Can I Use Baking Soda for Face Wash?

Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN on October 10, 2017Written by Mandy Ferreira on October 10, 2017
baking soda for face

Lately, baking soda is being championed as the be-all and end-all of green cleaning and natural beauty. From using it to wash your hair to magically treating a UTI to soothing bug bites, there’s little the internet doesn’t claim the powder can do.

And while it’s true that baking soda is great for making your tub sparkle and neutralizing unwanted body odor, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to start rubbing it on your face. Here’s why.

Why baking soda shouldn’t be used to wash your face

There are quite a few reasons baking soda should never be put on your face. Including:

Too basic

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is most commonly used to relieve heartburn because it’s a basic chemical that helps to neutralize acid. This can happen on the skin as well. While dermatologists sometimes use baking soda to neutralize a chemical peel in the office, it’s generally too basic for an overall wash, especially if used frequently.

Healthy skin is slightly acidic. This acid mantle helps form a protective barrier, and it’s important for overall skin health. Washing with baking soda can remove the skin’s protective oil barrier, alter its pH, and disrupt the natural bacteria on the surface that help to prevent infection and acne. This can leave you with stripped skin that’s prone to infection and breakouts.

Sensitivity

While it’s generally not harmful, baking soda can irritate the skin. Most people don’t know they are sensitive to baking soda until they start applying it directly to their skin. It’s notorious for causing armpit rashes, redness, and burning for some people when used in homemade or natural deodorants.

If you do react to baking soda, avoid baking soda products and use a fragrance-free moisturizing lotion until the irritation clears.

Overly exfoliating

Proper exfoliation can even out skin tone and make your skin look better, but it’s also very easy to get too much of a good thing. Over-exfoliating can cause redness, breakouts, burning, and dry skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends giving your skin plenty of time between exfoliation treatments to prevent irritation or avoiding it altogether if you have sensitive skin.

Much like a salt or sugar scrub, baking soda acts as a physical exfoliator when made into a paste or not fully dissolved in water. Exfoliating can be useful, but exfoliating day and night, like you would if you washed with baking soda, isn’t recommended.

What to use instead

The skin products that will work the best for you will depend on the type of skin you have. It may take some experimenting, but eventually you will find a face wash that meets your needs.

Dry or sensitive skin

If your skin is easily irritated or frequently dry, look for glycerin-based bars or cleansers. They help to protect the skin’s barriers and don’t strip the skin of its hydrating natural oils. Face cleansers that are labeled “detergent-free” can also be beneficial because they will be less likely to remove oils your skin needs.

Oily skin

Foam is your friend. A foaming cleanser can help lift excess oil off your skin.

Acne-prone skin

Acne-prone skin can be dry, oily, or a combination of the two, which makes choosing a cleanser a bit more challenging. A medicated cleanser that contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide may be helpful, but these ingredients can also dry out your skin and cause irritation.

Use a gentle cleanser if you have sensitive, acne-prone skin.

Makeup removal

It’s important to properly remove makeup to prevent breakouts, clogged pores, and even eye infections, but you also don’t want to leave your face red and burning when you’re done.

Cleansers that have an oil base or an oil-and-water base work best to remove the waxy products found in makeup. Jojoba oil, coconut oil, and olive oil all work great to gently remove makeup. Be careful with products that contain alcohol because they can be drying and irritating.

Exfoliation

Cleansers with glycolic and salicylic acid can help remove dead skin and chemically exfoliate your skin. You can also gently use a buff or an electric brush. Just make sure that you apply light pressure and give your skin plenty of time to recover in between exfoliation. Over-exfoliation can cause your pores to swell and can make irritation and breakouts worse.

Evening out skin tone

Exfoliation can help reduce dullness and even skin tone. Cleansers with antioxidants like vitamins such as C, E, or B may help calm redness. Green tea extracts and caffeine may lead to a more even complexion.

Natural face wash

You don’t need more than plain water and your hands to properly wash your face, especially if you don’t have any makeup or skin care products on it. Oils like olive, jojoba, and coconut can remove makeup and other oil-based products like Aquaphor and Vaseline.

A gentle face wash with a few simple ingredients like glycerin can help remove any oil residue when you’re done.

Diluted apple cider vinegar or witch hazel may freshen the face.

Bottom line

Washing your face doesn’t have to be overwhelming or overly complicated. It can be as simple as washing with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that’s formulated for your particular skin type and needs.

While baking soda certainly has its place in natural living, it’s best left off your face.

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