Notice: Not everything that comes from your fridge or a plant is safe to slather on your face. There are some natural skincare ingredients you should never use in your DIY beauty products.
The internet is a very good tool that manages to convince people that putting the wildest things on their skin work well to minimize pores and eradicate pimples. Unfortunately, not everything recommended by these so-called influencers is good advice.
Because an ingredient is plant-based or exists in your kitchen is not a good enough reason to apply it onto your skin. Especially in DIY beauty recipes. Many of them can actually destroy your skin and promote the skin trouble you are trying to solve.
You might have seen some of these harmful natural ingredients in store-bought products. In some of those products, these ingredients have been formulated to work well, but in others, they still harm your skin.
When used alone without dilution or proper sanitation, these harmful ingredients can damage skin over time.
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Well, if I can eat it, why can’t I apply it?
That’s the question many people ask.
Let’s look at it this way: Poison ivy is natural, not so? But will you smear it on your face, though? No, right?
Just because you can put lemon juice in your water and sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal does not mean these things will work on your face. Yet, you will find many DIY beauty recipes on the internet that tell you to use these things.
Many people have learned the hard way that some DIY beauty ingredients that are popularly used to get rid of acne, reduce oil production and lighten dark spots can backfire majorly.
Some dermatologists have confirmed that making your own skincare products at home can actually be very good for your skin. Others say that DIY skincare products are a hit-or-miss: it may work out well or exacerbate the skin issue.
That is why I have compiled this list of 16 common natural skincare ingredients you should never use on your skin. They cause far more harm to your skin than good. Dermatologists have warned folks against these ingredients, saying that they should be approached with caution or even avoided outright.
Let’s get down to it, shall we?
- Lemon (and other fruits)
This is probably the most notorious natural skincare ingredients you should never use in your homemade beauty products.
Pinterest is filled with hacks that tell people that lemon is a wonderful ingredient to brighten your skin at home. It’s best you leave lemons in the kitchen. Lemon is acidic and it can burn the skin, leaving it discolored and raw.
Lemons can also cause a condition called phytophotodermatitis. It’s a mouthful, I know, but it is basically an inflammatory skin reaction. If you use lemon on your skin and expose it to sunlight, you can experience blistering and hyperpigmentation.
Most other fruits should not cause a severe reaction unless you have an allergy to them or very sensitive skin.
That’s why I advise that you do a patch test for your DIY beauty product before applying it all over. This helps you figure out if you are allergic to an ingredient or if your skin will react negatively to the product.
Yo, please stop applying toothpaste to your pimples and dark spots.
I understand the appeal. The antimicrobial ingredient, triclosan, in toothpaste might help treat acne but it is better you avoid it and use actual acne treatments.
This is because, aside from triclosan, toothpaste is filled with irritating ingredients like peroxide, fragrance, alcohol, and peppermint. This combo is perfect for tearing up your skin and possibly leading to chemical burns.
Instead, use a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to treat your acne. A dab of tea tree oil works well too.
- Baking Soda
I know that the mildly coarse texture of baking soda seems similar to the exfoliators in your favorite scrub, but this powder is actually really terrible for your skin.
Why, you ask? Well, get ready for some basic biology.
Your skin has an acidic pH of between 4.5 to 5. Baking soda is very alkaline in nature with a pH of 9. Applying a very alkaline ingredient onto your mildly acidic skin can significantly damage your skin’s natural barrier, which is essential for keeping bad bacteria out.
Using it even once can cause damage to your skin. You might not be able to see it with your naked eye but it’s there. Using it for a long time will eventually cause major loss of moisture and make it hard for your skin to regulate itself.
- Raw egg whites
Can you imagine how convenient it is for you to just slick some raw egg whites on your face as you make your morning eggs, and have tight pores and smooth skin all day?
That’s crazy—and that’s what many supporters of egg white face masks promise you.
Eggs might be used in some Korean beauty products, but applying them directly onto your skin can have some really damaging consequences.
First off, eggs only feel tight when they are on your skin. As soon as you rinse off the residue, any tightening benefits will wash down the drain with the water.
More seriously, raw egg whites can give you a bacterial infection called salmonella. It is rare to get salmonella from applying egg whites on your face, but it is possible. If you don’t know what salmonella is, look it up. Find images of this infection. Trust me, you won’t want to risk it.
You can also run the risk of getting a gastrointestinal tract infection by placing uncooked egg close to or in your mouth. It is possible to get a localized infection on the skin too, especially when the egg whites are applied to open wounds, cuts or healing blemishes.
The contaminant in the egg whites can stay on surfaces for several hours, which makes your bathroom an actual health hazard.
Bottom line: The bad stuff you can get from using egg whites is messed up.
- Vinegar (including apple cider vinegar)
Some people use vinegar as toners in their skincare routines because vinegars are acidic and have pH-balancing properties, but this is not approved by dermatologists at all.
