All-natural DIY clarifying face exfoliant

Feeling dull?

Skip work and do something adventurous! Looking dull (your skin, that is)? Scrub it up with this all-natural DIY clarifying face exfoliant!

This is one of my favorite all-natural beauty DIYs, and I use it about twice a week. It helps to both brighten and clarify my complexion. Though I was saddled with troubled skin for years, this scrub helped me tremendously from two angles: it helps to treat current breakouts and also fade dark spots from previous blemishes.


Yep, that’s it! Easy-peasy as always.

How it works

Baking soda is an amazing exfoliant. Amazing. Should I say it a third time? Amazing! Since it is very fine-grained, it is not as abrasive as other natural exfoliants such as crushed nut shell or sugar. It really is more of a polish, helping remove dead skin cells and create a perfectly smooth complexion without causing much irritation. Exfoliation helps to clear blocked pores and is vital to treat and prevent acne.

Lemon juice applied topically has multiple benefits. The antibacterial properties of lemon juice make it a great natural treatment for acne, helping blemishes heal while preventing future breakouts. The citric acid contained in lemon juice also helps exfoliate skin. And since lemon juice is loaded with vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, it has been proven to fade dark spots and even skin tone. Vitamin C applied topically has also been clinically proven to regenerate collagen and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Last but not least, lemon juice helps balance skin’s pH; unbalanced pH has been attributed to acne.

Tea tree oil has powerful antibacterial properties and helps fight acne-causing bacteria on the skin.

How to make it

I mix a tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of baking soda, and add three or so drops of tea tree oil. As lemon juice is very acidic, it can be irritating. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you might want to dilute the juice with water in a 1:1 ratio.

Simply mix the ingredients into a smooth paste, and apply to your face with your fingertips, gently massaging it into your skin in circles. Wash off with warm water and pat dry.

Over-exfoliating can irritate skin and actually promote acne. It is commonly recommended to exfoliate just once a week of you have normal or dry skin, and twice a week if you have oily skin.


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  1. If I wanted to make a large quantity ahead of time, do you think it would keep?

  2. While that would be really convenient, Heather, I think it unfortunately would not keep. Luckily with only three ingredients, it doesn’t take too long to throw together when you want to use it! I hope it works as well for you as it does for me 🙂

  3. Hi, Minnie. For scent – definitely! But tea tree oil is a great antibacterial and helps clarify skin which is why I include it in this recipe.

  4. Is there anything I can use instead of baking soda? Unfortunately I seem to have an adverse reaction to it that leaves my skin (and scalp) red, swollen and itchy when I use it. Thanks!

  5. I have read that baking soda can disturb the ph balance of the skin. Does the lemon have enough of an affect to counter balance the baking soda?

  6. Hi, Cathy. Hmm I have not heard this. Baking soda has a pH of 8.5 (slightly more alkaline than acidic, 7 being neutral) so it is pretty neutral. I don’t think it has much effect on the skin other than being an AWESOME exfoliant.

  7. Wow I really need to get some Tea tree oil! I really need to try this! I have always had problems with some sort of acne on my face since I was 13. I am now 19 and for the past year I have also had some on my upper back as well now. I have been trying alternatives to prescription creams that never work long term.

    Also want to try out some of the suggestions for the natural deodorant that is in a later post. Any suggestions as to how I can tell if I am allergic to any of the ingredients? I would assume just test them out on my hand before applying to a more sensitive area. I HAD been using a “Really bad for you” clinical strength deodorant for years. “Only because I thought it would help with the always wet feeling under my arms” I was always paranoid about the mass amount of aluminum in the product. I no longer use that kind. So I am glad to find so many suggestions under the one article about the natural deodorant.

  8. Hi, Lacy. I really need to put a post together for how I have been able to manage my acne through diet and natural topical remedies. I am 23 and have suffered from acne since I was 17 (I still say I suffer from it even though you wouldn’t think that looking at me since I am able to manage it, but it does take quite a bit of management). Thanks for inspiring me to get on this!!

    I would say if you have the ingredients already laying around your kitchen, take a small dime-sized dollop and mix it with some baking soda *only* and spot test it on your inner arm. Then do the same with arrowroot on the other arm. See if you have a reaction to one or both and then proceed from there.

    Good for you! It can be daunting when making such a big change, but your body will thank you! Plus, sweating is the body’s way of getting rid of impurities; it needs to happen. As long as you’re not stinky, a little sweat is fine 🙂 (at least this is what I go for!)

  9. I noticed you didn’t mention how long to leave this clarifying face exfoliant on the skin. How long do you recommend leaving it on before washing it off?

  10. Hi, Sara! Good question – I just give my face a good scrubbing with the paste, rubbing with medium pressure in small circles, focusing on particularly acne-prone areas. In all, I probably work the scrub into the skin for 30 seconds to a minute, then rinse off.

  11. Backing up comments from Mary and Cathy — I don’t know about PH levels, but baking soda is definitely not “awesome” for everyone’s skin. I briefly used a homemade deodorant with baking soda, which irritated my arm pits horribly, did a bit of internet research, and found that it’s actually not that uncommon for it to bother people’s faces. It’s also not uncommon for tea tree oil to aggravate sensitive skin (it definitely leaves huge dry patches on my face). Which is a bummer for me because this exfoliant looks great. I appreciate these recipes because I too want to use all-natural products as often as I can, but just because something is all natural doesn’t mean it’s gentle or “awesome” for everybody.

