In the article before this one, we dove into why some DIY home remedies can ruin your skin and deconstructed a common DIY acne spot treatment as just one example.
The response to that was pretty awesome, so now we are breaking it down even more.
7 Natural DIY Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use (full strength) on Your Face
1. Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
Some blogs will tell you that using full strength ACV as a cleanser or toner for people with acne or hyper-pigmentation is a good idea.
Full strength raw ACV is highly skin irritating and will cause inflammation and burns even after just one use.
It can be used on the skin in low percentages, but never more than 20%.
Raw ACV produces an alkaline ash in the body when taken internally, yet it contains a high amount of acetic acid and remains acidic outside of the body.
It’s so acidic that it makes an effective remedy for burning off skin tags and warts, but continued use at full strength cam cause permanent skin damage to surrounding tissue.
Raw ACV taken internally can help reduce acidity in the body, promote healthy digestion and elimination, reduce inflammation, aid in detoxification, and promote healthy levels of friendly gut bacteria and microflora that indirectly enhance skin health.
2. Sugar, salt, ground up nut shells, or coffee grounds
This is more of a category of kitchen ingredients often mentioned in DIY skincare recipes to use as facial exfoliants.
This group of ingredients are excellent to use in DIY body scrub recipes, but even the finest granules are too rough for the delicate skin on the face.
These types of granules have jagged edges that scratch and actually break the skin and these lacerations may not be visible to the naked eye.
The skin on the body is thicker and can handle the level of abrasion and stimulation brought on by these types of scrubs.
Typically the body is protected from environmental pollutants by clothing, whereas the skin on the face is constantly exposed to a barrage of toxins, microbes, radiation, and other aggressors.
Even though it’s not the most popular notion, I recommend keeping facial exfoliation to a minimum, as repeatedly scrubbing and scratching the skin compromises its barrier functionality, immune response, and wound healing process.
3. Baking soda
Baking soda is commonly used for cleansing just about anything from hubcaps to hair, but it should not be used full strength as an acne treatment or skin lightener.
Using a high concentration of an alkali like baking soda can have an even worse effect that using acids on the skin.
The skin’s pH typically ranges from 4.5 to 5.5—it’s slightly acidic.
Applying an acid with a pH of 2 is less dangerous than applying something that’s completely alkaline, since the skin is already slightly acidic.
Baking soda paste has a pH of 9 to 11 (14 is 100% alkaline), depending on how much water is added (which is neutral at 7).
Because the skin is slightly acidic, applying an ingredient with a high pH is even more damaging than applying an acid of equivalent potency.
I never recommend higher than a 6% concentration of baking soda in a product that’s meant to remain on the skin or 12% in a product that gets washed off.
4. Lemons or Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is one of the oldest home remedies for lightening freckles, age spots, and melasma; and for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The thought behind its use makes sense—it’s high in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which is an antioxidant and citric acid (an alpha hydroxy acid commonly used in skincare products).
Using lemon juice actually makes conditions it is intended to treat, worse!
Like raw ACV, lemon juice is highly acidic and can cause inflammation, irritation, and compromise the skin’s barrier function.
Ascorbic acid is increases the skin’s photosensitivity and increases the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, hyper pigmentation, and premature aging.
However, drinking warm lemon water every morning has similar health benefits as raw ACV, and can be very good for you.
5. Crushed up vitamins
Since most natural skincare products contain vitamins like C, E, and other antioxidants, many people think that crushing up the supplement versions of these and making them into a skincare product or spot treatment will carry the same benefits.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Most vitamins remain intact when in pill or powdered form, but become highly unstable and oxidize when mixed with water or other ingredients.
So they actually cause free radical damage to the skin, which is the opposite of what they’re intended to do.
That’s super bad news for your skin!
Since dietary supplements are meant to be ingested, digested, and metabolized, they are formulated in a way that’s appropriate for those processes rather than for topical use and would need to be formulated to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
Vitamin E in the form of tocopheryl acetate is oil soluble and has a better chance of penetrating through the skin’s lipid matrix.
Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid is water soluble and must be specially formulated to be able to penetrate into the skin.
Applying crushed up vitamins to the skin can quickly burn the skin.
In some cases damage can occur faster than the person is able to remove it from the skin.
If you plan on using vitamins topically, you must purchase them from a cosmetic ingredient supplier who sells ingredients that have been formulated tested for safe use on the skin.
6. Hydrogen peroxide
While 3% hydrogen peroxide is great for debriding and disinfecting wounds, it’s not meant for daily, undiluted application.
Repeated use of hydrogen peroxide (and benzoyl peroxide for that matter) on the skin can cause irritant and allergic reactions, blisters, and inflammation.
While it is effective at lightening dark spots, the lightening effect is hard to control since you can’t target individual melanin pigment cells and there’s no way to measure how deep the chemical reaction that removes the pigment occurs or “turn off” its effects.
As a result, you could end up with permanent hypo-pigmentation (lack of pigment) or vitiligo in certain areas.
7. Raw Eggs
I’ve seen remedies using only the egg yolk, only the whites, or a mixture of the two as a mask for firming and tightening the skin and refining large pores.
Raw eggs included in recipes for firming, anti-aging creams without a proper preservative, is extremely scary.
Using raw eggs as a single ingredient, immediate use treatment is less risky than mixing it with other ingredients in a formulation, because at least you don’t have to worry about preservation (as you’d have to do with any food ingredient in order for it to be shelf stable).
You DO have to worry about salmonella, listeria, staphylococcus aureus, avian influenza, and other food borne pathogens.
Remember, the skin absorbs up to 66% of what you apply to it topically. So just because you’re not eating the raw eggs, doesn’t mean you can’t still get sick from applying them to your skin.
I want to assure you that you don’t have to be a chemist, clinical herbalist, or aromatherapist to make great products—if I can do it, you most certainly can.
But just like any art or discipline, there are a few basics and a few guidelines that you need to understand before you begin—and certainly before you blog about it to the entire world.
What do you think about this list of “never” ingredients? Has this made you rethink your DIY recipes? Let us know in the comments below!