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9 DIY Skin-Care Ingredients That are Bad for Your Skin

With the Internet as our main resource for beauty tips, tricks and recipes, the information you’re getting from some stranger may not be the best—or even the safest—advice for your skin.

1. Baking Soda

While the scrubby texture of baking soda seems similar to the exfoliators in your favorite face scrub, the seemingly harmless powder is actually disastrous for your skin. Your skin has a natural pH of roughly 4.5 to 5, and when you mess with its pH levels, it will significantly damage your skin’s natural barrier, which is crucial for keeping bad bacteria out. Baking soda has a high pH of 9 so use it even once will cause damage to your skin, even if you can’t see it with your eyes, and prolonged use on the face will eventually cause significant moisture loss, along with compromising your skin’s ability to regulate itself.

2. Lemon

Unlike baking soda with a high pH, lemon juice is on the opposite side of the pH scale, with a pH of 2, meaning it’s highly, highly acidic. So when you apply pure lemon directly to your skin, the acids immediately disrupt your skin’s acid mantle and causes a significant amount of irritation on cellular levels. The oils in citrus fruits can cause blistering rashes and burns on your skin if you’re exposed to the sun after applying them.

3. Hairspray

Why would anyone put hairspray on their face?, you ask. Surprisingly, hairspray has been recommended by the beauty-obsessed as a quick, in-a-pinch makeup setting spray. And sure, accidentally getting some hairspray on your face often isn’t serious, but when you’re directly spraying it on your skin with the goal of setting your makeup, it’s incredibly, incredibly comedogenic, meaning it will clog your pores, and that’s on top of drying your skin out with its alcohol content.

4. Toothpaste

Please stop applying toothpaste to your zits and dark spots. Not only will it not work, but it’s also filled with irritating ingredients, like peppermint, peroxide, fragrances, and alcohol, making it the perfect combination of things that will tear up your skin and possibly lead to chemical burns. Instead, turn to a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment or even a dab of tea tree oil.

5. Hot Water

Hot water strips your skin’s moisture barrier, so we actually consider it an irritant. Yes, a steaming-hot shower feels excellent at nights, but the water will literally zap away your skin’s lipids, leaving you red, irritated, and itchy—which is especially scary for people with eczema, psoriasis, or keratosis pilaris, whose skin barrier are already compromised. Plus, drying out your skin will put your oil production into overdrive, leading to more acne and breakouts.

6. Hydrogen Peroxide

As a mild antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide is one of the best ways to prevent infections in minor cuts and burns, but as an ingredient in your DIY recipe, it’s a horrible, terrible idea. Not only is hydrogen peroxide a common allergen that can result in inflammation and burning of the skin with prolonged use, it will decrease your skin’s ability to heal itself and strip away all of your skin’s protective barriers and moisture levels.

7. Body Lotion

What the skin on your body and the skin on your face can and can’t handle are not the same. Most body lotions contain a ton of fragrance and fewer nourishing ingredients than a facial moisturizer, which is fine for your tough, resilient body, but potentially irritating and comedogenic for your face. Heavily fragranced body lotions are a big NO for anyone with rosacea or acne. Even if you don’t have skin issues, you’re still likely to have some sort of reaction, because fragrance is a top-three skin allergen, meaning it’s irritating for most people.

8. Sugar

Using sugar on your lips as an exfoliant is totally fine, because your lips tend to be more resilient and sturdy, but the jagged, angular edges of a sugar crystal are far too abrasive for your face, leading to tiny micro-tears in the surface of your skin that cause inflammation, red marks, and irritation. In fact, even store-bought face scrubs are often too harsh for the skin, since coffee beans, nut shells, and other natural exfoliators still have sharp edges. Instead, look for a scrub with rice bran powder which will gently exfoliates skin without tearing it up.

9. Rubbing Alcohol

Like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol is an antibacterial disinfectant used to sterilize wounds to avoid infection and to clean your house. Rubbing alcohol is one of the most drying, damaging ingredients you can put on your face. We use rubbing alcohol to replicate skin irritation in the lab, so it’s literally scientifically bad for your skin. It strips your skin barrier of essential lipids and proteins, leading to a decrease in moisture and an increase of bacteria and irritants getting in.