What is Sodium Bicarbonate?

Sodium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda, Bicarbonate of Soda, Baking Powder.

This clever natural ingredient is part of the reasons our deodorants work so well, and it’s not only present in natural deodorant. It’s also a common ingredient in toothpaste (remember the old toothpaste advert “that must be the baking soda!”?) and numerous other cosmetic applications.

We’ll refer to it as Sodium Bicarbonate from here, since that is the name legally required when labelling ingredients. Although it is sometimes referred to as Baking Soda, this is more of an ‘Americanism’.

Baking Powder is an entirely different thing and was designed for use in baking applications (as the name suggests!), and is comprised of sodium bicarbonate and one or more acid salt (such as sodium aluminium sulphate).

Why use Sodium Bicarbonate?

Sodium Bicarbonate is a powerful antibacterial and helps to prevent infections. By eradicating underarm bacteria, it prevents body odour from forming.

What is it and where does it come from?

Sodium Bicarbonate is a salt. It is a white crystalline solid, but often appears as a powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste. It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs.

Sodium Bicarbonate comes out of the ground in the form of minerals Nahcolite and Trona. These two minerals are then refined and turned into sodium bicarbonate, among other things. Most of it comes from the United States, which contains the world’s largest Trona deposit.

There is no risk of depletion anytime soon:

“According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Wyoming alone contains 56 million tons of pure layered trona, plus 47 billion more tons mixed with other minerals. We’re only tapping trona at the rate of 15 million tons per year; the Wyoming Mining Association estimates that we have enough on hand to last more than 2,000 years.”

Among the enquiries we receive about our Sodium Bicarbonate, are those asking if aluminium is used during the extraction process. Despite in-depth research into this topic, including conversations with our raw material supplier, I have found nothing to suggest that aluminium is used in the extraction process of any Sodium Bicarbonate. Perhaps this misconception came from the fact that almost all raw materials extracted from the Earths crust contain trace amounts of the minerals found within the ground.

The nine most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust are: oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and titanium. You would be exposed to these elements during any contact with soil (whilst gardening for example), and they are not harmful to health at these concentrations.

We use medical grade Sodium Bicarbonate in our deodorants. It contains less than 0.5mg per kg Aluminium. The amount of aluminium in our Sodium Bicarbonate is deemed suitable for the haemodialysis (commonly called ‘kidney dialysis’) market and is of no toxicity to humans.

How Much Sodium Bicarbonate Can I Use?

Almost everyone can use Sodium Bicarbonate- but finding a deodorant with the right concentration for you is the key to happy underarms. If you have ever found a red rash has developed after using a cream deodorant, Sodium Bicarbonate could be the culprit. This is not usually caused an ‘allergy’ to Sodium Bicarbonate but is caused by your skins pH being affected by it. You may find that one cream deodorant causes redness, while another (still containing sodium bicarbonate but at a lower percentage) is perfectly fine.

Our skin generally maintains a slightly acidic pH of 5.5. Pure Sodium Bicarbonate sits at a more alkaline pH of 9 on the scale. However, it’s the pH of the whole deodorant that matters- unless you’re putting undiluted Sodium Bicarbonate on your underarms (not advised!). The combination of ingredients in the formula will create its pH, and it will probably be closer to ‘neutral’ on the scale. Sweat tends to be slightly acidic which neutralises the alkaline Sodium Bicarbonate and restores balance. Skin acids are always present, but if your body is trying to balance the alkaline Sodium Bicarbonate it may release a higher concentration of acid and a red rash may be the result.

There’s no clear reason why irritation occurs in some people and not others. Some can use higher concentrations of Sodium Bicarbonate without any problems, others can use it sparingly and occasionally, some not at all. It doesn’t have any correlation with usually ‘sensitive skin’ either. People who consider themselves to have sensitive skin often use it without a hitch. Others who have never had skin sensitivity find irritation appears after just one application. Some people find they wake up with a bit of redness after they have used a natural deodorant for years.

Our bodies are ever-changing. Things such as hormones, stress, alcohol, diet and lifestyle affect our chemistry. It is understandable that the delicate pH balance may shift as well.

If you experienced an unpleasant reaction to Sodium Bicarbonate, you may be wondering whether you will be able to try to use it again.

The good news is that although uncomfortable, the irritation will subside quickly so long as you discontinue use. This is very important, since applying any products to irritated skin can lead to further problems.

Our tips:

  • Wash thoroughly & gently before use. Ensure that you remove all product applied from the previous day and rinse well.
  • Apply as directed, after a bath or shower. This is when your skin will be clean and warm, which allows the product to glide more smoothly across skins surface.
  • Apply sparingly. Experiment with how little you can apply to retain effectiveness against odour.
  • Have patience. Many people find a happy balance with natural deodorant through a little perseverance. Sometimes the only solution is to let a time pass and try again.
  • Buy a sample. This key point so often gets ignored and yet it is the one key way to ensure your new deodorant suits you. Just because you have used one of our formulas, it doesn’t mean the others will suit your skin.

Active Deodorant Balm: Contains our highest concentration of Sodium Bicarbonate. It is best kept for the most demanding days and is a pretty powerful formula. We still have hundreds of people using this on a daily basis, but as we mentioned, sampling is KEY!

Clean Deodorant Balm: Contains a low level of Sodium Bicarbonate and is ideal for daily use. We combined Sodium Bicarbonate with Magnesium Oxide for our more gentle but wonderfully effective daily deodorant. Our constant Best Seller for good reason!

Gentle Deodorant Cream as the name suggests, this deodorant is for anyone who has sensitive skin, or is avoiding Sodium Bicarbonate due to previous irritation. This innovative formula uses the combined power of Magnesium Oxide and Bentonite Clay to offer all day freshness.

Please note that underarm rashes are not always down to Sodium Bicarbonate. It’s important to see your Dr to ensure that it is not down to an allergy, ingrown hairs, or sweat rash. Although they may coincide with using a new deodorant, these conditions tend to appear for other reasons.

Nothing in this post should be used in place of medical advice.