Can Bathing With Baking Soda Help Eczema? | MyEczemaTeam

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Can Bathing With Baking Soda Help Eczema?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Updated on April 22, 2024

Eczema affects 31.6 million Americans and many more worldwide, causing symptoms like inflamed, cracked, dry, and itchy skin. There’s no cure for eczema, but many people find relief in a simple at-home remedy — baking soda baths.

Although baking soda may help ease some eczema symptoms when used along with prescribed treatment, what works for one person might not work for someone else. As when considering any new skin care regimen, talk to your dermatologist before introducing a home remedy like bathing with baking soda into your eczema care routine.

What Is Baking Soda?

Baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate. It’s a chemical compound made of one sodium atom bound to one bicarbonate molecule. Baking soda releases carbon dioxide bubbles during baking to help foods rise. Those bubbles make your cookies and cakes come out light, fluffy, and delicious.

But baking soda is more than a rising agent. It has also been a household staple for years for cleaning, brushing teeth, and freshening laundry, as well as to relieve indigestion. Research shows that baking soda has antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-itch properties.

Is Baking Soda Good for Eczema?

Evidence indicates that, yes, baking soda may help with eczema, including temporary itch relief. One study found that adding baking soda to a warm bath or applying it directly to the skin as a paste usually relieves the itching caused by eczema. The effect can be attributed to baking soda’s natural therapeutic properties — it’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing.

Baking soda alters the pH of the bath water, which scientists believe changes certain cellular activities and reduces hyperkeratosis — a condition that causes skin to thicken. Eczema is a type of hyperkeratosis characterized by dry, scaly patches of skin.

Researchers also have looked into baking soda for various inflammatory skin conditions besides eczema, such as psoriasis. These studies are often supported by anecdotal evidence — word-of-mouth recommendations from people who’ve had success with baking soda.

No scientific studies have looked into bathing with baking soda for children with eczema. If you have a child with eczema, get their pediatrician’s medical advice regarding this at-home approach to help with symptoms.

How To Use Baking Soda for Eczema

You can incorporate baking soda into your eczema skin care routine in several ways.

One strategy to relieve itchiness is to use baking soda when bathing. According to the study mentioned above — and the National Eczema Association — you should add one-quarter cup of baking soda to a full tub of warm water (for an adult) and soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Make sure the water is lukewarm. Hot water can increase inflammation and irritation during eczema flare-ups and make dry skin worse.

After your bath, pat the sensitive skin dry carefully (never rub, which can increase irritation). Leave your skin damp, and then apply a moisturizer or other emollients.

Alternatively, you can make a baking soda paste and apply it to your skin. Mix some baking soda with a few drops of water to get the right consistency. If you’re not sure how much water to add, keep in mind that the paste needs to stay on the itchy, affected skin without sliding off. Use enough baking soda to make a paste that covers the affected areas.

Leave the paste on your skin for two to three minutes, then rinse clean with lukewarm water. Pat dry carefully, again leaving the skin damp, and moisturize.

Ask your doctor about any specific instructions or additions they recommend for a baking soda bath to manage eczema symptoms. “I put hydrogen peroxide and baking soda in the tub and soak in it,” one MyEczemaTeam member wrote.

Moisturizing After Baking Soda Treatment Is Key

After the baking soda bath or paste, it’s important to moisturize your skin while it’s still warm and damp. As one MyEczemaTeam member said, “Put a heaping handful of baking soda in the water, and as the skin is still damp, lotion up.”

“Try bathing with a heaping handful of baking soda. Then use Shea Moisture Indian Hemp & Shea Butter Inflammation Therapy medicated bar soap to wash with,” suggested another member. “Then, while the skin is damp, follow with lotion. I use Aveeno, and I keep things under control as long as I am careful about what I eat!”

Moisturizers are intended more to retain moisture rather than to add it. Putting moisturizer on damp skin gives the product some moisture to work with from the start to help relieve dryness associated with eczema. It’s a good idea to have your moisturizer of choice right at hand when you get out of the bath. Thicker creams are better than thinner lotions.

What To Keep in Mind When Bathing With Baking Soda for Eczema

The amount of baking soda added to bathwater is somewhat flexible. Consider that a quarter cup in a full bath is recommended, yet a thick paste of baking soda can be safely applied to skin.

The difference comes down to time: You soak in the baking soda bath for 10 to 20 minutes, but you leave the paste on for just three minutes. This means you can add more baking soda to the bath if needed, as long as you reduce your soaking time. The more baking soda you add, the less time you should soak.

Potential Risks of a Baking Soda Bath or Paste

You should limit the time you spend with baking soda, especially if you have a skin condition like eczema. Baking soda is alkaline, meaning it functions as a base (the opposite of an acid). An important consequence of eczema is that the itchy, sensitive skin has an increased pH level — it’s more basic than normal, which results in more inflammation and itchiness. Applying a basic topical treatment to already highly basic skin and leaving it on too long could further increase the skin’s pH. This defeats the purpose of the baking soda treatment.

It’s also crucial to limit the time spent using these treatments because baking soda can be absorbed through the skin, causing a dangerous increase in carbonate in the blood. This condition is called metabolic alkalosis. Symptoms include confusion, hand tremors, nausea or vomiting, lightheadedness, and muscle twitching. Contact a health care professional immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

In addition, although you can safely eat small amounts of baking soda (it’s what some antacids are made of), swallowing too much can lead to metabolic alkalosis. This is why pediatricians warn parents not to use baking soda or products with baking soda for diaper rash. If anyone, especially a child, swallows a glob of baking soda paste, call your local poison control center immediately to be safe (U.S. Poison Control: 800-222-1222).

The Bottom Line on Baking Soda for Managing Eczema Itch

More research needs to be done on using baking soda to relieve eczema symptoms. So far, the evidence suggests that a baking soda bath or paste may help relieve the itchiness of eczema for some people. Baking soda treatments may be especially helpful in combination with moisturizing immediately after soaking, while the skin is still warm and damp.

Talk to your doctor about trying a baking soda bath. If you get the go-ahead, use a small amount of baking soda to start, then vary the amounts of baking soda and soaking time to see what works best for you. Hopefully, you’ll arrive at a strategy that relieves your itching and reduces dryness, at least temporarily.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people living with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 52,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their story with others who understand life with eczema.

Have you tried baking soda baths or pastes for eczema? Did it soothe your itchy, irritated skin? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on April 22, 2024
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    Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
    Heather Lander, Ph.D. is a virologist-turned-storyteller who writes about science to help researchers get funded and to help the rest of us understand what the researchers are doing. Learn more about her here.

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