Acne and baking soda
Acne isn’t a life-threatening skin condition, but it can impact self-esteem, cause skin irritation, and is sometimes mildly painful due to inflammation.
Acne breakouts typically appear on the face, but bumps can also form on the neck, back, and chest. To prevent scarring and additional acne breakouts, many people use natural remedies that include baking soda as a skin treatment.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline substance helpful in managing pH levels. It helps neutralize acidic substances in and outside of the body. Because baking soda lowers the amount of acid in your stomach, it’s typically used for calming an upset stomach or curing indigestion.
Brushing your teeth with baking soda or baking soda–based toothpastes can help reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth and whiten your teeth. It also freshens your breath.
For acne breakouts, baking soda can help soothe inflammation and mild pain. It can be used as an exfoliant or added to current acne treatments to boost effects. However, it’s not recommended for everyday use.
Doctors and researchers suggest using approved medical treatments for acne breakouts and other skin conditions, even if there have been some anecdotal success stories in the use of baking soda.
While there’s little research on baking soda’s effects on the skin specifically, this ingredient can do more harm than good.
Some side effects of using baking soda on your skin and face include:
- overdrying of the skin
- early onset of wrinkles
- worsened acne breakouts
- skin irritation and inflammation
This is because baking soda can interfere with the skin’s pH level.
The pH scale is from 0 to 14. Anything above 7 is alkaline, and anything below 7 is acidic. A pH of 7.0 is neutral.
The skin is a naturally acidic organ with pH of 4.5 to 5.5. This range is healthy — it keeps the skin moisturized with healthy oils while also protecting the organ from bacteria and pollution. Disrupting this pH acid mantle can have damaging side effects, specifically to the skin.
Baking soda has a pH level of 9. Applying a strong alkaline base to the skin can strip it of all its natural oils and leave it unprotected from bacteria. This can cause the skin to become more sensitive to natural elements, such as the sun.
Consistent use of baking soda on the skin can affect how quickly the skin can recover and rehydrate.
Although not widely recommended, there are a few baking soda treatments you can use for acne. Because of its alkaline properties, only small amounts of baking soda are necessary.
For each treatment method, use a fresh box of baking soda. Don’t use a box of baking soda you use for baking or to deodorize your fridge. These used boxes may have already interacted with other substances and chemicals that could be harmful to your skin.
Face mask or exfoliant
To help remove dead skin cells or soothe inflammation, some people include baking soda in a facial scrub or mask.
After using a facial cleanser, mix no more than 2 tsp. of baking soda in a small amount of warm water until it forms a paste. This can be applied with your fingertips and massaged into your skin.
Leave it for no more than 10 to 15 minutes if used as a facial mask. If used as an exfoliant, rinse immediately after massaging the mixture onto your face.
After both types of uses, immediately apply a facial moisturizer to prevent your skin from drying out.
Don’t repeat this method more than twice per week.
Boost your facial cleanser
Similar to the exfoliant treatment method, a small amount of baking soda can be incorporated into your regimen to help clear acne breakouts.
To boost the power of your daily facial cleanser, mix no more than a 1/2 tsp. of baking soda in your hand with your cleanser. Apply the mixture to your face and massage gently into your skin.
Once you rinse your face, apply a facial moisturizer to prevent dry skin and tightness. Continue to use your daily cleanser as directed, but mix in baking soda no more than twice a week.
Another common treatment technique is to spot treat acne bumps, specifically on the face. For this method, make a baking soda paste from no more than 2 tsp. of baking soda and water. Apply the mixture onto the desired area or bumps, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes.
It may begin to harden or crust over, but that’s OK. Be sure to rinse it off thoroughly and apply a moisturizer. Some suggest to leave the mixture on overnight, but this may increase the risk of side effects.
Baking soda is an alkaline substance that can affect the skin’s pH balance and leave it unprotected.
While long-standing myths may say baking soda can help reduce your acne, dermatologists don’t recommend this as a treatment method. Instead, stick to approved medical acne treatments and over-the-counter products.
If you do decide to use baking soda as a natural remedy for acne, be sure to limit the skin’s exposure to the substance and use moisturizer after. If you experience irregular side effects, pain, or rashes, visit a dermatologist immediately. You can book an appointment with a dermatologist in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.