10 Ways to Use Baking Soda for Skin and Hair

flat lay of beauty products with baking soda in center

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

It's impossible to think of a more versatile household ingredient than baking soda. Not only is it fabulous for cooking, absorbing odors, and cleaning everything from shoes to drains, but it's also a brilliant addition to your beauty regimen.

Baking soda is great for skin and hair. It's a natural exfoliant, teeth whitener, skin soother, complexion improver, scalp clarifier, and odor blocker. Baking soda is a naturally occurring substance that is safe for plumbing and harmless to ecosystems and animals (at least in small amounts).

Here are 10 ways to use baking soda in your beauty routine.

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Wash Your Face With It

Person washes face at bathroom sink

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Baking soda is great to use on your face, albeit not frequently. The powder is mildly abrasive, which helps to remove oils, grime, and dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause acne. It also helps tighten pores and relieve inflammation.

The easiest way to use baking soda on your face is to mix it with just enough water to form a milky consistency, then scrub skin gently. To up the soothing factor, combine baking soda with honey and colloidal oats until you get a thick masklike consistency. Massage it in, rinse clean, and repeat once per week.

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Exfoliate Your Underarms

Person with arm lifted massaging armpit
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You may notice a darkening of the skin under your arms if your deodorant contains harsh ingredients like alcohol and aluminum. Shaving (especially on dry skin and/or with a dull blade) can also cause skin to darken and thicken over time.

You can improve underarm darkness by removing some of the product buildup and dead skin. Do this by combining coconut oil and baking soda into a thick, creamy paste. Apply to your armpits, gently massaging it in, and leave on for five minutes before rinsing. As a bonus, baking soda itself acts as a natural deodorant.

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Clean Stained Hands

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You may be left with stained hands after working with berries, walnuts, beetroot, or turmeric. Most things that can stain skin are acidic in nature, and using baking soda on the stain should neutralize it and help your hands—or the carpet, etc.—return to their normal color. Just add a dash of baking soda to some liquid castile soap. Scrub, rinse, and voila!

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Use Baking Soda as a Spot Treatment

Jar and wooden spoon with baking soda on marble surface

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Washing the whole face with baking soda is too much for some sensitive skin types. If that's the case, you can still reap the inflammation-fighting rewards of baking soda by targeting pimples instead.

Make a thick paste by adding a drop of water to a teaspoon of baking soda. Feel free to add a drop of tea tree oil for extra fighting power, too. Apply the thick paste to your blemish and allow it to dry. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, and moisturize the area to prevent overdrying.

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Swap Your Dry Shampoo With It

Person rubs baking soda into back of scalp

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Baking soda is a hygroscopic substance, meaning it attracts and absorbs moisture. That includes hair grease, which is why many use the powder as a natural alternative to chemical-based dry shampoo. Just add a dash to your scalp and rub in with your fingers for a fresh, just-washed feel.

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Soothe Skin After Shaving

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Baking soda has a refreshing cooling effect on skin—hence why it's often used to soothe sunburns. It can also reduce some of the irritation caused by shaving. Treat your razor bumps and burn with the same solution you'd use on blemishes: a simple baking soda and water paste. Apply it to clean skin and allow to dry for about 10 minutes. Repeat this twice a day as needed.

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Make a Brightening Face Mask

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While baking soda works to cleanse and purify skin, lemon aims to brighten the complexion. Together, they deliver all the things you look for in a face mask.

Mix freshly squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon with one to two tablespoons of baking soda, depending on your desired consistency. Mix in a teaspoon of honey to balance out the acidity and protect your skin's barrier. Apply the mixture to clean skin and leave on for 10 minutes.

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Make a Baking Soda Bath

Full bath tub with wooden table and toiletries
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A baking soda bath can be good for inflamed and irritated skin. Baking soda is detoxifying and cleansing. Thanks to its alkaline nature, it can be soothing to dermatitis, eczema flareups, and other itchy conditions, including sunburns.

Run a warm bath and stir in one cup of baking soda. The water should be just above body temperature, between 90 and 105 degrees. Anything hotter could irritate skin and dry it out further. Soak for up to 30 minutes for smooth, soft, and soothed skin.

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Prep Your Nails for a Mani or Pedi

feet soak in soup pot filled with baking soda water

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Like a baking soda bath would, this extremity-specific soak should soothe and smoothen skin in preparation for a manicure or pedicure. It should also help loosen up tough cuticles and clean the nails thoroughly. One tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of warm water should do the trick.

After you've soaked for about 10 minutes, rub a little baking soda on your nails to buff, then finish with a cool rinse.

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Get Rid of Chlorine and Product Buildup

Person washing hair in shower
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Sodium bicarbonate's alkaline nature makes it a great antidote for thick grease, grime, and oil—whether you plan to use it on pots and pans or, rather, your head. Regular swimmers and product users will know the struggle of stripping chemicals from your delicate strands. Baking soda is a great natural way to get rid of this buildup.

Just mix equal parts liquid castile soap and baking soda and massage it into your scalp in the shower. Be sure to condition well afterward.

View Article Sources
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  2. "Sunburn." Mayo Clinic.

  3. LG, Corral, Post LS, and Montville TJ. "Antimicrobial activity of sodium bicarbonate." Journal of Food Science. 1988.

  4. "Dermatitis." Mayo Clinic.