Let me just say that I am a huge advocate for budget skincare. I spend a total of $30 a year on cleanser and it only costs me $6 for a tube of moisturiser. I totally get being on a budget and not wanting to spend a lot on creams in the hopes that acne gets better. But a lot of these D.I.Y. treatments don’t actually have any research at all and could actually be doing harm to your skin.
I also want to jump in and say that natural doesn’t always equal better. There are a lot of natural things that would just be flat out terrible on our skin (uranium face mask anybody?). There are also many chemicals which are great for our skin. I’m not against anybody wanting to do the whole natural skincare thing, I think that’s fantastic! It’s just important to research what you’re putting on your face and why some things may work over others.
I have researched the most popular D.I.Y. skin treatments on Pinterest and Google and compiled a list of why they’re actually not too bad or why they’re terrible. This is just my research, be sure do your own before you do anything to your own skin. This is part 1 of my research, I will be posting in the next few days with part 2, talking about more treatments.
Apple Cider Vinegar (topically): Vinegar is pretty acidic and your face usually has a pH of 4.5-5. So if you do use it, make sure it is diluted enough so it’s the right pH. However, if used incorrectly there is a risk for chemical burns. It is supposed to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. There are mixed reviews on the web and while it doesn’t seem to be too much harm if diluted properly, it may not be all that great either.
Aspirin Mask: This is where you take aspirin, crush it up and mix with water, then apply to your face. It is said to work because of the salicylic acid acid in it. But it isn’t salicylic acid. It’s acetylsalicylic acid. So while it may not help with pimples, it does have anti-inflammatory properties. However, you would find more benefit in applying a BHA exfoliant. All in all, an aspirin mask isn’t going to damage your skin, but there is some controversy over how much can actually get into your bloodstream.
Baking soda: Your skin’s pH is usually around 4.5-5. Baking soda has a pH of 9. It can damage your skin barrier and cause bacteria to thrive there. So while it may feel great short term, it could be worsening your acne. The particles are also super fine and can cause microscopic tears on your skin. To read more about the chemistry behind why it’s bad, check out Future Derm. (Medical journals talking more in depth about alkaline products on the skin, thanks to /r/skincareaddiction on Reddit, can be seen here and here.)
Cinnamon: Often used in homemade face masks. It contains antibacterial properties but can be very irritating for the skin.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is excellent for skin…unless you’re prone to breakouts. It has a comedogenic rating of 4 out of 5. If you patch test it and it doesn’t break you out, then there is no harm in using it. There are some reports saying it is a natural sunscreen, this is not true at all. You should always use a properly formulated sunscreen and don’t rely on DIY products.
Verdict: Good (if you patch test)
Egg White Peel: This has become a popular mask to get rid of the ‘blackheads’ on your nose. But the things on your nose aren’t blackheads, they’re sebaceous filaments. They won’t go away and they’re best treated with well formulated products. Read more about sebaceous filaments in my other blog post here.
Honey: Actually not that bad. Can be very beneficial in moisturising your skin as well as having anti-bacterial properties as seen here, here, here and here (also thanks to /r/skincareaddiction on Reddit). However, it will only really help with your acne if it’s caused by bacteria, not if it’s hormonal or anything else. But it may still help with irritation.
Lemon: Yes, vitamin c is good for your skin. There are much better ways to apply it to your skin than using a lemon though (read about my vitamin C post here). Lemon is not only the wrong pH with the potential to damage your skin, but it can also cause phytophotodermatitis when exposed to sunlight. This can create even darker spots on your face (so it kind of defeats the purpose).
Toothpaste: A lot (especially in Australia) of toothpastes contain sodium lauryl sulfate. This is an ingredient that is known to be quite harsh for acne (even though it’s in a lot of cleansers too!). It also contains Sodium fluoride, which is a skin irritant. This and this study shows that toothpaste with those ingredients are pretty irritating for the skin. Futurederm suggests that the reason it may have worked on some people is because of the zinc content in toothpaste (which helps to minimise inflammation). However, toothpaste on your skin would probably do more harm than good.
Tea tree oil: This needs to be diluted or it will burn your skin. However, it can be great against the bacteria that causes acne and it a very beneficial ingredient.
Yoghurt (Yogurt): I couldn’t find much information on this and the general idea is that there isn’t really any harm to the skin. Some people say that it benefits your skin because of the lactic acid content. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off with an AHA exfoliant. However, I don’t think it’s particularly bad to put it on your skin.
Witch Hazel: Witch hazel extract is supposed to have skin soothing properties, as well as containing anti-oxidants. However, it can be irritating if applied continuously to the skin. It may also be better suited to those with oily to normal skin.
Verdict: Good (if not applied continuously to skin)
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/67/6/820.short http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/1980979/reload=0;jsessionid=fILBJuhSpjuSVCb7W4kK.0 http://www.paulaschoice.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/lemon-juice http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9176662
https://www.futurederm.com/is-it-ok-to-use-toothpaste-on-skin/ https://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/hamamelis-virginiana http://www.paulaschoice.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/tea-tree-oil1