I keep seeing this beauty craze going around with the DIYers that baking soda is the way to go in terms of exfoliation. Peeps, baking Soda is strong enough to be used as a household cleaner. Think about that for a minute. That’s what you’d be putting on your face. YOUR FACE.
Shouting out my previous post about your skin, that outer layer is like a protective wall for the rest of your skin. It helps to retain moisture and keep out bacteria. So fun fact, your skin is also naturally acidic, running a pH of ~4.5 to 5.3 when healthy. This keeps your skin wonderfully moisturized, but when that pH is upset it can cause dryness and irritation – and even acne breakouts. Baking soda on the other hand is in fact alkaline, with a pH of 8.3! Exfoliating with baking soda will jack up your skin. It can neutralize your skin’s natural acidity and remove the protective barrier that your body needs. It won’t be able to keep out bacteria that it needs to and can lead to infection. In addition, the more you use it, the more damage it will cause for your skin.
Now I’m not sure if you know this or not (because I didn’t), but it is possible to over-exfoliate your skin – either in frequency or abrasiveness of products. Will baking soda clear out all the gross stuff in your pores and all the dead skin cells? Of course it will, but at a huge cost to your skin health. It clears away your acid mantle – the layer of sebum that kills all the bad bacteria and keeps your skin moisturized. So if there’s no protective layer left, what do you think happens to all that bad bacteria now that it’s on your skin? It divides and conquers, that’s what. Baking soda is just too abrasive for your skin and can lead to irritation, hyperpigmentation, and diluted blood vessels.
So what should you use instead? It really boils down to chemical or physical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants can be a little tricky though as some ingredients can actually cause tiny micro tears in your skin, which is harmful and can cause infection. I would steer you towards gentle brushes over apricot or sugar scrubs. Chemical exfoliates are a more complex. I recommend Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids. Alpha Hydroxys are soluble in water and help smooth your skin. Beta Hydroxys are oil-soluble and get into your pores to clean them out. Because neither penetrates too deep into your skin, they aren’t as harmful or damaging as other exfoliates. Just don’t pair Vitamin C or retinol with AHAs or BHAs, as that can cause irritation and redness. Although you can use AHAs and BHAs together, you should make sure that the AHAs are only at about 12% and the BHAs are only at about 3% otherwise it will irritate your skin. Separately, AHAs can be at a max of about 15% and BHAs at 5%.
It’s recommended that you exfoliate your skin 1-3 per week – but no more than that. Really you should do what is best for your skin though. I only exfoliate about two times a month because my skin is really sensitive and also recovering still from products that were too alkaline or two acidic. When exfoliating, you should definitely do it at night to avoid sun exposure as the process makes your skin more sensitive.
You definitely should exfoliate your skin, but just be safe about it. The low down is don’t always go with the fad of beauty bloggers (ironic) and keep that baking soda off of your face and in your fridge.