Friends often ask what kind of products I use on my face. I take that as a compliment. My skin is not prone to good behavior, so when I can beat it into submission, that’s reason to rejoice.
I am not shy about buying a product and then ditching it if it doesn’t do what I want it to do. I’m also in a fortunate occupation that allows me to experiment with items I wouldn’t normally buy. I won’t test just anything; it’s my face, after all, not a lab, but if the ingredient list looks appealing, I figure it’s worth a shot.
But the latest wonder drug I can’t rave enough about is probably already a resident in your kitchen cabinet.
Baking soda has changed my life.
I don’t say that lightly. I say that after years of aggravation and skin care travails.
Tried it all
I’ve used sonic battery-operated devices, pricey cleansing oils, foaming caviar cleansers and even a bottle of no-rinse cleansing water (yes, I know how dumb that sounds), but my skin complaints remained.
I have combination skin that’s oilier around the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and drier on the cheeks. It’s been hard to find a cleanser that cleaned the dry zones without causing my skin to get too dry while still attacking the oils that bred the bacteria that loves to clog the pores on my nose.
I’ve tried washes with enzymes that eat away at the surface grime on skin and loosen dead skin cells. I’ve tried clay masks on targeted areas that supposedly cling to the bad stuff on your face and pull them off with a death grip. I’ve tried all kinds of gritty exfoliating scrubs, ranging from soothing to sadomasochistic.
Finally, baking soda
And then I tried baking soda.
It didn’t just work well, it worked better than anything I’ve ever tried outside of a spa facial.
A few weeks ago I had a box in the bathroom. I sprinkled the grout in my shower with the stuff while it was still moist and warm and let it sit, hoping for a less toxic solution to the water spot situation in there.
The box was still on the counter that evening and I remembered reading something somewhere about baking soda as a facial cleanser. But I didn’t remember how you were supposed to use it. So I mixed a little with the Murad cleanser I’ve been using and washed for my usual span of about 30 seconds. If you really want to kill bacteria and clean your face, you shouldn’t do that quickie 5-second thing. Same with your hands in the bathroom, but I won’t get on that soapbox today.
‘A sigh of relief’
I rinsed off the residue of the cleanser with a few splashes, and my face felt more refreshed than I could remember. I could feel my face breathe, and it felt like a sigh of relief.
I’m reluctant to continue singing its praises because raising your expectations can only lead to one thing: You’ll hate it, and you’ll hate me. But I love baking soda enough to do just that.
I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks. I don’t even mix it with a cleanser anymore. I wet my face and make a little watery paste that I use as a mild scrub. My face still feels great, and (happy dance) it’s smoother, acne-free (knock wood) and otherwise extremely well-behaved.
I’m not usually a true believer, but I can now pledge lifelong allegiance to baking soda, moisturizing facial oil and sunscreen.
Why it works
My baking soda treatise might make me sound like I’m the type of girl who wears tie-dyed skirts, shuns antiperspirant deodorant and loves Birkenstocks. I am not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Besides, baking soda is technically a chemical leavening agent, a salt hybrid. But I did a little research, and here are some things I found that explain why it works, as well as some precautions.
• Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate neutralizes the acids in a recipe and typically is used to add tenderness and some leavening (a rising effect).
• Because baking soda is essentially an alkaline cleanser, some speculate that it neutralizes the acidic byproducts created by acne-causing bacteria on the skin. And it also has the potential to stop bacterial growth.
• The tiny granules have been known to reduce sebum production by removing oil from the face but increasing the skin’s pH so it doesn’t react negatively.
• My wonder drug is not necessarily your wonder drug. It can cause drying in some. Moisturizing after this scrub or any scrub is key. If you want to give it a try, start slowly, mixing a little with the cleanser you already use. Try it in small quantities at night, when people should typically apply a heavier amount of moisturizer. And no one says you have to use it daily; maybe it’s an option for an occasional scrub for you.