Lemon and baking soda have become increasingly popular as a do-it-yourself skincare combination. Both ingredients are readily available in most kitchens and have potent cleansing, brightening, and exfoliating properties when applied topically to the skin. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the evidence behind using lemon and baking soda as part of your skincare regimen, including the benefits, risks, proper procedure, and what skin types may see the best results.
What are the claimed benefits of using lemon and baking soda on skin?
Proponents of using lemon and baking soda for the face claim the mixture provides the following benefits:
Deep facial cleansing
The acidic nature of lemon juice allows it to break down dirt, oil, and impurities on the surface of the skin, while baking soda acts as a gentle physical exfoliant to lift away dead skin cells. Used together, supporters claim the ingredients provide a deep cleansing effect.
Reduction of acne and blackheads
The antiseptic and antimicrobial properties of lemon may help kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface, while baking soda can help remove excess oil and sebum from clogged pores. Together, advocates claim the combination can help reduce breakouts and blackheads.
Skin brightening and scar removal
Lemon juice contains citric acid and vitamin C, both of which play a role in lightening pigmentation and reducing the appearance of scars, age spots, and acne marks. When paired with baking soda, proponents say it accelerates these benefits.
Lemon juice has an acidic pH, while baking soda is alkaline. Combining the two is said to bring the skin’s pH to a more balanced state, while removing residue from soaps and cleansers that can disrupt the skin’s natural pH.
The vitamin C in lemons provides antioxidant benefits that protect against free radical damage that causes aging. It also promotes collagen production for firmer, more youthful skin. Baking soda gives a mild exfoliation to unveil new skin cells while removing dead skin buildup.
Simple, natural ingredients
Many prefer lemon and baking soda over store-bought products because they know the simple, natural ingredients. This provides peace of mind for those with sensitive skin or who prefer to avoid synthetic chemicals.
Is there scientific evidence to support using lemon and baking soda on skin?
While anecdotal reports about the efficacy of lemon and baking soda abound, there have not been extensive, rigorous scientific studies done specifically on this home remedy for skin. However, existing research on the ingredients provides some support for the potential benefits.
Lemon juice benefits
- Contains AHAs like citric acid: Provide gentle exfoliation to reveal brighter skin by lifting dead cells from the surface 
- High vitamin C content: Shown to reduce hyperpigmentation and improve uneven tone 
- Antimicrobial effects: Limit acne-causing bacteria like P. acnes 
- Boosts collagen production: Results in firmer, more youthful skin 
Baking soda benefits
- Gentle physical exfoliant: Slight abrasiveness lifts away dead skin when used in pastes or scrubs 
- Cleanses skin: Can dissolve dirt, oil, product residue when applied topically 
- May help balance pH: Baking soda is alkaline which can offset acidic skin conditions 
- Some antiseptic effects: May inhibit microbial growth when used in certain formulations 
Overall, while more research is still needed, the proven benefits of lemon juice and baking soda align with the purported skin benefits of using them in combination. Anecdotal evidence suggests the mixture may be helpful, especially for those struggling with acne, oily skin, hyperpigmentation, and congested pores. Those with sensitive or dry skin should exercise more caution or avoid using the combination altogether.
How to properly use lemon and baking soda on skin
If you wish to experiment with using lemon and baking soda as a facial treatment, here are some guidelines to follow:
Perform a patch test first
Before applying any new ingredient or combination to your face, do a patch test on a small area of your inner arm. Check for signs of irritation or reaction over the course of 24 hours before proceeding. This helps avoid adverse effects.
Always use fresh lemon juice
Bottled lemon juice contains preservatives and lacks the same potency as fresh squeezed juice. For best results, squeeze half a lemon into a small bowl each time. Avoid reusing leftover lemon juice later.
Mix a small amount first
Start with 1 teaspoon each of lemon juice and baking soda initially. Mix to form a spreadable paste. Adding too much at first increases the risk of irritation. You can gradually increase the amount as your skin tolerates it.
Apply for short intervals
Leave the lemon and baking soda paste on for just 1-2 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. Don’t exceed 3 minutes even as you get accustomed to the treatment. Avoid contact with eyes.
Follow up with moisturizer
Pat skin dry and follow up immediately with a gentle, non-comedogenic moisturizer. This helps replenish moisture and soothe any irritation from the acidic lemon juice.
Limit use initially
Use the lemon and baking soda treatment just 1-2 times per week at first. Monitor skin for increased dryness, irritation, peeling, or breakouts. Increase frequency gradually up to every other day if tolerated well.
Consider only using on affected areas
Those with oily, acne-prone skin may choose to apply lemon juice and baking soda as a targeted spot treatment only on active breakouts or congested areas. Avoid excessive use on dry areas.
Should you use lemon and baking soda on sensitive, dry or mature skin?
