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Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a powdery salt often used for cooking and baking.

Because of its alkaline composition and antimicrobial properties, some people swear by baking soda as an ingredient that can neutralize inflammation and kill bacteria on your skin.

DIY baking soda face masks have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially for people searching for acne cures and anti-redness treatments that don’t come with harmful side effects.

While it’s true that baking soda is an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, that doesn’t mean using it on your skin is such a great idea.

Baking soda works by interfering with the natural pH balance of your skin. Throwing off the pH balance can actually worsen breakouts, increase dry skin, and leave your skin raw and vulnerable.

While we don’t recommend using baking soda masks on your skin, you might need more information to make up your own mind. Keep reading to find out what research tells us about this treatment.

Baking soda masks are popular for several reasons:

  • Exfoliation: First, the consistency of baking soda makes it simple and easy to turn into a gritty, spreadable paste. That paste can exfoliate dead skin cells, making skin feel smoother after you wash it off. Exfoliating your skin routinely can, in theory, clarify and tone your pores. When your pores are clear of dirt and old skin, it makes it harder for blackheads to form.
  • Antimicrobial: Baking soda may work to neutralize some of the bacteria that trigger breakouts. Anecdotally, some people claim that applying baking soda to acne-prone skin both removes dead cells from past breakouts and treats current ones.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Baking soda also has anti-inflammatory properties. People who have skin conditions that become triggered by inflammation, like rosacea, acne, and psoriasis, may feel temporary relief after the application of a topical baking soda mask.

A note of caution

There’s no research to support the use of baking soda masks for your skin.

Whether you’re treating breakouts, trying to loosen blackheads, exfoliating, or simply trying to even out your skin tone, there’s little in the medical literature to support the idea that baking soda does more good than harm.

It’s true that baking soda can exfoliate your skin and potentially kill bacteria, but using baking soda could also interfere with your skin’s natural pH balance.

That means that while your skin may feel smooth and appear clearer and healthier after using a baking soda mask, over time, your skin may experience negative effects.

Baking soda masks can over-exfoliate your skin especially if used too frequently — in other words, it can rub your skin raw, even if you don’t notice right away. This can result in irritation and a rougher skin texture over time.

When your skin’s pH has been disrupted, this is even more likely to happen.

Many people with acne love baking soda masks because baking soda can kill bacteria. But baking soda masks may kill both acne-causing bacteria and helpful bacteria alike, which may amount to more breakouts.

Recently, a small study of people who tried baking soda to treat psoriatic lesions concluded that the remedy was not effective. The study also determined that baking soda did nothing to improve skin hydration or decrease redness.

Here are some side effects you might encounter after using baking soda masks. Some of these symptoms may not be apparent unless you use baking soda masks consistently over the span of month or more.

  • skin that feels overly dry
  • skin that appears to be dull
  • acne breakouts that take longer to resolve and happen more often

The good news is that there are plenty of other DIY masks that don’t have the potentially harsh side effect of baking soda.

In fact, you probably have many of the ingredients you need to make some of these masks in your cabinet already.

For oily skin

If you have oily skin, you should be looking for ingredients that balance the levels of oil in your skin. These ingredients may include:

For dry skin

If you have dry skin, you should be looking for ingredients that will lock moisture into your skin barrier. These ingredients may include:

For acne-prone skin

If you’re looking for masks to treat acne, you should be looking for ingredients that will kill acne-causing bacteria, gently exfoliate your skin, and dry out active acne blemishes without stripping skin of its natural moisture barrier.

You should always be cautious when using a mask on an active breakout, as many ingredients can clog pores and aggravate breakout symptoms. Ingredients to consider include:

There are some skin conditions that can’t be treated with a DIY home remedy.

If you’re experiencing breakouts that don’t seem to ever go away, if your skin health is affecting your mental health or self-esteem, or if you suspect your symptoms exceed the occasional blemish or two, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

A dermatologist will be able to prescribe medications and recommend products specifically for your skin.

Baking soda isn’t a great option for exfoliation and soothing inflammation on your skin. While some people swear by it, there’s good reason to avoid giving it a try.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other home remedy ingredients you can use to encourage brighter, clearer skin.