The perfect facial cleanser is … baking soda

  • By Debra D. Bass St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Friday, January 31, 2014 11:42am
  • Life

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 cabinet.

Baking soda has changed my life.

I don’t say that lightly. I say that after years of aggravation and skin care travails. 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 love 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.

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.

I remembered reading something somewhere some time 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. 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 traditionally a true believer, but I can now pledge lifelong allegiance to baking soda, moisturizing facial oil and sunscreen.

I did a little research, and here are some things I found that explain why baking soda 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, and moisturizing after this scrub or any scrub is key. If you want to give it a try, start slow; mix 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 just an option for an occasional scrub for you.

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