Alkaline Baths and Drinking Alkaline Water
When it comes to our overall health, you really are what you consume AND what you bathe in. If you want glowing and healthy skin you may want to start drinking and bathing in mineral-rich alkaline water.
Water is essential for life on Earth, but not all water is made the same or has the same minerals. In this article, we’re going to dive into the health benefits and controversy associated with consuming and bathing in alkaline water. Spoiler alert, drinking and bathing in alkaline water has huge benefits for your skin, and much of these benefits are attributed to the minerals in the water or warm water bathing in general.
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. When your body’s pH is off, your body has a higher risk of becoming sick. All medical disorders should be treated by medical professionals and this article is not intended to diagnose or treat diseases.
Alkaline water, also called ionized water or high pH water has a long history of medical uses. For generations people have benefited from bathing in alkaline bath/spa water and over the last few years, drinking alkaline water has become one of the hottest trends in the anti-aging market.
The trend drinking alkaline water is being driven by studies that have reported that acidic environments or environments with low pH encourage the development of more aggressive cancer cells. Similarly, other studies have suggested diets and beverages that have a high pH can neutralize an acidic environment, slow the biological aging process, and increase our lifespan.
What is Alkaline Water? Alkaline water is water that has a high pH level or ‘alkaline’ pH level. The pH scale goes from 0 - 14, 7 is neutral, less than 7 is acidic and anything over 7 is alkaline.
What is pH? PH stands for Power of Hydrogen (PH) and is used to identify the acidity or alkaline nature of an ingredient. Everything in the physical world has a pH level and when it comes to our skin, pH levels play an essential role in skin homeostasis, protecting the acid mantle, sebum production, skin microbiome, and optimizing the functionality of our immune system. Skin inflammation, microbial infections, and flare ups tend to occur most frequently when our skin’s pH levels get too high or too low.
In general, our skin’s pH will range from 4-6 and while our internal organs hover around 7-9. When our pH levels are in balance it is easier for our body to absorb the nutrients that our skin cells need to stay hydrated. Hydrated skin cells are happy skin cells. Furthermore, all bodily actions and chemical reactions are highly dependent on the pH environment of the body and healthy bodies do a great job of keeping our pH levels in check. - For more information about skin pH check out our article, Understanding Your Skin’s pH Level.
What’s the medical theory behind alkaline water?
In 2019, MIT published an article titled, How Tumors Behave on Acid. In the article, the scientist reported that high body acidity (low pH) encourages chronic inflammation and increases the risks associated with invasive and metastatic tumors. More specifically, the MIT researchers found that acidic environments make it easier for tumor cells to produce dangerous proteins that allow them to spread aggressively. More importantly, the researchers found that they could slow the growth of tumor cells in mice who had acidic environments by increasing their body pH. With this understanding, many wellness experts concluded that diets rich in alkaline substances are beneficial and that drinking high pH alkaline water can neutralize an acidic body. However, it is important to note that correcting body or skin pH levels is not as easy as just adding alkaline substances and most healthy bodies do an adequate job of maintaining their own pH.
Alkaline Water Controversy
There is no shortage of lifestyle advice on the internet, but there is a shortage of scientific studies. The controversial part of alkaline water involves the scientific studies and ongoing research that is needed to validate the “click bait” wellness headlines. We don’t know what we haven’t studied and many wellness experts and brands are making claims without the science. This has led many medical media outlets to make claims that “there needs to be more research” or “that there is almost no actual research to EITHER support or disprove these ideas.” This lack of research can be attributed to the low cost of baking soda compared to pharmaceutical compounds, lack of patentability, and lack of profit.
What we do know is that current studies have suggested that there are significant health benefits of eating a diet rich in alkaline rich foods and drinking high pH water, but we know very little about the reason why. The most thorough review of drinking alkaline rich water found that the mice that drank high pH water had a longer lifespan, but the researchers couldn’t conclude the pathways targeted or the specific reasons why longevity was seen. A more recent study that was published in 2020 found that mice that drank alkaline rich water saw significant biological aging improvements on the molecular level. Scientists are still debating the true risk and rewards of alkaline food and drinking alkaline water, but what we know today is extremely promising.
“Our findings reinforce the view that tumor acidification is an important driver of aggressive tumor phenotypes, and it indicates that methods that target this acidity could be of value therapeutically” - Frank Gertler, MIT Professor of Biology
Alkaline Bottled Water Sales
The science behind alkaline water is a major driver of the continued growth behind the bottle water industry. Tap water will tend to have a pH of around 4.5 - 6, where many of the top bottled water brands are marking pH levels of 8.5+. Bottled water with high pH may also contain ingredients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Other benefits of drinking alkaline water include:
- Anti-aging properties.
