Many moons ago, before I bothered to look at the ingredients of products or or bothered to learn how they worked before slapping them onto my face without abandon, I was guilty of a major beauty no-no (to be childish about it, anyway). Sometimes, if I was out of the also-not-ideal very popular apricot scrub, I’d reach in my cabinet for a fine white substance that serves multiple household purposes. It can deodorize. It can clean bathrooms (including toilets), kitchens. It can help refresh your carpet. The fine grit of baking soda on your face will deliver a satisfying exfoliation, whisking away pesky dead skin…right?
Technically, sure. It will remove dead skin. But that doesn’t mean that you should be using baking soda on your face!
It’s cheap – less than a dollar a box – and does more than just scrub your skin! It’s fragrance- and dye-free…and therefore (supposedly) non-irritant! The grit is not jagged and harsh like walnut shells. It has to be fine, right?
Wrong. No, you aren’t making tiny cuts in your skin, but you are tampering with the pH of your skin in a big way and are positioning yourself to cause more harm than help.
If you ask Google, you’ll get a slew of articles, blogs, and magazines (such as Women’s Day) touting it as a DIY beauty miracle, often in concert with things like lemon and whatnot. A (non-beauty) blogger I subscribe to with a pretty large following recently shared a post recommending its use – she loves using it around the house, and it is one less product to buy. I get it.
Fortunately, if you ask Google the right way, you’ll also find a slew of articles supporting my position: do NOT use baking soda on your face!
I will not delve into a full-blown chemistry lesson here but baking soda is alkaline (basic), with a pH of about 8-9 when combined with some water to when you scrub your face. Healthy skin, however, lies in the range of 4.5 to 6.2ish and is acidic. Introducing an alkaline substance to your slightly-acidic skin (aka by using baking soda on your face) is going to disrupt the delicate balance that your acid mantle exists in, making you more susceptible to issues. If you aren’t into skincare, you may not be familiar with the phrase, “acid mantle,” but it is just referring to the thin acidic film (you can’t see it) that coats our skin that helps block out bacteria and other ilk. Think of it as your skin’s naturally-occurring shield or defense system. If you’d like to learn more about the acid mantle the importance of our skin’s moisture barrier, check out the links at the bottom of this post.
If the body of your car is allowed to rust, its structural integrity has been compromised. It may not protect you as well, and it may open you up to other issues. If you knew that something you were doing was encouraging that rust, you’d probably avoid it, right? Rust damage is costly to repair, not to mention any complications you might experience as a result of it.
Now you know. Treat yourself with the same consideration and do not use baking soda on your face. After all, maintaining is a lot easier (and cheaper!) than fixing.
I understand the temporary instant gratification and satisfaction of a squeaky-clean baking soda scrub gives, but think about it – your skin probably feels too taut afterwards. It might actually overcompensate and produce more oil after the fact. Or, like me, you’d experience a brief reprieve from the skin complaint du jour, only to have another breakout a few days later. I thought my skin was just being a punk, but my actions were the source of the problem…not my body/face/skin. Once I cut that nonsense out and stopped abusing it with harsh cleansers, my skin improved. That was years ago.
Learn from my uninformed mistakes back in the day. Learn from all the people who have written about it, including the Skincare Addiction Blog team. Learn from science.
But please, please, if you take nothing else away from this post, just don’t use baking soda on your face – even if you don’t have what we would consider sensitive skin, it is too much for the skin on your face. We know pH disruptions elsewhere in our bodies can cause us to have a bad time, this is no different.
Here are a few other good articles on skin barrier, acid mantle, and (preferably not) using baking soda on your face.
Paula’s Choice – Why Skin Barrier is Important
Skin and Tonics – The Importance of Fatty Acids, pH & the Moisture Barrier
The Naked Chemist – Understanding the Acid Mantle
FutureDerm – Why You Should Absolutely Not Use Baking Soda as an Exfoliator