Hi All, I’m back after a long hiatus to share a compilation of products you should know are bad before trying! You’ll find a handful of experiences from redditors as well as some products I’ve personally experimented with during my prepubescent years.
1. Baking Soda/Powder
I’ve decided to introduce baking soda first in this article as it isn’t the most obvious product that can damage to your skin.
Baking soda is mostly used as a leavening agent that can cause the expansion of batter and other textures in baked and fried goods. A common view would be, “If we consume it then it should be harmless”, right?
Baking soda, on its own, is an acid. Although we currently use products that contain acids (e.g. AHAs and PHAs; products that help whiten skin or reduce dark acne spots—more on this in the next article) in daily skincare routines, sodium bicarbonate is one you should avoid.
“Baking soda can damage and remove your skin’s natural protective oil barrier, alter its pH, and disrupt the natural bacteria on the surface that help to prevent infection and acne. This can leave you with stripped skin that’s prone to infection and breakouts.” -HealthLine
To sum it up, baking soda can desensitize your skin and increase the risk of bacterial growth by removing the natural oil your skin produces to protect you. Baking soda can cause over-exfoliation of the skin that can lead to redness, breakouts, and dryness.
2. Lemons: Great for food, but not entirely great for skin.
Many faux beauty bloggers have been spreading rumors that lemon juice can help remove your blackheads or even get rid of pimples.
Although the latter may be partially true (due to the science of re-adjusting your PH level to decrease bacterial growth), using lemon juice directly onto your skin can dry out and irritate it while destroying your skin’s natural barrier.
With a PH level of 2 (which is equivalent to stomach acid), Lemon juice can cause photosensitization and phototoxic reaction (an enhanced sunburn caused by skin contact from psoralens that is commonly found also in lime juice).
“A 21-year-old woman presented to the infectious disease clinic complaining of a three-day history of a rash on her hands, arms, upper back and thighs. The rash began on the day that she returned to Canada after a one-week vacation at a resort in Cuba…On further questioning, it was learned that on the day before the onset of the rash, the patient applied lime juice to her hair to lighten it. She then spent the remainder of the day in the sun.” –US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
3. Au naturel Vinegar?
According to /r/hairscience, apple cider vinegar is extremely effective at removing caked on layers of conditioner (silicon) as well as regulating your scalps PH level. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same when applying it to your face.
Warning: vinegar can cause chemical burns on your face. User /u/mz809 explains just how dangerous vinegar is when applied to skin:
“I’ll keep this short and sweet as I have work coming up soon – I’ve struggled with acne my whole life, but as of the past couple of months I haven’t had a lot of problems with it besides the occasional pimple.
Well, the other day my face started to turn red. My mom noticed and recommended we try Apple Cider Vinegar – her friend told her it’s a great solution for acne and she had just bought some. Well, I woke up yesterday to this:”
Remember, although some products may be considered “natural”, it does not mean that it’s good for your skin.
4. Apply toothpaste to your teeth, not your face.
I remember back in middle school when my friends would tell me that toothpaste would get rid of my obnoxious pimples. Naive as I was, I applied toothpaste on my zits for a full year only to realize that it did more harm than good.
Toothpaste is theoretically really great at drying out pimples. The logic behind it is that since oils clog pores, drying the oil contained in your pore should help shrink and eventually eliminate pimples.
The issue with using toothpaste on your skin is that the ingredients (baking soda, sodium moral sulfate [soap], mint, and silica) are extremely irritating or abrasive. As we’ve mentioned earlier about baking soda, it can desensitize your skin and increase the risk of bacterial growth on top of drying out your skin and causing redness and breakouts.
Veronica Geogeois recommends using clay masks on blemishes as a quick and safe spot treatment alternative.
5. Alcohol (The Good and Bad)
Now this one gets a bit more complicated. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ alcohols when it comes to skincare.
‘Good alcohols’ are ingredients that help retain moisture on your skin as well as maintaining the longevity of shelf products. ‘Bad alcohols’ are ingredients that have a tendency to dry out skin.
