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Do NOT use Baking Soda on the skin!!

BAKING SODA is actually a chemical!

This is an important article about some of the science behind baking soda and how it affects the skin. Basically, by altering the skins pH, you are losing a delicate balance of enzymes, healthy bacterial flora, and the integrity of the skins ‘acid mantle’ or protective barrier. Deodorants that contain baking soda are creating a number of negative effects.

Natural Deodorants should not be called Natural if they contain this abrasive, alkalizing chemical called baking soda. The FDA should NOT allow companies to label their products as “natural” if they contain baking soda, a potentially dangerous chemical.

(thanks to Natalie Bell for the amazing info below)

(ZERO natural deodorant does not contain any harmful ingredients and is safe for all skin types)

Why baking soda should NOT be used on the skin!

Stop putting baking soda on your skin. Let me repeat that: Stop putting baking soda on your skin. Baking soda exfoliation is a total favorite of the home remedy set. I’ve seen it in a ton of places, including this article on what Emma Stone uses on her skin, and every time, it makes me cringe a little. Baking soda isn’t just ineffective, it’s actually damaging to your skin. Don’t believe me? Read below and see the science.

 

Baking Soda + Water is ALKALINEacid-base_graphic1

Let’s start with a little chemistry lesson. Forgive me, chemistry buffs, since this will be information you already know. We’ll start with the Brønsted-Lowry concept, which says that acids are proton donators that are able to give a proton (the hydrogen cation or H+), and bases are proton acceptors that are able to receive a proton (H+).
Bases neutralize acids by bonding with the acid’s hydrogen ion (General, Organic, and Biochemistry).

But, like it or not, the world is not a simple, black-and-white place of acids and bases. Thrown in there are also amphoteric molecules (ions). “Amphoteric” means that a substance has the ability to react with both acids and bases. And some of these amphoteric substances are also amphiprotic, which means they can donate and accept a hydrogen ion. Baking soda’s chemical name is sodium bicarbonate, and bicarbonate is an amphiprotic ion, so it can both take and lose a hydrogen ion. So, this means that baking soda reacts with acids and bases by either donating or accepting a hydrogen ion. But bicarbonate is a stronger base than it is an acid, so it’s more likely to accept a hydrogen.

When you’re making baking soda exfoliator, however, you’re mixing it with water, so the question is what’s the final pH of bicarbonate (HCO3-) and water (H2O). Here’s the chemical formula:

acid-base_graphic2

 

HCO3- + H2O → H2CO3 + OH-

See what happens there? Because it’s a stronger base, it tends to create HO-, rather than H3O+. What this means is that when you dissolve sodium bicarbonate in water, the solution tends to be more alkaline.

See That It’s Alkaline for Yourself

To really prove this, I decided to test it out and mix baking soda with water and test the pH to show you.

When we mixed baking soda and water (more than you’d use for a scrub) and tested it, the pH was about 8.

So Why Is Something Alkaline Bad for Skin?

The pH of the products you use is super important for maintaining healthy skin. Here’s how the pH scale works: It runs from 0-14 with 7 meaning neutral. Anything above 7 is considered alkaline, or a base, and anything below 7 is considered an acid. The skin naturally falls somewhere around 4.5 to 6.5, and is maintained by sebaceous glands, sweat glands, and normal skin flora, among others. This skin acidity is called the “acid mantle” (Exogenus Dermatology).

When you apply a product with a high pH, aka something alkaline, negatively disrupts the skin barrier. A study on skin products found that using an alkaline cleanser, even once, can do damage to the skin (Dermatology). An alkaline cleanser disrupts the skin’s acid mantle (affecting the skin barrier), and changes the bacterial flora composition on the skin and the activity of the enzymes in the upper layers of skin, as these have an optimal pH level. And the damage is cumulative: The longer you use it, the more damage it does to your skin.

So, with baking soda and water, you’re already disrupting the acid mantle, but you’re also manually exfoliating, making it even more damaging and drying.

Because of this, you want mildly acidic products, which help the skin hold moisture and also improve the skin barrier. But it’s important that they’re mildly acidic, as you can, in fact, go too low. If you go too low with products, you risk skin irritation, sun sensitivity, and hyperpigmentation (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). That’s why we don’t recommend that you use straight lemon juice on your skin, for example.

 

Join the discussion 27 Comments

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi,

    I have terrible eczema and just tried using baking soda as a last ditch effort to clear the rash. It appears to work wonders. Better than topical steroids I’m used to using. I noticed a huge improvement in just one day. I assume my skin with eczema is too acidic and therefore the baking soda is balancing the ph in a good way for me. What are your thoughts on this remedy for those of us with this problematic disease?

