The Baking Soda Beauty Routine


We're not easily flummoxed by personal-hygiene habits, but when Liv Tyler told us in her Top Shelf that she bathes a few times a week using an entire box of epsom salts plus a bottle of hydrogen peroxide or a box of baking soda, well… let’s just say we were careful to have it fact-checked. It turns out she’s not the only working professional in Manhattan employing household products in the tub. One of our beautiful man friends, James Hardwick—whom we admire not only because it's nice to have him in our line of sight, but also because of his holistic approach to life—also DIYs pretty much everything in his beauty routine with the help of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. (And no, he doesn't smell.) Here, James explains his philosophy and reveals the formulas behind the madness:

Hey Into The Gloss,

My "beauty" routine consists of four products:

1. Baking soda

2. Witch-hazel extract

3. Hydrogen peroxide

4. Children’s toothpaste

That’s it. It costs about $35 every three months. It's been my thing for a couple years now, because I guess I got tired of paying $12 for some strange cleanser and $6 for a mouthwash that burned my tongue. I'm not the world's most DIY guy—but, on occasion, it makes sense (like sneaking kombucha into movie theaters; sometimes it's BYOK).

First, let’s talk about using baking soda as an exfoliant for your face and body. Whole Foods sells a little box for less than a buck. Places like Target and CVS sell boxes of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, too, but I’m not sure if it’s as refined or as pure as the stuff you'll find at natural food stores. You can taste the difference if you brush your teeth with it—which I highly recommend (I'll come back to this). In the shower, I pour a pile of baking soda into my hands and scrub everything—my face, my hair, my body, and the actual shower— with it. It’s a little rough, but it feels good... And maybe I’ve just been lucky, but my skin is happier when I wash it with something simple like baking soda. It doesn't seem to dehydrate my skin or strip away healthy oils, and baking soda is pretty stress-free—it's no big deal if you accidentally swallow some, waste it (it’s so inexpensive), plus it’s environmentally safe! On top of that, baking soda is an odor neutralizer, and it’s good for cleaning produce (not something I do in the shower). See? Multi-purpose, simple, and cheap.

Follow that up with some witch hazel. Witch hazel is a shrub, the extract of which is loaded with tannins that hydrate and smooth the skin. I use this as a toner, and sometimes buy Thayer's pre-soaked pads. But you can also pick up a little bottle of witch hazel extract and apply it to your face with a washcloth or whatever. I do this like once every four days, or whenever I remember to. It’s probably what male models do, who knows.

Now, about about that dirty mouth of yours (just kidding, I'm sure it's nice)... Using baking soda on your teeth will make you feel like you’ve just left the dentist, and it’s especially good if you ever get dry mouth (for whatever reason). I inherited this utilitarian move from my dad, who grew up on a farm, and still maintains that kind of practicality and resourcefulness. Sometimes I like to add it to all-natural kiddie toothpaste. Kiddie toothpaste is sweet subtle compared to the obnoxiously strong, minty adult ones and we’re all just big kids anyway…

But we’re not done here. This is like the highest high of oral hygiene: you can make your own mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide and water–it works really well and foams up like a European dance party. Plus, it doesn’t burn like most brand-name mouthwashes, which dumb your taste buds for hours and ruin fresh-squeezed juice every time. There are a couple of easy steps to making it, but before I give you the details, I’m gonna save some lives via a public service announcement:

DO NOT buy cheap hydrogen peroxide for internal use. I used to do this, but I then I learned these ‘home use’ hydrogen peroxides are stabilized with heavy metals that can accumulate in your body and are all around no good. For lil’ cuts and scrapes and for cleaning sinks, the 'home use' stuff works well. But to make mouthwash, you should definitely use ‘food grade,’ which you can purchase at online health-food stores or at Elm Health on 14th Street and 7th Ave.

Food-grade hydrogen peroxide comes in a 35% solution that then has to be diluted (by you) to 3% for internal use. So one bottle, if stored in the fridge, will yield a lot of mouthwash.

Here's how you make it:

-Buy food grade 35% hydrogen peroxide, a 22oz bottle (be careful with this stuff, it’s super strong)

-Find a cool glass bottle and fill it nearly all the way up with water

-Add one ounce of the food grade 35% hydrogen peroxide for every eleven ounces of water

-Add a few drops of an essential oil, like peppermint, lavender, or sage (not all oils are edible, be sure to get the ones that are) or, alternatively, squeeze in some tasty kind of natural toothpaste, as these normally contain a bunch of essential oils already.

You will feel wonderful after, taste great, and some girl once told me it whitens your teeth.

This is a building-a-house-with-my-bare-hands kind of beauty, but it's less expensive and more satisfying. So give it a shot, save some money, and let the simplicity of it free your mind. Or tell your boyfriend to try it. Whatever you feel comfortable with. I just want you to feel comfortable.

