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Would YOU take the bicarb underarm challenge?

August 7, 2009

OK so this has been on my mind for some time. I facilitate workshops at the Watershed in Newtown, Sydney and bicarb deodorant always comes up. Some people swear by it while others say it is just irritating to the skin. I wanted to find out for myself by setting a bicarb underarm challenge. What am I talking about?  Let me explain.

Sodium Bicarbonate is a much-loved ingredient in the natural formulators treasure chest as it can be put to many exciting uses.  Now this is a “chemical” and it most definitely doesn’t grow on trees but it does flow in mineral springs making it perfectly acceptable for someone looking to simplify their personal care regimen. Naturally.

Sodium Bicarbonate is found in your bath fizzers (it reacts with citric acid to create a fizz), it is found in your toothpaste (as a whitener and an abrasive), it can be used as an anti-fungicide to help with dandruff or skin disorders and can help neutralize the pong of smelly feet when put into a foot bath and it can of course be used as a deodorant. All of that for only a few dollars a Kg!

So how does it work?

Most of our sweat is relatively odorless when it is first released but what happens after that can cause us problems. Our released sweat sits on the skin where it provides a banquet for our under arm bacteria. The bacteria feast away leaving a trail of smelly bi-products behind them. Sodium Bicarbonate is able to neutralize these smelly odors by absorbing them leaving our pits smell free!

So how do I use it?

Many people whom I speak to just make a paste up with a little water and then slap it on under each armpit. This is the cheapest, quickest and most efficient use of resources but is it OK for your skin? The trouble with bicarb is that it is an alkali chemical. That is, it has a pH of over seven (which is neutral). Our skin is naturally acidic having a pH of around 5.5.  The skin is able to adjust its pH to maintain the status quo but continued exposure to a high pH may lead to irritation – especially if you are shaving your armpits at the same time as deodorizing them! Therefore, this solution is only recommended for short-term use or for use in alteration with a more skin-friendly pH routine.

Others mix a little bicarb into a talcum powder or cornstarch base before applying.  This helps to bring down the pH of the formulation as the cornstarch and talc have a slightly acidic pH (between 5- 6) which is far closer to that of the skin.  These formulations feel nice on the skin and are certainly kinder to damaged skin than the above BUT this method does have one obvious drawback. The talc will sit on top of the skin and be visible for a long time so for those who want to bare their pits to the world this may not be a suitable option. Also for those, wanting to wear a little black dress this may not be so much fun!

Finally, others opt for a shop bought solution – it is quite possible to purchase deodorant sticks that contain Bicarb as the active ingredient. These typically contain between 3-10% bicarb in an inert base. They go on like traditional roll on deodorants and are formulated to have the correct pH.  These products are a good choice for those with armpit issues such as dry or damaged skin BUT they are the most environmentally impactful option out of those listed here in as much as they have been manufactured and transported, marketed and stocked before you have to purchase them, use them then throw out the packaging.

I am going to take the bicarb armpit challenge next week and am going to start with the bicarb/water mix to see how my skin tolerates it. I was thinking of going one pit at a time!  What do you think? Is this something that you would consider? Why not take the bicarb underarm challenge with me?

Just don’t stand to close, OK!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aminal permalink
    September 27, 2012 10:15 pm

    Please becareful doing this – I tried it and yes it worked, but a few days later I broke out in boils, alot of boils. The bicarb obviously irrated my skin big time. Since then I have spent 6 months in and out of hospital with intravenous antibiotics and surgery (twice!) because of a subsequent MRSA skin infection. Finally after 3 months taking a high-dose combination of two different oral antibiotics, I seem to be in the clear and will never, ever try DIY deodorant again…

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      October 10, 2012 8:36 pm

      Oh my goodness that is a terrible situation! I know of a few people that do this and some who did end up a little irritated but nobody as bad as that you poor thing. I really hope that you are over it now. A lesson to us all to be careful with our skin I think!

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