7 Terrible DIY Skincare Tips On Pinterest (& Healthy Alternatives!)

August 3, 2015

Hey There!

Okay now, I guess it’s safe to say that we’ve all done it: Wondering what it is with all these „amazing“ and cheap homemade DIY skincare tips that go viral on the web. So we stood in front of the mirror, slathering some sort of funny yoghurt onto our skins hoping to look like the default model picture in the post. Nothing wrong with yogurt (or honey… or oatmeal!) of course, but especially Pinterest is a place where a lot of DIY treatments that can actually hurt your skin are very popular. 

Why these homemade remedies are so attractive to thousand of repinners? Well, they’re cheap, readily available, and may seem safer than the unfamiliar and unpronounceable treatments available in drugstores with ingredients list that seem to be out of some sort of fancy lab. The thing is though: homemade and all-natural is not always be better. Of course, there are still a lot of expensive yet uneffective treatments out in the beauty industry but truth is: If our skin would only need all natural remedies, we’d all be happy ponies by now. It’s all about that happy balance but that is a topic for a later post – for today, I’d like to demystify one of the most popular DIY skincare tips from Pinterest and give some insight in why it might not be the best idea to put baking soda on your delicate skin. (And don’t get me wrong here – I love pinterest as a place for inspiration and the best recipes I ever tried. Let’s just not follow blindly every skincare advise out there, shall we..?)

          The popular one:  Lemon and baking soda         

This is by far the most popular (and to me, most horrifying) DIY skincare tip on Pinterest. It is true that lemons can be used for exfoliation and that they are able to lighten dark marks, but they are bad news for your skin as they are highly acidic, with a general pH of 2. When you put squeezed lemon juice or the like on your skin, they will mess with the natural pH of the acid mantle and can very much irritate the skin. Also, because the citric acid content in lemons varies from fruit to fruit, you don’t really know how strong of a treatment you’re putting on your face; not to mention that citrus oils are potentially phototoxic, meaning that when you make contact with daylight with lemon on your face, the irritation will only increase, possibly to the point of chemical burns.  
Baking soda on the contrary, is extremely basic (speaking as of a pH of 9-10), so it will knock all the power out of your acid mantle, making your skin more basic than acidic. So basically, baking soda will tear your skin up and then strip it of its first line of defense against bacterial infection. Doesn’t sound too good now, right?
Alternative: If you want the benefits of lemons without the dangers of irritation or chemical burns, try an AHA treatment or toner with a pH between 3 and 4 – still a low enough pH for an exfoliating effect, but not too low that your skin will freak out on you, such as the COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner, COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, Papa Recipe White Flower Clear Up 8% AHA Gel (personal favorite!) or the Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum (broke me out but works well for many others.)

Also, if you still want to put your baking powder to good use, use it to clean your clogged pipes or (my personal favorite use of baking soda:) let it sit in a burned pan with a bit of water to easily remove the burn afterwards. (Think about it, if it can burn through the gunk in your bathroom pipes, do you really want to put that on your skin..?)

     The mom-already-said-so one: Use toothpaste to dry out pimples     

The one we probably all have heard of: apply toothpase to a pimple to heal it. The general idea behind the concept is to dry out the pimple with the toothpaste. However, toothpaste typically contains things like strong surfactants, menthol and alcohol, that can be very irritating to the skin and cause more irritation, inflammation and peeling. Same goes for applying mouthwash to pimples as the strong alcohol content is most likely not a good idea to treat your skin.

Alternative: If you have problems with healing up pimples, I highly recommend you try BHA gel or lotions, chemical exfoliatiors that penetrate through oil and help heal the inflammation and keep the formation of new acne away, such as COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, Chica Y Chico Beta-Salic 2.0 Cream or Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Peeling Gel.