    Thanks

  • Kieran says:

    Good read, but baking soda/sodium bicarb is NOT a “potentially dangerous chemical.” It’s actually a naturally occurring substance! And when it comes down to it, every substance is made up of atoms and therefore some sort of chemical. Good to know not to use on the skin, but that doesn’t really make it dangerous, just slightly irritating.

  • Pat says:

    I just recently started using baking soda mixed with Coconut oil to cleanse my face. It’s seems to work very well so I was sorry to read this today about it maybe not being a good thing. I wonder if mixing it with the coconut oil would actually make it Ok or not.

    • Dove Holley says:

      I don’t think you know what your talking about. I believe I’ve damaged my forehead from bathing in backing soda baths and also straight Lemmon juice. I don’t know for sure but I do know it’s now swollen. Has been for a felt weeks. It’s not overly obvious but I can tell. I definitely am going to the derma doc ASAP.

  • Abby kats says:

    I used banking soda on my face and after I got skin rash.what can I do?

  • Jen says:

    I got poison ivy all over my legs 2 weeks ago.
    I read about baking Soda baths helping to stop spreading it and take away itchiness.
    I used to bat( in it a few times but, a couple days ago my belly, back, Dekolleté and breast start to be very itchy. First I thought I maybe get their elision 8vy to and took again baking sids baths. It got very worse. My skin felt very irritated like, wearing a Tshirt is itchy and sometimes even painful.
    Applying creams to help the skin that it is not dry and that itchy don’t help at all.
    Nothing seems to help.
    I went t9 a doctor today and he said that is becausof the baking Soda baths.
    It is really harmful for the skin. I heard the ste monies where people with ekszema peaks it and it really helps them I d9nt know if there are side effects coming up later but for some people baking Soda don’t work at all.
    I know have to take prednisone tablets which are not good t9 help wot( the irritation and suddenly very sensitive skin.
    No good experience.

  • john says:

    snake oil rubbish

  • Jecy says:

    So after reading all that, you did warn us on using baking soda, and if we mix we water is even more dangerous, my question,, if I mix baking soda+moringa +honey(milk,) or more, will it be save for my face?

  • Heather says:

    Agree with Kieran. EVERYTHING IS A CHEMICAL. I get annoyed when people use superlatives and sweeping statements to cause gasps of horror from people. I am NOT saying that is the intention here… but still, for *me* personally, a very annoying start.

    Fortunately, I read on.

    With all respect to a well-written article with good science, I found it rather one-sided. There is no mention of the good that said “chemical” can do, as mentioned by other readers. Water is discussed, but not how oil factors in, etc. Pros and cons.

    When baking soda reacts with moisture and acid (think cake baking here), it gives off co2 creating little pockets of carbon dioxide. Similarly, water and our acidic skins form the CO2, which seems to be the latest and greatest in cosmetic dermatology… they even do CO2 injections (?!). It has been shown to improve the skin’s appearance by augmenting O2 delivery and thereby aiding cellular metabolism and increased collagen production. (Thank you Google)

    Bicarb’s double-edged ability to stabilize and buffer allows it to do all kinds of wonderful things, like ridding your fridge of smells and as a tried and trusted antacid. But a “balanced” skin is incorrect, as noted. It should be slightly acid. I suppose making a natural toner would help?

    Agree on the exfoliation hype. Your face is not your foot lol. Don’t scrub.

    The face cleaning method I was actually trying to research when I came across this article, was how coconut oil and bicarb work together to make the miracle changes I see in my skin. I was curious (read: obsessive-nerd-research), and will continue to figure this strange and wonderful reaction. @Pat.

    Thanks zerocares.com for the headstart. 🙂

  • Faydra Ferrell says:

    You lose credibility when you start with BAKING SODA IS A CHEMICAL!!! yes it is, so is water… you know h2o? Chemical doesn’t necessarily equal dangerous. Stop fear mongering.

  • Ash says:

    What if you don’t mix sodium bicarbonate with water first, and rather apply it directly to the skin?

  • Brooke says:

    There are chemicals in make up and several, if not most, beauty products that cause cancer and you call out Baking Soda as being “a potentially dangerous chemical” …. how absurd. Shame on you for posting such a misinformed and misleading article … the FDA should be regulating you! So dangerous….

    And guess what.. you can put lemon juice on your skin! You can slice a lemon in half and use it as a natural deodorant under your underarms.

    omg you should write something about how harmful water is while you’re at it.

    • Todd Platzer says:

      Thanks for the comment Brooke! You can tell from the comments that some people truly are allergic or sensitive to the ph altering effects of baking soda.

  • Anvitha A says:

    I’m using baking soda+lemon juice to get rid of pimples and its marks….
    Does ot really helps?

  • Dan says:

    Is baking soda mixed with lime/lemon or calamsi is okay?

  • Richard A says:

    I have to say, this is the most ridiculous things I have ever read, it is so sad that some companies would write things like this just to promote their products.
    Well, the pH of the ocean is 8.2, so now swimming in the ocean is bad for you???
    Come on, lay off the BS, focus on the benefits of your products instead of using fear to sell your products with perfume.

