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For a long time now, any discourse about wellness and health has been centered on what we put into our bodies—but what about what we put on them?  Skin is your largest organ, and it can help fight disease as much as it can affect ageing.  In this day and age any drugstore offers plenty of options when it comes to what we put on our face, but for many, nothing will ever replace the cheapness and efficiency of a DIY mask straight from the kitchen.

So what’s the catch?  Many of these recipes are circulated with testimonials of their working wonders, or with the praises of a well-known beauty blogger.  Plus, isn’t all of this stuff natural?


Purchase Josie Maran 100 percent Pure Argan Oil here!

Unfortunately, we’ve let ‘natural’ become equivalent to ‘good for you’, and it may be doing more harm to your skin than you think.   In this short guide, I’ll be breaking down common DIY ingredients based on how effective or harmful they are for your skin.

Don’t #1: Overly Acidic or Alkaline Ingredients

Your skin has a natural pH between 4 and 6, and it needs to be maintained.  Extremely acidic ingredients like lemons and apple cider vinegar (which remains acidic when outside of the body) should be avoided at all cost.  These will increase the skin’s photosensitivity, which can cause all kinds of problems from premature aging to hyperpigmentation. 

The same goes for alkaline ingredients such as baking soda, which has a pH of 9 to 11 on its’ own.  Applying this to your face, which already has an acidic pH, is obviously not a good idea.

Instead Use: Non-citrus fruit masks

Be sure to keep the pH in mind when you apply these masks.

Don’t #2: Fragrance

While it may be the most attractive part of a product, research has shown that fragrance in skin-care products is one of the most common causes of sensitizing and allergic reactions.  Below the surface, fragrance creates collagen breakdown, which means that although you can’t see it, your skin’s ability to firm skin is dropping.  Unfortunately this includes most essential oils, popular in many DIY recipes because of their so-called healing properties.

Instead Use: A Light Non-Essential Oil

Contrary to popular myth, mineral oil and pure argan oil does not clog pores and is in fact very beneficial to skin.

Don’t #3: Comedogenic Oils

This one is a little less general but should be mentioned nonetheless, because using oils in beauty is an extremely popular trend.  Coconut oil receives very mixed reviews—while being high up on the comedogenic scale, a lot of people seem to like using it.  A good rule is to keep your own skin type in mind—if you tend to get oily skin, this might not be a good ingredient to use.  The same goes for olive oil.

Instead Use: Honey (raw or manuka) or clay (kaolin or bentonite)

These ingredients can be used as a base for almost any DIY product and are highly effective for all skin types.  That being said, don’t be a cheapskate and use cat litter for the bentonite—it contains other ingredients that are harmful (that, and the fact that ew).

Don’t #4: Sharp or Coarse Grain

Although it seems tempting to turn to sugar, salt, or coffee grinds as an alternative to the infamous pollutants, microbeads, stay clear—the sharp edges on these will cause microscopic tears in the top layer of the skin, allowing bacteria to enter.  Adding the act of scrubbing skin to this only worsens the effect. 

Cinnamon powder is another exfoliating ingredient that should also be avoided because although it is usually finer, it can cause inflammations and redness in the long term.

Instead Use: Rice Flour or jojoba beads

Exfoliating shouldn’t feel like you are scrubbing rocks on your face—just because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!  Use these gentle alternatives to get rid of dead skin cells.

It might seem like a lot, but really, being knowledgeable about your own body is empowering in the best way possible.  The next time you find a cool pumpkin spice and lemon scrub online, think about what’s really happening when you put it on your face.  Your skin will thank you for it!


Meerabelle Jesuthasan is a college student who loves being busy and being critical.  Her blog, Pop Manifest, is a product of this examining the cross sections between social issues and media. 


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