There are 47 million Instagram hashtags for #DIY. It’s a hot topic for everything from home décor to crafting, and of course beauty. DIY skincare is hyped as a safe and affordable alternative to store-bought products. Just because it can grow in your backyard or exists in your medicine cabinet, doesn’t mean it’s good for your skin. Looking into cleaner cosmetics isn’t a bad idea, but some natural ingredients YouTube and Instagram sensations swear by can cause adverse side effects. Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a board-certified Boston Area Dermatopathologist, warns us about the most touted DIY skincare ingredients and why you should never put them on your face.
Take these products off of your skincare DIY List
Toothpaste for acne spots
Treating pimples with toothpaste is backed by many who have extolled its drying properties. While it can dry the pimple out, Dr. Frieling explains, “it can also cause irritation, redness, and even peeling.” The trend most likely started because toothpaste contains ingredients such as baking soda or hydrogen peroxide, which are drying. “This is no better than any over-the-counter products,” she adds “and may make the problem worse.” The chemical and ingredients in toothpaste that fight bacteria are made for your teeth, not your skin!
Citric acid (lemons and limes) as toners
You may have seen DIY exfoliators or toners featuring lemon juice as an ingredient — but you should really avoid putting this on your face. Dr. Frieling shares, “Because of its high acidity, lemon juice can disrupt the natural pH levels of your skin leading to irritation and hyperpigmentation.” While this reaction is not the same for everyone else, it’s best to stay away from lemon juice, as you the acidity varies for every lemon.
“A small splash of lemon juice on an acne scar or blemish is said to reduce hyperpigmentation and lighten the skin. But, you may leave your skin with a bigger problem if you go in the sun.” Dr. Frieling explains that citric acid in its natural form contains a phototoxic compound called psoralens, which can cause a severe chemical burn when exposed to UV rays. Thankfully, this compound can be extracted from lemon juice through processing, so just because a product contains citric acid doesn’t mean you should always avoid it.
Rubbing alcohol to dry acne
At the crux of germ-fighting products, rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol cleans wounds, disinfects, and sanitizes the skin. You think it would be great for your face too, right? Think again! “Repeated exposure to isopropyl alcohol on the face strips the skin of its natural protective barrier, oils, and irritates the skin.” shares Dr. Frieling. While rubbing alcohol works great to remove bacteria, it’s not always what is causing acne breakouts. “Good acne products treat all aspects of the problem,” she adds, not just the surface of the skin. “They should target the inner layers of the skin and protecting it’s natural pH levels in ways rubbing alcohol can’t,” says Dr. Frieling.
Baking soda as an exfoliator
Baking soda is an alkaline, meaning it attempts to neutralize acidity. When it comes to healthy skin, Dr. Frieling says it should have a pH level of around 5.5. “Baking soda (a pH of 9) can alter the outer layer of skin and actually cause it to break down,” she adds, “leaving the skin vulnerable to bacteria and worsening the condition.” Baking soda, much like salt or sugar, is also used as a physical exfoliator. Although it can be useful in removing dead skin cells, Dr. Frieling does not recommend using baking soda on the face as over-exfoliation causes irritation.
Raw eggs in your face mask
Anyone tell you not to eat raw eggs? Claims of salmonella and stomach issues would persuade you against it, but what about your face? While egg whites are definitely the cheaper alternative to most serums, Dr. Frieling says it should not go anywhere near your face. “If you have a scratch or unhealed blemish on your face, putting raw egg whites on your face can cause infection, not to mention possible allergic reactions,” she explains. “Egg white masks are said to tighten pores and brighten the skin, but any pore-tightening properties just get wiped away when washed off.”
Coconut oil as a moisturizer or cleanser
It’s excellent for food, hair, and even the legs, but coconut oil needs to stay far away from your face. Some claim it does wonders for their skin, making it brighter and smoother, others not so much. “Coconut oil is extremely comedogenic,” says Dr. Frieling “it can’t be absorbed into the skin, clogging your pores, and causing more breakouts.” But what about as a cleanser? “Even after washing off, coconut oil leaves a thin layer of film left behind which can suffocate your pores.” adds Dr. Frieling. As an alternative, other plant-based oils like Argan oil are anti-comedogenic are great for removing makeup.
Board Certified Dermatopathologist Dr. Gretchen Frieling
Dr. Gretchen Frieling (“Dr. G”), MD is a Harvard-trained, board-certified Dermatopathologist, with over 10 years of experience in Medicine and Dermatopathology. With a background notable for intensive ballet, including the Juilliard School, Dr. G combines her artistic eye, perfectionistic qualities, and medical expertise, to give her patients the ability to be better versions of themselves. Dr. G has an extensive academic background, including numerous publications in peer-reviewed medical journals, selected Editor of medical journals, an author of noteworthy medical textbook chapters, educator at the Harvard Medical School, and speaker at many national medical conferences.
When it comes to non-surgical cosmetic procedures, Dr. Frieling has mastered the art of re-defining and re-vitalizing the face by eliminating fine lines, wrinkles and re-establishing volume with a minimalistic approach. She is the founder and CEO of the GFaceMD luxury medical skincare line. GFaceMD is a unique, boutique, client-focused aesthetic practice, with a mission to optimize beauty through advanced microenhancement techniques with utmost professionalism, education, and confidentiality. Services include injectables from neurotoxins to dermal fillers, fat dissolving treatments, collagen-stimulating treatments, laser treatments, medical facials, microneedling, chemical peels, dermaplaning, and more. Along with splitting her time as a practicing Dermatopathologist, Dr. Frieling enjoys spending time with her husband, her two kids, and extended family, as well as volunteering in the community. She is an avid philanthropist, serving as a judge in the Miss Pink Organization, an active member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and a contributor to many non-profit organizations, including My Life My Choice and St. Jude.