Natural vs. Synthetic Baking Soda for Skin & Hair

(BeWellBuzz) With continued economic troubles, and amidst more and more evidence of the unhealthy risks of using unnatural, unheard of, and possibly toxic ingredients for skin and body care, many people are going back to basics. Baking soda is not only awesome for baking and house-cleaning, but can also be more effective than expensive acne and exfoliating treatments on the market. (It is for me!) Read on to find out what baking soda is, how to know if it’s natural or synthetic, and how to use it safely on your skin and hair for amazing results.

What is Baking Soda?

It may be a silly question for some, but for those of us who didn’t know, now you’ll know. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, or sodium hydrogen bicarbonate. It’s pH value is 9.0, making it alkaline. It’s used in cooking, cleaning and in toothpaste.

What’s the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

– Soda

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When used in a recipe for baking, soda must be combined with an acid substance in order to activate its leavening properties. Contact with an acidic such as vinegar, honey, yogurt or buttermilk causes a chemical reaction, creating carbon dioxide bubbles that will expand in the oven heat and cause the batter to rise. Timing is important when working with sodium bicarbonate. As soon as the liquid mixture touches the dry ingredients, the reaction will begin. If you “overmix” or leave the batter out too long, the reaction will stop before baking has begun, and your muffins or cakes will fall flat. L

– Powder

Baking powder contains pure sodium bicarbonate, plus cream of tartar and a starch, often corn starch. If a recipe doesn’t involve a soda activator such as yogurt or lemon juice, it’ll call for the powder, which contains its own activator. Cream of tartar serves as the acid activator.

Single-acting baking powder reacts quickly when moistened and must be baked as soon as it’s gently mixed. Double-acting baking powder buys you a little extra time. The reaction begins when it’s moistened, but it occurs again in oven heat.

Bicarbonate leavening agents are quicker than yeast and work well with biscuits, muffins and cakes.

Is Sodium Bicarbonate All-Natural? Raw?

Sodium Bicarb is naturally occurring as nahcolite. Popular and generic brands such as Arm & Hammer use a synthetic form; Bob’s Red Mill mines the naturally forming nahcolite from mineral springs in Colorado. “Nahcolite commonly forms by reaction of carbon dioxide with the mineral trona in evaporated lake basins.”[1] Both the synthetic and mined forms are the exact same chemical, NaHCO3 (hence, the name, NaHCOlite). The mining process involves heat, so it’s likely that neither form is raw (although either could be “raw material” in manufacturing).

Baking Soda for Body & Skincare

It’s believed that baking soda was mixed with oils to make a soap some 4,500 years ago in Egypt. The compound is mildly abrasive, drying, cleansing, removes and absorbs oils and body odor. Try some of these and let us know how it goes!

1.    To exfoliate, cleanse, and remove makeup

Dampen a clean wash cloth and add a tsp. or less of baking soda; or, I like to splash a little water on my face, pour a small amount in my hand, rub hands together and gently apply all over face. You’ll need enough water to form a paste-like consistency. For extra exfoliation use your fingertips to softly massage over the skin surface. Rinse and thoroughly remove using a dampened wash cloth. This will effectively remove makeup and cleanse dirt, but is not for eye makeup removal (for that you can use a little olive oil on a cotton pad). Repeat if necessary. To replenish healthy acidity, follow with a swipe of a cotton pad doused with witch hazel, or a splash of fresh aloe vera juice. Try moisturizing with olive or coconut oil.

2.    Acne Mask & Spot Treatment

Baking soda is one of my faves for a simple and effective, completely non-toxic acne mask. Pour a tablespoon (or so, as needed) into your hand. Add enough water to make it pasty and spread over face, avoiding eyes. If you have combination skin or are prone to over-drying, only treat the affected areas. Let it set for about 10 minutes. The soda will absorb oils and dehydrate blemishes. Then rinse and remove with a damp wash cloth. Follow with toner such as witch hazel or aloe vera juice. Moisturize if needed.

3.    Natural Deodorant

It works in your fridge to absorb odors, but it works on you, too. Apply to a powder puff and dust over your body and underarms to absorb moisture and odor.

4.    Clean Teeth, Bright Smile

Apply to your moistened toothbrush and gently scrub. Baking soda isn’t whitening but is an excellent scrubbing agent to remove plaque or any other buildup. Rinse thoroughly. Adding peroxide or a little salt deepens cleaning.

5.    Dry Shampoo

To keep hair oils in check, absorb odor, remove dirt and even some product buildup, take soda into your palm. Flip your hair over the sink or tub. Apply through hair as evenly as you can, not touching the scalp or you’ll have a hard time getting it off without wetting. Flip back gently. If you go to hard and fast you might find a white powdery splat on the wall behind you. Comb through until the powdery white disappears.

BeWellBuzz recommends Bob’s Red Mill baking soda



[1] nahcolite (NaHCO3). 2013. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 23 April, 2013, from

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