DIY (do it yourself) skincare is popular within many communities, especially among Latinx people. Why? Because we love to use what’s on hand and specifically available in our cupboards for beauty treatments, especially when money is tight. While some of the DIY remedies for our skin that are passed down from one generation to the next may be well intentioned, looking at the ingredients from a chemistry standpoint proves some popular ingredients actually do more harm than good.
So, let’s take a look at a few common examples below, and as always remember to follow me @beautytraducida for more skincare advice from a licensed professional perspective.
1. Face oils
My Colombian abuelita has beautiful skin with little-to-no sun damage which she credits to her skincare routine: diligent use of sunscreen to shield her skin from the brutal Miami UV rays, and the fact that she always removes all traces of makeup before bed with her aceites. While this routine works well for someone well into their 90’s, those of us who are younger and have much more acne-prone skin need to be cautious with this approach. Using coconut oil or wheat germ oil on our skin could have an adverse effect as they are highly comedogenic.
This term means that they are pore clogging due to the molecules being too big to penetrate the skin, creating a film-like layer that clogs our pores and can result in acne blemishes or rashes. Some comedogenic oils include coconut, wheat germ oil, avocado, and olive, while many dermatitis and irritation cases occur from essential oils.
2. Charcoal peel off masks/pore strips
While using charcoal peel off masks isn’t necessarily a DIY remedy, it’s still a popular product thanks to social media promotion and misinformation about its efficacy and safety. One of the common ingredients in these masks is glue. Yes, as in the stuff inside the Elmer’s bottle we’d use in art class at elementary school!
If you were like me, you enjoyed covering your hands in it and peeling it off, but the act of pulling a product off our skin is both damaging and ineffective. The skin is always producing oil to naturally lubricate the skin and our temporarily unclogged pores will always return within 30 days with sebaceous filament.
Sebaceous filament is something naturally occurring in our skin as it helps direct oil flow, we can’t get rid of it. According to this article in Cosmopolitan the warning is clear:
“As for all those “blackheads” it pulls out. The majority of the oils pulled from the skin will be sebaceous filaments and actually needed by the skin so will be replaced within 30 days anyway to ensure healthy skin balance. Blocked pores (blackheads/comedones) are entirely different to sebum lined pores.”
A more effective way to reduce the appearance of clogged pores is to use a clay-based mask. For those of you that want to go the DIY route safely, I recommend you purchase kaolin clay from your local health food store and create a paste with water, you can apply this treatment weekly to see a visible difference in your pore size.
3. Lemon and Apple Cider Vinegar
This wouldn’t be a post about DIY skincare fails without mentioning these two very popular remedies for hyperpigmentation. Similar to mixing sugar and gasoline, this combination is dangerous. When mixed and applied to anything but a roast chicken or to remove pesticide from produce, bad things happen. As you may remember from chemistry class, we measure acidity on a pH or potential hydrogen scale and the pH of ACV is 2-3. In other words, it’s highly acidic and harmful for your skin.
ACV is commonly recommended for those suffering from sun damage or hyperpigmentation but because of the acidic properties of the ingredients you will feel a strong stinging and burning sensation when applying this to your skin. This surface irritation of the skin is known as erythema! Leave this ingredient in your kitchen and look for toners that won’t ruin your beautiful face.
Si la vida te da limones, you still don’t make it into skincare. Consider that the pH of a lemon is around 2, and the pH of battery acid is 1. Lemons were made for lemonade and food seasoning, not for skincare. The pH scale goes from 1 to 14, 1 being highly acidic and 14 being highly alkaline/basic. The perfect pH for your skin is 5.5, and can generally range from a pH of between 4 and 5.5, since it’s also affected by things such as sweat. This pH level ensures that your skin protects you against infections and other bad things.
Unlicensed self-proclaimed skin gurus frequently recommend incorporating lemons into ones skincare routine due to the fact that they contain vitamin C (commonly used to brighten) and Alpha Hydroxy Acid (a common ingredient in exfoliating skincare products) to save money, and it’s a bad idea. There are far better exfoliating and brightening products on the market that are fabricated by chemists that understand the skin. Personally, I like the brand Bioelements because they make a great vitamin c serum and are generous with their samples that allow you to try before you buy.
5. Baking soda
While baking soda is a staple in chewy cookies and cakes, it’s not so great for the skin. Baking soda is too harsh for the delicate facial skin and can completely throw off your pH levels, leading to dryness, inflamed skin, and irritation. Considering the pH of baking soda is 9, that’s way too alkaline for your skin! Putting things on your skin that are too alkaline will throw off the balance in your skin, thus affecting its ability to protect against infections and causing permanent damage. It literally breaks down the protective barrier of your skin and the longer you use it, the more damage your skin suffers.
6. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is fabulous for many things, and when used from the neck down it’s a great addition to your skincare routine as a body moisturizer. Using it on your face as a makeup remover, face mask or moisturizer (or anything else on your face) is a bad idea because it will clog pores, and can cause nasty breakouts and blackheads.
Consider that comedogenic ratings go from 0 to 5, and that coconut oil has a rating of 4! It’s not worth it. So keep the coconut oil for moisturizing your hair or to baste your skin neck down while binging on Netflix so you can smell delicious, be hydrated, and stay acne-free.
7. Rubbing alcohol
Alcohol is found in a ton of different skincare products and is commonly recommended in the dark web of skincare tips as a remedy for acne breakouts, it’s not a good idea and icing the breakout is always a better plan. That’s because applying alcohol directly to your skin breaks down the collagen and lipids of the cell membranes in your skin. In other words, it slowly breaks down your protective skin barriers and ages the skin prematurely.
Natural ingredients that do no harm
Of course, there are also DIY skincare ingredients that are great! Aloe Vera is a good moisturizer and it can improve your skin structure and even out your skin tone. You can buy 100% aloe vera gel, but I recommend getting an actual aloe vera plant as the bottled formulas often contain preservatives, colorants and fragrances.
Organic honey is also great for skin and hair. It has antibacterial properties, so if you have acne, a honey face mask once a month may help. These are two affordable options that won’t break the bank or the cellular structure of your skin.
I hope that these tips were helpful. You can find more information by following me on social media @beautytraducida.