DIY Skincare That Might Be Doing More Harming Than Helping

We’ve all seen (and probably tried) DIY Skincare recipes on Pinterest, but are these actually helping your skin, or can they be harming it instead? Read to find out more!

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You! Put down that lemon! Yes, that lemon – the one in your hand.  Don’t tell me you were “just making lemonade.”  I know you were about to rub that all over your face.


I’m sure we’re all guilty of this: searching “DIY Face Masks” or “DIY Skincare” on Pinterest and proceeding to follow the instructions in hopes of getting flawless skin.  The reality is that most of these face masks can do more harm than good on the face… especially ones with lemon in them.  “But, why?” you wonder.  “Surely anything the internet tells me to do is good for me?”

Before I speak any more on this subject, let me just make a disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist, nor am I skincare expert, but I have read a few articles on the matter, so I guess I might be a little relevant here.  If you are so inclined, go ahead and rub as many lemons on your face as your merry little heart desires, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!


Our skin is a nifty little (or not so little) organ that protects us from the cruel reality of this demanding and mentally taxing world. At least physically.  This article states that our skin has a protective layer, appropriately called the “acid mantle,” with an approximate 5.5 pH.  This means that despite how bitter I am, my skin’s acid mantle is acidic, hence the name, as I’ve already said.  It’s generally not a great idea to mess with this pH as it can lead to some pretty not-so-pretty skin conditions.

Here are some common Pinterest skincare ingredients that could screw with your acid mantle:

1. Lemon Juice
Aaaanyway, the reason I keep talking about lemons here is because they are the main ingredient in many of the DIY Face Masks you see on Pinterest – some even tell you to just take a plain old lemon, cut it in half, and actually rub the half on your face like ice cream boy because hey, why not? As I said in my disclaimer, if you’re really all about that life, like ride or die lemon rubbing, I guess I can respect that.


According to this article, yes, lemons should be good for your skin in theory as they contain ingredients that are frequently used in skincare, such as Vitamin C (to even out pigmentation), Citric Acid (exfoliation), and Niacin (even out pigmentation and help with dry skin).  The problem here is that the amounts of these ingredients in the lemon itself is up in the air, so you never know what exactly you’re getting.  The article also says other chemicals in lemons may be dangerous to the skin, especially when paired with the sun, and can lead to burns.  Unless you’re tryna spend the entirety of your lemon-loving life in the shade, I’d be inclined to skip the lemon facial here.

If you must continue to be a lemon-rubber, there is apparently a correct way to do so.  This article gives some advice on how to use lemons without completely souring (hahahaha someone please appreciate me) your disposition.  It states multiple times never to rub the lemon directly on your face (notice a common theme here), to only use lemon in small, diluted amounts in concentrated areas, and to stay out of the sun when using lemon juice. For example, if you want to lighten a freckle, you can apparently do so by taking a small amount of fresh lemon juice on the area using a toothpick.

Again, the article gives some side effects of lemons that I’m sure we all want to avoid.  Given the fact that lemons are much more acidic (around 2-3) than our skin, they can lead to irritation.  Additionally, there’s something super science-y called a “phototoxic reaction” that can happen when an ingredient in lemon called bergamot oil reacts with the UVA rays of the sun, leading to redness, burning, or blisters – yikes!

But is a rectangle a square?? Is every lemon a villain??

If you’re still absolutely obsessed with that lemon, it might be better to squeeze it up and drink it instead.  Or buy a candle.

2. Baking Soda
I myself am guilty of this one, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually stopped.  I hope my skin forgives me.  I’m sorry.  I’ll never do it again.  I promise.


Baking soda is all over the internet as some kind of “miracle” do-it-all product: it deodorizes your fridge, it’s a baking ingredient, it’s often a toothpaste ingredient, and, apparently, it’s great for your face! While it might be wonderful elsewhere, it definitely shouldn’t be used anywhere on your face.

Pinterest is full of “One Ingredient Exfoliating Face Masks” that feature baking soda.  The idea is usually to take some baking soda, mix it with water until it forms a paste, and then apply that paste to your face.  After it dries, you just introduce some water back into it to rub it around a bit, and then wash it off.

Remember our friend the acid mantle and its acidic pH? This article dumbs down chemistry for those of us (maybe it’s just me) who don’t want to relive the horrors of high school science labs to basically explain that when you mix baking soda (who goes by “sodium bicarbonate” in the streets) with water, by some magic, the solution becomes alkaline, aka, pH > 7.


Not only does this basic solution (like it’s chemically basic I’m actually not being shady here) disrupt our poor acid mantle, but the exfoliation factor of the grit can really tear up your skin.  This article explains how in a perfect world, exfoliation is supposed to remove old skin cells and speed up the cell renewal process, which helps prevent dull and wrinkled skin; however, not all exfoliators are created equal.

Baking soda can create tiny abrasions that damage the skin and ultimately can age it more – isn’t that what we’re trying to prevent here?  Other exfoliants (I don’t think this is a word… oh wait the article calls them “exfoliates”… whatever!) to avoid include walnut shells and seeds because they don’t dissolve and have sharp edges.  Although sugar and salt have sharp edges because they’re cube-y (geometry!), they apparently dissolve and become circular with the circular motion of application, so they should be ok, but…

3. Sugar/Salt
Oh no! Two article on the internet contradict each other? Shocking.  Although the article I mentioned above says sugar and salt should be okey dokey for the skin, this article says otherwise.


The issue here is not with the abrasion, but with the fact that sugar and salt draw moisture out of the skin, which increases the speed of cells dying.   The explanation on this is that sugar and salt are both preservatives and draw moisture out to replace it with their own sugar and salt-ness. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on sugar and salt not being good for the skin (one of my favorite face scrubs is this Charcoal & Black Sugar Facial Polishing Mask), but I thought this might be worth a mention.  To anyone who might be reading – any thoughts out there on this?

The lesson here? Take these DIY Face Masks with a grain of salt – just think twice before putting any on your face!  As already stated, I’m not a professional on skincare, I’m just a humble college student who turned 21 this year and is faced with the terrifying and inevitable concept that is aging and I’m trying to preserve what I’ve got here!  I probably won’t drop out of business school to take up dermatology anytime soon either.

But I digress.  Anywho, has anybody read anything similar to what I’ve mentioned? What other common skincare ingredients have you heard aren’t so great for the skin?

“pH Balance of Skin” / LINK
“Fact Check: Should You Use Lemon Juice On Your Skin?” / LINK

“Why You Should Absolutely Not Use Baking Soda As An Exfoliator” / LINK
“The Why’s and How’s of Exfoliation” / LINK

“Are sugar and salt scrubs actually bad for your skin?” / LINK

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5 thoughts on “DIY Skincare That Might Be Doing More Harming Than Helping

  1. […] It’s been a hot minute since I wrote any posts about skincare, and when I say hot, I mean hot – aka it’s been over 85°F and super humid, which is a combo that both my hair and skin do not enjoy.  In this post, I’ll be talking about the products I’ve been loving lately and how I keep my skin happy and healthy during these hot summer months (if you’d like to read about what I don’t do, you can check out my DIY Skincare That Might Be Doing More Harming Than Helping post here!). […]


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