Do-it-yourself projects might be all the rage, but not all homemade remedies are cure-alls. Some might even pose a health risk, or they might cause even more trouble than you were dealing with in the first place. Often, when people try to create their own versions of skin care, hair care, or cleaning products, they don’t realize all of the work that goes into formulating that product in the first place. Certain companies might use ingredients that you’re not a particular fan of, but most of them have been clinically tested time and time again to ensure the product will perform the way its package claims.
Another thing to remember is that the thousands of home remedies and DIY recipes you can find with the click of a button on a site like Pinterest are not professionally regulated. This means anyone can post a DIY recipe online, even if they have zero knowledge about its effects. To make sure you’re not wasting your time, energy, and money on a DIY practice or product, here are the 13 worst homemade beauty remedies circulating the web.
1. Using lemon juice to get rid of dark spots
You know the feeling you get when you squeeze a lemon that’s been cut in half and the juice seeps into a cut in your finger? Ouch is right! While some claim that this highly acidic fruit and its citric acid-filled juice can clear your skin of dark spots and act as a natural skin brightener, think again.
“The acid in lemon juice can irritate your skin, causing erosion, burns, and creating redness and inflammation,” Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a Beverly Hills-based dermatologist, said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet.
It can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Do you have melasma, dark spots, or sun damage? Stick with prescription ingredients like hydroquinone or over-the-counter ones like kojic acid, Shainhouse suggests.
2. Using cinnamon to clear acne
Cinnamon is thought to improve blemishes among other skin concerns, but many people who try a DIY cinnamon face mask experience adverse reactions, including a burning sensation. “Applying cinnamon to the skin can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, which is likely why many people feel like it’s burning their skin,” said Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a board certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor, in an interview with The Cheat Sheet.
Bottom line: The spices in your cupboard are meant for use on your food, not on your skin. When you’re using ingredients from your pantry, you never know how your skin might react. Instead, treat your acne with a detoxifying store-bought mask.
3. Using Crisco to heal dry skin
One dry skin remedy that even some dermatologists recommend is using Crisco on dry skin. Although this method can be effective, it can also cause other issues for some individuals.
“Crisco, which is a mixture of fully and partly hydrogenated soybean and palm oils, has the potential to cause breakouts in those with acne-prone skin,” Schlessinger explained. “Additionally, if you’re using the same Crisco you cook with, there’s a risk of bacterial contamination, which could easily lead to infection.”
Instead of Crisco, opt for an over-the-counter healing balm with hydrocortisone, which can help treat forms of dry skin, including eczema and psoriasis.
4. Using Greek yogurt as a face mask
It might be delicious to eat, but putting this dairy product on your skin is not the smartest move. The main reason is because you don’t know how it will react with your skin type. “If the yogurt is spoiled or contaminated in any way, you could be left with a bacterial infection,” Schlessinger said.
Instead of risking infection, use a skin care product with similar benefits, for example, one that contains probiotics. This “good” bacteria helps combat inflammation and eliminates bacteria responsible for acne, Schlessinger explained.
5. Using baking soda as an exfoliant
Word to the wise: Keep this pantry staple off your skin. Baking soda is used in baked goods in combination with an acid to create a chemical reaction. But when placed on our skin, it can affect its natural pH balance, said celebrity hair stylist Jenna Mast. This can make our skin more neutral or basic, which causes irritation, and leaves the skin open to infection and damage. Plus, the longer you use it, the more damage you can cause. Do your skin a favor and leave the baking soda for that banana bread recipe you’ve been eyeing.
6. Using hairspray to set makeup
It very well might do the trick of keeping your makeup in place, but this alcohol-laden spray is best left on your hair where it belongs. “Hairspray should not be used on your face, as it contains harmful ingredients that are not healthy for the skin,” explained Hillary Kline, a Minneapolis-based makeup artist. “Not only is it super sticky, but it can clog pores, leaving you with skin irritation, blemishes, or worse.”
Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of getting hairspray in your eyes. Instead, invest in a quality makeup setting spray.
7. Using toothpaste to treat pimples
As a high schooler, you might have relied on this quick fix for minimizing a growing pimple. While it might have worked, do you remember how much it burned and stung your skin?
