With little to no access to skincare experts in 2020, let us be the first to admit that we took our monthly facials into our own hands. From trying new beauty must-haves to switching up our nighttime ritual, our at-home skincare regimen looked a lot different last year than it has pre-pandemic.
According to Twitter stats shared with Byrdie exclusively, we weren’t the only ones. The beauty conversation on the social media platform was also filled with influencers tweeting about everything from product recommendations to skincare tips. In fact, there was a tweet every 12 seconds about skincare.
Amongst these tweets included some skincare DIYs that seriously left us questioning whether or not some beauty methods should just be left to the professionals. We weren’t too far off. According to celebrity aesthetician and dermatological nurse, Natalie Aguilar, "many people have turned to bizarre treatments and intense beauty gadgets to maintain their skin while sheltering in place. I recommend sticking to the basics."
Ahead, we spoke to a series of trusted estheticians and dermatologists to learn which DIYs we should all ditch this year.
Meet the Expert
- Natalie Aguilar: Celebrity Aesthetician and Dermatological Nurse
- Vanessa Coppola: MSN, FNP-BC, APN-C: Founder of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa
- Vanessa Marc: Owner/Founder of Vanessa Marc Spa
- Dr. Onyeka Obioha, FAAD: Board Certified Medical & Cosmetic Dermatologist and Member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Board
- Renée Rouleau: Celebrity Esthetician and Founder of Renée Rouleau Skin Care
- Dr. Morgan Rabach: Dermatologist and Member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Board
- Heather Nicole: Celebrity Master Esthetician, Founder of Heather Nicole Advanced Integrative Skincare
- Sarah Akram: Celebrity Master Esthetician, Founder of Sarah Akram Skincare
At-Home Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal has gained popularity over the years as an FDA-approved method to permanently reduce hair growth. The office treatments typically range in cost from $75-$350 per treatment session. Multiple treatments are recommended for best results.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: According to Coppola, laser hair removal has always been thought of as an "in-office" skincare treatment. However, with more at-home laser hair removal devices popping up on the internet, we wondered why it wasn’t such a great idea to try removing our body hair in our bedrooms.
While do-it-yourself hair removal devices may appear to be relatively safe, they are not without complications," Coppola cautions us about at-home hair reduction products that have far less power than FDA-approved medical devices. "These products may not be safe for all skin types—especially for darker skin tones, who have a higher risk of being burned and potentially scarred."
She continues, "In-office lasers have very sophisticated settings to help reduce this risk, allowing practitioners to safely treat a variety of skin types and skin tones. At-home laser hair removal devices are not equipped with this level of functionality."
It is important to remember that although the word "removal" is in its name, the treatment is actually laser hair reduction. In actuality, there is no way to permanently remove all hair follicles.
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: Coppola suggests returning to traditional shaving with a razor and shaving cream. A depilatory cream also can work wonders.
Exfoliating Facial Scrubs
Exfoliating facial scrubs come in a variety of formulas to solve various skin blemishes, including pesky blackheads. The skincare products that are available with both luxury and drugstore prices are often sought out to achieve a glowing complexion.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: While the feeling of exfoliating can be invigorating, using the wrong products may be doing more harm than good on your skin. “Make sure you know what’s in your facial scrubs,” Marc implores, highlighting the dangers of abrasive ingredients. This includes fine walnut powder that can result in microtears and cause skin infections and overall irritation.
Unfortunately, Jennifer Lopez says she learned the hard way about over-exfoliation. Back in December, the entertainer spoke to us about her personal facial scrub trauma that resulted in a terrible breakout around her mouth area. Upon visiting a dermatologist, she soon learned that overdoing her at-home exfoliation was causing the skin around her mouth to become irritated and thin. "There are certain products like scrubs for the skin that are really damaging, especially as you age," she told Byrdie.
Skin Tag Removal
Although benign, skin tags are pesky skin growths. They are most commonly found in areas where the skin folds or where there is friction. For cosmetic reasons, most people opt to remove these growths that often show up on the neck, underarms, under the breasts, groin, and eyelids. Treatment prices can vary from $100-$1000 depending on the area and amount of tags.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: According to Dr. Obioha, the amount of DIY recommendations for skin tag removal is shocking— and in some cases harmful for the skin, due to risks of scarring and infection.
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: The professional suggests opting for a snip, cautery, or cryotherapy removal in the office to prevent scarring. Learn more about properly removing skin tags, here.
Microneedling is a treatment that requires using a tool that consists of several tiny needles to puncture the skin. It has become a popular option at most medical spas for collagen-building, skin tightening, and evening out the skin tone. Microneedling pen treatments usually range from $500-$750, whereas radiofrequency microneedling can cost up to $1500 per session.
Rouleau says, "when you’re microneedling, your skin is being injured. Injury can actually be a good thing because it sends a signal to tell your skin to stimulate and repair. However, it’s important to give your skin the time it needs to repair and recover after a treatment."
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: Personal microneedling sessions have become more popular than ever thanks to at-home tools being marketed to everyday people. Despite this, most experts we spoke to agreed that the benefits of microneedling were outweighed by the concerns of infection, bruising, or even irreversible scarring and damage.
Dr. Obioha insists that unsterilized at-home rollers are a "no-no" due to concerns about infection. "There's a high margin of error with microneedling pens, especially for those without any knowledge or training. There's also a big concern with sterility," she explains about worries of spreading bacteria on the skin.
Echoing her fellow professional's sentiments, Aguilar reveals her concerns about unsterilized derma rollers, microneedling pens, or microinfusion stampers being sold on the black market for unbelievably low prices. "These needles are supposed to be sterile," she explains, citing that contaminated needles can pose a risk of a serious infection. "Needles also come in many sizes to target different skin issues. Using the wrong size can also create visible permanent scars or discoloration from traumatic inflammation and injury."
