I like Weleda because they are one of the few cosmetic companies that makes products simple enough for my tastes. Their website is also well done in that they break down and explain every component in their products. The downside to Weleda is that their products are very expensive. However, that very simplicity makes it possible to re-create some of their products at home–such as their alcohol based deodorants.
I bought a bottle of Weleda’s Sage Deodorant while on a trip and I really love the scent. I have a particular fondness for sage and related scents, and this was a lovely, subtle scent, unisex and clean. The deodorant action is simple–it’s all down to alcohol, which kills bacteria on contact. The essential oils, which are all from the family of cleansing, antibacterial oils, probably help as well. There’s really not much else in it. It’s not the sort of deodorant which prevents sweating, which is unhealthy. It’s of more use in freshening up, which suits me just fine. When the bottle ran out, I decided to make my own version.
The ingredients of the Weleda version are as follows: Alcohol, Water (Aqua), Fragrance (Parfum)*, Ammonium Glycyrrhizate, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Limonene*, Linalool*, Geraniol*, Coumarin*.
You can follow those links to Weleda’s site to find out more about each ingredient, but the last six are essential oils and essential oil based fragrances.
Essential oils I have a plenty, and for alcohol I used Everclear. I keep Everclear around for doing herbal tinctures, because it’s the purest alcohol available to the average consumer. I don’t know if Everclear is available outside of the US, but wherever you are, if you want to try this at home seek out the highest proof alcohol you can find. It should have no scent. I didn’t choose to use vodka because I think it has a boozy scent, but if you decide to use vodka, remember it’s already diluted with water, so adjust your water accordingly.
The Ammonium Glycyrrhizate is from licorice root–it’s used here, I believe, to soothe the skin from the alcohol’s sting. This I don’t have, so my homebrew might be a little harsher on the skin, but it hasn’t bothered me yet. The 3rd ingredient, Fragrance, is a mystery ingredient. They say it is made up of essential oils, but they’re not saying which, exactly. The essential oils listed later are sage, tea tree oil, citrus-type oils, rose-type oils and lavender type oils.
It would take a perfumer’s nose to replicate the fragrance exactly, but any of us should be able to make something pleasant smelling from whatever essential oils we have on hand, and whatever scents we like best. Weleda deodorant comes in a few different flavors, actually, so those might also inspire you if you’re not a fan of sage.
In the end, the entire process took approximately one minute. I decided on a 50/50 mix of Everclear and water. I may change this in the future if I find it’s not strong enough, but I didn’t want the alcohol to sting or dry my skin. I used a funnel to put this in the original bottle, which is, happily, glass with a pump top. The label from the bottle even peeled off easily! Thank you, Weleda.
Then I added about 20 drops of essential oils to the bottle, which holds 100 ml/1/2 cup. I used a blend of sage, lavender and tea tree. I can’t tell you how much of each, because I was fiddling with it as I went, but the sage and lavender dominate. I held back on the tea tree because it has such an assertive odor.
I like the result. It’s not crystal clear, like the original–that’s probably due to our water–I should have held out for distilled water. And the scent isn’t as magical as the original–I really liked that scent–but it’s plenty good. The nice thing about this is that it will be so easy to adjust as I figure out what I want. I can add essential oils any time if I want to strengthen or change the scent. I can pour off some liquid and add either alcohol or water to adjust those proportions.
Shake before using.
Note: Extreme DIY folk might note that they can tincture fragrant herbs in alcohol, and then use that infused alcohol as a deodorant in the same way, skipping the expensive essential oils. This is true. The only caveat is that the herbs darken the alcohol, and I’m not entirely sure the resulting tincture wouldn’t stain clothing–or maybe even skin? Sage infusions are especially dark. I once tried a homemade sage-infused oil that was supposed to darken eyelashes. It didn’t work, but someone thought it would!
Update: A couple of good points from the comments. One is regarding the cloudiness: Add the essential to the booze first, then add the water slowly. At some point of dilution it will turn cloudy, but you can keep track of where that point is, and try not to exceed it. Then shake the mix and put the jar in the freezer overnight. This also might help with the cloudiness. Thanks, Maggie!
Point #2: I should have mentioned that in California (and other states? I’m not sure) it’s not legal to sell full strength 190 proof (95% pure alcohol) Everclear in liquor stores. They sell 150 proof, which means it’s already a little diluted. I always pick up a few bottles of the real stuff whenever I visit my mom in AZ, feeling somewhat like a suspicious lush when I do. Thanks for the reminder, Jess. Also, cmmenters Maggie and Nancy, both give alternate sources for high proof grain alcohol.