Pinterest is a veritable gold mine of beauty tips, no doubt about it. However, not all of these tips actually deliver. In fact, some of them can worsen your skin (and, no, we’re not just talking about the kitty-litter face mask, because that’s just obvious). To help us figure out whether a squeeze of lemon will really brighten our dark spots or if we can swap our acne spot treatment for toothpaste, we reached out to Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. “Pinterest is a wonderful source for DIY rainy-day activities and recipes, but it's a pretty dangerous place to pick up your skincare regimen,” she says. “Remember that your skin is a delicate organ, and it functions best at a narrow pH that balances its own little ecosystem. Anything that disrupts this pH balance, either too acidic or too basic, will throw off its ideal functioning and risk inflammation, breakouts, worsening of conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema—and worse, it can even leave you with scars.” Yikes. For the top five Pinterest DIYs you should avoid at all costs, keep scrolling.
#1: Lemon and Sugar Exfoliating Scrub
One of the popular pins floating around involves mixing sugar with lemon water for a DIY exfoliating scrub. Word to the wise: Don’t. “The reason this is so dangerous is because the harsh sugar scrub physically breaks down the natural barriers of the skin and causes small breaks, leaving you vulnerable to infection,” Nazarian says. “The lemon juice is far too acidic for the skin and inflames the already broken barrier, leading to a lot of redness and irritation.” We’ll stick to one of these face scrubs for sensitive skin, thanks.
#2: Baking Soda Exfoliator
Here’s another popular skincare DIY: baking soda as an exfoliator or dark-spot brightener. Nazarian says to avoid anything with baking soda as an exfoliator because the pH is too far off from your skin’s normal balance—it’s far too basic (lemon juice, on the other hand, is too acidic). “Applying something that shifts your skin’s pH balance off will cause flareups of sensitive-skin conditions like eczema,” she warns.
#3: Toothpaste Spot Treatment
You probably picked this hack up from your bestie in high school—but it’s just as misguided as the other advice she gave you (like who you should go to prom with). The reason this myth emerged is because toothpaste contains ingredients that kill and dry out bacteria—thus, it will surely kill your bacteria-caused zit. Not so fast. “It’s a super-concentrated cleaner really meant for your teeth, not delicate skin,” Nazarian says. “Stripping the skin barrier with toothpaste is going to cause more irritation around the pimple, making it last longer and leaving you with a dark spot once it finally resolves.” Scary thought. If you’re in the market for a good spot treatment, we swear by Medik8’s BetaGel ($68) or Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion ($17).
#4: Honey-Based Masks
Here’s one that even caught us off-guard. Honey has long been touted for its antibacterial properties and used in many DIY masks to calm skin inflammations or acne-prone skin. According to Nazarian, this might not be the smartest thing. “Your skin responds to the outside environment by adjusting constantly, usually by sweating or creating oil (also known as sebum),” she explains. “When you occlude, or cover up, the pores with something like honey, you're essentially preventing the skin from breathing and interacting with the environment. So when the skin tries to sweat, it builds up and clogs the pores underneath, triggering more acne-like pimples.” Instead of honey, try reaching for ingredients like rose water or aloe—one of these DIY face mists can soothe your skin in seconds.
#5: Coconut Oil Masks
Are you sitting down? Your beloved coconut oil probably doesn’t belong on your face, according to Nazarian. She points out that coconut oil ranks high on the comedogenic scale—a 4 out of 5—which means it has a high likelihood of clogging your pores and causing comedones (i.e. pimples). Instead of coconut oil, she suggests swapping in an oil like argan oil, which hydrates and soothes without clogging your pores.
Were you surprised by any of this information? On that note, here are nine more beauty tips you should probably ignore on Pinterest.
Opening Image: Cocorinna