, your ribs and even your shoulders start to loosen up afterward.

Moisturize your pits. Whether you use conventional or natural deodorant, they can be drying to the thin skin of your pits. At night, wash your underarms with warm water and gentle soap, then rub some organic coconut oil or cold-pressed (not toasted) sesame oil into your pits. I do this in winter to help prevent dry, itchy skin.

Detox your pits. If you feel really stinky, use a charcoal or clay mask on your clean pits once a week. This can help drawn out impurities just like it can on your face or elsewhere. If you have the time and privacy, why not do a head-to-toe bentonite clay mask?

Take a break when you can. When I’m working from home and know I don’t need to or anywhere, I sometimes skip the deodorant and let my pits breathe. It feels good, and it lets my pores breathe. You can also do this at night — and you should if you’re wearing conventional deodorant.  

Green your shaving cream. I used the satin, flowery-scented shaving cream in pink bottles all through high school and college. These days, I just use soap, and I have no issues with cutting myself or drying out my skin. If you need a shaving cream, choose a natural one or use coconut oil. (Or try this homemade shaving soap recipe.)

I hope this post has convinced you to rethink your deodorant — and give your pits the respect they deserve!

My 2 Favorite Matcha Lattes

I’m finally sharing my go-to matcha latte recipes! These recipes are an alternative to coffee if you’re not quite ready to quit caffeine. I find that matcha (green tea) has a different effect on me than coffee. Have you tried a matcha/green tea latte? (These are quite different than the ones at Starbucks.)

Here’s the back story: This summer was one of self-care. I’ve been working on some health issues behind the scenes, mostly anxiety and hormones. The two are definitely related, and I’ve discovered some nutrition and lifestyle triggers that I’ve slowly been removing and replacing. As you might have guessed from the title of this post, one of those triggers was caffeine.

Primarily coffee. I have always been sensitive to caffeine, but I thought that as long as I was drinking plenty of water, I could still have my beloved morning cup or two of coffee. Wrong!

I cut out coffee two months ago, replacing it with matcha, the caffeine in which has never bothered me. I haven’t looked back. I’ve enjoyed a couple of coffee drinks since then (a bit of coffee with some special herbs and spices I’ll share at some point, plus plenty of non-dairy milk), but I’ve been loyal to my matcha lattes. I started out simple, with just matcha, hot water and a bit of whatever milk we had on hand. Since I drink a matcha latte every morning, I’ve started integrating other ingredients, like maca.

Maca is an adaptogen, meaning it’s an herb that helps your body adapt to stress. It supports energy and stamina, and I use it to support healthy, balanced hormones, too. Maca is energizing in a nonstimulating way, so it won’t make you feel jittery like caffeine does. I can’t say enough good stuff about it! I find that the combination of matcha and maca gives me steady energy with no crash or anxiety (as coffee does). You can buy it in capsules or powder, and it’s the latter that you can use for cooking. Maca has a mild taste, slightly nutty and pleasant. Once it’s mixed into coffee or tea, I don’t notice its flavor.

What is Matcha?

If you’re not a tea drinker, you might not know much about matcha. Matcha is a special type of green tea that’s grown and then kept in the shade for a couple of weeks before harvest. The leaves are harvested, dried and ground into a fine powder. You consume the powder in your beverage rather than straining it out as you do with loose tea leaves or a tea bag.

Matcha has a vibrant, grassy, green taste that I love. It’s slightly bitter but complex, and it’s rich in chlorophyll (the pigment that gives matcha its bright color). Since you consume the whole leaf, matcha is higher in antioxidants, including EGCG, than regular green tea.

I’ve been drinking matcha since I lived in South Korea back in 2005, and it became a part of my regular routine when Sam started working for Dobra Tea shortly after we moved to the mountains. On cold winter mornings, I would drive down to the tea house when he was working, and he would make me a traditional matcha latte with a little bamboo scoop and whisk. (Sam’s quite the tea connoisseur after working at Dobra for three years.) I buy my organic matcha from Dobra, but you can find it at most supermarkets these days, and on Amazon.

How to Make a Matcha Latte

As I mentioned, I started with simple matcha lattes: matcha, hot (not boiling) water and milk. I make mine in my Vitamix because it’s easy, but you can also mix your hot water into your matcha using a small whisk. (Note that you want to mix the water into the matcha, a bit at a time, rather than the other way around. Matcha can clump if you don’t add the water slowly.)