Yeah, you might agree that vinegar is bad for skin because it smells terrible and lasts too long. That’s part of it, yes, but the smell is the LEAST of your worries when it comes to vinegar.
The main dangers are in the risk of irritation, superficial chemical burns from repeated applications, exaggerated sunburns and depigmentation resulting from the initial irritation.
The major type of vinegar used in DIY beauty products is apple cider vinegar (ACV). Many people tout it as the king of DIY astringents, and they say it helps clear acne, fade acne scars and age spots, and even get rid of moles.
This is not true at all.
When applied on the face, ACV will induce a stinging sensation on your skin. If you must use it, please dilute it for safety. It is best to use 1:3 ratio. That’s 1 part ACV and 3 parts water.
If you use ACV on your skin undiluted for a long period of time, it could actually corrode your face because of its high acidity levels. It can be very caustic if you leave it on your skin.
ACV, or any other vinegar, should not be used to treat wounds. It should also not be applied on a face that has acne sores because it can cause a burn or major irritation. If ACV gets in your eyes, you could also experience inflammation or even a cornea burn.
Not worth it, if you ask me.
ACV–or any other vinegar–has no place in your skincare routine.
Related Read: The Best Skincare Routines for Every Skin Type
- Cinnamon (or any other spices)
I cannot begin to tell you how many YouTube videos I have watched or beauty articles I have read that extol the supposed virtues of cinnamon. It is very notorious!
Before I explain why cinnamon is terrible for your skin, I have to say that cinnamon is different from turmeric.
I swear by turmeric—it has effective anti-inflammation abilities—and I have been using it in my DIY face masks for more than a year now. The only downside about turmeric for me is that it stains my skin, but this doesn’t have any adverse effects.
Cinnamon has some antimicrobial benefits, yes, and is also used to heal wounds, but it is also one of the more common spice allergies. Even if you don’t have an obvious allergy to cinnamon, you may still be hypersensitive to the spice on your skin or get burned by cinnamon oil.
On application, cinnamon gives a tingling sensation and creates redness on the skin. In more extreme situations, you might get burns when you use cinnamon.
But it’s not just cinnamon, though. All spices need to be handled cautiously when it comes to DIY beauty products. Be mindful because certain spices can be irritating to some people.
You can either avoid spices in your homemade beauty products entirely or do a patch test on a tiny spot in front of your earlobe.
If you’re tempted to use cinnamon or any spice in a DIY mask, always do a patch test on a tiny spot in front of your earlobe.
- Breast milk
Are you shocked that this is on the list?
Yeah I bet you are not as shocked—and baffled—as I was when I found out that ‘breast milk facials’ were a thing. A very big thing. They are all the rage at spas.
The reasoning behind it is that breast milk contains lactic and lauric acids. These acids have the ability to heal skin and antimicrobial benefits that have been shown to improve acne-prone skin.
This info has made some folks, especially nursing mothers, rely on their postpartum breasts to give them flawless skin. I mean, it is always available and very affordable.
But the thing is, breast milk is a bodily fluid that can transfer diseases and cause bacterial infections, especially when collected or stored improperly.
Another bodily fluid on this list.
Listen, y’all better stop with the body fluids. Please.
Yeah, I know what happens in your bedroom is none of my business but if you are advocating for the bottling of bodily fluids to smear on your face, then it becomes my business.
This whole semen facial thing blew up in 2014 when a lifestyle blogger posted a video singing the praises of semen and telling the world all the soothing, moisturizing, and healing benefits cum had on her rosacea.
Many people jumped at the idea of enjoying yourself sexually and also getting clear skin from the encounter. They also made claims that semen cured their acne.
These claims have zero scientific evidence and many dermatologists worldwide have debunked the concept.
At the very least, you’ll have skin that is a bit softer and a very curious roommate barraging you with questions about your new skincare product.
The worst thing that can happen—and it happens very often—is that several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can actually be passed through the mucous membranes. Many of these STIs go undiagnosed.
In addition, some people are allergic to semen and may experience symptoms that range from a burning sensation to anaphylaxis when they come in contact with it.
All in all, there are a myriad of better, safer, and more effective treatments for acne that one can use. These other options might be more costly than semen but, at least, they won’t kill you.
That’s something, right?
Okay, this is the last bodily fluid on this list, I promise.
I just couldn’t stop myself from including it when I heard that some folks use their urine as their toner.
What the heck, you guys?! Pee facials? Really?
The theory behind pee facials is that the urea and uric acid in urine can hydrate skin and tighten pores.
Yeah, urea is used in certain skin products to help with acne or psoriasis. However, the urea in those products is synthetic and has a higher concentration that the one found in piss.
Worst case scenario, applying and leaving urine on your skin, especially inflamed skin, can cause infection.
Urine might be sterile, but that’s only till it’s left the body. Once it’s out, urine can grow bacteria.
