Myths About Natural Beauty Solutions We Have To Stop Believing

There's almost nothing more fun than browsing the beauty aisle for new creams, serums, and treatments to experiment with — well, except for making your own. There's a reason cucumber eye coverings and avocado face masks were slumber party mainstays when we were younger. There's just something about grabbing items from the pantry and whipping them into beautifying solutions that feels inventive, if not a little bit mad scientist-y.

That might be why natural, do-it-yourself beauty is so popular online. On TikTok, the search term "DIY beauty" has nearly 600 million views. Countless videos teach viewers how to create their own scrubs, DIY face masks, and even foundation. Given that many of these popular videos involve easily accessible, all-natural ingredients like food and essential oils, it can seem like the stakes are low when trying them out (if you'd eat a banana, what could go wrong by putting it on your face?).

However, many of us have been misled about natural beauty solutions. "Generally speaking, just because something may have possible benefits when you consume it doesn't mean you will get the same benefits if you use it on your skin," celebrity dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman told Self. Put down the lemons and coconut oil and first make sure you know the truth about DIY beauty hacks.

Myth: Natural is always better

By now, most of us have heard the claim that clean beauty is better for you, and those wanting to take their clean beauty routine to the next level may seek out DIY dupes of their favorite packaged products. However, made-from-scratch beauty isn't necessarily better for your body. "People think that 'natural' is better, but I always remind them that things like cyanide and arsenic are natural, too," Dr. Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist, shared with Well+Good.

Chances are, you won't be tempted to put cyanide or arsenic on your skin or hair. However, even a DIY moisturizer using oils or a homemade toner containing fruit juice can do serious damage without the right preservatives and formula. "You don't want to expose the skin to harmful microbes or bacteria and even stable products can irritate the skin if they aren't properly formulated with the right ingredients in the right ratios," Abena Antwi, associate research fellow for Burt's Bees, explained to Women's Health. "A talented chemist who is experienced with both the art and science of natural formulations can take all of this into account when making a product."

Then, there's the role of medical intervention. In the case of acne, for instance, the American Academy of Dermatology Association notes that a doctor might suggest prescriptions to get breakouts under control. Relying solely on natural solutions may only prolong skin issues in the end.

Myth: DIY skincare is mild and non-irritating

If you've ever suffered a bad reaction to a skincare product, it's easy to assume that it was caused by one of the many exotic-sounding ingredients listed on the label. While that could be true, it doesn't mean that a more familiar, simple-sounding ingredient would be much better. "Some natural ingredients can cause irritation no matter what your skin type is," Dr. Anna Baker, a cosmetic and dermatology nurse practitioner, revealed to Natural Health. "Essential oils such as lavender, tea-tree and jasmine are common in natural formulations — they are fantastic antioxidants and contain a vast array of benefits, but can still be irritating to the skin of some people and cause redness, itchiness or even burning."

The same goes for ingredients in your kitchen. According to Healthline, lemon — a favorite ingredient among DIYers on TikTok — tends to irritate the skin more than it helps it. Redness, blistering, discoloration, and burning are just some of the potential risks. Vinegar is another no-no, according to some derms. "The potentially harmful effects range from irritation, exaggerated sunburn, superficial chemical burn (from repetitive application), and depigmentation as a result of the initial irritation," Dr. Shasa Hu, a dermatologist in Miami, told Allure.

Moral of the story: just because something has a short ingredient list or contains easy-to-pronounce food items doesn't mean it won't irritate the skin.

Myth: There are no hidden ingredients in DIY beauty

Some of the ingredients lurking in store-bought beauty products may put you at risk for serious health issues, including cancer, according to Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. One way to cut nasties out of your skin and hair care routine is to make your own beauty solutions — but keep in mind that there can be hidden ingredients in DIY goods, too.

Your avocado face mask might have more than just avocado in it. As Dr. Madhuri Agarwal, a Mumbai-based celebrity dermatologist, told The Established, many plants and foods contain hidden pesticides — or, in the case of animal products like milk, hormones. You may also run into bacteria like salmonella when rubbing raw food on your face. Healthline points out it could make you seriously sick if the bacteria reaches your mouth.

Non-food ingredients can also contain hidden additives. Johns Hopkins Medicine warns that essential oil formulas, including ones commonly used in beauty like tea tree oil, aren't regulated, and the labels may not name everything inside the bottle. Translation: The essential oil you're using in your DIY concoctions may contain more than just essential oils.

Myth: Natural beauty solutions are cheaper than store-bought ones

At first glance, a hair mask or face moisturizer containing things you can find in your grocery store's produce section might seem like an inexpensive alternative to heading to a spa. Sure, occasionally swapping your fancy skincare products for a DIY version could save you a little bit of money. However, depending on natural beauty solutions too often may actually drain your bank account. "When it comes to skin, it can lead to unnecessary fear or panic where it is not needed, wasting of resources such as money on products unable to treat medical problems, potential delay in treatment, as well as potentially worsening one's psychological health," Dr. Anjali Mahto, a spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists, told the Evening Standard. In other words, DIY solutions may have you shelling out more money for the same (or worse) results than if you purchased a product or prescription.

Similarly, aesthetician Haley Kulow adds that trial and error is a common — and costly — part of the DIY approach. "It's no secret that ingredients you find in your kitchen are similar to the types of ingredients you find in your skin care products," Kulow told Dermstore. "The problem is when people try to make their own masks or products without fully understanding how they work together. This can result in a big mess with no major changes to your skin."

Myth: Natural beauty products are better for the environment

If you're going to try to banish blackheads or tame frizz, it might seem like the most eco-friendly way is to stick to natural ingredients that are made from the earth. However, natural beauty solutions aren't automatically better for the environment compared to processed and store-bought options. For one, you'll likely still have to deal with wasteful packaging, even if you're using natural ingredients (think plastic bottles for lemon juice or bags for coffee grounds). If your DIY remedies contain multiple ingredients, you might be going through even more packaging and resources than if you bought one bottle of serum, for example.

It's also important to note that natural ingredients aren't always produced in ways that are kind to the environment. A 2020 research article published in Current Biology argued that coconut oil (sometimes used in homemade skin moisturizers and hair masks) threatened more species than any other oil. The production of coffee, a go-to for DIY scrubs, releases more carbon than many types of meat, according to Our World in Data. Many other natural beauty ingredients may be not-so-friendly to the environment as well, especially when their journey from the ground to the bathroom sink is hard to trace. Just because something isn't synthetic doesn't always make it more sustainable.

Myth: Natural beauty solutions should be avoided at all costs

The myth-busting facts on DIY beauty may make it sound like something to stay away from. However, depending on your beauty goals and which ingredients you choose to include in your homemade solutions, you might find that some DIY options have their place in your skin and hair routine.

First, just because you saw it on TikTok doesn't make it a good idea. "Always be mindful of selecting safe yet effective ingredients. With the advent of social media and a plethora of influencer videos on skin care DIY tips, it can get overwhelming and at times confusing," Dr. Batul Patel, medical director at The Bombay Skin Clinic, explained to Vogue India. When making skincare from scratch, Dr. Patel suggested getting to know your skin type and doing a patch test before trying new ingredients.

It's also a good idea to research an ingredient before applying it to your skin or hair, no matter how innocuous it may appear. Tried-and-tested remedies like oatmeal for itchiness and fresh aloe vera for burns are good places to start when trying natural beauty solutions. However, even they can cause irritation depending on the condition of your skin and how you use the ingredients. When in doubt, talk to your doctor or dermatologist before turning your kitchen into a makeshift beauty treatment factory.