Saturday, February 25, 2012

Baking Soda: The Best OTC Skin Care

If you've never been afflicted with acne, thank your lucky stars. Not only is it terribly frustrating to deal with all the misconceptions (I've met people in college who believe acne is caused by bad hygiene), the physical and emotional scars stay with you even longer than the bumps and redness. While it may sound dramatic, I can assure you that anyone with moderate to severe acne will tell you the same.  I personally have struggled with continuous acne and subsequent scarring since I was fifteen years old. It seemed there was nothing I could to cure it. Whether I was working out four hours a day in the pool during swim season or spending that time life guarding in the sun, it was there. Whether I was eating for wellness, weight loss, or to deal with my emotions, it was there. Stressed or relaxed, the acne never disappeared. I tried every combination of over-the-counter products and looked up every skin care ritual there was in hopes of helping myself. And, of course, I visited more than one doctor; I tried almost everything but Accutane, and the only thing that worked in the slightest was amoxicillin (for which it took three years to get prescribed). Even that did little good, and really, I didn't want to be taking it everyday for the rest of my life even if it did work.

Thankfully, almost six years later, my acne is beginning to clear up (for now). I'm well aware that a lot of this has to do with my body chemistry, but I'm definitely sure that changing my skin care regiment didn't hurt my progression. I had always believed that, besides prescription face wash, there was nothing more important than to wash your face with OTC products. My boyfriend, who washes his face in the shower with bar soap or only hot water, was convinced I was wrong. Now, obviously, acne is mostly correlated to your genetic makeup (check out this study for more information), so it was easy for me to brush off the advice of a guy whose entire family has super-clear skin. But in my quest to live a little more naturally (and a lot more cheaply), I finally decided to test out that theory.

What I want to share is something that worked for me while I transitioned off amoxicillin and continues to work for me today. I think it's worth trying for people with skin types that range from acne-free to moderately affected by acne, especially those who are currently using OTC products. I want to stress that I truly believe some people-- including members of my family-- need to use prescription face wash in addition to oral medication to keep their skin under control. If you have severe acne, a dermatologist is always the best way to go.

For the last month, I have been washing my face exclusively with baking soda and water. I've raved about baking soda before, but I truly believe this is the #1 greatest unconventional use of the product. Using it as a face wash is so simple: you just splash water on your face, pour about a teaspoon of baking soda into your hand, and (lightly) massage onto your face before rinsing! Not only does it work wonderfully as a cleanser, it doubles as a light exfoliator that does wonders for acne scars. It's also a lot cheaper than any other face wash you'll find out there.

Of course, it's not the perfect treatment-- there are some things to be aware of. The exfoliating nature of the product means that your skin will be left slightly red after use, with acne scars looking more visible than usual. This is especially true in the first few weeks of using the product, as your skin isn't used to it. Be sure to start slowly (once a day or every other day) so as not to irritate your skin. You can decide whether once or twice a day is best for your daily routine when you've completely adjusted. In addition, the alkaline nature of baking soda requires a toner be used to maintain your skin's proper pH. I love using the same apple cider vinegar/water mix I use in my hair to do the job! I've found that the smell is unnoticeable after a few minutes, but if you're convinced you smell like vinegar (or if your skin is super sensitive), just remove the toner with water after a few minutes. It's still way cheaper and easier than your normal skin care routine probably is! At night, I like to follow up with olive oil as a moisturizer, but during the day I use a store-bought moisturizer with SPF 15.

My skin's never been better since I began this regimen, and I didn't start it myself until I read a lot of positive experiences online. There are obviously no quick fixes, and I have indeed found OTC products that have some effectiveness in cleansing and exfoliating skin. In my experience, none of these OTC products have been any more useful than baking soda, and none have been comparable in price or purity. Obviously I think it's worth trying yourself; if you do, let me know how it went!

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