I know you must be thinking, “Finally, something that isn’t a bodily fluid.” I feel you. Writing those things were a little traumatizing for me, too.
Let’s talk about mayo for a second, right?
I’m sure you must have heard that mayo is a great moisturizer for dry skin. I advise that you stick to our regular moisturizer.
Rubbing mayo into your skin is not harmful, but it can clog your pores. Believe me, that’s not what you want. If you are acne-prone, a mixture of oil and eggs is the best way to get a giant zit on your face.
Don’t do it please.
Mayo is also used as a moisturizing agent/conditioner for hair, especially damaged hair. This might work for you if your hair likes mayo. But please, keep the mayo on your hair only.
- Rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is a popular ingredient in astringents and toners.
If you have oily or combination skin, you might think that rubbing alcohol will help you reduce the oil formation in your skin. No, alcohol is way too harsh for this purpose.
Rubbing alcohol can strip your skin of its proteins, lipids and fat that protect the skin barrier, making it weak and prone to inflammation.
- Sugar crystals (with salt and coffee grounds)
Say hello to a DIY face scrub nightmare. Sugar and coffee grounds may seem like good exfoliants for skin but they are harmful.
When used as physical exfoliants, the sharp granules of sugar and coffee can cause tiny tears in the skin that can accelerate the aging process and make the skin for vulnerable to environmental damage.
They are very abrasive for the thin skin on the face and can worsen inflammation.
- Coconut oil
Yes, your favorite carrier oil also made it to this list.
Why? CLOGGED PORES!
I have to admit, coconut oil has wonderful antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. On the flip side, it is also highly comedogenic. This means that it can clog your pores and give you crazy acne breakouts.
It’s wonderful for use on the hair as a leave-in hair conditioner and body, but please keep it away from your face.
Related Read: 10 Ridiculously Easy DIY Leave-In Conditioner Recipes
- Hot water
This is not quite a natural ingredient, but a lot of people wash their faces with hot water and I just can’t help but ask, “Why?”
Understand this: there is a difference between lukewarm water, steam and hot water.
The same way you don’t wash your hair with hot water, don’t use it to wash your facial skin. Hydration is very important for the skin and hot water tends to remove moisture from the skin, leaving it dry and flaky.
In some cases, you might want to use lukewarm water. That’s fine, but it is best to always use cool or ice-cold water on the skin.
- Hydrogen peroxide
One that is not quite a natural ingredient too, but is widely used.
Hydrogen peroxide, for the most part, serves as a mild antiseptic. It should stay that way.
Hydrogen peroxide is great for preventing infections in minor cuts and burns, but it is a very terrible idea to include it in your DIY beauty recipe.
Hydrogen peroxide is not only a common allergen that causes inflammation and burning of the skin with consistent use, it also decreases the ability of your skin to heal itself.
It strips away all your skin barriers and moisture levels, promoting premature aging.
- Body lotion
Finally, the last item on the list of natural skincare ingredients you should never use.As you might have guessed, this is not quite a natural ingredient but I see it a lot in recipes.
Plain lotion is one popular ingredient in DIY beauty recipes, but you have to understand that when you are making a homemade product for your face, use a plain FACE LOTION. Not body lotion.
The skin on your body and the skin on your face are NOT the same. They cannot handle the same things.
Most body lotions contain a huge amount of fragrance and few nourishing/moisturizing agents than a facial moisturizer. Body lotions are great for the tough, resilient skin on your body, but are terrible for the thin skin on your face
If you suffer from acne or rosacea and you use heavily fragranced body lotions on your face, you are just adding fuel to the fire. Even if you don’t have skin issues, you might still have a negative reaction.
Fragrance is one of the top three skin allergens, which means it irritates the skins of most people.
I know that some DIY beauty products can be very beneficial to the skin (I have a whole blog category dedicated to this), I would advise that you don’t treat them the same way you do a store-bought product.
Don’t do DIY face masks too often and never leave them on your skin for too long. Don’t save them to reuse either if there are no preservatives or stabilizers in them. Make what you need for one application at a time to get the best results possible.
And don’t forget: If you have persistent skin problems such as acne or dry skin, your best option is to visit a board-certified dermatologist who can identify the underlying problem and help you find solutions that work best for you.
What do you think of these natural skincare ingredients you should never use on your skin? Which of them have you used? Are there other ones you would like me to add to the list?
Tell me down in the comments below! I respond to each one.
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Hi there! I’m Althea Storm, creator of Althea’s Alcove. I am a blogger, beauty expert, makeup artist, Pinterest strategist, freelance writer, future crime fiction author and video game programmer. I know it’s a lotta things, but a girl’s gotta get the bag, not so?
With this blog, I aim to help ALL beauty enthusiasts–male, female, queer, non-binary, etc.–achieve luminous skin, healthier hair, and advanced makeup skills.
I also help newbie bloggers achieve financial freedom through blogging by sharing my very best blog creation guides, monetization channels, and promotion strategies.