According to dermatologists, making your own skincare products at home can actually be very beneficial to your skin. California-based dermatologist Ava Shamban says that “adapting [homemade products] for skincare is usually all upside, and the process of using great colourful fruits and veggies to cut, chop, and prepare is also a great way to soothe the mind and a distraction from our current situation.”
While self-isolating at home to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, you might be trying to cut down on the amount of stuff you buy, skincare included. Or you might encounter a skincare emergency and don’t have access to Boots for a quick fix. You might even just be looking for a fun new beauty thing to add to your routine. Because of this, DIY skin care is becoming increasingly popular.
Fellow dermatologist Mona Gohara agrees, but warns that there is some risk at stake. “People rightly do not want to go to the store and want to conserve spending, so they turn to DIY for their skincare needs,” she says. “This may work out or it may exacerbate the issue or inflame the skin; there is a bit of roulette involved here.”
There are certain common DIY skincare ingredients that can cause far more harm to your skin than good. Here are the ingredients dermatologists say you should avoid outright or approach with caution.
Lemon and other fruits
Although plenty of Pinterest hacks will tell you that lemon is a great at-home skin brightener, the experts would rather you stick to using it in the kitchen. “Lemon is acidic and can burn the skin, leaving it raw and discoloured,” says Gohara.
Lemon can even cause something called phytophotodermatitis, an inflammatory skin reaction. “If used on sun-exposed skin, [lemon] can cause a blistering reaction and hyperpigmentation,” says New York-based dermatologist Rita Linkner.
Most other fruits, Shamban says, shouldn’t cause a severe reaction unless you happen to have an allergy to one of them. She advises patch-testing your DIY mask before using it all over for this reason. But be warned, some fruits do come with another downside. “Be mindful of staining with berries and fruits, a hazard of the DIY,” Shamban explains.
Toothpaste or baking soda
Although the DIY practice of using toothpaste to treat acne might work due to its antimicrobial triclosan, dermatologists would rather your avoid using it instead of actual acne treatments. The same goes for baking soda, another common DIY hack for acne, for a rather simple reason.
“Toothpaste and baking soda can irritate or inflame the skin,” Gohara says.
Eggs might be used in some K-beauty products, but applying them directly to the skin can have some pretty gnarly consequences if you’re not careful. “Raw egg can give you a bacterial infection called salmonella,” Gohara explains. Studies classify salmonella skin infections as rare, but if you image search for them online, you won’t want to risk it.
Some people use vinegar-based toners, thanks to the ingredient’s acidity and pH-balancing properties, but it’s definitely not a dermatologist-approved trick by any means. “I would stay away from vinegar, regardless of any benefits,” Shamban says. “The smell is awful for skin and too long-lasting.”
But as dermatologist Shasa Hu previously told Allure, the smell is the least of your worries when it comes to vinegar. “The potentially harmful effects range from irritation, exaggerated sunburn, superficial chemical burn (from repetitive application), and depigmentation as a result of the initial irritation.” No, thank you.
Gohara warns that turmeric can stain skin, however, this doesn’t make it and an absolute no-no. Linkner swears by turmeric and says she’s been making her own DIY mask with it for years, and Shamban says that it has effective anti-inflammation abilities. Cinnamon, on the other hand, should be completely avoided, according to Shamban.
Spices in general, she says, just need to be handled with caution. “Certain spices can be irritating to some, so stay away or spot-test first,” she explains. “Be mindful.”
Although some DIY concoctions can prove beneficial to the skin, be sure not to treat them the same as a product you buy in a shop. “Never do [DIY masks] too often and never leave these products on for considerable amounts of time,” Shamban warns. “And don’t save to reuse – without any preservatives or stabilisers found in store-bought products, these are the best done once, so make what you need for one application at a time for best results.”
If you are seeking treatment for a severe skin issue, ask your dermatologist or your health care provider to see who is providing virtual consultations.