—James Hardwick

James lives in NYC. Photos by Mackenzie Wagoner.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Helena

    Ok good, post-Liv, that's helpful. But I still want to know the deal with putting hydrogen peroxide in the bath. WITH the baking powder? how much? what are the benefits? I'm scared!

    Now I'm off to look up what baking powder is (salt, basically?) -> am not sure.

    • claire

      Baking soda : sodium bicarbonate

  • sashi

    James is decidedly NOT into the gloss, is he?! I understand his theories, but I have also grandparents and family who were farmers, and had very simplistic beauty/hygiene routines. The thing is, looking at photos, their skin, hair, teeth were not looking too fantastic by the time they were even 40 years old, so.... probably not the look I'm after. His good looks are more likely due to his healthy lifestyle and diet than avoidance of creams hein? Basics are nice, but the feel and the scent of products are part of an experience of taking care of yourself (see existence of this site as evidence)

    • lucky

      The way your relatives looked by 40 was probably due to a lack of sunscreen....

  • Stephanie

    Thank you, I love hearing about smart, easy routines. I am excited to try the baking soda scrub in the shower.

  • HopelesslyCreative

    Yes! I use baking soda in the shower 2-3x a week as my facial exfoliator and it is the best. Skin smooth as baby's bottom, etc. Also, I do a quick swipe once a week with raw apple cider vinegar, which approximates an at-home chemical peel. (I'd take it slowly at first if you know your skin is sensitive.) Yay! for household beauty!

    • Whistling Beautiful

      i love it

  • elem

    Love this. Baking soda also works great in foot baths. ;)

  • Sarah

    Thanks a lot! Great and very helpful post. Here we come again -- less is more. I am tired of paying for over-priced commercial products as well, especially when they do not work at all, and about 95% of them do not work.

  • AltE

    Baking soda destroys the acid mantle in your skin. At a pH of 8, it's very alkaline (your face has a pH of about 5.5).

    Proceed with caution!

  • maash

    The best exfoliant ever is oatmeal flour. Super cheap, gentle and easy on sensitive skin!

    • thunderlegz

      Oh wow! Does it clog your bath tub? Sometimes my skin "burns" with just water (mostly in the winter but as I get older All.The.Time.). It's super sensitive, and crazy, desert dry with rosacea and psoriasis (very attractive)...However I still hunt for that great exfoliant. I just don't want to annoy my roommate...

      • maashmaah

        No not at all. I just mix a teaspoon amount with a bit of water and just rub my nose, chin and forehead. Haven't used it on my body though, I prefer to dry brush.

        Good luck with fixing your skin! I don't think you should do anything abrasive at all. You can try an oatmeal flour mask to just calm everything.

  • Hayfa

    It sure sounds like a great inexpensive routine (compared to some of the things that's out there)

    Would love to give it a go! Thank you for sharing :)


  • MD2

    This is terrible advice. Baking soda is very alkaline and should never be used on the skin. Please do your research before posting harmful advice such as this.

    • Mandy

      It may be harmful to some, but not to all. Baking soda balances the Ph in skin for some people, like myself. I have very oily skin, my face doesn't sweat. What should be sweat turns into oil. I find that baking soda is one of the only things that helps to tame the oil without drying me out. I also have cystic acne that turns into mrsa. The baking soda helps to keep the REALLY bad cysts at bay. I don't use it everyday, and maybe that's what makes the difference. You don't want, or even need, to use it everyday. 2 to 3 times a week is the right number.

  • Athina

    Wow what an awesome post!! I love this approach to hygiene and beauty; simple, healthy, home remedies. Thank you for posting this :D

  • MoseyM

    Here's to "beautiful man friends"!

    James Hardwick might also want to check out baking soda as deodorant. I mix some (1/8 teaspoon or less) with a few (six?) drops of coconut oil and rub it into my pits; I find it actually de-stinks better and longer than ordinary deodorant and certainly better that most natural ones. But not everyone can tolerate baking soda in their pits, it can irritate. But it seems like his speed.

    I may try that mouthwash. I hate that dead taste bud thing. Although I'll stick to brushing with natural + fluoride toothpaste, as dentists keep telling me that if I don't use fluoride my teeth will explode or something.

    • Terri Gardner

      And I've heard that bleach cures autism!

  • Tai

    I have a hard time imagining Liv washing her face with baking soda. The baking soda and epsom salt bath that she talked about on the other hand is great - I've done it before, and I felt like I lost 5 pounds.

  • Ash

    I used to use baking soda to brush my teeth but then read some compelling research that showed it actively wears down your enamel...
    Also it was disastrous on my skin.

    Probably the product that I use to clean my sink shouldn't also be scrubbing soft human tissues !

    • murt

      Yes it's horrible on my skin too and I also wonder about whether it would wear down your tooth enamel.... but who knows!

