Controlling body odor comes down to science. So, let’s get the science-y basics out of the way first. We all have a layer of sweat and sebum that forms a coating on our skin known as the acid mantle. It may sound gross, but this coating protects our skin by preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungi. The average pH of the acid mantle is around 4.7, meaning it is not only slightly acidic, but also healthy and considered "natural" state (source).

You might have noticed that many natural deodorants contain sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, which has a pH of about 8 to 8.5 (alkaline). Deodorants that contain baking soda are relying on its odor-inhibiting properties to help control the bacteria growth in our underarms (source), which cause odor when they break down sweat. Because of these amazing, odor-busting properties, we love using this ingredient in some of our deodorants. Baking soda also lowers the pH levels of the environment, causing the bacteria, which normally feeds off the acidic sweat's fatty acids, inability to function (source).

It's all in the formulation!

So why baking soda has been getting so much bad rep? Is it really causing irritation and rashes? Well, we are back to science.

baking soda formula

Remember making the classic vinegar and baking soda volcano? When the alkaline baking soda deodorant is applied to our acidic underarms, a chemical reaction occurs. Whoa! Does that mean everyone will get a bad reaction? Well, not really. It's all in the formulation! The possibility and severity of the rash or irritation depends on:

  1. The amount of baking soda in the product. More of it, equals more possibility of a rash or irritation (source). You can check the amount by looking at the product ingredient list. The higher baking soda is listed, the higher the chances.
  2. The person’s acid mantle pH level, which can be affected by age, gender, or race, as well as medication, diet, or even that time of the month (yes ladies we got another thing to worry about).

Irritation vs Allergic Reaction

It is important to note that many people confuse this type of irritation with an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis) or with what many came to know as detoxing. Underarm irritation and redness is not detoxing and it's a myth that has been circulating for way too long! Detox is a completely different process, during which you may experience stronger smelling body odor and sweating in excess. For more info on this and other reactions, please see our pages Underarm Detox: Making a Clean Switch and Armpit Irritation and Rashes.

What can you do if you experience irritation or a rash in your underarms?

First, stop using any product that might be causing the irritation and try to figure out the reason.

  • Is it the pH of the product? Are you using other alkaline products at the same time? Are you on your period? Did your diet recently change?
  • Are you allergic to an ingredient?
  • Or maybe it’s heat rash?
  • For more information, check out Armpit Irritation and Rashes.

Remember, figuring out the main cause for your discomfort, can truly make the difference between the ability and inability to use this amazingly effective ingredient in your daily routine. 

Deodorants with baking soda

At Rustic MAKA we have worked with our formulators to make sure our baking soda deodorant line does not create issues for most people’s skin. However, it is possible that some may still experience irritation if their skin is extremely acidic due to: hormonal imbalance (e.g. during your period or pregnancy), use of other alkaline skincare products in tandem, diet, medication, etc.

Baking soda-free deodorant options

There are also instances where those with impaired skin function do not tolerate even small amounts of baking soda. In those situations it is recommended to avoid this ingredient completely. Check our our no baking soda lines:

no baking soda deodorants


These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For any medical concern you should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Full Medical Disclaimer.


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