Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has numerous applications in the health and beauty category. It's used in toothpaste, deodorant and even several skin exfoliation home remedies. As an exfoliate, it is touted by some skincare authorities as an effective part of an acne prevention and treatment regimen. Exfoliating baking-soda pastes can be made in minutes using common household ingredients.
Causes of Acne
Clinical researchers have yet to fully identify the causes of acne, but it is known that acne breakouts are brought on by excessively oily skin and improper shedding of dead skin, according to "Acne For Dummies" by Herbert P. Goodheart. Sebum, the oil that the body produces to keep the skin hydrated, can clog pores in the skin and accelerate bacterial growth when it is produced in too-high amounts. Dead skin cells can add to these pore blockages when they are not effectively shed through the skin's natural exfoliating process.
Baking Soda Properties
Sodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound that is amphoteric, meaning that it can act as either an acid or a base, making it useful for neutralizing pH, according to Vicki Lansky's book, "Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought of." With regard to skin health, this property makes baking soda effective in correcting skin pH imbalances that can contribute to acne. It also has mild antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the irritation of inflamed acne. Most importantly, though, baking soda is a gentle exfoliate, meaning that its individual particles are rounded but hard and form a fine powder when combined.
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead and dying skin cells on the outermost layers of the skin to reveal fresh, healthy skin underneath. Under normal conditions, the skin will do this automatically in an invisible, continuous process, but intervention is sometimes necessary when dead skin does not shed properly. According TheBeautyBrains.com, exfoliates can either be chemical or physical. Chemical exfoliates remove skin cells by burning or dissolving them, and if the solution is too harsh, it can cause skin damage. Physical exfoliates scrub the cells away and can also cause damage if the friction is too aggressive. Baking-soda paste, a physical exfoliate, has caught on specifically because it is gentle and unlikely to damage the skin.
Baking Soda Treatment
To make an exfoliating baking-soda paste, TheBeautyBrains.com recommends mixing 1 tsp. baking soda into a small amount of your usual facial cleanser. Scrub your face gently with this paste two to three times per week, rinsing thoroughly after each session. An alternative treatment outlined in the book "Return to Beauty: Old-World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin" calls for 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Thoroughly mix these ingredients and use the mixture to gently exfoliate your skin with your fingertips.
Naweko San-Joyz's book "Acne Messages: Crack the Code of Zits and Say Goodbye to Acne" recommends using the baking-soda paste treatment as part of an overall skincare regimen to prevent acne. To begin this process, wash your face with a gentle soap that contains salicylic acid, then physically exfoliate the skin with a gentle scrub pad. Pat the skin dry, then steam-clean your face by holding your head over a sink of hot water with a towel draped over your head for several minutes. Next, pour 1 Tbsp. of baking soda into your hand and add just enough water to make a paste, then massage your face with the paste for about two minutes. Rinse your face, then cover it with a therapeutic clay mask, letting the mask dry for about 15 minutes. Rinse off the mask with warm water, disinfect the skin with benzoyl peroxide and rinse once again. Gently rub an ice cube over your face to close the pores and finish by applying a moisturizer.