Photo credit: http://lethow.com/home-remedies/body-odor-removal/
Now that we understand what causes body odor, it's time to talk about how to prevent it. I am not comfortable about plugging sweat glands - sweat cools the body and is a very natural phenomenon that I am not looking to suppress. So now it was about getting effective ingredients to kill the bacteria that produce body odor. I tried several experiments.
1) Baking soda: Or sodium bicarbonate, the ubiquitous household chemical. Baking soda kills bacteria and keeps you dry. The most common DIY deodorant recipes on the internet use baking soda as the key ingredient.
Pros: Effective! I made a pretty good deodorant stick using baking soda, arrowroot powder, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. I could walk an hour in scorching heat and still smell pretty good at the end of the day. BUT
Cons: After weeks of use, my pits were on fire! Sodium bicarbonate has a high pH - i.e. it is an alkaline substance. Our skin likes to be slightly acidic.
Second, the stick stained the sleeves of my tops a yellow color - I was not a fan of that.
Third, the physical condition of this stick depended heavily on the climate - what was a perfectly nice and smooth stick i California melted into a gooey mess when I took it with me to India.
2) Acetic acid or vinegar: Vinegar is an acid and the pH prevents bacteria from thriving. Of course it smells a bit like body odor so you need to add things to it even after diluting it heavily for it to do anything.
Pros: Not irritating to skin.
Cons: At the dilution I was comfortable with, it was not very effective. Lasted only half a day and if I took one of my walks, I could smell myself after.
3) Magnesium oil aka Magnesium chloride: Magnesium is an element needed for our tissues to be healthy. While I was doing my research, this was a reasonably common DIY recipe for body odor. You make up a solution of magnesium chloride, add some essential oils, and voila!
Pros: Not irritating, and your body gets a healthy dose of magnesium!
Cons: Again like vinegar, not very effective. Gave me protection for only half the day.
I tried other recipes with witch hazel and zinc oxide, etc. etc.
And then I read a bunch of papers and learned that:
1) Magnesium chloride showed significant anti-microbial activity at low pH
2) some essential oils are better than others for anti-microbial activity
3) zinc oxide is effective for body odor due to its reaction with short chain fatty acids such as isovaleric acid, that are produced when bacteria act on sweat like we saw in this post. Although Zn is found in our cells and is needed for our bodies to function healthily, the non-nano zinc oxide particles are too large to enter our bodies.
So I put all this together into a spray formulation - water, vinegar, magnesium chloride, essential oils of lemon, tea tree, and lavender and zinc oxide. Since I am using non-nano zinc oxide, I believe the antibacterial effect will be diminished. So how did this work out?
All day, with a 40 minute brisk walk in the sun - smell fine. I can still smell some of the essential oils! It has exceeded my expectations. Plus the goodness of magnesium - a bonus. A couple samples will be sent out to some people for feedback. For now, me and my daughter are sticking to this.