There’s something to be said for DIY and quick-fix skin care, but with the Internet as our main resource for tips, tricks and recipes, what we can make do with at home isn’t always what’s actually going to help our skin in the long run. These 10 various products and ingredients have gotten a rap for being safe for your skin, but they’re actually among the worst for causing dryness and irritation that can lead to serious skin issues.
While the scrubby texture of baking soda is consistent with the designated exfoliating products we know and love, the pH of the common household item is far, far too alkaline to be used on the face. pH balance is incredibly important to the health of your skin, which has a natural pH of roughly 4.5-5, while baking soda has a pH of 9. Using ingredients that are too alkaline disrupts and damages the skin’s natural barrier, which is crucial for keeping bad bacteria out. Baking soda used on the face causes significant moisture loss, as well as compromises your skin’s ability to regulate itself.
Lemon juice is on the other side of the pH scale—with a pH of 2, it’s highly, highly acidic. Just as sucking on a lemon can destroy the enamel on your teeth, applying pure lemon directly to your skin irritates and disrupts the acid mantle. The oils in citrus fruits are also phototoxic, which means that sun exposure can exacerbate the irritation to the point of chemical burns.
Most hair products can cause irritation and breakouts when they come in contact with skin, but hairspray in particular is worth singling out because some people use it as a makeup-setting spray in a pinch. Getting a little bit of hairspray on your face while you’re applying it to hair isn’t the end of the world, but when used on your face, it’s a great way to dry out your skin, as well as clog your pores and cause irritation. Steer clear of the hairspray, and opt instead for a product that’s actually made to set makeup.
Another bathroom cabinet “quick fix” that does more harm than good, toothpaste is full of ingredients that are drying and irritating, if not outright harmful, to skin. It will dry out a zit, that much is true, but it’ll also zap healthy moisture from the surrounding areas and has the potential to chemically burn the skin, leaving dark scars that you won’t be able to fix with anything you can find in your kitchen. Turn to a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment or even a dab of tea tree oil, instead.
Petroleum jelly can be helpful for sealing in moisture on super dry, fragile skin, as well as protecting cuts, bug bites, and other wounds from the air, but it isn’t a long-term fix or sufficient moisturizer. Skin will feel softer at first, but just as petroleum jelly seals moisture in, the thick emollient also seals in dirt and debris and can actually cause dryness over time because it keeps out additional air and moisture. We repeat: Petroleum jelly does not actually moisturize but rather retains what’s already in your skin, including the bad stuff.
A hot shower feels great, but it will absolutely zap the moisture from the outer layer of your skin. Hot water softens the natural oils of the epidermis and strip away the barrier that prevents moisture from escaping the skin, leading to dryness and imbalance. If you have naturally oily skin or breakouts, drying it out will cause a backlash that puts your oil production into overdrive. Always use lukewarm water rather than hot, and keep scalding showers to a minimum—especially in the winter, when your skin is already more inclined to dryness and itchiness.
As a mild antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide is one of the best ways to prevent infection when it comes to injuries like cuts and burns, but that doesn’t make it suitable for treating breakouts. The corrosive nature of oxidizing agents like hydrogen peroxide can burn and blister the skin due to oxidative stress. Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide is also a common allergen that can result in inflammation and, again, burning of the skin.
The skin on the rest of your body is thicker and more resilient than the skin on your face, which is why most body lotions contain more fragrance and less nourishing ingredients than a facial moisturizer. That’s not to say that every moisturizer intended for the body is unsuitable for the face, but the delicate skin of the face needs to be treated differently and with gentler, better quality ingredients than those typically used in body lotions. Traditional body lotions shouldn’t even be used in a dry-skin emergency, as their ingredients can actually result in even more dryness on the face, as well as clogged pores and potential allergic reactions.
We already know that ingesting too much sugar spells disaster for your skin, but using it in your beauty routine as a DIY facial scrub can wreak havoc, too. Facial skin is far thinner than the rest of your skin, so while a sugar and olive oil exfoliator can make your legs look smooth and gorgeous, the texture of the grains are too rough for the fragile epidermis on your face. This is true of many scrubs and exfoliators, even some marketed for the face—they’re just too rough, and while they lend themselves to smooth-feeling skin, their sharp edges are actually creating tiny tears that damage and prematurely age the skin.
Like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol is an antibacterial disinfectant used to sterilize wounds to avoid infection… and to clean your house. It may feel cooling on the skin, and impart a “tingling” sensation that makes you feel like it’s working, but alcohol is one of the most drying, damaging ingredients you can put on your face. It dissolves the DNA of both bacteria and human skin cells, leading to dryness and buildup of dead skin cells. Before purchasing a toner or facial astringent, always check to ensure that it doesn’t contain isopropyl alcohol, which will strip the skin and lead to further clogged pores and excess oil production.