- Weight loss
- Neutralizes acid build up in the body.
- Reduction in blood glucose levels.
- Supports the treatment of acid reflux disease.
- Reduction in cholesterol.
- Improvement in metabolic functioning.
- Protects pancreatic beta cells and other organs from oxidative damages.
- Improves symptoms associated with gastrointestinal tract disorders.
- Improved hydration and blood viscosity compared to regular water. Dehydration has been connected to increase blood viscosity.
- Lower risks of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
- May prevent osteoporosis.
How do you make alkaline water?
Drinking alkaline water or water with a high pH is one of the hottest and most controversial trends in the wellness industry and you can make it for cheap. That’s right you can stop buying $2 bottles of water at the grocery and all you need to do is mix baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with water. The previously mentioned MIT study used alkaline water that was created in this simple fashion and separate studies have also documented the benefits of consuming baking soda infused water. From a scientific perspective, baking soda creates alkaline water by decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide that is present in the liquid. - Alkaline water may also be produced via a more expensive water electrolysis process or it may be created naturally as water seeps through mineral rich rocks.
Is there a risk to consuming baking soda?
There are a handful of articles and studies that have suggested baking soda may be dangerous to consume, but these studies are designed poorly and use either too little or too much baking soda (unrealistic levels). The vast majority of baking soda studies have found the substance to be beneficial and the side effects negligible. It is important to note that using personal care products or orally consuming ingredients that are too acidic or alkaline may cause problems.
Spa-Da Tip: If you’re planning on doing a body or foot soak, prepare a baking soda infused water or tea.
What is an alkaline bath?
If you’re not taking alkaline baths, then you’re bathing all wrong. Alkaline bathing was embraced by ancient civilizations and is one of the best methods for optimizing the functioning of our body’s largest organ, the skin. Many of the major benefits of spa bathing and mineral springs can be attributed to the alkalinity of the water.
Eating and drinking alkaline rich foods and beverages may be controversial, but the science behind bathing in alkaline rich water is more solidified. Humans have been bathing in alkaline and mineral rich environments for centuries and alkaline bathing is still a preferred method for dealing with itchy skin, managing skin disorders, or moisturizing the skin. More specifically, alkaline water baths are associated with nourishing the protective layer of the skin that is our immune system’s first line of defense.
How much baking soda should I add to my bath and how often should I bathe in an alkaline bath?
For best results, you should experience an alkaline bath 2-3 times per week and according to the medical dictionary, an alkaline bath is “A bath in which 8 oz (227 g) of sodium bicarbonate or washing soda is added to 30 gal (114 L) of water.” For reference, each one of our Wanderlust Bath Bombs contains roughly 85 grams of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). If you’re looking to experience a true alkaline bath we suggest adding an additional 150 grams of baking soda. Other alkaline bathing additives are salts, vinegar, and essential oils.
Alkaline Bath Benefits
Traditional hard water bathing can be detrimental to your skin and baking soda has been shown to deacidify and create silky smooth bath water. The vast majority of Americans have to shower and bathe in hard water and studies have suggested that hard water can be a major contributor to dry skin, inflammation, and autoimmune flare-ups. More specifically, parents who bath their children in hard water will increase the risks associated with their child developing Eczema.
Animal studies have found that mice that were bathed in alkaline water showed a reduction in skin damage and inflammation that is caused by the sun’s radiation and a separate study found a reduction of sebum production in oily skin. Excessive production of sebum has been listed as the top cause of acne and alkaline bathing brings your skin back to balance whether it's too oily or too dry. Other benefits include smoother skin, accelerated self-healing, and relief from joint or muscle pain. Alkaline baths can directly improve our physical well-being, but bathing also enhances our mental health. To learn more about the mental health benefits of alkaline baths check out our article, Mental Health & Skin Connection: Natural Solutions to Reducing Stress & Improving Skin Appearance.
Spa-Da Tip: If you’re looking to moisturize and hydrate your skin use warm water as opposed to hot. Hot water can dry out your skin and disrupt your natural sebum production. More specifically, warm water has been shown to stimulate sebum production, while hot water may decrease sebum production.
The risks associated with an acidic body are increasing in developed nations and alkaline bathing with baking soda is arguably one of the best therapies for your skin. Alkaline bathing and drinking alkaline water is all about bringing your body back into homeostasis.
At the end of the day baking soda is a popular, useful and controversial ingredient. No matter where you stand in the controversy spectrum, we can all agree that we need more funding when it comes to researching this low cost and safe ingredient.