There is a lot of contradictory information out there about what is supposedly good or bad for your skin, with a ton of it coming from DIY blogs and untested "healthy living" sites. The only thing is, there are legitimately things you should never put on your face, and you should definitely always be aware of what an ingredient actually does before slathering it all over yourself — especially since the whole reason you're doing it is to help, not hurt your complexion.
When I was a teenager I used to absolutely love finding different DIY, allegedly all-natural scrubs and masks and applied them without question. It wasn't until I got a little older and wiser about false advertising and misinformation that I started becoming a skin-care skeptic. I now always make sure there is actually scientifically-backed evidence for a product doing what it says it will, and I even like to scan the ingredient list on store-bought skincare products to ensure that the special ingredient the product claims to have is even present in a high enough amount to do any good for my skin (sometimes you'll notice that the ingredient you're getting charged so much for is one of the last on the list, meaning it's probably present in minuscule amounts).
If you're interested in becoming more knowledgeable about skin care and want to ensure you're not following any fads that could end up harming your skin, here are nine things you should never put on your face.
1. Baking Soda
Professional aesthetician and YouTuber Veronica Gorgeois said to never, ever use baking soda on your face. She noted that our skin has a naturally acidic pH that helps keep the protective lipid layer in tact, and when you introduce a highly alkaline substance like baking soda, it can damage that layer. "There are a lot of logical leaps that people take with baking soda, like 'baking soda's good for cleaning your teeth, so it must be good for cleaning your face,' but it's just absolutely not true," she said.
2. Lemon Juice
Gorgeois also talked about the negative effects of lemon juice on your skin. She noted that the pH of lemon juice is much too low to safely slather on your skin, and it can throw the whole pH of your face off balance. She also noted it's especially harmful in a homemade sugar or salt scrub, as the scrub can create tiny lacerations on your skin that will only get irritated by the lemon juice.
Mint is an ingredient that you'll find in a lot "morning burst" kind of skin care products that are designed to wake you up and refresh you. However, according skin care expert Paul Begoun of the meticulously researched skincare line Paula's Choice, mint — which includes menthol, peppermint, and spearmint — is actually a skin irritant. If you have problems with redness, acne, or any other type of sensitive skin problem, products containing mint will likely only make it worse.
In a piece for Lipstick.com about trying toothpaste on our faces, dermatologist Ranella Hirsch said that toothpaste can actually increase melanin production, meaning it can create brown spots and discoloration in the areas applied. Not only that, but since most toothpaste contains mint, it also irritates skin overall.
Begoun noted that there are two kinds of alcohols that are actually totally fine for our skin and you shouldn't worry when you see them in an ingredient list; these alcohols are cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, and they simply serve as an emollient and thickener in products. However, Begoun said that almost all other types of alcohol are a cheap way to make a product feel lighter in the short term, but will dry your skin in the long-term. So side note, never put rubbing alcohol on you face!
6. Sugar & Salt
Rebecca Raymond, creator of Carefree Organics, wrote that sugar and salt draw out the moisture in surrounding materials, and thus have a dehydrating effect on our skin. And Gorgeious also noted that most people tend to over-scrub with such ingredients anyway, serving to damage the skin more than they help.
7. Makeup With Aluminum
According to the Environmental Working Group, aluminum — which is used in certain super shiny eye shadows, eye pencils, and deodorants, has a moderately high neurotoxicity rating, even though it's technically approved by the FDA to use. If you're not comfortable with ingredients that have measurable rates of toxicity on your body then it's definitely one to avoid.
According to professional aesthetician Hanah Tetro, added fragrance, whether natural or synthetic, definitely can act as a super unnecessary allergen to sensitive skin, although she's not convinced it necessarily causes long-term damage (although she noted that some skin care experts will say that they can). As a person with sensitive skin myself, I can tell you first hand that skin lotions with strong fragrances lead to almost instant breakouts, so if you have sensitive skin yourself and have been noticing a lot of irritation, that could be a factor!
9. Sunscreens Or Daytime Lotions With Vitamin A
The Environmental Working Group also advised to be super careful with skin care products that contain Vitamin A, or retinol, as it actually makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and more at risk of sun damage, and therefore skin cancer. They especially noted to watch out for it in sunscreens and foundations.
The world of skin care can be a vast and confusing place, and you're doing yourself a huge favor if you take some time out to understand specific ingredients and what they actually will do to your face. A little research up front can make a big difference in the long run!