    • Todd Platzer says:

      Thanks for the comments Richard. Look around though- no fear mongering here! Some people are experiencing severe pain from baking soda. Perhaps you can offer them some advice?

      • Autumn says:

        It’s probably you leaving the comments of people with these awful reactions. There are people with allergies to a lot of things. That doesn’t make it bad for everyone. Spot test -just like anything else. Ive worked in derm for 10 years and as an esthetician. I’ve also been using baking soda on my skin for 10+ years as an exfoliate-it’s helped the build up on my skin as well as I don’t have acne anymore. My skin is awesome. So I guess your point that it’s “dangerous” is wrong, because I’m doing better than great. Try again.

    • Jamesie says:

      👏👏👏
      The taste is in the pudding. It works a treat for me and i will continue to use. Thank you.
      Water too is actually a chemical – dihydrogen oxide and i will continue to drink that too.

  • KayL says:

    After experiencing awful boils under one of my underarms (in armpit area), I decided to ditch deodorant and switch to baking soda as a natural deodorant alternative. After online research about different mixtures, I mixed a little baking soda with water. On the first and second days all was okay. On the third day, whilst at work, my armpits felt as if they were on fire. They were extremely itchy and become increasingly red and irritated. I couldn’t determine what the problem was and after an internet search, I realized that it must have been an allergic reaction to the baking soda (I’ve been told by my doctor that I have hyper-sensitive skin, which didn’t help the situation). I managed to wash the baking soda concoction from my underarms and applied an ice pack to each underarm area for 25 minutes. This provided much needed relief. The following day, my armpits felt much relief. I decided not to use deodorant for the days immediately following the incident and instead used coconut oil.

  • Renato says:

    No, Kieran. Baking soda is not “naturally” occuring anywhere, it’s not natural.
    And when comes down it it what? Every compound is made of its own substance, it’s not made of “atom”, atom is what you get from the compound itself by cutting a tiny part of it, you idiot. For example, an atom of baking soda, its substance is unique to it, it’s quantum and beyond our understanding. I guess to took the standard model too seriously and you still believe in the outdated democritus bs that atom is a sphere. C’mon, self-actualize dude. And no, everything is not made of anything, atoms are what you get from something, and this something is as mysterious as it gets. And each compound is uniquely separated and distinct from the other, and is distinct from what is not solid or atom. And not even half of anything is a chemical . To complete, you’re full of s***
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-standard-model-of-physics-is-a-tyrant/

  • Renato says:

    No Faydra. if educated people are allowed to say that we get I2 and NaCl from “water” then definitely “water” is not “a chemical”… and probably it’s not even a simple mixture of chemicals, since it contains all kind of living cells

  • Tejashwi Pindolia says:

    I have friends who say this works, so that may be it for them, but I personally will always be skeptical. As a teen, I used lemon on my skin. I did do a patch test, but that is obviously not enough for all situations (like going in sun). Long story shory, I messed up my skin. Hyperpigmentation doesn’t do well with a teen and curious, straightforward classmates.

    After then, I learnt my lesson. That is why I question baking soda treatment. It destroys your acid mantle. It allows all kinds of freaky microbes to invade your body. That itself spells too much risk. Our bodies are seriously wonderful and efficient. If there’s a problem, approach it in a gentle way, quick fixes always come with a price. Maybe diys with lemon and baking soda do work for others, but it is always better to use just a bit of common science and figure out if you want to bear the possible consequences.

  • Barbara says:

    Baking soda blotted or pressed on the skin absorbs oil or excess sebum. One issue is the tendency to “scrub” when using baking soda. Use Red Mill baking soda instead of regular over the counter type. I think there is a difference in the processing methods. Use oil like coconut or jojoba oil massaged into your facial skin then softly gently wipe clean. And you can perform do it yourself dermaplaning which is the best exfoliation method I know of. Steam your face to soften, then do extractions. Voila your facial skin is clean not scrubbed or dried out. I wonder if anyone knows if baking soda is so drying it contributes to wrinkles and lines forming on your face?

  • Rob Warren says:

    Thanks Autumn and Stephanie. I’ve been suffering from eczema for 30 years. 20 years ago I had to give up shampoo and shave my head. In the last 3 years I’m having flare ups after using mild soap like cetaphil. After using cetaphil today I had a major flare up. I mixed some baking soda and dabbed it on my scalp, face and back and I have immediate relieve. No more itchy and burning skin. I’m sure everyone is different. My skin is too acidic so possibly adding baking soda balanced it out. Like any substance you have to be careful. I will try a very weak solution of baking soda tomorrow. Perhaps there is a cosmetic with a more alkaline base?

    Cheers,

    Rob

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