Wondering What to Do With Your Sourdough Discard? We Tried Using It as a Face Mask
Next time your annoying friend brings up their sourdough starter, ask them if they've put it on their face yet. Yes, their face.
After making bread (duh), pizza dough, muffins, and pancakes with my starter, I was running out of steam — and flour — for baking when I came across an article suggesting that sourdough discard can be used in your skin-care routine.
Citing a study about the physiological effect of a probiotic on skin, the author had concluded that lactobacillus plantarum (found in fermented food products like sourdough starter) "can act like an anti-inflammatory as well as enhance the antimicrobial properties of the skin." In other words, there's a good bacteria in the starter that can reduce acne and repair your skin barrier.
This . . . made sense? But before I lathered up, I wanted to consult and expert. I called on dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "There is mounting data showing that probiotics are beneficial to the skin," he said, confirming that the dough used for sourdough bread contains high level of probiotics. "They help normalize the skin's microbiome, reduce inflammation, improve skin barrier function, and can increase skin hydration."
OK, but is there any chance I put it on my skin and something horrendous happens?
"I see little harm in using sourdough bread dough as a face mask," he said. "Besides probiotics, natural sugars in the dough will likely help hydrate and protect the skin."
Armed with a doctor's approval and the misguided sense that this experiment could take my career to the next level, I measured out some discard.
What's in Sourdough Starter?
Sourdough starter typically contains two ingredients: water and flour. I've been cultivating mine for about two months, and it actually began with a seed culture that consisted of flour and pineapple juice, as ordered by The Bread Baker's Apprentice. (The acid in the pineapple juice just moves the fermentation process along quicker than water.)
My Skin Before the Sourdough Starter Facial
I have combination skin, meaning my nose is oily but my forehead is dry. I rarely deal with massive breakouts, but I have large pores on my cheeks. I'm very fair, so my biggest skin concern is usually redness.
The Texture of Sourdough Starter
Just so you can get an idea of what I'm dealing with, starter is ooey-gooey. It feels a little bit like Nickelodeon Gak, but much messier.
Using Sourdough Starter as a Face Mask
Putting the starter on my face in a uniform manner was not as easy as I anticipated. The mass of the product tends to gather, so you either have a big bunch in one place or a very thin layer. After a minute on my skin, it began to sag down my face. If I were ever fitted for facial prosthetics or put in movie makeup to look like a melting candle, I imagine it would look and feel very much like this.
My Skin After the Sourdough Starter Facial
You know what's harder than putting starter on your face? Taking it off. All the liquid had dried up after 10 minutes, forming cracks when I moved my mouth and wiggled my nose.
One washcloth later, I was looking pink and feeling squeaky clean! It didn't immediately improve any underlying skin conditions, but it didn't cause any harm, either. The next morning, my skin looked photo ready.
I wouldn't say the sourdough starter was a miracle worker, but the way it made my skin feel was on par with probiotic masks I've used in the past.
Should You Try Using Sourdough Starter as a Facial Mask?
Only you can look at yourself in the mirror and decide if you want to smear fermented water and flour all over your beautiful face. I don't regret it, and I might even do it again. Next time, I'd incorporate a few extra ingredients like oatmeal or honey.
I will leave you with Dr. Zeichner's parting words to me: "My only advice is to discard the dough after using it on your face rather than cooking it in the oven."