9 DIY Skin-Care Ingredients That are Bad for Your Skin

There’s something to be said about the feel-good powers of a DIY recipe and a quick-fix skin-care hack, but with the Internet as our main resource for tips, tricks and recipes, the information you’re getting from some stranger in the depths of a forum may not be the best—or even the safest—advice for your skin. We mean, the fact that people are putting Elmer’s glue on their skin in hopes of it removing their blackheads (it won’t; don’t try this at home) should tell you something about the gullibility and persuasion of the modern world.

So rather than you send you off to your own devices to possibly destroy your face with a few bad DIY recipes, we went to the experts (you know, the ones with actual medical degrees and years and years of schooling) to give us a rundown on the most-common DIY ingredients and products that have gotten a rap for being safe for your skin, but are actually among the worst perpetrators of hardcore skin issues. Keep reading to see if your favorite scrub or mask is causing more harm than good.

Baking Soda

While the scrubby texture of baking soda seems similar to the exfoliators in your favorite face scrub, the seemingly harmless powder is actually disastrous for your skin. Why? It goes back to 7th-grade science (stay with us, here). Your skin has a natural pH of roughly 4.5 to 5, and when you mess with its pH levels, it’s the equivalent of a throwing a nuke into the rainforest. Baking soda is super alkaline with a high pH of 9, which will significantly damage your skin’s natural barrier, which is crucial for keeping bad bacteria out, says Mona Gohara, MD, dermatologist at Yale University. Using it even once will cause damage to your skin, even if you can’t see it with your naked eye, and prolonged use on the face will eventually cause significant moisture loss, along with compromising your skin’s ability to regulate itself. Fun, right?


Unlike baking soda with a high pH, lemon juice is on the opposite side of the pH scale, with a pH of 2, meaning it’s highly, highly acidic. So when you apply pure lemon directly to your skin, the acids immediately disrupt your skin’s acid mantle and causes a significant amount of irritation on cellular levels, says Gohara. The oils in citrus fruits are also phototoxic, meaning they can cause blistering rashes and burns on your skin if you’re exposed to the sun after applying them. Basically, just say no to lemon.


Hairspray? Why would anyone put hairspray on their face?, you ask. Surprisingly, hairspray has been recommended by the beauty-obsessed as a quick, in-a-pinch makeup setting spray. And sure, accidentally getting some hairspray on your face every so often isn’t the end of the world, but when you’re directly spraying it on your skin with the goal of setting your makeup, “it’s incredibly, incredibly comedogenic, meaning it will clog the hell out of your pores, and that’s on top of drying your skin out with its alcohol content,” says Gohara. So steer clear of the hairspray, and opt instead for a product that’s made for setting makeup, like Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray.


Guys, please stop applying toothpaste to your zits and dark spots. Not only will it not work (or, at least not even close to as well as usual skin-care products), but it’s also “filled with irritating ingredients, like peppermint, peroxide, fragrances, and alcohol, making it the perfect combination of things that will tear up your skin and possibly lead to chemical burns,” says Gohara. Instead, turn to a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, like Neutrogena On-the-Spot Treatment, or even a dab of tea tree oil.

Hot Water

“Hot water strips your skin’s moisture barrier, so we actually consider it an irritant,” says Gohara. Yes, a steaming-hot shower feels excellent on sub-zero nights, but the water will literally zap away your skin’s lipids, leaving you red, irritated, and itchy—which is especially scary for people with eczema, psoriasis, or keratosis pilaris, whose skin barrier are already compromised. Plus, drying out your skin will put your oil production into overdrive, leading to more acne and breakouts.

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