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Lichen Sclerosus and Borax

Lichen Sclerosus and Borax

Introduction

If you’ve done any kind of search for lichen sclerosus, chances are you came across borax at one point. Whether in a Facebook group, a blog post, or a video, it’s likely you have come across borax. And here’s the thing: borax is incredibly controversial in the LS community. It’s a topic that comes up time and time again, and we at LSSN frequently get asked about borax, whether it’s in our virtual meetups, our membership, or via email. So, we’ve finally decided to address borax and share our stance.

*This post was reviewed and approved by LSSN's medical advisory board.

What is Borax?

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral and salt of boric acid. Its names are 1) sodium tetraborate, 2) disodium tetraborate, or 3) sodium borate. Borax is obviously much easier to spell and pronounce, so many people will simply call it borax. The chemical formula for Borax is NA2B407*10H2O and consists of sodium, boron, oxygen, and hydrogen (EarthClinic).

Borax is frequently used as an insecticide and can also be found as an ingredient in many household products, including but not limited to laundry detergent, makeup products, and slime. 

What’s the Connection between Lichen Sclerosus and Borax?

If you’re new to this discussion, you might be thinking, “OK, so what does Borax have to do with lichen sclerosus.”

Natural health spaces, such as Earth Clinic, claim Borax is helpful in treating a number of health conditions, including but not limited to arthritis, osteoporosis, Lupus, autoimmune diseases, hormone imbalances, and more.

Indeed, a large number of people in the LS community bath choose to bathe in and/or drink Borax as a way to treat their lichen sclerosus. Many individuals say it helped them achieve remission, manage symptoms, and even unfuse. There are many anecdotal stories of people finding relief and success using borax for their lichen sclerosus.

Graphic image of a person with black hair up in a bun, soaking in a bath with a plant next to the tub. They look relaxed as they soak.

In a blog post by Earth Clinic, the authors state that the body relies on essential nutrients to function and that many diseases are related to nutritional deficiencies. They state boron–a trace mineral in borax–is important to overall health and that including borax can improve a large swathe of illnesses and conditions (Earth Clinic).

What Does the Science Say on Borax as a Treatment for Lichen Sclerosus?

Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies looking at lichen sclerosus and borax. This means there are no studies looking at the short-term and long-term safety effects of borax. It also means that there is no (current) research that explains how exactly borax works on a cellular-molecular level on the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis–the top, middle, and bottom layer of skin–to effectively reduce inflammation and treat lichen sclerosus.

There are some blog posts and books on the topic. However, they are not peer-reviewed scientific studies. Further, many of the blog posts are written in the context of different conditions like arthritis, so this means we are making inferences from other conditions to lichen sclerosus. Inferences of this type do not always hold up. 

We hope to see studies looking at the effects of borax on lichen sclerosus skin in the future so that we can comment from an evidence-based perspective.

Side Effects and Borax

Additionally, because there is no research on borax and lichen sclerosus, we have no insights into what kind of short–and long–term side effects can occur with soaking and/or drinking a borax solution. When medications and medical interventions go through clinical trials, there are extensive and significant protocols and procedures that are in place to a) safeguard human participants from adverse side effects and harm and b) ensure that the medication/intervention in question demonstrates good safety (i.e., they show minimal about of harm and side effects) and efficacy (i.e., how well the medication/intervention works to treat the condition in question).

All side effects throughout the various stages of clinical trials are rigorously documented and reported to ethics committees and regulatory authorities. Clinical trial publications are to document side effects. Therefore, in the absence of clinical trials, we have no safety or efficacy data, meaning we do not know what side effects it can cause.

The British Association of Dermatology Statement on Lichen Sclerosus and Borax

The British Association of Dermatology issued a statement on borax and lichen sclerosus, which you can read here. Briefly, they do not recommend it as a treatment or adjunct for lichen sclerosus.

Risk versus Benefit with Lichen Sclerosus and Borax

Graphic image design of a golden scale. One side has a red circle with a white exclamation mark and the other side has a green circle with a white checkmark above it.  This image signifies the risk versus benefits that we have to consider with treatments and adjunct therapies.

There are benefits and risks to every treatment (LS or otherwise). It is important to know both in order to make an informed decision about your healthcare plan. Ideally, the benefits versus risks conversation should be had between you and your healthcare provider. However, we acknowledge these types of conversations are not always possible between you and your healthcare provider. In this case, we recommend doing your research and assessing the risks versus benefits of using borax.