Here’s a list of some ‘good alcohols’ to keep an eye out for in the ingredient sections of your skincare products:
- Cetyl alcohol
- Cetearyl alcohol
- Stearyl alcohol
- Lauryl alcohol
And a list of some ‘bad alcohols’:
- Ethanol alcohol
- Ethyl alcohol
- Propanol alcohol
- Alcohol denat
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Isopropanol alcohol
- Benzyl alcohol
Of course, each ingredient reacts differently for every skin type—some ‘bad alcohols’ may work well for those with oily skin (by reducing the amount of oil produced naturally) and some may not.
It’s all about trial and error. Always be sure to patch test first before purchasing!
6. St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub (or any product with walnut shells)
Very much like electric facial brushes, gel facial scrubs can also cause permanent damage to your skin. The bits of walnut shells/rocks/beads that are mixed in with these products are known to scratch and damage your skin.
In 2016, St Ive’s was sued for selling a product that contained ingredients that damaged skin:
“Kaylee Browning and Sarah Basile filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in central California against Unilever, the parent company of St. Ives. According to Top Class Actions, the plaintiffs claim the crushed walnut shells in the scrub can damage skin, and they balk at the use of “dermatologist tested” on the label.”- Today.com
Nutshell or sugar scrubs can cause tiny tears in the skin. While the tearing can’t be seen, these tiny openings can make it easier for bacteria or other irritants to get into the skin and cause infections. Long-term usage of these ingredients can enlarge your pores and increase the visibility of the tears over time.
Any type of exfoliation can damage your skin, which is why it’s always best to start with a gentle exfoliant, like a Konjac sponge or a low-dose AHA/BHA toner.
7. Pore Strips or Black Face Masks
Okay, I couldn’t find a reusable photo of black face masks/pore strips, so please bear with this free stock photo instead 🙂
I have a love/hate relationship with these. Back in middle school I absolutely LOVED applying pore strips and ripping it off my nose in hopes of seeing all the nasty and gross white/blackheads stuck to a piece of paper.
It was not until much recently I learned that the white particles I physically ripped from my nose were called sebaceous filaments. Comprised of triglycerides, wax esters and squalene, sebaceous filaments reside in the lining of your pores— their primary function is to channel the flow of sebum along that lining into the skin to moisturize it.
“For many people, sebaceous filaments will never become a visual nuisance — these filaments only become visible when the lining of your pore fills up with sebum. But for people with oily skin or enlarged pores, sebaceous filaments can rival the appearance of blackheads, although sebaceous filaments’ look more light grey or tan, rather than black.”
As tempting as it is to remove them from your skin— when you tear these filaments out of your pores, they unfortunately, end up stretching your pores and allow larger filaments to develop in their place.
Since large pores are a sign of dehydrated skin, the best way to get rid of them is to moisturize daily and with time they will diminish in size. You can check out other tips on how to reduce large pores here.
8. Your fingers!!
Keep your fingers at bay. Your hands come in contact with multiple objects throughout the day and what gets picked up by your hands can get transferred to your face. Dirt, bacteria, and other miscellaneous things can cause breakouts and skin rashes.
On the podcast, “Stuff You Should Know“, Chuck Bryant mentions that hands are extremely filthy and it is common for individuals to even have different cultures of bacteria living on different hands.
“So there’s this study that came out of the University of Colorado at Boulder. And they found some really surprising things using this technique called metagenomics, where they take a swab of – like a sample – of your hands. And then, rather than doing culture, they do basically a DNA profile for everything found in that swab. Well, they did 51 participants. They found 4,700 different bacteria species across the 51 participants…They found that the right and left palms of a single person shared only 17 percent of the bacterial species. So that means there’s different species on different hands of the same person”.
Unless you have recently washed and dried your hands, please refrain from touching your face.
I hope these tips and tricks have helped you better understand your skin. Although some products may seem harmless at first, they can cause long term damage to your skin.
If you have any tips and tricks to share with us or just wanna give a shout out, please comment below! Or catch me on my Insta! 🙂
Always remember to moisturize and sunblock, ya’ll!