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Do NOT use Baking Soda on the skin!!

**Update: 10/3/19. We are leaving this article up in its entirety, because it has sparked a healthy and somewhat heated debate in the comments. As it turns out, baking soda is actually not harmful to all skin types, and does have a place in the ever expanding world of natural skincare products. We have launched a product that makes use of both baking soda AND oxygenated shea butter. There may be helpful information for you in the article, or in the comments below.**

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 52 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

    • Melania says:

      Are you serious!??? Baking Soda is wonderful for your skin and body!! With all the cancer in the world today and the high acidity in almost everyone’s body everyone needs baking soda to alkaline your body! Cancer grows with acidity! You’re an idiot to make these kinds of statements!
      I’ve been using just baking soda under my armpits right out of the shower for years and I will never go back to using aluminum deodorants! Stop giving false information ppl do your research NEVER believe what these articles say

  • 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.

      • Annie says:

        Omg this is not true…everyone’s skin is different, you cannot approach this with a cookie cutter method of assuming it will damage everyones skin, my grandma has been using baking soda on here face since the 1960’s and she has very few if any wrinkles, the key is following it up with a natural oil or moisturizer…(castor oil)

  • 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. 🙂

    • Dee says:

      I arrived at this site bc I foolishly used baking soda directly to my armpits for about 6 days and ended up w a painful blistered skin rash. This can illicit what the call a “pit detox” that has to cycle out of your body. Ugh…I so regret doing so, thought bc I used natural baking soda it was safe.
      Take heed, baking soda is not this mild, benign product—ppl use this to clean their drains.

  • 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.

      • Ayah says:

        I find it interesting that on the ZERO website is the dual- strength deodorant with baking soda! Why the hypocrisy?

        • Todd Platzer says:

          Hi Ayah,
          You’re right, that is hypocrisy at it’s finest. We are completely guilty, and will edit the article to let people know that baking soda, as it turns out, is not harmful to all skin types. There are no blanket rules. The article we posted was too harsh and limiting, and now we have been called out for it. There were no intents to mislead, we are all growing, adapting, and trying to do our best. Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

    • 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.

      • Elle says:

        Agreed totally trolling for their own site to support their claims. LET ME TELL YOU Sodium Bicarbonate saved my skin ! I was in the garden pulling weeds when A spider or bug must have crawled onto me because before I knew it I was running into the house with five or six grotesquely itchy spots on my upper thighs and hip area. I jumped in the shower and took a cold, cold, long shower. I got out and the itching never stopped I thought surely the cold would help and it did not . I applied a hydrocortisone ointment prescribed to me the last time I had a bite on my arm that swoll up much like this time but without the same intensive itch, but this did not do anything to help with the itchy sensation that was plaguing me to the point of loosing sleep.

        By the next morning one of the bites head grew to the size of an oval-larger than my hand ! I had tried applying coconut oil, grapeseed oil, salt, Teatree oil, Windex and whatever else with any potential to help in my line of vision ; I was DESPERATE! The next day I tried Lidocane, TUCKS, Burma and rich spray, you name it! Benadryl ointment offered a mild short lived temporary fix.

        Anyways to try to shorten this up I go to the pharmacy aisle in Safeway and start reading the ingredients on every insect bite remedy, and itching cream, ointment and spray available. The ones that seem the most promising to me all had one thing in common (About 3 products all 11.99 or more) …active ingredient: sodium bicarbonate.

        I remembered at home I had A large maybe gallons worth of the stuff (Used for pool care I think) that I bought from Home Depot for the purpose of prepping shirts for tie-dying . The whole large thing costed $5 to $6, 100% sodium bicarbonate. So I go home and slab some coconut oil on the largest bite which was causing the most excruciating and intense itching. I use the coconut oil to help the the sodium bicarbonate to stay on my thigh and I mixed on tiny amounts of water into a cup of the sodium bicarbonate until it was paste(ish) like and applied it. And by god if the heavens didn’t open and send angels down to miraculously provide the most reliving soothing possible to my poor poor red inflamed skin, then guess what the sodium bicarbonate mystvif hust did the trick! DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THIS DEODORANT company’s poor attempt at branding via this post with poor information and the ‘comments’ that were made to give their claims some ground to stand on.

        • Todd Platzer says:

          This comment may have valuable information for someone, so it should definitely be here. But this is classic “it worked great for me so it must be great for everyone’” baking soda is definitely a good thing, but some people’s skin simply does not react well with it.

          • Ga'elwyn says:

            Exactly. But this article is all about how it is REALLY BAD for EVERYONE. So this is the perfect place for people to say that it works well for them, to offset the fear-mongering in the article. As you said, different things work for different people. They should try what they want and be cautious because they **may** have a reaction. If they do, they should stop using it. If they don’t, that’s great!