  12. Well everybody’s skin is different – some more sensitive than others. I love baking soda and am not irritated by it, so stand by its “awesomeness.” Those with more sensitive skin can try a different natural exfoliant. It’s unfortunate since baking soda is really very effective (both as an exfoliant and in natural deodorant).

  13. I just tried this a minute ago – my skin feels and looks so beautiful!
    Question – can we use it on decolte area? If not, can you suggest something for the decolte area? I just can’t stand how my pores clog there.

  14. What kind of difference, if any, would it make if I used rapeseed oil instead of the recommended tea tree oil?

  15. Rapeseed oil, as in canola oil? As far as I know, it doesn’t have any properties that would help clear your skin like tea tree does.

  16. Each one-unit change in the pH scale corresponds to a ten-fold change in hydrogen ion concentration. This means that baking soda is more than 10 times more alkaline than neutral, not “slightly more alkaline”.

    Moreover, mixing baking soda with lemon juice neutralizes the acid in the juice. This probably makes the juice less effective in its exfoliation ability.

  17. Hello, Miss Nadia! I have been reading up on a lot of your DIYs and am excited to eventually try (virtually) all of them! If possible! I am actually going to make your Foaming Facewash tonight. I am wondering what you use for a make-up remover, if any? Would jojoba oil itself suffice, or just washing my face alone be okay (without removing makeup first)? I use a light Almay foundation that has never caused me to break out…

    So my last question would be, has your skin become smooth enough to just feel the need to do away with makeup altogether?! Cuz that’s great, if so!

    Thank you for your time!!


  18. Hello Nadia,

    I am totally impressed by your website 🙂 It is amazing!

    I am suffering from hormonal acne and severe scarring for the past 10 months. How long do you think will take to see a visible difference in scar by using this baking soda+lemon+tea tree oil mask?

    Thank you so much and again, this is an awesome website <3.


  19. Hi Nadia,

    Is the tea tree oil in this post an essential oil? This post doesn’t link to specific items and I bought essential oil before reading on a different post that they are different items

  20. Oops yes, they are different! So you would use less if using the EO rather than just the “oil” I link to here and used myself.

  21. Thanks so much Nadia! I’m really excited to use these products–I’ve been struggling with bad acne for years now and my dermatologist even recommended Accutane, but I really don’t like the idea of putting that into my body. Here’s to the healing properties of natural ingredients!

  22. Can you use lemon essential oil in place of the lemon juice and just use the water instead?

  23. Yes, technically though I wouldn’t advise it since lemon EO is so concentrated and could irritate the skin, especially since the baking soda is already essentially taking a layer off. But you could just use water if you’d prefer. If you use an EO, I’d suggest a lavender or carrot seed – something more gentle and protecting.

  24. Nadia, I recently came across your info and am loving all the advice. I am wanting to do this scrub tonight and was wondering if I could use essential lemon oil instead of lemon juice and essential tea tree oil and if so how many drops of each should I use. I don’t have lemon juice on hand but can go get some if needed I can go grab some of those plastic lemons from the local grocery store. Also is it just any old baking soda? I look forward to your answers and thanks again…keep up the great work. Also is there a direct link or page I can get you on???

  25. Hi, Stacy! Yes, any old baking soda – and it’s really the key player here so you can mix it with whatever you want. If you add lemon EO I’d just do a single drop and be careful since it’s increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

  26. I am almost 64 and just starting the oils on my face. In the last 2 years, as well as one of my girlfriends, we are the same age, have started breaking out with what we were told is we have perirol drematitis, here are meds to talk and meds to put on your face. I am not ok with that, I have been getting into the natural and am going to continue. I like the information about the oils. I have been reading a lot on different sites and gotten lots of info. I know that hormones change in “older years” and that effects the breakouts etc, but also that I can take care of all of this with foods, oils, vitamins and more.

  27. Hi, Linda. I also had perioral dermatitis (at age 24) and it was awful, so I’m sorry to hear that! Mine must have been bacterial though since the thing that finally cleared it up was manuka oil. As far as I understand, there are many different causes, but I just wanted to share my personal experience with it.

  28. hi
    read your views and ideas on how to beautify the skin.
    very intersting.

    i am facing a peculiar issue of open pores – coz of which there isno even ness in the skin- looks rough and open..
    any suggestions?

  29. Hi there, it appears that I am allergic to baking soda, I break out every time I put in on my face 🙁 Is there any alternative?

  30. Do you have a recipe for dry skin? I already have numerous essential oils and have a small fridge dedicated to them. Thanks in advance.

  31. Peri oral acne? Use a non-fluoridated toothpaste! I had this issue when I hit 60 and my dermatologist told me it was an allergic reaction. I then switched to Tom’s Non-fluoridated toothpaste and the issue resolved in less than a week. What she said to me was that after we brush our teeth, we rarely completely clean the corners of our lips, leaving a small residue to the fluoridated toothpaste. Made sense to me and an easy fix! Hope this works for you!

  32. Hey Nadia,

    love your blog its so helpful since i also recently got into the whole essential oil obsession thing and i just wanted to ask if you have a specific brand for the baking soda you use


  33. Hi Nadia, Could you please recommend an exfoliant that I could make ahead of time and keep in a jar with my other face products. I don’t always have lemons available and if I am away, making it fresh is not covenient.
    Thanks Cindy

  34. Can your clay and charcoal facial mask be mixed with ACV? I currently do the clay and ACV but would like to try the clay/charcoal one. Thank you!!!!