And then I add some fun ingredients…

Dates: I now use one date to sweeten my drink instead of more processed forms of sugar. You can omit the date if you prefer, but I like the rich caramel flavor it adds. Dates are high in sugar, yes, but they also contain plenty of nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6. I used to toss a pitted date in the blender, but it made a lot of noise and didn’t always blend smoothly. Now I fill a small jar with pitted dates, cover with water and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. The dates are soft enough to blend whenever I need one.

Hemp seeds: I use hemp seeds in my matcha for a boost of iron, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. (You can use any non-dairy milk, but this tastes better with a richer milk that contains some fat, like cashew or coconut.) As a plant-based eater, I need all the omega-3s I can get, so I consume at least one serving (3 tablespoons) of hemp seeds daily. Adding the healthy fats to my matcha latte gives it some heft, so it’s more satisfying and filling.

Ready for my two favorite recipes?

Lavender-Peppermint Matcha Latte

This is my favorite cool-weather recipe, and it’s inspired by a couple of beverages on the menu at Dobra. Peppermint is stimulating for the mind, and it’s traditionally used as an herb for memory. Lavender is calming and soothing, and I like the scent that it adds. Start with a small amount; adding too much lavender will make your latte taste like air freshener.

Ingredients

1 cup hot water

3 tablespoons hemp seeds (optional) or ¼ cup non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon matcha (OK, maybe 2 teaspoons when you’re really dragging…)

1 teaspoon maca powder (optional, but this is always in my matcha drinks)

1 date, pitted and soaked

½ teaspoon dried mint (or 1 dropperful peppermint tincture — not peppermint extract)

Pinch dried lavender

Pinch vanilla powder (optional; see tip)

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a blender. Put the lid on but remove the pour spout. Invert it and cover the opening so that steam can escape but your drink doesn’t spray all over your kitchen!
  • Blend until smooth.

Serves 1.

You can also make this as an iced latte. In that case, put the lid on the blender as normal.

If I want an extra boost of caffeine, I use an additional cup of jasmine green tea, and if I want to feel a bit calmer, I will use tulsi tea.

Tip: I like to use vanilla bean paste or powder rather than vanilla extract in dishes that won’t be cooked. Vanilla extract can have a harsh, alcoholic flavor in drinks. You can also split a vanilla bean and use the fresh paste — just a tiny bit will suffice!

Turmeric-Ginger Matcha Latte

This is my new favorite drink for fall — move over Pumpkin Spice Lattes! Seriously though, this even swayed Sam, who generally doesn’t like fussy tea drinks. (I also made him a coffee version.) It might look like a lot of ingredients, but it’s really not. See my tips below for prepping fresh ginger and turmeric.

I use both turmeric and ginger for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These plants are cousins, and they taste great together. Turmeric adds an earthiness to balance the other spices. Cinnamon helps balance blood sugar, so I sprinkle it on anything that contains sugar (natural or processed). Cardamom is so fragrant and delicious, and it’s good for the digestive system (it’s a carminative, meaning it helps dispel gas). All together with vanilla, these spices make a warming, comforting drink for cooler weather.

Ingredients

1 cup hot water

3 tablespoons hemp seeds (optional) or ¼ cup non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon matcha (OK, maybe 2 teaspoons when you’re really dragging…)

1 teaspoon maca powder (optional, but this is always in my matcha drinks)

1 date, pitted and soaked

½-inch piece fresh ginger

½-inch piece fresh turmeric, or ¼ teaspoon dried turmeric

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon cardamom

Pinch vanilla powder (optional; see tip above)

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a blender. Put the lid on but remove the pour spout. Invert it and cover the opening so that steam can escape but your drink doesn’t spray all over your kitchen!
  • Blend until smooth.

Serves 1.

You can also make this as an iced latte. In that case, put the lid on the blender as normal.

Tip: I have a tendency to let fresh ginger linger in the produce drawer, and I’ll find dried-up nubbins after bringing home a fresh knob. Oops. To prevent waste, I now slice fresh ginger and turmeric into ½-inch or so pieces, peel and all, then freeze. They’re ready whenever a recipe calls for fresh turmeric or ginger and can be easily blended, even with the peel.

