Thursday, February 28, 2019

Pinterest Creates a Deodorant Dilemma

I was in sixth grade when I started using deodorant and from the word go, I used way too much. My family had gone over the hill to feed stale bread to the fish in our pond on a summer day. I was hauling myself back up near my mom when she exclaimed, “you stink!” This prompted the rest of the family to have a sniff. My father, never one for subtlety, roared about my B.O. His laughter followed me as I beat a path to the shower.

In those days, I wore a Milwaukee brace to treat scoliosis. Hygiene was complicated by the leather, metal, and plastic casing around my torso. I relied heavily on the Ban roll-on that mom kept in the house. It turned out I was a profuse sweater though and I soon switched to powder fresh solid, applying it heavily three or four times a day.

I caked on so much antiperspirant that it would congeal into little white balls that looked like bunches of grapes growing in my pits. Layer after layer of product went on and did nothing to stymie the sweat.

My seventh-grade history teacher went on a riff one day about the dangers of aluminum. We’re all going to have Alzheimer’s from our deodorant he said. His warning stuck with me and as I swiped or sometimes sprayed, I’d think how an elderly me would pay for it someday. But I didn’t stop.

Fast forward nearly thirty years and it’s not Alzheimer’s but a more credible worry about breast cancer and a closet full of shirts with pits stained powdery white. The planet is dying and I’ve personally populated landfills with empty pomegranate Dove deodorant sticks. In early 2019, I swiped the last bits of a stick and decided not to buy any more.

But I'm still a stinky girl.

I took to Pinterest for a solution and quickly found a homemade recipe sure to curb any unwanted APO. I measured and mixed just four ingredients and congratulated myself on saving the earth.

My mixture cooled and it didn't look like the Pinterest picture. It wasn't the consistency described in the post. In fact, my homemade deo seemed to have separated. Undeterred, I smoothed the top layer into my pits and went on about life.

And I didn't stink for weeks. Even better, without the constant reapplication of powdery solids that transferred to my clothes, most of the white pit stains washed out. I was sporting a wardrobe that looked nearly new.

Eventually, I worked my way down through that top layer and found that I couldn't scrape out enough to paste my pits. I took my mini ball jar back to the kitchen and hacked out chunks with a butter knife.

Now I had these cakes of solid deodorant that I could apply much like a storebought product but without the plastic holder. 

I was super pleased with myself at this point. 

Right up until the burning. Oh, my underarms felt like they were on fire a few days into my solid cake phase. I began asking the Google about the ingredients in the DIY wonder deodorant. 

Can lavender irritate skin? I asked.


Oh, yes.

Is corn starch irritating to skin?


How about coconut oil?

No. Go ahead and put as much coconut oil and corn starch on your body as you want.

At this point, my armpits were bright red and puffy. The internet painted a dreary picture of thick brown skin created by repeated exposure to baking soda. It appeared that I was a few uses away from teenage Groot underarms. Not pretty.

After a few days of NO DEODORANT, the burning stopped and my skin returned to its usual pitty pallor. Fun fact about me: I don't sweat that much when my skin is inflamed and burning like the fires of Mordor. So the post-burn part of this wasn't even the worst of it.

Pinterest will gladly tell you that baking soda bad, if you ask. Suddenly, my feed was full of recipes without baking soda. I even found the corner of the internet where people use plain coconut oil and nothing else. Of course, I tried that.


Coconut oil is just fine until the sweating starts and though there isn't much sweating during a Pittsburgh winter, there's too much sweating for coconut oil.

And now I'm left with a deodorant dilemma. I don't want to go back to those over-packaged plastic tubes full of aluminum and whatever else. I don't want to ruin all of my shirts. I also don't want to stink. So I think I'm going to have to try my own recipe, figure out what was in that top layer of the first Pinterest fail. 

Perhaps coconut oil, corn starch, and less lavender will do the trick. I'm starting to sweat just thinking about it.