“Toothpaste contains drying alcohols, harsh hydrogen peroxides, irritating menthols, and potentially acne-inducing fluoride,” Shainhouse says. “The tingling may make it feel like it is working, but the toothpaste will over-dry your skin and disrupt its balance.” She recommends sticking to an over-the-counter and on-the-spot acne treatment with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide instead.
8. Using coffee grinds as a scrub
Some homemade beauty recipes recommend using the leftover coffee grounds from your morning coffee to create a caffeine-laced body scrub that will both exfoliate and leave your skin less red. Don’t do it, though. “The coffee grounds are rough and irritating, and [they] can damage the top layers of your skin,” Shainhouse said. “Moreover, that damage will leave your skin more red than any small amount of topical caffeine can reduce.”
For your information: The same goes for scrubs made from nuts. “These are not water-soluble, so they have sharp edges that can create small tears in the skin, which will then scar,” Shainhouse explains. Instead, stick to gentler ingredients like avocado to get rid of dead skin cells.
9. Using egg whites as a face mask
Aside from the fact that spreading egg whites across your mug sounds incredibly unappealing, the runny, protein-packed part of your egg is best left for your morning omelette. Many bloggers claim that this type of homemade mask will close pores, but this is completely false, and you’d be risking food poisoning for nothing.
“Though egg whites can offer a temporary tightening effect, raw eggs can also present a risk of salmonella,” Schlessinger said. “I like to tell my patients that a pore, is a pore, is a pore. They can’t be changed, and since they are essentially a hole, hoping to get rid of them is futile.”
While you can’t physically control their size, you can make them appear smaller by clearing them out with a store-bought product that’s full of better-for-you ingredients.
10. Using beer for hair volume
While this is a bit less common, pouring a flat beer on your hair to add thickness and volume isn’t going to get you anywhere. The idea is that spritzing it onto dry hair will leave protein residue (from the wheat, malt, or hops) that will give your flat hair extra protein. But, let’s be honest, no one drinks beer for protein, so it’s not wise to use it on your hair. “The pH of beer really varies, so it could throw off your scalp with no actual benefits,” said Mast.
Our recommendation? Use rose water instead. “Rose water is a great way to add healthy volume,” Mast said. “Simply spray it onto dry hair and fluff it up with your fingers, or spray it on your damp roots and blow dry!” And if you don’t want to DIY, there are already rose water volume products available to you on the market.
11. Using butter to help heal burns
The old wives’ tale that butter is good for burns of any kind has been around for centuries, but experts say it’s not the way to go. In fact, butter and other greasy substances can actually trap heat in, and make it harder for the burn to heal.
“Bacteria can grow in butter, and these bacteria can easily become trapped in the burn, causing an infection,” Schlessinger explained. “In addition, if your burn is so severe that you need to seek medical treatment, butter can make it harder for doctors to treat the burn in the emergency room.”
A better course of action is to immediately run cold water on the affected area for at least 20 minutes. Refrain from using ice. “Although ice is colder, applying it to a burn can actually damage the burned tissue,” Schlessinger said. “This will help reduce swelling, cool the burn, and relieve some of the pain.” Apply an antibiotic cream and cover the wound until it heals. If your burn is deeper, you should seek medical attention immediately.
12. Using purple Kool-Aid to fight hair brassiness
The claim is that the purple color will cancel out the orange tones that come out when a regular hair toner has faded. But basic color theory will let you know that blue cancels out orange and purple cancels out yellow, so purple wouldn’t do much for an orange hue.
“While in the salon, we do use blues and purples to alter color. I would never apply a full-toned purple or blue unless someone was looking for a fantasy color,” Mast said. “You risk your hair not turning out as you desire, and you’ll be stuck paying the high price of a color correction.”
If you’re tempted by the Kool Aid remedy, we recommend picking up a professional brand color neutralizing product to use in between color services. Or stop by a salon and get yourself a toner!
13. Using a black marker as eyeliner
You might be thinking, “Who on earth would do such a thing?” but experts say they’ve seen it. “I love a solid cat eye look, but I would never reach for a Sharpie, and shockingly, some people use it!” Kline said. “The eye area is super sensitive, and this product is not intended or made for your skin — plus, the smell alone would just irritate your skin around the eyes.”
The manufacturing process for lipstick and eyeliner products is pretty intensive, and it involves the use of stoves, candles, and more, according to Kline. Although using a Sharpie might be considered non-toxic, this doesn’t mean it’s safe to use on your skin.
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on March 7, 2017]