Lemon juice and baking soda may be too harsh or irritating for those with sensitive, dry or mature skin. Some alternative guidelines include:
- Avoid entirely if you have eczema, psoriasis or rosacea
- Use milk or water to dilute the lemon juice
- Mix in honey, yogurt, or olive oil to soothe and moisturize skin
- Use only 1-2 times per week maximum
- Rinse off after just 30 seconds to 1 minute
- Always moisturize after use
- Watch closely for redness, dry patches, irritation
- Discontinue use if any negative reaction occurs
Lemon and baking soda can be drying or damaging to fragile, aging skin. Mature skin also has a harder time bouncing back from inflammation caused by harsh ingredients. Most dermatologists advise those with sensitive or dry skin to avoid the combination or proceed cautiously under doctor supervision.
What are the possible side effects of using lemon and baking soda on skin?
When used improperly, frequently, or on skin not suited for citrus fruit acids or alkaline ingredients, using lemon and baking soda may cause adverse reactions like:
- Increased sun sensitivity
- Damage to moisture barrier
- Photosensitivity burns
- Accelerated aging
- Peeling, lesions or sores
- Allergic reaction in sensitive individuals
To minimize risk, carefully patch test before trying lemon and baking soda on the face. Start with smaller amounts and less frequent use, working up gradually only if skin shows no adverse reaction. Avoid applying immediately before sun exposure, and always wear sunscreen when using any citrus ingredients topically. Those with very fair skin or pre-existing conditions like eczema should avoid trying this home remedy without doctor approval. Immediately discontinue use if irritation or discomfort occurs.
Who may benefit most from using lemon and baking soda on skin?
While not universally suitable for all skin types, the following individuals may see favorable results from using lemon and baking soda for their face or skin:
- Those with oily, acne-prone skin
- Individuals seeking natural alternative to medicated acne face washes
- People with clogged pores or blackheads
- Those looking to reduce shine and balance pH
- People with minor hyperpigmentation, age spots, melasma
- Individuals with thicker skin that can tolerate stronger ingredients
- People who do not have sensitive skin conditions
When used properly and in moderation, most healthy, non-sensitive skin may enjoy some brightness, clarity, and smoothing benefits from incorporating lemon and baking soda. However, those struggling with specific concerns like breakouts, discoloration, enlarged pores, and excessive oiliness are likely to notice more significant improvements. Always monitor your own skin carefully when incorporating new ingredients in a skincare regimen.
Tips for safe and effective use of lemon and baking soda on skin
To maximize the benefits of lemon and baking soda while minimizing risks of adverse reactions, here are some tips:
- Perform patch test on small area first
- Always use fresh lemon juice
- Start with small amounts
- Limit contact time to 1-3 minutes
- Rinse thoroughly after use
- Follow up with gentle moisturizer
- Use only 1-2x per week at first
- Increase frequency slowly if tolerated
- Avoid contact with eyes and lips
- Consider diluting lemon juice if skin is very sensitive
- Don’t use before sun exposure
- Discontinue if irritation occurs
- Consult dermatologist if concerned about usage
When used occasionally in small amounts for short durations of time, lemon and baking soda may provide certain skincare benefits without causing harm for most skin types. Pay close attention to how your skin looks and feels before continuing to use this home remedy.
Are there alternatives to lemon and baking soda for skin care?
For those who find lemon and baking soda too irritating or drying for their facial skin, some gentler alternatives to consider include:
Pure raw honey is naturally antibacterial and hydrating. Use a dime-size amount as a gentle cleanser. Rinse after 5-10 minutes.
Grind dry oats into a powder to make an exfoliating and soothing mask. Mix with water or yogurt and apply for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
Plain unsweetened yogurt contains lactic acid for mild exfoliation, plus proteins to nourish skin. Apply a thin layer for 10-15 minutes.
Apple cider vinegar
Dilute apple cider vinegar with water and use as a skin toner after cleansing. Helps restore pH and fight bacteria.
Masks made with bentonite, kaolin or French green clay draw out impurities without over-drying sensitive skin types.
Gentle AHA or BHA toners offer mild exfoliation without abrasiveness. Start by using just 2-3 times per week.
Pineapple, papaya and pumpkin enzyme masks lightly exfoliate while adding antioxidants and vitamins to skin.
Oils like sunflower, jojoba and argan help dissolve impurities without stripping natural moisture like harsh soaps.
The bottom line on using lemon and baking soda for skin
While the idea of an all-natural, inexpensive skin solution is appealing, people should approach using lemon and baking soda carefully. There is limited scientific evidence regarding efficacy and safety. However, anecdotal reports and the known properties of the ingredients suggest the combination may offer certain benefits for those with oily or acne-prone skin when used properly. Starting slowly and monitoring skin closely for any negative effects is crucial, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin. When in doubt, consult a board-certified dermatologist before trying any new skincare regimens.