We’ve all heard the saying “natural is always better”, and how some of the chemicals used in today’s skincare and cosmetic products could potentially harm your skin health. Understandably, given the choice, most people would then gravitate towards natural and clean beauty brands. In this article, I’ll walk you through some natural ingredients that do more harm than good to your skin.
To be mindful of what goes in your skin care formulation is great, in fact, I recommend that you always check the product labels before making any splurges. I wrote about this in detail here. But what we’re witnessing now is, in attempts to switch to non-toxic skin care routines, some of us are unwillingly experimenting with DIY beauty recipes. Fair enough, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong with natural ingredients?
But here’s the deal: one should be vary of the ingredients you use on your skin; whether it is chemically derived, or naturally sourced.
Natural Ingredients That Do More Harm Than Good To Your Skin
Exfoliating with baking soda
While baking soda is still considered a popular ingredient in many DIY home remedies, it’s one ingredient that you should strictly avoid at all costs. From what I could gather, some beauty websites recommend its use as an alternative to exfoliators, masks or even scrubs. But all it does is, it disrupts your skin’s protective acid mantle. Here’s a quick refresher: your skin surface is naturally acidic (with pH of 4.5-5).
Baking soda on the other hand, has a pH of 9, which means, every time you scrub your face with a baking soda paste, you are pushing the skin pH over to the alkaline side of the scale. This not only disturbs your skin’s natural barrier, but also makes your skin more reactive and susceptible to inflammation and breakouts. We have previously talked about skin pH and why it’s important to use pH balanced skin care products. You can find the link to the complete article here.
Lemon juice as skin brightener
Lemon contains citric acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). While I was scouring the web for DIY home remedies, lemon juice appeared to be yet another favorite ingredient that some beauty insiders swear by. Some even recommend using it as a home remedy for treating acne or brightening the complexion.
Not just lemon but citrus fruits in general, are highly acidic with pH ranging between 2-3. This means, if used improperly, it can cause skin irritation, hyper-pigmentation and cause permanent damage to your skin.
In fact, there are even case reports that links the topical application of lemon juice with photo-sensitivity and chemical-like burns. It causes ‘phytophoto-dermatitis’; a skin reaction that manifests as blisters, burns and itchy skin — that is likely to leave pigmentation and scarring. Thankfully, since there are safer alternatives to lemon juice, we suggest you best avoid using lemon juice directly on your skin.
Vinegar face toners
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is widely acclaimed for numerous health benefits. Among which, some are well documented, such as fat metabolism and its role in controlling blood sugar and regulating insulin balance.
The whole idea of using vinegar on the skin is factored onto its key ingredient, acetic acid: an alpha hydroxy acid that is believed to be a safer, natural alternative to other AHAs. In fact, earlier there were reports suggesting how apple cider vinegar soaks, or its topical application on the skin may help restore pH levels. However, this was later refuted by a study published in the Pediatric Dermatology Journal. The researchers reported that aside from that fact that dilute ACV soaks did not improve skin integrity in atopic dermatitis, it also caused irritation in a majority of the patients.
So while some people might suggest using ACV as a skin cleanser or toner for acne, I recommend using safer alternatives that are research-driven. Despite this disclaimer, should you insist on using it, make sure it is diluted to safe concentrations and do not leave it on your skin for long.
Scrubbing with sugars
Now this might raise some eyebrows. Sugar is considered as one of the natural physical exfoliators, and is extensively used in DIY scrubs. Generally, you should always choose your scrubs based on skin type, sensitivities, and put some thought into the frequency of its use and how its prepared.
What about the sugar? Even though buffing your body with little scrubby particles might feel very satisfying, the rough grainy formula might actually create micro-tears on your skin and do more harm than good. When preparing a sugar scrub, consider using brown sugar— it has a softer, less grainier consistency than granulated sugar. Those with sensitive skin should take note. Also make sure you use your DIY sugar scrubs only on the body. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out some of our favorite DIY brown sugar recipes here.
Nut shells and fruit pits
Even if you’re using finely ground-up seeds or fruit pits, the overly abrasive particles will do more harm than good to your skin. Generally speaking, it’s best to steer clear of ground nut shells, stone fruit pits or even scrubs that contain microbeads, as these can create microscopic tears in your skin in the skin.
Mayo face packs
Now this might come as a surprise to you, but yes mayo masks have become a thing. Just type in “mayonnaise + face” on Google and you’ll find several health and beauty sites extolling its virtues. Mayo face masks are believed to tighten the skin, nourish and moisturize dry skin. With ingredients like egg yolks, vinegar, and vegetable oils, this homemade remedy seems to work like magic for some people. But does it really help?
Since it contains mainly soy bean oil (glycine soja), it is rated high on the comedogenic scale. Put simply, the comedogenic scale is a rating system that roughly indicates how likely an oil is to clog your pores. And soy bean oil scores a rating of 4-5, which means it has the highest likelihood of clogging pores and most people can’t tolerate it. Generally, it is not a recommended oil or emollient to be used in sensitive, or acne prone skin. Added to this, mayonnaise also contains vinegar and lemon, which are common offenders to look out for.
Witch hazel as toners
Witch hazel is an extract from the leaves and bark of Hamamelis virginiana plant. Touted as a natural solution for a range of skin concerns, including acne, it is one ingredient that most of us have heard about. Although it does have astringent and antioxidant properties, that may help reduce inflammation, it also has its fair share of irritants.
The extract is usually distilled by alcohol, or formulated in combination with 10-20% SD alcohol. The use of evaporative solvent alcohols like SD alcohol tend to make the formula feel light and on application, it keeps the skin dry, which might explain its appeal among those with oily skin. However, these are just short-term effects and regular use of such astringent toners, might even worsen your acne.
Aside from this, eugenol — an essential oil present in witch hazel, is a known skin irritant.
How many times have you run out of your acne spot treatment, and resorted to using this skin care hack? It may have even helped with drying out your blemishes quickly, but here’s what it actually does.
Rubbing alcohol (also known as isopropyl alcohol) not only dehydrates your skin, but leaves it feeling dry, tight and lackluster. With chronic use, this skin drying ingredient could potentially disrupt and weaken your skin’s barrier. Turns out, it’s counter intuitive: what you’re using to dry out a pimple will in fact, only worsen your acne.
Lip plumping with spices
But what about cinnamon, or nutmeg? Surprisingly, yes, there are actually DIY face masks and lip scrubs with both these spices. While we know that cinnamon is dermocaustic and can cause reactions, it is still a popular choice among beauty insiders.
So, how does it work on the lips? When applied topically, it acts as a natural irritant. This means it increases the blood flow to the region, resulting in temporary plumping of your lips. However, the transient swelling normally subsides within an hour. Though we’re not particularly fond of using it for this purpose, but in case you are, always make sure you do a patch-test.
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences, that are aromatic and volatile. It must always be diluted with a carrier oil before using on the skin.
With hundred varieties of oils to choose from, these are now being used in both cosmetic skin care and DIY recipes. Some essential oils, however, can result in allergic reactions or a worsening of skin conditions, such as acne, eczema. You can read more about essential oils here.
While scouring the web for DIY home remedies, I’d like to remind you that some ingredients are best left in your kitchen pantry or served on the plate.
Even if the beauty insiders and skin care hacks online suggest to use them in your beauty regimens, make sure that you always do your own research and read thoroughly before committing to it.