Mask Off: A DIY Mask Showdown pt. 1

When it comes to the facial mask, many of us are comfortable doing these ourselves at home. There are hundreds of DIY recipes for face masks across the internet which makes the process easy.  But just because we can find these DIY face mask ingredients in our refrigerators and cupboards, it doesn’t necessarily mean it belongs on our faces. Skin care masks are generally formulated in such a way to address issues without compromising our pH or destroying our protective barrier. The food around our house… not so much.

Ingredients You Definitely Don’t Want On Your Face

Please, keep the following in your refrigerators/cupboards: lemon, baking soda, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and toothpaste.

Lemon is the culprit that upsets me the most. Many amateur beauty bloggers tout the benefits of lemon as a “natural” means of skin lightening to correct scars. However, lemon is too acidic to be placed on our skin. The moment you add that into your DIY mask mix is the moment you start stripping away your acid mantle. Plus, too much time in the sun and your DIY lemon mask/salve/tonic will literally burn your skin. Drinking lemon water? A perfectly fine way to detoxify the skin. Putting lemon juice on your face (or under your arms, or anywhere else on your body)? Pump your brakes. And stay away from limes, too (for the same reasons).

Baking soda is the opposite. With a pH of 9, it’s too alkaline for our skin and can actually lead to more breakouts. In DIY recipes, baking soda gets your skin so smooth because it is quite literally stripping your skin (or, the protective barrier of your skin) away. Basically, baking soda is the premier DIY ingredient for premature aging.

Okay, so you’ve found a DIY mask recipe that doesn’t mention lemon or baking soda. You think you’re in the clear. But then you see the recipe calls for something in your spice cabinet. What’s that? They want you to put cayenne pepper on your skin? It calls for just a tiny amount so you figure it can’t hurt but you’ll soon find out they were wrong about that. Most DIY recipes that call for cayenne pepper tout it’s ability to “increase blood flow”. In reality, cayenne prevents blood clots and even then it must be ingested to take effect. So really you’re just giving yourself a mild first-degree burn. Cayenne peppers contain capsaicin—a highly alkaline irritant to all mammals—which causes that immediate burning sensation. You’ll find some studies that show the benefits of cayenne (or rather, capsaicin) for treating psoriasis but even that holds some debate in medical circles. Cayenne is great in your diet but on your skin? No thanks.

Cinnamon is one of those ingredients I sometimes see in mask recipes that makes me think the author slid in for fragrance only. The cinnamon we have at home generally is not enough to be used for an effective skin care treatment. In order for it to be effective, you would need an extremely high concentration of cinnamon (think cinnamon extract)… and a professional. While the spice smells delightful to some, it is absolutely irritating on the skin and can result in dermatitis.

Toothpaste is for your teeth. It’s in the name. And it actually isn’t as effective at zapping zits as you may think. You are much better off dabbing tea tree oil or benzoyl peroxide on them instead.

These are some ingredients that you could use in a very light moderation (like every 1-3 months):

  • Sugar—this is totally okay to use in a DIY scrub on your lips, hands, and feet. While our lips seem delicate and soft (or, at least, we want them to be) they actually are quite resilient. And a nice sugar scrub on calloused hands and feet can’t hurt.
  • Egg whites—these are actually a lot more safer to put on your face than a lot of these other ingredients BUT they have to be fresh eggs. Otherwise you’d just be giving yourself a salmonella mask instead.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide—keep this on hand for cuts, not for your face mask (and not for your toner either). Prolonged use of hydrogen peroxide can break down the protective barrier of your skin, cause sensitivities/irritation or all three.

So, before you run to the kitchen to test out the latest Pinterest or Instagram face mask recipe, make sure you really understand how those ingredients really affect your skin. Or just book an appointment with your favorite esthetician and save yourself the drama. Got any questions about DIY ingredients? Leave them in the comments below and check back next week for part 2!

Image credit: Instagram user @easyb via Black Boys Rock on Tumblr

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