Does Baking Soda Actually Do Anything For Acne?

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline substance that helps manage pH levels and neutralize acidic substances in and outside of the body. Per a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, baking soda is proven to contain whitening and bacteria-slaying properties that can be effective at removing stains and whitening the surface. That's why baking soda is a widely used ingredient in many commercial toothpastes.

The versatility of baking soda in household uses is unmatched. It's one of the few ingredients that come in handy in the kitchen, the laundry room, and even the bathroom. Treating a stubborn stain? Use six tablespoons of baking soda. Scrubbing grime from a toilet? Killing the odor? Baking soda can help. Mix baking soda with vinegar. You can even treat fungal nail infections using baking soda, research in the journal Mycopathologia shows. If baking soda is such a cure-all, can it be used on the face to tackle acne? A dirt-cheap ingredient as it is, baking soda would have made an excellent at-home beauty treatment ingredient. Here are some expert insights into the efficacy and safety of baking soda on the skin. 

Alleged benefits of baking soda for skin

As it turns out, baking soda has numerous skincare benefits. The slightly gritty texture of baking soda means it has an exfoliating effect, which is essential in unclogging pores and preventing pimples from forming, dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum tells Byrdie. It's also worth noting that the alkaline nature of baking soda can help balance out the pH for those with oilier skin to prevent pore clogging. Since it is anti-inflammatory, baking soda might also come in handy when treating inflamed breakouts, says dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez. Despite all these aforementioned benefits, baking soda is not an acne-fighting ingredient in and of itself and shouldn't be used on its own.

Baking soda can disrupt the skin's natural pH levels by stripping it of its natural oils, making the skin more vulnerable to infection and breakouts, Y'OUR Skincare points out. The pH level of skin is supposed to be between 4.5 and 5.5, whereas baking soda has a pH level of 9. Causing your skin's pH to spike might cause dryness and inflammation. From time to time, baking soda is used by dermatologists to neutralize a chemical peel, but it should never be used directly on the skin or used frequently. If you have sensitive skin, steer clear of any skincare formula containing baking soda. The only people who can use baking soda for their skin are those who lack access to products formulated with acne-fighting ingredients such as vitamin A/retinol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide.

Alternatives for baking soda

If you have acne issues, you might want to buy commercially made skincare products designed to fight acne. Some common active ingredients found in acne products and proven to be effective against acne-causing bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, adapalene, and azelaic acid, per the Mayo Clinic. Start with an acne treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, adapalene, or both if you're unsure which to purchase. At the same time, avoid wearing heavy, oily sunscreen to prevent clogging pores, and always stay hydrated to avoid excess sebum production.

In case you'd like to experiment with home remedies, some natural herbal extracts, supplements, and lifestyle changes can aid in improving acne problems. For instance, tea tree oil, which consists of antimicrobial properties, is proven to reduce acne lesions. Aloe vera and jojoba oil may also help reduce inflammation and speed up wound healing. Dr. Axe recommends using pure apple cider vinegar as your evening and morning toner to get rid of any residue as well as restore your skin's natural pH levels. Packed with potassium, magnesium, acetic acid, and various bacteria-destroying enzymes, apple cider vinegar may help alleviate skin infections and irritation. Having said that, don't forget that there's not sufficient scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of most home remedies, so it's advisable to see a dermatologist or buy acne products that target your specific needs.