      Isn't baking soda really alkaline though? Maybe I could try it again on my skin but use a more acidic toner afterward to neutralize the baking soda. Scrubs are generally awful for me though so I probably won't.

      • Ash

        Personally I think it's still too scratchy for the face even if you do make a more acidic concoction. I usually exfoliate with some ground oats, ground rosehip or maca powder (in diluted raw honey)-- all soft enough to do a little scrubbing without damage :)

    • Whistling Beautiful

      since you use it to clean the sink,it is an exfoliant, you should use it sparingly, like once a week

  • Caroline

    It's bicarbonate of soda in the UK

  • alex

    Do you get an initial breakout when you clean your face with honey?

    • katie

      Nope, zero breakouts. I started off with using just a small amount and applying it after my skin was damp and i'd already exfoliated. Now i just go ahead and lather it on while my skin is dry as it seems to be even more effective that way, and i know now my skin loves it. I haven't had a single bump since starting it-- which is totally not normal for me, especially with the humid weather here at the moment. It's been two months so far and I'm completely amazed by how well it works for me.

      *Also, I meant to add: There's some hydrogen peroxide in that homemade toothpaste my granddad swore by. :)

  • alicake

    OK this is all very interesting and I'm really turned on by the idea of simple skin care, but the burning question is: can you really use baking soda to wash your whole body? I mean, WHOLE, body, as in... feminine bits? My biggest pet peeve with 95% of all body wash gels is that they are too harsh and cause irritation in my girly bits.

    • MoseyM

      Yes! I'm looking at you, peppermint-scented Dr. Bronner's.

      • IntoTheGloss

        Michael Harper knows all about that... "Should be mentioned that Dr. Bronner's Peppermint will set you on fire downtown.

        To clarify what "set on fire downtown" means -- I'm saying your shower experience will be like this:
        "Wash wash wash wash ... hmm, that's tingly... AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! IT BURNS!!! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN!?!"

        • MoseyM

          Ha! Perfect!

        • alicake

          hahahaha!! "set you on fire downtown"... BTDT!!!!

    • taf

      Don't wash your girly bits with anything but water! Your gynaecologist (and your girly bits) will thank me.

      • alicake

        Really? Will you be Summer's Eve-fresh with just water?

  • isilnoir

    I'm using baking soda to exfoliate my skin every time, but I couldn't find something that works as a toner so witch hazel idea is really good (I don't know if I'm gonna find it in my country, though). And I'm also using baking soda as mouthwash or to whiten my teeth (but you shouldn't use it everyday, like once a month or so).

  • Pia

    Crushing hard on this beauty routine! Defo going to try.

  • Marijn

    Love it! I have been dying to try washing with baking soda, after reading this article I think I finally dare taking the plunge!

  • E

    once a dentist that told me i should use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash, but when i went to my doctor for routine tests, he told me to stop using it because it's highly carcinogenic...

    • eastvillagesiren

      HP has an oxidizing effect, but research study here indicates it's probably not carcinogenic. I personally don't use it because of the oxidizing effect.

      • Mopsy

        Yep, we use Hydrogen Peroxide at surprisingly low concentrations on cells to activate stress-associated molecules and to kill the cells. I will not be putting hydrogen peroxide anywhere near my face, mouth or body.

  • Claire

    I've been wanting to try some Avene or La Roche Posay for awhile now, thanks for the advice, Michelle! I love reading about gentler products that actually work. Those of us with sensitive skin can have such a difficult time trying to find products that don't exacerbate the redness, irritation, etc. that is always SUCH a joy to deal with. I've tried this baking soda exfoliation method in the past and although my face did feel soft initially, it was red as a cherry afterwards and became very inflamed and broken out within the next few days.

    • h h

      I've had really good luck with La Roche Posay and Avene. I don't think I ever had a bad reaction to any of their products-- some haven't worked as well for me as others, but I've never had the searing pain that has sometimes accompanied other brands. My skin started getting really dry and angry around the time I turned 36 (I'm 38 now): I needed serious moisturizers even in the summertime and if I ever forgot moisturizer (like after the showering at the gym) I was in actual pain. Running into the nearest store to buy something to slather on my skin pain.

      My skin's actually back to a state now where sometimes, in a humid summer (like now in NYC), I can go without moisturizer. Hooray! I use the LRP Physiological Cleanser, LRP Redermic (retinol) or the Avene Ystheal cream at night, and usually LRP Hydreane moisturizer (the light or rich versions, depending). I sometimes spritz with the Avene or LRP water, too, because it feels nice. (The Caudalie water burns my skin.) Plus lots of sunscreen during the day (and Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair during the daytime, under the moisturizer).