     The sounds-too-good-to-be-true one: Sugar scrubs (for your face)     

As I mentioned before, I often see recommendations to mix lemons not only with baking soda but with many other variations; one of which is sugar. While I am all about sugar in my desserts and chocolate, (raw) sugar as a skincare ingredient for your facial area is another major skin no-go. The uneven, jagged edges of sugar crystals will tear at your skin cells and disrupt your lipid barrier right quick, leaving you vulnerable to dryness and flakiness. After you’ve irritated your skin by scratching at it, the disruption of the lipid layer will only make it take longer to heal. If you want to make your skin soft and smooth, sugar will have the opposite effect in the long run.
Alternative: If you want to do physical exfoliation on your skin, your best bet is a more subtle method like the gentle application of a microfiber cloth. (And even gentler even, is regular exfoliation with a gentle AHA or BHA product such as COSRX or Paula’s Choice; see recommendations for AHA & BHA products above.)

…just to show you I didn’t make things up in this list – these tips really exist and some are widely popular.

     The creative one: Apply deodorant over your T-zone to mattify oily areas     

…..do I really have to mention why this is just such a bad idea to do? An antiperspirant is designed to stop sweat and water — not oil. And especially not on the delicate areas of your face. Conclusively, an antiperspirant won’t prevent your face from getting oily throughout the day – not to mention that many many antiperspirants contain chemicals that aren’t meant for your sensitive facial skin and can be really irritating. 

Alternative: If you know you get really oily midday, carry around blotting tissues/paper that you gently press against the areas that need mattifying without transferring your make-up.

     The ridiculous one: Put vinegar on sunburn     

I’ll just quote a dermatologist here: „Vinegar on a sunburn won’t help at all, and may actually be very irritating, particularly for severe burns. Vinegar is basically a dilute (typically around 5% v/v) solution of acetic acid in water. Anything acidic on sunburned skin may be very irritating and cause additional damage to the skin.“ 

Alternative: If it’s already too late to prevent the sunburn, cool it with the help of ice wrapped in a towel (never directly on to the skin!) and use a pure aloe vera gel to calm down the inflammation (most aloe vera gels that are labelled „100%“ do have some preservatives as the only „pure“ gel comes directly from the plant. Usually you can find some good options at vitamin and supplement stores or in the suncare section of your local drugstore.)

     The useless one: Use milk of magnesia as a face primer     

I actually came across this during the research for this post; I had honestly no idea that some people were actually really doing this. The internet never ceases to amaze me. Milk of magnesia is a laxative and antacid that treats constipation and heartburn. It’s long been rumored to work as a makeup primer and a skin mattifier due to its chalky texture. Although this tactic might work for some, it’s more likely to cause bad breakouts, since milk of magnesia has a pH level of 10 or 10.5 (!!!), whereas the normal pH of the outer layer of skin is around 4.5-5.5 in general. This means that milk of magnesia is a lot more basic than your skin – if you neutralize the acidity of your skin, you’ll create a growth environment for the bacteria, which can’t grow at an acidic level, and cause breakouts and/or acne. This is also why the pH of your cleanser is very important, as too basic cleansers can damage the acid mantle of your skin and support acne in the long run.

Alternative: Use anything but milk of magnesia as a face primer. Seriously. I usually just use a good moisturizer, sunscreen and powder underneath my make-up on most days but there are many variations from color-correcting to pore-blurring ones – the sky (or, well, your skin) is the limit!

     The downright stupid one: Use hairspray to set your makeup     

Now, hairspra is a great invention: It holds your hairstyle in place all day and has saved us many times on many special occasions. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to keep your makeup intact all day. Not to mention the awful smell, the large molecules in the hairspray can easily block your pores and cause bad blemishes. The spray also contains repellents that can cause red, bumpy irritation on your skin.

Alternative: If you like a mattifying finish, go with a pressed or loose finishing powder. If you’re more on team dewy (like myself), use the help of a make-up fixing spray to make your make-up last throughout the day without cutting down on the dewiness of your skin.

Have you tried any of these DIY skincare tricks because you didn’t know any better..? I certainly put some lemon and toothpaste on my face when I was desperate to get rid of my acne – needless to say, there wasn’t any change for the better. Have anything to add to this list..? Let me know + share your experiences! 🙂 Hope y’all have a fabulous start into the week!

Lots of love,


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