Are you a matcha fan? How do you like to drink it? Any recipe requests or variations you’d like to see me make?

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Recipe: My Favorite Tofu Scramble

In honor of the launch of  The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, I thought I’d do something novel. I’m sharing a recipe for my best tofu scramble. I’ve been so busy working full time and prepping for the launch (and freelancing and training for a half last fall and teaching yoga again and… you know… life…) that I’ve only shared quick recipes on Instagram. I want to thank you for continuing to read — and for your support with the cookbook. (And, I’m freelancing full time these days, so expect more posts — and reach out if you’re interested in health coaching sessions!) With that, I’m sharing one of our family favorites. I hope you love it as much as Sam and I do!   

Tofu scramble is a vegan breakfast classic, so common you’ll sometimes find it on brunch menus at non-vegan restaurants. I love making it for non-vegan house guests. It’s savory and packed with protein, and it looks somewhat like eggs to those who aren’t familiar with it. It’s always a hit. That said, I have a few requirements for my tofu scramble:

  1. It must contain nutritional yeast, to give it a richer flavor.
  2. It needs to be heavily spiced — I don’t just want sautéed tofu.
  3. It can’t be too salty. Salt is the cheater’s way of adding flavor to any dish. (It also can’t be greasy. Oil is another cheat.)
  4. It needs to be packed with vegetables. I want to see a little of everything: greens, root veg and aromatics. If there are mushrooms, even better.
  5. It must be yellow — this is purely for aesthetics, but it also means you get a dose of the anti-inflammatory powerhouse turmeric, on its own or in curry powder (I use both).

My beloved Park + Vine (RIP) had a delightful tofu scramble that met all of those criteria, but few other places make tofu scram the way I like it, so I often find myself drowning it in hot sauce.

I used to consider tofu scramble to be a weekends-only dish, but then I started making it in larger batches and omitting the greens (see #4 — greens are a crucial part of the dish for me) so it lasted longer. Now, we eat this every other week or so, usually with avocado toast or stuffed into a whole-grain wrap and toasted. Less than an hour of work on the weekends means several weekday breakfasts are ready in minutes. Now that we get up at the crack of dawn (5ish), every minute counts!

My secret is to load up on the herbs and spices. Thyme (and I sometimes swap in rosemary or use both) lends a savory note, while curry adds depth and heat. Smoked paprika is rich in umami, and its smokiness, along with the cumin, taste somewhat bacon-y (while I was never a bacon fan, I do associate smoky flavors with savory breakfasts). Tamari (instead of salt) adds more umami, as does nutritional yeast. Yes, there are a lot of herbs and spices, but that’s what makes it so delicious!

My Go-To Tofu Scramble 

Serves 6-8

15 minutes to prep (or less, depending on how fast you chop vegetables)

30 minutes to cook

Ingredients 

1 tablespoon grapeseed or avocado oil (optional)

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, finely chopped

1 pint cremini or white button mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced

1 cup diced tomatoes or 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons yellow curry powder

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup vegetable or mushroom broth, divided

1 large sweet potato, chopped

2 (1-pound) packages firm or extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled into bite-size pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

To serve:

Scallions or chives

Sauteed greens or fresh baby greens

Directions

  • Place a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, if using.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers. Cook for two minutes, stirring often, until they start to soften.
  • Stir in the mushrooms and tomatoes, and cook for five minutes, stirring often. Add the herbs and spices. Stir to combine, and cook for one minute, until fragrant.
  • Add half of the vegetable broth, and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add the sweet potato, tofu and garlic. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid. Some of the tofu and veggies should be brown and crispy, and some will be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add broth as needed to deglaze the pan again (this means “loosen the stuck-on bits” — this is another secret to getting more flavor from this dish with little to no added oil).
  • Add the tamari and nutritional yeast, and cook another 10 minutes, covered.
  • Remove from heat and serve, with greens and garnished with scallions or chives.
  • Or, if you’re batch cooking, allow to cool then pack into single-serve portions. Add the greens and scallions or chives before reheating.

Disclaimer

The information on this website is intended to be general information for my readers. I am a health coach, not a medical doctor or dietitian. Please consult a health-care professional before beginning any weight-loss or fitness program — and always listen to your body.

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