      Also, I'm not sure how much this actually helped, or if it's just coincidental, but my skin got much less dehydrated and angry after I started doing hot yoga regularly. I've always drunk a lot of water (usually with 1/2 a lime squeezed into it for flavor), but with hot yoga I've amped that up. Plus I sweat buckets, and I think that's helped the overall look of my skin.

      • eastvillagesiren

        Agree on LRP products, they brought my skin back into balance. Now that it's humid summer, I can even use the Effaclar gel to soothe my combo skin without overdrying. This is probably one of the best non-irritating skin lines I've ever used (along with Evan Healy serums at night).

        • Michelle

          Once you are a convert to LRP, you want to sing it from the rooftops!! Remember Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, when he puts on the aftershave? That's what I look like whenever I apply any other "sensitive skin" product. I have gone to facials where all they can do for me is smear on pure shea butter-- no mask, def no exfoliation, no serums...all I can handle is shea butter.

          • eastvillagesiren

            Shea butter is all I can handle also ; ) I use the evan healy sheat butter in the winter, slather on as a mask and after I go swimming. It's "whipped" so it' super creamy.

  • James

    It was fun sharing all that above :) Just wanted to add - everything I do seems to work well for me but it's definitely not all that researched. For instance, the pH info is all new to me, and it's good to know. Maybe oatmeal's a better way to go. It's definitely more tasty...

    And I want to share this as well, the blog a good girl friend from high school keeps She's the girly jungle version of me. She's a natural, conscious, super inspiring person.

    You are beautiful. And so are all these comments. Lots of love.

    • sashi

      yes, thank you for sharing your routine and your reasons. Brave man to open up to the ITGers, It can be a tough crowd, but 99% meant with best intentions for others.

    • eastvillagesiren

      Thanks for the great post and best of luck in your new venture. BTW, here's a link on some benefits of using oatmeal. In the kindest way possible, I suggest you give it a try vs. baking soda for you skin. I've used oatmeal in the past on my super duper sensitive skin, and it truly does work well. Just grind it up first, or you will def clog your bathroom drains ; )

  • Sarita

    Of the three big items on the list, I use only witch hazel as a toner. I tried that baking soda-hydrogen peroxide business last summer, and my gums hated me--positively hated me. I mean, yeah, it was great to have that "I just came back from the dentist" feel when I ran my tongue along my teeth, but I couldn't let that be the decision for me. Having hydrogen peroxide irritate my gums was not the business!

    For oral health what I use now is sesame seed oil. First thing in the morning, I swish with a little water before I put two capfulls of the oil in my mouth. I then move the oil around my mouth for about 10-15 minutes (I do this while I take my shower so it takes my mind off having oil in my mouth). After that, I dispose of it in my bathroom trash (I have it lined with plastic bags) because you don't want to have oil down your drains or in your pipes. Once that's done, I use my pre-brush rinse for some seconds then move onto my regualrly scheduled teeth brushing with my Tom's toothpaste.

    The oil portion is called the oil pulling method. YouTube it. It's pretty awesome! I had a cavity in one of my molars, and after nearly five months of oil pulling, it's disappeared significantly.

    Check out Fran's information on oil pulling:

  • prairie_dogs

    Wait, I thought hydrogen peroxide was really bad for your enamel-- is it safe at the dilution he's suggesting?

  • Aisha

    This is great to know for emergencies or for days I'm camping and need an inexpensive alternative that won't hurt the environment, but I would be bored without my daily beauty products. They make me feel special, smell nice and are a big part of celebrating myself as a woman. If I didn't have my perfect eye serum or antioxidant powered face oil I would be depressed.

  • equestrienne

    Oh God, baking soda?? I don't care how handsome he is, I'm not putting that on my face. You know what the best exfoliant I've used is? Turmeric + nutmeg + raw honey. (And sometimes a little triphala if I'm feeling fancy.) You'll glow!

  • Thistle Bloom

    Hi James, love your advise.. Rock on!

  • Caring Chemist

    Whatever you do, DO NOT USE BAKING SODA ON YOUR SKIN. James Hardwick is super cute but he isn't a chemist. Our skin is very sensitive to pH level. A 1 on the scale is acidic, while a 14 is alkaline. Ingredients are either more acidic or more alkaline based on where they are on the scale. Our skin averages a pH of 4.5-5; baking soda, a household CHEMICAL, is a 9. It is far too alkaline to use on our skin. It will break down the skin's delicate acid mantle which the skin uses to protect itself from bacterium, and moisture loss, and environmental damage. A good cleanser cleans the skin without stripping it. It should be mild with a pH of 5.5 or lower.

  • what_on_earth

    This guy is literally wrecking his skin one day at a time. Hope he enjoys looking like well seasoned leather by the time he's 50.

  • Whistling Beautiful

    thank you for sharing

  • dB

    Another toner alternative is chamomile tea ice cubes. Just freeze chamomile tea and rub on your face after cleansing. It also helps to tighten pores.