Coppola adds, "The deeper depths are even more dangerous. Our skin is naturally covered with a host of microorganisms. Using 0.3 microns or higher derma rollers can push these microorganisms deep into the skin, increasing the risk of infection."
Aguilar advocates leaving microneedling to the professionals, especially those qualified in choosing the right serum while performing the treatment.
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: The professionals suggest using retinol or a prescription retinoid as a much safer alternative for encouraging collagen production, which is achieved from professional microneedling treatments.
As a safe alternative, Aguilar suggests using the LightStim Wand ($249). Approved by the FDA, the red light therapy wand assists in tightening skin and stimulating collagen safely at home.
DIY Face Masks
DIY face masks are on the rise, especially with the pandemic at-hand. Most face masks are used to address different concerns varying from acne and hyperpigmentation to hydration and fine lines. As a part of a basic professional facial, this treatment can cost anywhere from $50-$200.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: While you may believe using ingredients from your refrigerator and pantry may be beneficial to your skin’s glow up, some experts advise you to think again.
"Honey, lemon, and green tea are all great ingredients for a cup of hot tea, but not so much for your face,"Akram reminds us.
"If added incorrectly, the use of comedogenic ingredients—like Coconut oil or Moringa Oil—can cause breakouts. Acids like lemon juice or vinegar can cause burns. And certain fruits like lime juice, avocado, or other citrus fruits can cause phytophotodermatitis—a sub induced inflammatory problem that can lead to blisters and irregularities of pigmentation," Dr. Rabach explains about mistakes often made by those who make DIY masks. "Scrubs with harsh coffee grinds can also cause burns and abrasions."
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: Rather than mixing together a home-made concoction from your kitchen, Akram recommends face masks that are scientifically-proven and formulated with safe ingredients to enhance and improve your skin. Find the face masks we love here.
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that leaves zero damage to the skin. It’s often used to renew the patient's overall skin tone and texture by decreasing acne scarring and discoloration while smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen. A professional microdermabrasion facial can cost anywhere from $150-$350, which can vary depending on where you live.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: In 2020, DIY microdermabrasion methods definitely caught our attention. Nevertheless, the at-home treatment has been flagged by experts with worries that misguided use can result in skin sensitivity and damage.
"At-home microdermabrasion can be more harmful than helpful," Nicole explains. "The microdermabrasion tips tend to be a lower quality, which can scratch the surface of your skin and cause bruising."
"Using the wrong speed, depth, texture and pressure have left many people with cat-like scratches and facial discoloration," Aguilar cautions. She adds it is very important to avoid sun exposure, tanning creams, and waxing after a microdermabrasion treatment to avoid skin sensitivity.
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: Aguilar recommends investing in a high-quality face exfoliant such as Lifeline Skin Care Dual Action Exfoliator ($32). "Using an exfoliating face wipe is also a good alternative," she shares.
Dermaplaning is a treatment that involves a surgical-grade blade—basically a scalpel with a safety handle—to remove vellus hair (or "peach fuzz"). While the procedure removes unwanted hair, it also exfoliates the dead skin cells from the surface. This helps to reveal smoother and softer skin. A professional dermaplane tool typically ranges from $95-$175.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: Although the technique looks simple, Coppola suggests staying away from sharp dermaplaning blades that can cause serious injuries to the skin, including infections and scarring.
"At home dermaplaning is not a good idea. Due to the sharpness of the dermaplaning blade, this procedure should only be done by a licensed provider trained in the procedure," she explains. "Additionally, complications with the at-home treatment includes increased irritation for those with very sensitive skin or rosacea. For acne prone skin, dermaplaning could exacerbate the condition by causing a spread of the bacteria."
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: To ditch the worry of having cuts and irritation on your skin, Coppola advises using a gentle retinol or retinoid cream to help exfoliate and smooth the skin. She implores, "leave the dermaplaning to the pros!"
Pore vacuums are designed to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and debris from the pores through a suction tip. Professional extractions and microdermabrasion can cost around $150-$250 depending on the severity.
Why It's Not Suggested By Professionals: You’ve seen it all over your social media timeline—the tool that seemingly sucks all the blackheads from your nose without the slightest hesitation. However, the viral pore extraction tool may be doing more harm than good to your skincare routine, experts agree.
"Pore vacuums seem like a great way to get rid of those pesky blackheads and clogged pores at home, but the negatives truly outweigh the positives," Nicole publicizes. "Pore vacuums can cause a lot of irritation. And despite claims, they also do not get out anything deep in the skin, even if the skin has been properly prepped."
Diving more into the complications caused by the mini skincare vacuums, Akram adds, "This at-home tool can cause inflammation, bruising, broken capillaries, and severe skin damage."
Healthy Alternatives To Achieve The Same Results: Akram proposes the option of using a chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic or salicylic acid instead of a pore vacuum. "These acids can gently exfoliate the skin by removing the outermost layer of dead skin cells and unclog pores," she explains.
The Bottom Line
It's quite evident that research is very important when adopting new beauty trends, especially those going viral on social media. Nicole suggests that you carefully comb through cheap beauty tools with high caution. "Ordering anything off of the internet can be hit or miss," the esthetician explains. "Not all sellers are verified, and there are a lot of fake products. Reading the reviews before buying something online can help determine authenticity."
To avoid buying a knock off product that can cause rashes, irritation, scarring, and burning, she urges shoppers to purchase their favorite products "directly from a trusted and verified website." A bit frightened to try new products and tools? Aguilar advises you to stick to the basics. And if you should happen to see a gadget or tool that really appeals to you, she urges you to seek professional guidance before purchasing. "Reach out to your esthetician to see if it’s a tool that would benefit your skin type," she instructs.