“Growing up, I had a massive issue with sweat and BO,” Queensland mother of three Michelle Shellshear tells SBS. “It was primarily underarm sweating. I couldn’t wear shirts with sleeves because I’d just have big circles under my arms.”
As the 40-year-old looks back on a health issue that continued all the way into her late 30s, she recalls the difficulty surrounding her circumstance. She was a woman with a sweat and odour problem: an issue that’s typically attributed to men that carries an element of social shame.
Fearful of smelling in public, Shellshear would always carry spare clothes in her bag whenever she went out and change outfits as needed. Suffering from regular body odour dented her self-esteem. “I was always embarrassed by it,” she explains. “I was always thinking about it and noticing it.”
Shellshear tried every deodorant on the market to eradicate the sweat and associated odour: strong, weak, natural and chemical-laden deodorants. Yet nothing seemed to remedy the issue in the way that her body needed it to.
So a few years ago, Shellshear took matters into her own hands. “Nothing worked, so I started making my own deodorant.
It took me about two years of tweaking, changing and researching [ingredients] to come up with a recipe that I’m finally really happy with
Shellshear is currently employed as a banker and does not have a naturopathic or herbalist background. Yet, by researching various ingredients and recipes online, she managed to create a unique deodorant formula to remedy her own health issue. Shellshear says she no longer produces so much sweat and doesn’t smell anymore.
“It took me about two years of tweaking, changing and researching [ingredients] to come up with a recipe that I’m finally really happy with. It was quite a proud moment I guess.”
The main ingredient is coconut oil, which is believed by some to be a natural antibacterial agent.
“It also contains arrowroot powder, which is an absorbent; bicarbonate which is an antifungal and attacks the odour; mango and shea butter to improve the feel of the deodorant; and a few essential oils for scent.”
Although the recipe was specifically tailored to suit Shellshear’s requirements, could the same recipe work for other people who feel commercially available deodorants don’t meet their needs?
Could this natural deodorant actually work?
SBS's series, Medicine or Myth? follows everyday Australians as they pitch their diverse and sometimes divisive health remedies to a panel of medical experts in the hope of being selected for a real-world trial.
Shellshear proposes her homemade deodorant recipe to the panel as a widespread remedy for sweat and excessive body odour.
Up until now, [most of the deodorants we’ve had have just] plugged the sweat glands with lots of aluminium….So I am desperate to understand this more because it's a massive problem.
The panel of experts show a lot of interest in the formula, explaining that an evidence-based deodorant made with all-natural ingredients could help many women in need of an aluminium-free product.
“You’ve got different sweat glands all over your body, but you’ve got some special sweat glands in hairy areas, shall we say,” says Medicine or Myth? panellist, and family and women’s health expert, Dr Ginni Mansberg. “They produce a slightly milky substance, which in itself does not stink but is fabulous food for bacteria.
“Up until now, [most of the deodorants we’ve had have just] plugged the sweat glands with lots of aluminium….So I am desperate to understand this more because it's a massive problem.”
Shellshear is hopeful that word about her natural deodorant will spread. She currently sells the product to family and friends as well as customers through Facebook. But right now, the online business is just a hobby.
Since the show was filmed, Shellshear has also started making her own toothpaste, face cream, lip balm and cleaning products for personal use.
Having followed such a long, personal road to find a solution for her sweat issue, Shellshear stands by her belief that natural products work best for her.
“Things have gone full circle. Back in the pioneer days, people had to make everything themselves. Then, at some point [everybody] started buying everything. Now, more people are trying to shift back to making their own products.
“I think it’s important to have an understanding that you don’t have to buy everything from a supermarket.”
This article contains general information only and does not recommend or endorse any particular treatment. It is not intended to replace the advice provided by your own doctor or medical or health professional.
Medicine or Myth? follows everyday Australians as they pitch their diverse and sometimes divisive health remedies to a panel of medical experts, led by Dr Charlie Teo, in the hope of being selected for a real-world trial.
#MedicineorMyth, an eight-week series, airs every Monday at 8.30 pm on SBS, or catch up anytime on SBS On Demand.