  • 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.

    • G says:

      Baking soda is abrasive leaving it on sensitive parts of the skin may cause irritation try extra virgin cocunut oil under your arms .Google it.

  • 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

    • Rob, 30 years of suffering from eczema is just awful! Have you tried an advanced food sensitivity program like MRT testing and LEAP from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? It may not only be what’s being put on your skin, but what’s going in your body. I administer the program in my practice and results vary, but individuals have seen improvement in just 5 days!

  • Chen says:

    Hi, iam 42 female and yes baking soda is not very good based on my pown personal experience. Putting it on my skin made my rashes worst months ago. Thanks Heaven i just put very little amount and never on my face or neck. Just my chest, armpit and thighs. Using “natural” jome remedies is very common in the Philippines but with this experience i think baking soda should be used very cautiously.

  • Sandra says:

    Most bath soaps have a PH of 9 or 10. Regular use of baking soda may not be good for your skin but i doubt it is the PH, which is only slightly above neutral. To the person with poison ivy who had a terrible reaction after a baking soda bath, it was likely the warm water that caused it to spread, not the baking soda.

  • ATEGEKA ZEBLON says:

    Nothing to say cause it seems what i know is either right or wrong

  • Lati says:

    “Everybody is different” really is every BODY is different. For five days I’ve been battling a rash that came about due to a SPF product I recently used. It kept spreading and spreading. Calamine didn’t work, cold compresses didn’t help, Benadryl made it worse (in my opinion). Then last night, I put baking soda on my face and neck where the rash was most prevalent and it worked–instantly saw and felt improvement! I woke up this morning and the bumps have greatly subsided. With that said, I won’t be using baking soda all day or everyday. I might apply it one more time tonight before bed. If I do, that’ll be it. Using it too often on my skin might just swing the pendulum the other way and create a new (worse) problem with my skin. As for now, baking soda is helping to balance my skin. I’m glad I had some in the house : )

  • Joel Ellis Brown says:

    Baking soda is not a dangerous chemical. We put it in baked goods for god’s sake. People have been using it in baths to soothe skin for a very long time. I’ve been making deodorant with it for years and use it every day…best deodorant ever….no ill effects. I also use it to wash my face…makes my skin wonderfully soft and even toned. Some people may have a sensitivity to it….as they might with anything. But to say that no one should ever use it or that’s it’s a dangerous chemical is just plain silly.

  • georgeous says:

    People consume A LOT of acidic foods. Sodium Bicarbonate will not damage it. Pizza, potato chips, sugar, Big Macs, Coca-Cola, Canola oil are great acid feeders and create inflammations. I feel that your thoughts on acid/alkaline skin balance is much out of balance. Eczema is an auto-immune attack of the skin. Garbage/processed foods feed the eczema. “Potentially dangerous chemicals” huh? I think you’re fighting the wrong fight dude.

  • Rose Hweing says:

    Now I know. I used baking soda in hope of whitening my skin but turned out negatively. I got a fever because of it, I also lost my appetite and I vomit every now and then.

  • Darlene says:

    I am here because I used fresh lemon juice in a face mask and has left me with hyperpigmentation on my face which hasnt gone the last few weeks. I tried to remove my eyemake with witch hazel and on the side I was left with hyperskinpigmentation it has now made the pigmentation even worse! seems my ph must be damaged and was thinking of trying the bicarb to alkanise. Now I am afraid it may make it worse. Any recommendations?

  • Sharie says:

    Thank you so much for your article on baking soda, very informative. I will not use if for my skin. It was used during one of my facials but I will not try it at home.

  • Kaise kare says:

    Lemon juice is commonly used in skin whitening recipes, to reduce the appearance … Citrus fruits, especially lemons, are effective for treating dark spots

  • Mariam says:

    Okay so I don’t know how and why but I just, last night, mixed some baking soda and lemon juice and rubbed it on my knees because of the dark circles. My knees started burning and this morning they were bruised, so I looked it up and came across the article. Now, it seems like so many people like this mixture but for me for whatever reason on Earth this thing burned my kneeeeesss, as if I fell from my bike or something. So I don’t know what I am going to try next..

  • Nikkiole84 says:

    Hello. I have sensitive skin and am currently battelling a rash. I have been taking apple cider vinegar and baking soda baths for a week and it has helped clear my rash but my skin is also itchy on my hands and armpits randomly after using this soak. I believe the two ingredients have to be mixed properly and i am sure im not doing that. I am torn between continuing the soaks because i do see where it was helpful but i seem to also either be allergic to the baking soda or mixing the compounds incorrectly. Does anyone know homu much apple cider vinegar to baking soda i should be using? Right now im just eye balling it but if i had to guess i would say i am using at least a half cup of baking soda to a cup of apple cider vinegar. Thanks in advance!

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