What About Borax as an Add-On to Your Treatment

While there is no (current) research showing borax to be a safe and effective treatment for lichen sclerosus, you may be wondering if it can be a helpful add-on. Add-ons are things like emollients, pelvic floor physical therapy, and stress management.

And fair question, considering things like emollients (e.g., coconut oil) also do not have studies supporting it for VLS. 

Because add-ons typically do not have evidence-based research supporting them, add-ons are more of an individual choice. It all comes down to informed decision-making and weighing the risks versus the benefits in deciding how to care for your body (and only you can make that decision). 

LSSN’s Position on Borax

Lichen Sclerosus Support Network is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to empower people with Lichen Sclerosus by providing evidence-based education and support. As such, because there is no scientific or robust research on borax, specifically in the context of vulvar lichen sclerosus, we are unable to recommend it as a treatment option. Further, LSSN has a medical advisory board that oversees the information we share to ensure it is in line with our best science; no one on the advisory board recommends it as a treatment. We share what the science says on different treatments and adjunct therapies, and when there is no science to share, we simply cannot make a recommendation. Our philosophy is to share evidence-based information so that individuals can make informed decisions about what is best for their bodies (including their treatment and care plan).

Conclusion on Lichen Sclerosus and Borax 

In sum, at the end of the day, because there is no research on lichen sclerosus and borax, we just can’t comment on whether it is an effective treatment or not. We also cannot speak from lived experience, as no one on the board of LSSN uses it to manage or treat their LS. In the absence of evidence-based studies on lichen sclerosus and borax, we recommend doing your own research and considering risk versus benefit in the decision-making process. We hope to see studies on borax and lichen sclerosus in the future.

If you use or have used borax, please share your experiences in the comments below.

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Reach Out to Me

Whether you are debating booking a support call with me, have a quick question, or want to share something related to my content, I can be reached via:

Email: Jaclyn@lostlabia.com

DM: @thelostlabiachronicles on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

Support Resources

FREE Lichen Sclerosus Virtual Meetup hosted by myself and Kathy of Lichen Sclerosus Podcast – sign up here.

Feel free to book a 1:1 call with me if you struggle with grief and emotions. Simply click this link to learn more about lichen sclerosus peer support calls.

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LSSN Membership – sign up here.

For a more detailed list of free and paid support resources, check out my LS resources page here.

References

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/borax-sodium-tetraborate

https://pforlife.com/borax-conspiracy.html?mibextid=kkiIlp&fbclid=IwAR1JIBM-rH9nC2UUE_cQNScIo9xSHy0vIcipLUYU8UzKpUJsqEdTkprOGOo

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324167#what-is-borax

https://www.earthclinic.com/remedies/borax.html?fbclid=IwAR2-ZBKRfnFC5lhZESimaZjMvgk-zldPBGcve32Hut_MlD9uUL_qJ6kpna8

4 Comments

  • Carolyn

    Interestingly, I started using borax in 2018 when I was not getting symptom relief from clobetasol. I found instant relief doing sitz baths with it.

    The challenge with evidence-based studies around borax is, there’s no money to be made because borax is cheap and easy to find in the US. Big pharmaceutical companies that make clobetasol have all kinds of money and reasons to do the testing. It’s like evidence-based studies on organic produce, you won’t find them typically because there’s no money to be made by big industries like big Agra.

    I continue to incorporate borax with my treatment in the sitz bath and combine it with clobetasol after.

    • Jaclyn Lanthier

      Hi, Carolyn. We are thrilled to hear you have found great relief and symptom management through borax soaks. Everyone is so different when it comes to treatment and management, and we appreciate different things will work for different people. Yes, I agree, that is a challenge for sure; this is true for other things like diet as well. We appreciate you sharing your experience. With love, Jaclyn

  • Grace B

    According to a July 2023 article in USA today, “Borax is toxic if ingested, not a safe treatment for any health problems. It does cause human health harm when it’s exposed to the skin or when it’s swallowed,” said Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, the interim executive director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington. “But we don’t have any proven, beneficial effects of borax.” I have attempted to purchase it from a well-known hardware store in Canada in the recent past (for ant control) and I was told that they were no longer allowed to sell Borax to the public. It’s banned as a food additive in the UK and the U.S. The Chemco U.S. website states that: “Sufficient exposure to Borax dust can cause respiratory and skin irritation. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal distress including nausea, persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Effects on the vascular system and brain include headaches and lethargy, but are less frequent.” A product that is effective as an insecticide would concern me when it comes to ingesting it or bathing in it.

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