- Baking soda is widely believed to be a home treatment for acne
- Because of its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and exfoliating properties, baking soda is thought to reduce acne breakouts
- Baking soda has an alkaline pH, which means it may interfere with the skin’s naturally acidic pH
- At-home baking soda treatments include face masks, spot treatments and overnight treatments
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is widely thought to be a safe, effective home remedy. It is a common, multipurpose substance with an alkaline pH. Baking soda is antiseptic, fights inflammation and is often used to manage the body’s pH and to lower acidity. But is baking soda safe for acne?
Does Baking Soda for Acne Work?
For some people, baking soda can help alleviate low level pain and inflammation associated with acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, baking soda is often used in topical over-the-counter skin care products.
However, people who use baking soda for acne should not use it on a daily basis. Baking soda can irritate the skin and negatively affect the skin’s pH.
Baking soda for acne scars
Baking soda is sometimes used as an exfoliant, but there is no evidence that it can help acne scars after they have already formed. However, because it can help control acne symptoms in some people, it may help to prevent new scars from forming.
How Does It Work?
Baking soda may fight acne through its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and exfoliating properties. However, research on baking soda for acne is next to nonexistent; most research on it’s antibacterial nature is dental-related.
Because baking soda is abrasive, it can help remove plaque from teeth, and this raises questions about the safety of using baking soda on the skin. If baking soda is abrasive enough to remove plaque from teeth, it should only be used on the skin with extreme caution, if it is used on the skin at all.
Baking soda is often confused with baking powder, particularly when it comes to skin care. Baking powder should never be used on the skin, and has no benefit against acne symptoms.
How to Use Baking Soda for Acne Safely
Baking soda is not generally recommended for treating acne. However, If you do choose to go this route, there are a few safe ways to incorporate it into your skin care routine.
Be sure to purchase a fresh box of baking soda for your skin care routine. Avoid baking soda that you have stored under your sink for cleaning, or used to absorb food odors in your refrigerator.)
Baking soda from a previously used or open box might have absorbed chemicals, odors, or substances that could harm your skin or cause an adverse reaction you might not experience otherwise.
Before you begin, note that you only need to use a small amount of baking soda due to its alkaline pH. Do not scrub the skin after application and use caution when you rinse it off your face.
Baking Soda Treatments for Acne
Since baking soda treatments for acne are mainly backed by anecdotal evidence, if you opt for these treatments, do so with caution.
There are several ways you can use baking soda to combat acne, including face masks, targeted spot treatments and overnight treatments. You can also add half a teaspoon of baking soda to your facial cleanser per wash. Follow-up with a generous amount of moisturizer to prevent your skin from becoming dry and tight.
If you incorporate baking soda into your skin care routine, to prevent excessive dryness, don’t use it more than twice per week.
Baking soda and lemon face mask
Combining baking soda in a simple mask with other ingredients, such as lemon, can help calm acne, control excess oil and exfoliate skin. However, baking soda is a controversial mask ingredient because of its potential severe side effects.
Baking soda’s exfoliating properties can help unclog pores, which reduces inflammation from breakouts and helps prevent the formation of acne. Lemon juice’s naturally occurring citric acid brightens the skin and acts as a chemical exfoliant.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp of water, 2 tbsp of baking soda and several drops of fresh lemon juice
- Massage the paste onto the skin gently; leave for 10 minutes
- Rinse off gently with lukewarm water; pat skin dry
- Apply your moisturizer of choice
If you wish, you can add a few drops of hemp seed oil to the mask mixture to help prevent excessive dryness. Hemp seed oil contains nourishing vitamins and essential fatty acids that may help counteract the drying characteristics of the baking soda and protect the skin’s natural barrier.
Baking soda spot treatment
To target specific blemishes and lesions on the face, you can mix up a baking soda spot treatment.
- Combine 2 tsp baking soda with a small amount of water
- Mix until a paste forms
- Apply paste directly to pimples or lesions; let rest for 20 minutes
- Gently wash off with lukewarm water; pat skin dry
- Apply your moisturizer of choice
Baking soda spot treatments can help prevent widespread irritation and pH imbalance that may occur when applying baking soda to the entire face.
Overnight baking soda treatment
For those people who have a high tolerance for using baking soda on the skin, they may choose to try an overnight baking soda treatment.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
- Rinse with lukewarm water; pat skin dry
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp baking soda and a small amount of water
- Mix until a spreadable paste forms
- Gently apply onto the affected area; leave on overnight
Leaving baking soda on your face overnight may put you at a greater risk for side effects, so proceed with caution. If you have sensitive or dry skin, it’s best not to use an overnight baking soda treatment.
Risks and Side Effects
Using baking soda on the face could be potentially harmful. The harsh texture could irritate the skin; its neutral pH could interfere with the skin’s normal pH.
Generally, skin’s pH should be slightly acidic – around 4.5 to 5.5 pH. Acidic pH is at the bottom of the scale, from 0 to 7. Alkaline substances range from 7 to 14. Baking soda has a pH of 9, which means it’s alkaline and will lower the pH of anything acidic it comes into contact with.
Skin’s natural acidity, the acid mantle, helps to protect it from bacteria and damage from the environment. If the skin’s pH is neutralized, its natural protections are compromised. Baking soda can strip the oils that are naturally produced by the skin, leaving the skin prone to harmful microbes and increased sensitivity.
Some of the side effects of using baking soda for acne—especially overusing it—include:
- Extreme dryness
- Increased severity of acne
- Premature wrinkling
If you experience adverse side effects from using baking soda for acne, discontinue use immediately.
Although baking soda is a popular acne treatment, it is largely supported only by anecdotal evidence. Its alkaline pH and gritty texture could cause more harm than good, and for this reason baking soda tends to be a controversial ingredient in homemade skin care products.
However, baking soda can be used effectively in face masks, spot treatments and overnight treatments when used with caution. It’s important to use small amounts and to be gentle with your skin in the process. For example, you may want to add a skin-friendly oil such as hemp seed oil to your baking soda face mask mixture to counteract baking soda’s drying properties.
Using baking soda for acne could cause extreme dryness and skin irritation, so use with caution. Altering your skin’s pH could leave it vulnerable to worse acne and further damage.
- Ali, S. M., & Yosipovitch, G. (2013). Skin pH: from basic science to basic skin care. Acta dermato-venereologica, 93(3), 261-269. https://doi.org/10.2340/00015555-1531
- Brunette DM. Effects of baking-soda-containing dentifrices on oral malodor. Compendium of Continuing Education in dentistry. (Jamesburg, N.J. : 1995). Supplement. 1997 ;18(21):S22-32; quiz S46. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12017931
- Gonzalez, J., & Hogg, R. J. (1981). Metabolic alkalosis secondary to baking soda treatment of a diaper rash. Pediatrics, 67(6), 820-822. pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/67/6/820.short
- Lertsatitthanakorn, P., Taweechaisupapong, S., Aromdee, C., & Khunkitti, W. (2006). In vitro bioactivities of essential oils used for acne control. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 16(1), 43-49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijat.2006.01.006
- Myneni, S. R. (2017). Effect of baking soda in dentifrices on plaque removal. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 148(11), S4-S9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2017.09.004
- Ramsing DW, Agner T. Preventive and therapeutic effects of a moisturizer. An experimental study of human skin. Acta Dermato-venereologica. 1997 Sep;77(5):335-337. DOI:10.2340/0001555577335337