It all started when my sister called me about trying a new charcoal mask. If you haven’t been to a drugstore lately, you might have missed how charcoal is in every skin-care product these days because of its acne-clearing benefits. So I sent her this amazing mask to test. Her first question: “Can I add glue to this to make it a peel-off mask?” Excuse me, what?
My sister is a smart girl. Where had she gotten this idea to put Elmer’s glue on her face? The Internet, of course. That’s when my warpath against stupid DIY beauty treatments began. I love a nice coconut oil hair treatment as much as the next person, but I have to draw the line when DIY starts to get dangerous—or just straight-up dumb. YouTubers and Reddit regulars have claimed beauty benefits of everything from lemon juice to apple cider vinegar . My belief: Sometimes things just aren’t meant to go on your face—no matter how much money it saves you. And really, you can get amazing drugstore products for less than $5 (which is a lot less than that trip to the derm is going to cost you when DIY goes downhill).
A couple of dermatologists I talked to agreed that a lot of the DIY you might find online really isn’t worth it, even when it comes to "safe" products, like foods you already have in your pantry. "Generally speaking, just because something may have possible benefits when you consume it doesn’t mean you will get the same benefits if you use it on your skin,” says celebrity dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. Amen.
Here are six DIY beauty hacks floating around the Internet that we are begging you not to try.
1. Making a peel-off face mask out of glue
The favorite use of Elmer’s glue for DIY beauty is to make a peel-off mask. We get it—it was so cool to peel it off your fingers as a kid. But please, resist the urge to do it on your face. Not only could it cause a breakout after sitting on your face for 15 minutes, but you also risk ripping off skin and peach fuzz—all for a cool Instagram-worthy peel effect.
This is just plain foolish. Elmer’s should be reserved putting glitter on Mother’s Day cards in kindergarten. “You should generally avoid anything that’s not designed for skin, specifically when it’s something occlusive like glue that can damage your skin barrier, clog pores, and be too abrasive or irritating to the skin which can lead to inflammation, hyperpigmentation , and infection,” says Dr. Engelman.
The verdict: Never, ever in a million years use Elmer’s glue on your face.
2. Exfoliating with baking soda
Every grandma has a box of baking soda in the back of her fridge to combat weird odors like onions and garlic. It’s also great for cleaning toilets and bathroom tile. Tell me, why oh why would you use household cleaner to exfoliate your face?
“Baking soda can affect the pH level of your skin. Your skin is naturally acidic, and baking soda is highly alkaline, thus disrupting your skin barrier and its acidic mantle,” says Dr. Engelman. “When the acid mantle is disrupted, skin is more prone to irritation, breakouts , and superficial infections.” This is only made worse when the baking soda is mixed with water or lemon juice.
The verdict: Save it for the kitchen and bathroom.
3. Using lemon juice as a skin brightener
DIYers claim that the citric acid in lemon juice can help exfoliate, fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation over time. While Dr. Engelman stands by that benefit, she doesn’t recommend it to her patients. “It can risk acid burns , hyperpigmentation, and hypersensitivity to the sun,” she says. “You should always avoid the sun when using something that contains lemon juice as it contains a chemical called psoralen, which makes skin highly reactive to light for nearly a full day.”
The verdict: If you’re dying to DIY, use lemon juice diluted with water—not full strength—and stay inside for the rest of the day.
4. Putting eggs on your face
Back in the '80s, eggs and mayo became popular DIY hair mask ingredients. Now, egg whites have started popping up in DIY face masks for tightening effects. However, there’s a risk of salmonella when you ingest raw eggs. “If the eggs you are using have salmonella present and you accidentally ingest it, this is an absolute possibility,” says Dr. Engelman. “This is one I would leave out and trust a store-bought product that has undergone safety testing.”
One of our writers tried a homemade pore strip using egg whites, and it didn't really work. So why would you risk getting sick when a box of Biore strips is about the same price as a carton of eggs (and isn't gross)?
The verdict: Save your eggs for a scramble, and buy a tightening face mask at the drugstore instead.
5. Plumping your lips with spices like cinnamon and cayenne
Here’s a tip: If it burns when you rub it on your face, that’s probably not a good sign. “Cinnamon actually plumps by being inflammatory. You’re putting it on the lips to get inflammatory swelling,” says New York dermatologist Patricia Wexler, M.D. “The best way to get lip plumping would be to use a hyaluronic acid or silicones.” Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, this plant can cause a major reaction.
The verdict: Your face doesn’t need dry spice rub. Reserve the cinnamon and cayenne for a pork butt or rack of ribs.
6. Putting toothpaste on pimples
Every teenager growing up in the Internet age has tried putting toothpaste on a zit at least once. The web will tell you how toothpaste can dry up a pimple overnight. But dry skin can often mean more irritation. “Toothpaste is just drying—the most common ingredients are baking soda and peroxide and the third ingredient is frequently menthol, and they are all inflammatory," says Dr. Wexler. "You can use over-the-counter products like a salicylic acid or a benzoyl peroxide, which will have bacteria-killing properties and be an exfoliator.”
The verdict: Toothpaste ain’t cheap, so don’t waste it on your face.
You might also like: 6 Coconut Oil Beauty Hacks That Will Change Your Life