Have you ever used baking soda to exfoliate your face?
Everyone on the internet’s recommending it. For starters, it’s natural, so how could it be bad? Plus, it’s so cheap. Why spend a fortune on acid exfoliants when this will do?
Because it could destroy your skin. Turns out, baking soda ain’t as harmless as it seems…
Here’s why using baking soda as an exfoliant is NOT a good idea:
Baking Soda pH… And Why It Matters
Before I start preaching why exfoliating with baking soda is a bad idea, here’s a little anatomy lesson (I’ll try to make it fun, I promise).
Did you know your skin has a protective, slightly acidic layer called the acid mantle?
Made up of sweat and sebum, the acid mantle is home to thousands of harmless bacteria. Its job is to protect skin by killing BAD bacteria before they have a chance to enter your body. It also keeps moisture in, so skin stays soft and hydrated.
The acidity of the mantle is key. A healthy acid mantle has a pH between 4.2 and 5.6. Most skincare products are formulated within this range to be compatible with your skin.
Baking soda has a pH of 8.3. You don’t have to be a math genius to see that’s way out of the acid mantle range. What does this mean for your skin?
Baking Soda To Exfoliate Skin: Why It’s A Bad Idea
Baking soda has a high pH that’s way too alkaline for your skin. In plain English, it means it can disrupt the acid mantle, leading to all kinds of trouble.
A 1997 study found that alkaline cleansers irritate “the physiological protective ‘acid mantle'”, change “the composition of the cutaneous bacterial flora and the activity of enzymes in the upper epidermis” and dissolve fats from the skin surface which may lead “to a dry and squamous skin.”
Translation: alkaline cleansers kill good bacteria, make bad ones proliferate and destroy your skin’s acid mantle. Baking soda isn’t technically a cleanser, but it’s alkaline.
Baking soda has a pH of 8.3, high enough to disrupt the acid mantle. This damage is cumulative. The more you use it, the worse your skin gets.
That’s not all. Baking soda is a manual exfoliant. That means it’s the scrubbing motion that gets rid of dead skin cells. Scrub away a minute too long and you can seriously irritate your skin!
Related: Manual VS Chemical Exfoliation: Which One Should You Choose?
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How To Exfoliate Your Skin The Right Way
If baking soda as an exfoliant is out of the question, what should you use instead? I recommend exfoliating acids, like Glycolic, Salicylic, and Lactic.
They work by dissolving the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can slough off without the irritation (unless you overuse them).
But which acid to choose? It depends on your skin type:
OILY + ACNE-PRONE SKIN
Use salicylic acid every other day. This oil-soluble exfoliant gets into the pores, removing all the excess oil + dead cells that’s clogging them up and making you breakout.
- Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief 1% BHA Lotion ($27.00): available at Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£4.25): available at Adore Beauty, Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
Use glycolic acid two or three nights a week. It exfoliates and hydrates skin at the same time.
- Alpha Skincare Enhanced Renewal Cream ($16.99): available at Ulta
- Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment With 5% AHA ($33.00): available at Dermstore, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80): available at Adore Beauty, Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
Use lactic acid once a twice a week. It exfoliates and hydrates skin at the same time, but it’s much gentler than glycolic acid.
- Sunday Riley Good Genes ($105.00): available at Anthropologie, Net-A-Porter and Sephora
- The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (£5.50): available at Adore Beauty, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: How To Choose The Best Exfoliator For Your Skin Type
The Bottom Line
I love a good home remedy, but using baking soda to exfoliate skin is just asking for trouble. Don’t do it!
Do use baking soda as an exfoliant? Share your experience in the comments below.