In this article I’m going to be covering the 10 worst DIY skin care recipes and hacks I’ve come across on the internet.
If you go online you’re gonna find some pretty scary remedies.
Table of Contents
Papaya Face Masks
People use these because papaya the fruit is rich in antioxidants as well as enzymes that can exfoliate the skin. The problem with doing this is that papaya has a papain in it.
Papain is what is responsible for the exfoliating. Papain, as a side note, is the active ingredient in meat tenderizer.
Papain is a non-selective protease enzyme and it just chews stuff up. It’s active across a broad spectrum of pH values.
Papain is which can generate a pretty inflammatory reaction in the skin. It’s not a good idea to go putting just papaya fruit on the skin.
I’ve personally never been a fan of papaya in skin care products for this reason. But at least presumably when you’re buying a skin care product, the manufacturer has extracted certain components and maybe it’s at a much lower concentration than just putting up fruit on your skin.
In medicine we use papain in combination with urea actually to debride bed sores and big ulcers on the leg.
So it’s nothing to muck around with and DIY yourself. I say stay away from the papaya face mask trend for that reason.
This should come as no surprise.
Essential oils are problematic for the skin because they can cause burns, irritation and photodermatitis. Basically you apply it to the skin and when the skin comes in contact with ultraviolet radiation, it can generate a pretty nasty rash.
The essential oil market is kind of a shady business. They are claiming that they’re the end-all be-all solution for all life’s problems but they can actually be pretty dangerous.
They’re not regulated like pharmaceuticals, so you never really know the quality of the essential oil that you’re getting.
Skip the essential oil DIY. It’s bad news. Even if it is a good essential oil, it can still cause these burns.
Specifically people are really enthusiastic in the DIY realm of using tea tree oil to treat acne. Tea tree oil has been shown to be helpful for acne, but not any more helpful than standard acne treatments.
Even though it’s helpful, it actually comes with a higher risk of side effects of irritation and contact dermatitis.
When it comes to any essential oil, whether it be tea tree oil or lavender oil, the other thing to bear in mind is that essential oils are not a pure substance. They are not a pure reproducible substance. You can get a lot of variation from batch to batch in terms of the actual ingredients that might be helpful versus those that are harmful.
The other thing about essential oils is that because they’re not pure substances, they degrade with time and they can actually become more irritating, especially when exposed to light, air, etc.
So skip essential oils, especially in the DIY realm. They can really cause a lot of problems.
This is popular DIY for skin brightening. Bad idea!
Lemon juice is pretty acidic. Your skin barrier is actually acidic but lemon juice has a lower pH and that can be problematic for your skin barrier.
It can disrupt moisture barrier function and it can weaken the skin barrier, making your skin more prone to dryness.
But importantly it can cause chemical burns on the skin. Not only that, but lemon juice definitely can cause a phytophoto dermatitis, meaning when it’s on the skin and then your skin sees ultraviolet radiation from the sun, it generates these mediators that cause a really severe inflammatory dermatitis that heals with hyperpigmentation.
It’s kind of the opposite of what you’re seeking out when you do a DIY lemon juice recipe.
It actually can put you more at risk for hyperpigmentation as well as chemical burns.
So skip any lemon juice DIY.
DIY scrubs are not worrisome per se, as the lemon juice or the papaya, but they definitely can become problematic.
It’s fine if you used it once or twice on a rough elbow. It probably not going to cause any problems, But using DIY scrubs on a consistent basis is bad,
It’s not the most precise way to exfoliate the skin and it generates micro tears in the top layer of the skin. They actually lead to more water loss out of your skin, dryness, irritation.
As a side note, I’ve seen cinnamon in a lot of these DIY scrubs. Cinnamon has a substance in it that’s actually a vasodilator. It can worsen redness and inflammation in the skin. Do not put cinnamon on your skin!
This is really popular in the DIY deodorants.
You don’t want to put baking soda on your skin. If you’re doing housework and it touches your skin, it’s fine, you’re not going to combust.
But baking soda is very irritating to the skin and very caustic. Remember what I said, your skin barrier has more of an acidic pH. Baking soda on the other hand has a pH of about eight. That is very alkaline.
That caustic pH will disrupt the acid mantle, leading to more water loss out of the skin, and more dryness and more irritation.
Not only that, baking soda is pretty abrasive. It can create a lot of non-specific mechanical exfoliation that ends up over drying out the skin, further leading to worsening dryness, inflammation, etc.
Baking soda is just not a good idea to be putting on your skin.
Along the same lines as the baking soda, but with an additional insult is using toothpaste to treat a pimple.
The reason it’s a bad idea to put toothpaste on a pimple is that toothpaste, like baking soda, is a caustic pH. That alone is going to disrupt the acid mantle, worsen dryness and irritation.
One thing people with acne are not always aware of is that drying out the skin actually will worsen the acne because when the skin is dry it’s more prone to irritation and that irritation drives more inflammatory mediators into the skin that lead to worsening acne and inflammation that ultimately can heal with hyperpigmentation.
Another thing about toothpaste is that toothpaste also has a very high concentration often of sodium lauryl sulfate. It is a surfactant and you find it in cleansers, shampoos, etc.
It can be very irritating on the skin when formulated into cleansers and things like that. But in toothpaste it’s at a very high concentration and when left on the skin, that can cause a lot of disruption of the moisture barrier, irritation.
In fact that high concentration of SLS in the toothpaste is thought to be a triggering factor for some people’s perioral dermatitis. Yet another reason not to put toothpaste around your skin.
It’s not necessarily bad or problematic, but I thought I would throw it in here because I think a lot of people get misled on this one and that is using oil instead of a face cream moisturizer.
Oils are emollients and they help soften dry skin, smooth stuff down and make your skin look great. But it’s a temporary moisturization. There aren’t really humectants or occlusives as you would get in moisturizer that’s formulated with those things.
Humectants add hydration in the skin and occlusives seal everything in.
You might have some of that depending on the oil, but you really want a dedicated moisturizer that has those three components: emollient, humectant and occlusive to trap in that hydration in the skin, add more hydration and smooth everything out.
Depending on the oil that you use, some oils actually can aggravate acne for some people. Like the essential oils, oils are just not pure substances. Certain compounds within them can degrade with time and cause irritation.
Vinegar, similar to lemon juice, has an acidic pH and people want to put vinegar on their skin to normalize the pH or for pH balance.
But it can actually weaken the function of the moisture barrier if you’re using it consistently, meaning more than once. It also can cause chemical burns and irritation.
I don’t recommend these vinegar DIY toners. Once or twice may not hurt you. The risk is compounded if that’s going to be your skin care product moving forward for the next few weeks.
You’re likely to develop irritation, potentially chemical burn that can heal with hyperpigmentation and more photosensitivity.
Using hydrogen peroxide as a toner, face wash, anything like that. Hydrogen peroxide is pretty irritating to the skin.
Traditionally people have always taken a little peroxide and put it on a cut to disinfect it and typically that’s fine although it does impair wound healing. We generally recommend just not bothering with that.
But using it all over the skin as part of your everyday skin care can be very irritating to the skin. It impairs healing, it generates a lot of irritation and inflammation for the skin.
Last but not least, probably the worst DIY skincare that you could do, just don’t even think about it, is DIY sunscreen.
You cannot DIY your sunscreen!
Don’t think that you’re gonna buy some zinc online or titanium dioxide online, powdered form, and mix it in with coconut oil and smear it on your skin.
Don’t do it!
You will not get UV protection. It is very dangerous!
Those are the 10 worst DIY skin care recipes and hacks that I have heard, seen or come across.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.