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8 DIY skincare treatments that are actually bad for your skin

Don’t try this at home.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 5 min read
Close-up of a woman's face. She is laying on a blue towel with cucumbers resting on her eyes.
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 5 min read
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

We’ve all been there: when all the drugstore products fail to fix our skin issues, we go to the opposite extreme and look for “natural” remedies. It may feel right or seem intuitive, but many of these DIY skincare trends have actually been proven ineffective at best — and at worst, they can aggravate acne. When it comes to your skin, DIY is usually a don’t. Some things are best left to the professionals—like your Curology provider!

Here, the skincare experts behind Curology give their two cents on the trends.

1. Apple cider vinegar as toner

Apple cider vinegar and teeth

Vinegar = acid, so using apple cider vinegar as a toner can burn sensitive skin! Remember: the burn does not mean it’s working. Intuitively, people tend to think the tingling sensation (whether you’re using apple cider vinegar or a drugstore-bought astringent) means it’s “cleaning” harder, but that’s not actually what happens.

On the other hand, there are some slight benefits to apple cider vinegar: it’s unfriendly to bacteria, and can provide mild exfoliation. The key is to dilute it enough so it won’t be too strong and irritating. If you want to try it, dilute 1 part vinegar with 4 parts water.

2. Coconut oil

Hand holding coconut

Coconut oil tends to block pores—slowly and imperceptibly. Some say it’s good for your skin because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, but you can get those same benefits without clogging pores from other products, such as your Curology cream. So avoid putting coconut oil on your skin, and check the ingredients of whatever washes, moisturizers, and makeup you’re using to make sure there isn’t any coconut oil in it. (It’s fine to add coconut oil to your diet, though!)

3. Sea salt scrubs

Sea salt on spoon

Sure, salt can be good for your skin: epsom salt baths, for example, or saline for helping wounds heal and keep clean. But sea salt scrubs can be overly aggressive on the skin, and salt water isn’t necessarily better at healing pimples or wounds than a regular shower followed by a dab of Aquaphor or Vaseline ointment, or a hydrocolloid bandage. Salt can also be drying to the skin, so if you try something like an epsom salt bath for bacne, it’s a good idea to moisturize afterwards.

4. Honey for acne

Oil dripping from hands

Honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years, but in today’s world, it’s definitely not the best option for acne treatment — especially because it can contain bacterial spores.

5. Elmer’s Glue and charcoal mask

This is not proven to be effective or safe — our skin experts advise against it. Even though Elmer’s Glue says “non-toxic” on the label, it’s not supposed to be used on skin. Also, the so-called cleansing power of charcoal remains scientifically unproven. So if you want a DIY face mask that’s actually effective, then it’s back to the drawing board!

6. Herbal bentonite clay mask

Clay mask on persons face

Clay masks usually contain bentonite and kaolin clay, which supposedly draw out water and oil from your skin. This may temporarily make pores appear smaller, but it doesn’t actually work the way you want it to. There’s no telling if it’s actually “drawing out impurities” from your pores, or just dehydrating your skin.

7. Corn starch to tighten saggy skin

This is one of the weirder skincare myths out there. If you make a paste with cornstarch and water and let it dry on your skin, you’ll get that tight feeling — but it’s not actually tightening the skin. Once you’ve washed off the cornstarch, your skin goes back to normal. Save yourself the mess!

8. Tomato juice


Some DIY skincare enthusiasts suggest using tomatoes to reduce oiliness, acne, and redness: rubbing a tomato slice over their skin, for example, or making a tomato face mask, or even a tomato-and-sugar scrub. While tomatoes do provide vitamins and antioxidants, you’re better off eating them than wearing them. Also, because tomatoes are acidic, putting them on your skin could actually make acne worse, leaving your skin irritated and dried-out.

9. Essential oils

essential oils in hands

Essential oils may smell amazing, but they’re not necessarily safe to use on your skin. While essential oils like tea tree or lavender are sometimes used in skincare products, that’s different than applying undiluted oil to your skin. Basically, if the essential oils aren’t stored under ideal conditions, are exposed to light or oxygen, or are contaminated in any way, you could end up with a reaction, such as a red, itchy rash (aka contact dermatitis, or an allergic reaction on the skin)! When in doubt, just don’t.

10. Egg whites

eggs in a line

Egg whites have been touted as a home remedy for wrinkles as well as acne — some people whip them into a meringue and let it dry on their face, or mix the egg whites with other ingredients to make a mask. As this dries, it forms a film on the skin that gives a “tight” feeling. But any wrinkle reduction would be very temporary (think minutes after washing it off!). For tips on safe and effective wrinkle treatment, check out our anti-aging skincare guide. There’s also no proven benefit for acne, and you could actually do harm to yourself, since raw eggs can be contaminated with salmonella.

When in doubt, don’t DIY your skincare routine

Phew! That’s a lot of debunking. But we hope we’ve helped you out by saving you the time, effort, and mess of trial-and-error testing these inexplicably popular DIY skin treatments. Just remember: when it comes to your skin’s health, some things are best left to the professionals (like your Curology provider!).

Got questions about any other DIY concoctions? Ask your provider, or reach out to us on social media. We’re always here for you and your skin.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

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