Falling prey to subpar beauty “hacks” can happen to the best of us. Maybe it’s an old trick passed down from a family member or a seemingly innocent tip you came across on Instagram. Hey, you might have even learned about the hack on the pages of an established magazine.
While many great beauty hacks do exist, like this brilliant Beauty Blender trick, it’s important to remember that there are a handful of not-so-great ones out there, too. For instance, using lemon juice on your skin is a bad idea (it’s way too acidic), and glopping toothpaste on your breasts to make them bigger is just plain silly. With expert help, we’re shedding light on some additional beauty hacks that don’t work – and in some cases, make things worse.
Popping a pimple with a safety pin
Using a “sterilized” safety pin to pop a zit? Not a good idea, says Rachel Liverman, esthetician and the founder GLOWBAR in NYC. At best, this will temporarily reduce the volume of the blemish, but believe her when she says that the damage it does isn’t worth it. Picking at zits can cause infection and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which takes months to improve.
If you must pop a pimple, wait until it’s fully formed and do so after taking a hot shower or using a hot compress. This will help soften the oil inside so it can be released more easily, says Liverman. Also, avoid using anything sharp, including safety pins, to pry out the puss. “I always encourage people to use the sides of their fingers, not the nails, in order to avoid scarring,” she adds.
Finally, when applying pressure, gently press down around the zit and not in, Liverman advises. If it doesn’t budge after two to three attempts, don’t mess with it anymore. Either let it come to a head on its own or make an appointment with an esthetician for a pro extraction or a dermatologist for a cortisone shot.
Using coconut oil as moisturizer
People have been talking about the magic of coconut oil for ages. It’s a wonderful ingredient to use in recipes and even has benefits when used in treatments like body scrubs, thanks to its fatty acid content. But slathering it on your face doesn’t always have the same effect.
While it’s harmless for most people, the stuff is thick. “Coconut oil is a highly comedogenic oil, which means it can clog pores,” says Deanne Robinson, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatology of Connecticut. “Applying it to your face is a horrible idea for anyone with active acne or acne-prone skin.”
If your pores tend to clog easily and blackheads are the bane of your existence, look for other ways to hydrate. “All skin needs to be moisturized — even oily and acne prone skin — but you should stick to a hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer, which is oil-free and non-comedogenic,” Dr. Robinson says.
Exfoliating with a baking soda scrub
Like lemon juice, baking soda tends to find its way into all kinds of DIY skin care recipes and beauty hacks. But Liverman says to avoid this pantry staple like the plague — at least when it comes to your delicate skin. That’s because it has a very high pH level (9) compared to skin’s ideal pH, which is 5.5.
“Baking soda is simply too harsh on skin and can leave it red or raw. It can also affect your skin health and how it reacts to other products,” Liverman explains. “I recommend exfoliating with gentle acids, like glycolic or salicylic acid.” We like The Organic Pharmacy Four Acid Peel ($55; dermstore.com); with glycolic, lactic, citric, and tartaric acid, it lightens dark spots, fights blemishes, and improves skin texture.
Treating acne with rubbing alcohol
A well-formulated astringent toner can be very beneficial, but for the love of everything please do not apply rubbing alcohol to your face. “Alcohol is very drying to the skin,” warns Sapna Palep, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “When you use a toner with alcohol in it, the excessive drying actually stimulates the skin to produce more oil, which is the opposite effect you are looking for.”
Those with acne often take a “beat it into submission” approach to skin care when really you should be as gentle and nurturing as possible. Toners are meant to balance your skin’s pH and replenish hydration after cleansing, not further strip the skin of essential moisture, so look for alcohol-free options with antimicrobial ingredients and alpha and beta hydroxy acids to keep pores from becoming clogged. Try Olehenriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner ($28; sephora.com).
Blending essential oils at home
Essentials oils are totally having a moment but be warned before you try your hand at the latest concoction you saw on YouTube. “I see patients who are trying to be ‘natural’ by blending essential oils come in with rashes and irritations all too often,” Dr. Robinson says. “The problem is that if essential oils aren’t properly diluted in a carrier oil, then they can cause skin or mucous membrane irritation.”
If you’re keen on going “green” or “clean,” there are many personal care products out there that’ll serve your needs without wreaking havoc on your skin. Dr. Robinson says to really take the time to educate yourself on ingredients and to read both the active and non-active ingredient labels. “When it comes to what you cover your body’s largest organ with, it’s best to leave it to the experts,” she says.
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