- DIY skincare made from ingredients in your pantry can be cost-effective, but might not be the safest option for your skin.
- Stay away from isopropyl alcohol and citrus juice as toner, toothpaste as an acne treatment, and essential oils as scents in your homemade products, a dermatologist told Insider.
- Tea bags are one household item you can use for skincare. The caffeine and tannins in tea bags decrease undereye puffiness and darkness.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
More people are experimenting with homemade skincare because of its cost-effective and sustainable nature.
But a product or ingredient isn't skin-safe just because it comes from your pantry and is something you reach for daily, according to Dr. Annie Gonzalez, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida.
What you should be looking for is any ingredient in skincare — whether it's in your pantry or not — that has passed the gold-standard test of scientific evidence: a peer-reviewed study. That is the best way to ensure a product won't cause any adverse reactions when put in contact with your skin.
"When people use ingredients or products without fully understanding how they work, they run the risk of irritating or damaging their skin," regardless of how natural or safe they are in other non-skincare scenarios, Gonzalez told Insider.
Isopropyl alcohol as toner will promote acne
People with oily complexions can benefit from an extra cleansing step to ensure excess bacteria, which can promote breakouts, is removed from the skin. Some have touted isopropyl alcohol as an at-home option for this step because it's inexpensive and readily available. Alcohol is also known to kill bacteria on the hands and surfaces.
Toner is a water-like liquid you can sweep over your skin to remove dirt and bacteria buildup and add hydration. Some toners contain alcohol for bacteria-removing purposes, but dermatologists say it can strip the skin, cause it to overproduce oil to compensate, and lead to breakouts.
That's why Gonzalez warned against using isopropyl alcohol, a common household antiseptic, as a DIY toner.
"Continued exposure to isopropyl alcohol on the face strips the skin of its natural protective barrier, necessary oils, and irritates the skin," she said.
Citric acid as a toner substitute can burn your skin
Citric acid is an ingredient in many beloved skincare products, like chemical exfoliants that even out the skin's texture. The chemical is also found naturally in lemon and lime juice, which lots of people keep in their pantry.
But using citric acid straight from the source can be dangerous. According to Gonzalez, fresh lemon and lime juice, which aren't formulated for skin use, can strip your complexion and even lead to chemical burns if you're exposed to the sun.
"Due to its high acidity, citric acid disrupts your skin's natural pH levels, resulting in irritation and hyperpigmentation," she said.
But skincare products that contain the ingredient can be safe.
For example, chemical exfoliants that help remove dead skin cells from the skin's surface for a more even skin tone and texture might contain citric acid.
People with sensitive skin, however, should be careful about using any citric acid since it can lead to irritation.
Toothpaste as an acne treatment can increase redness
Toothpaste has long been considered a home-remedy spot treatment for pimples, but Gonzalez said it's not worth the risk of further skin irritation.
"Toothpaste is formulated to fight the germs and bacteria living in your mouth, not your skin. People may recommend putting toothpaste on a breakout to dry it out, but it can also cause irritation, redness, and even peeling," because it contains baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, two drying ingredients, she said.
Salt and sugar for exfoliation can tear your skin
Store-bought body scrubs often contain salt or sugar, so it might seem like a no-brainer to purchase these products or recreate them at home.
But Gonzalez warned against doing so because the crystallized substances can put tiny tears in your skin, which can then become infected.
Essential oils can also irritate sensitive skin
Essential oils, liquid compounds derived from plants like lavender and eucalyptus, are a popular way to add scents to natural and homemade skincare products.
Some essential oils also have antioxidants like caffeine that can reduce puffiness or peppermint, which can kill acne-causing bacteria.
Despite these benefits, they can also lead to skin burns and allergic reactions because of their potent nature, Gonzalez said.
Since the potential negative effects outweigh the positives, it's better to skip the scent altogether.
Tea bags: The one dermatologist-approved home skincare remedy
There's one home remedy Gonzalez will use though, and that's green tea bags for reducing under-eye puffiness and darkness.
"Whenever my face needs a good pick-me-up in the morning and I've ran out of my favorite eye cream, I stick two steeped green tea bags in the fridge for 20 minutes and then place them on my closed eyes for about 15 minutes," she said.
The caffeine in the tea makes under-eye blood vessels constrict, which in turn decreases puffiness. Tannins, another compound in tea bags, increase skin firmness while decreasing puffiness, said Gonzalez.
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