Forget quizzes about which Muppet you are, do you know your deodorant personality? Because, yeah, it’s a real thing. For example, is your chemistry compatible with baking soda-based formulas, or does it cause you to break out in a rash? Do you prefer a moisturizing base or something oil-free that won’t leave stains on snug fitting clothing?
If you said oil-free, you’re going to love this simple recipe. Inspired by a comment on the effectiveness of milk as magnesia as a deodorant, I decided to do a little digging and . . . well . . lots of people swear by the stuff. Problem is, although the active ingredient in milk of magnesia is simply a poorly absorbed form of magnesium called magnesium hydroxide, most contain bleach (sodium hypochlorite) as an inactive ingredient . . . definitely not something I want to include in my personal care routine.
Although I was able to find one brand that only contains magnesium and water, I decided to experiment with another form I already had on hand. Magnesium oil – which is not actually an oil but a mixture of magnesium chloride and water that feels oily to the touch – is considered one of the best types of magnesium for topical use.
I began using it as a deodorant along with some essential oils and a smidge of glycerin to mellow out the magnesium and it worked amazingly well. Although I’ll probably return to my other favorite recipes during the winter, I prefer this lighter version for summer.
Why it works
Mineral salts have long been used as deodorants, and it is believed they work by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that create body odor. However, most are made from potassium aluminum sulfate (potassium alum for short) or ammonium alum, which are both forms of aluminum. Although proponents of potassium/ammonium alum say that the aluminum molecules are too large to be absorbed through skin, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that definitely proves that to be true. I’ve shared with you before why I avoid aluminum-containing deodorants, so obviously most mineral-salt deodorants are not an option I’ll consider.
Magnesium chloride, on the other hand, is a highly bioavailable form of magnesium that most of us struggle to get enough of. (source) As I mention in this post, it fuels about 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including energy production at a cellular level. It helps to relax achy muscles, mitigate the effects of stress, calm the mind by supporting the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, support restful sleep and more.
That’s not to say that this recipe will work for everyone. As I mentioned at the top of this post, some do better with recipes that include baking soda and some do better with sensitive skin formulas.
The good news is that if you try the magnesium oil version and it doesn’t work for you, at least you’ve nourished your body with an essential mineral! And if you use the milk of magnesia version you’ve got a laxative on hand if you ever need it. 🙂
Now let’s talk essential oil blends
The current blend I’m using is a mixture of equal parts lavender and black pepper essential oil, but there are so many options to choose from: sweet orange, tea tree, juniper berry, cedarwood atlas, frankincense (carteri, frereana, serrata, and sacra), sweet marjoram, patchouli, sandalwood (sustainably harvested), and vetiver.
All of these essential oils listed above are considered safe for use during pregnancy (after the first trimester) and breastfeeding. A 1% dilution (7 drops in the recipe below) is recommended for pregnant women. Click here to learn more about using essential oils during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
In terms of blends, here are a few blend ideas to get you started.
Smooth & Luxurious
- 6 drops frankincense (where to buy frankincense)
- 6 drops vanilla oleoresin
Light & Fresh
- 4 drops sweet orange (where to buy sweet orange)
- 4 drops lavender (where to buy lavender)
- 4 drops vetiver (where to buy vetiver)
Though magnesium is incredibly helpful for odor, it doesn’t absorb moisture. However, I’ve found that applying a bit of arrowroot powder or cornstarch with a dedicated makeup brush helps keep me feeling dry. I tried adding it to the magnesium oil but it turned the oil into a gel after awhile, so I recommend storing them separately.
Homemade Roll-On Deodorant
Makes two 1 ounce roller bottles
- 4 tablespoons magnesium oil or milk of magnesia without additives
- 1/2 teaspoon glycerin (can omit if using milk of magnesia)
- 12-24 drops essential oils (options listed above)
- arrowroot powder or cornstarch and a makeup application brush, optional
Apply as you would regular roll-on deodorant, but be aware that it’s probably best not to apply right after shaving as it may cause a stinging sensation.
Some people find that topical application creates a tingling or slight burning sensation when used in general, not just after shaving. It tends to fade as overall magnesium levels rise, so if you find that you experience tingling/burning, you may want to dilute your deodorant a bit and work up to the full concentration slowly.
As mentioned above, though magnesium is incredibly helpful for odor, it doesn’t absorb moisture. After applying it and allowing it to absorb for 30-60 seconds, I’ve found that applying a bit of arrowroot powder or cornstarch with a dedicated makeup brush helps keep me feeling dry.
If you’re new to natural deodorant and feeling frustrated by your lack of results, this may help speed the transition.