Homemade deodorant and triclosan tales: an urbanMamas green thing
Who knew such a little post on going sans shampoo would send me down so many do-it-yourself roads? It was easy (and, as they say in Pokemon, super-effective!) to give up washing my face for the oil cleansing method and I just had one personal care product holdout: the deodorant. I've been applying my trusty stick of Dove (sensitive skin fragrance free) daily for over a decade, and after reading something about how chemicals to which a pregnant woman is exposed in her first trimester affecting behavioral problems (boy do I have those around here): well, it was time to cut the cord.
I went to the package today and read the list of chemicals I'd been avoiding. What do I know about the active ingredient, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY? Nothing. And it could be fine, or crushingly destructive. Who knows? The "inactive" ingredients were equally curious, and though sunflower oil sounds fine, I've been trying to avoid conventional almond products because of the crop's excessive use of pesticides and its contribution to colony collapse disorder (many scientists believe stress from trucking bees to pollinate the almond crops, added to the detrimental effects of those herbicides and the lack of a diversity of diet when all the weeds are whacked, is a big factor in CCD), so even one of the other things I recognized, sweet almond oil, didn't have me exactly relaxed.
There was more, too, and while it doesn't appear on my Dove package (phew), it's evidently in lots of other products: triclosan. After the first few giddy years with antibacterial soaps (I was living with a bit of an obsessive when they were introduced, he was thrilled), I became suspicious and, after a few of those usual exposes in which it is shown that antibacterial soap doesn't kill any more bacteria than Ivory, or that people don't stay any weller using antibacterial soap, I went back to the ordinary variety. According to the LA Times, this doesn't necessarily prevent me from having lots of triclosan exposure in my everyday life; a bacterial inhibitor, it's also used as a preservative in soaps that aren't marketed as antibacterial, and in deodorant, face washes, mouthwashes, and toothpaste (Colgate Total is one offending brand). Why this is scary: after having approved the ingredient since 1970, the FDA is once again reconsidering its safety after research in animals shows similar effects to the super-scary chemicals like bisphenol A, dioxins, and pesticides like DDT. That's not all: one of the reasons I tossed it in the first place, the potential for it to hurry along the development of superbugs, is also a concern.
Instead of spreading chemicals of unknown quantity, quality and harm onto our skin (the best way, incidentally, of getting the chemicals into our bloodstream), why not rub on a mixture of things you know and wouldn't actually mind eating, if it came to that?
My deodorant is simple: coconut oil (which is a semi-solid consistency at room temperature), baking soda and arrowroot. I didn't measure exactly, but it's about two parts oil, one part each baking soda and arrowroot (I suggest looking for arrowroot in bulk at People's or New Seasons, it's probably cheaper than buying it in the spice aisle, as I did), stirred around to a good consistency with a little spoon and then spread on with my fingers each morning. Amy Karol has a lovely 'mail order' recipe book (it's #11) with a more involved deodorant, and some other great homemade personal care products, if you want something fancier.
It doesn't work quite so decidedly as the Dove, but it smells delicious and, as long as I apply it every morning, inhibits odor quite nicely. And there's something so liberating about the knowledge that (should I happen to without thinking) I can lick my fingers after applying deodorant. For some reason, that makes me quietly happy every day.