The World Wide Web can be the wild, wild west when it comes to skincare advice. From skinfluencers with millions of followers to #skintok trends with millions of views, it can be tricky to figure out what’s fact versus fiction and, more importantly, what really works for your skin as opposed to what just works for a viral reel.
This month, we’re highlighting the ten truly frightful skincare trends that offer more risks than rewards because, more often than not, in this area of non-expertise, DIY stands for ‘don’t-injure-yourself’ and several of the ‘hacks’ should come with three words: proceed with caution. Or, rather, don’t proceed at all.
1. DIY Micro-Needling
There’s a good chance that you’ve come across DIY micro-needling mid-scroll in the form of a skinfluencer singing the praises of the derma-roller they just received in as a press drop. The thing is, the majority of skincare and aesthetics professionals don’t like what they’re seeing because – while micro-needling, in the right, thoroughly-trained hands, gets great results – DIY derma-rolling or micro-needling can damage the skin and cause infection. Why? Because many of the devices promoted as being safe to use at home don’t have the sterile or single-use qualities that one would find in a medical office.
It’s downright dangerous to perform this procedure with a device that isn’t medical grade, in an environment that’s not completely clean and sterile, and with needles that aren’t of the highest quality. Not only can dull needle tips damage the skin but a high level of accuracy is key to avoiding infection, irritation, injury and scarring. And, many who go the DIY route lack the knowledge to figure out when rolling out the derma-roller is a bad idea. For example, DIY micro-needling when you have a cold sore, caused by the herpes virus, can cause this virus to spread all over your face and even into your eye.
2. Commercial Pore Strips
We get it, clogged and congested pores – particularly when examined with a magnifying mirror – make it pretty easy to say ‘yes!’ to pore strips. It really is quite satisfying to examine the little village of blackheads that you’ve just evicted from your face. The thing is, commercial pore strips are dangerous and damaging to your skin – tugging at it, opening pores up even wider, and containing chemicals and synthetics that are a hard “no!” for sensitive skin.
The pursuit of short-term results may be tempting but, the long-term, a consistent morning and evening skincare routine, and regular trips to a medically-trained therapist are, without a doubt, the way to go.
3. Removing Blackheads With Glue
On the subject of getting rid of blackheads… any skincare ‘hack’ that involves household glues freaks us out, for good reason. Like most #skintok trends that go viral, it looks like a good idea, clearly ripping out a few blackheads. Emphasis on the word ‘rip’ because this skincare ‘trend’ tends to rip off your super-important protective top layer of skin and peach fuzz, too. Throw the pore-clogging, sticky residue that glue leaves behind, and the cases dermatologists have seen of post-glue contact dermatitis into the mix and you’re going to want to keep this scary blackhead strategy where it belongs; in the arts and crafts drawer.
4. Contouring with Sunscreen
The practice of using a low SPF level sunscreen on spots where you want a tan – your cheekbones, for example – and a high SPF on the areas you don’t (the rest of your face), sunscreen contouring is supposed to achieve the contoured/highlighted look of your favourite celebrity makeup tutorial without the celebrity-endorsed makeup products.
While we’re always going to say “Yes!” to applying sunscreen, mixing sunscreens can mess with their efficacy and, as a knock-on effect, leave you exposed to more UV rays than you bargained for (best case scenario) or age-accelerating sunburn (worst case scenario). So, ditch the dodgy #skintok advice and stick to bronzers, highlighters and fake tan – the options available to us have never been better!
5. Deo as a Makeup Primer
Even typing that made our skin crawl a little because you’d think we’d all learnt our lesson from the hairspray-as-setting-spray trend which departed as quickly as it arrived, thank goodness! Unfortunately, just as quickly as one bad idea disappeared from our feeds, another arrived in its place: putting deodorant on your face as a mattifying, makeup primer.
Don’t get this writer wrong, I’m all for affordable products that multi-task but antiperspirants are, for the most part, designed to stop us from smelling, and not sweating altogether. It’s obviously not formulated for the delicate skin on our faces, containing artificial fragrances and other non-facially compatible ingredients, and so it's no surprise that this ‘trend’ soon became linked to acne flare-ups, irritation and destabilising the face’s natural microbiome. Keep the deo in your gym bag and the mattifying setting spray in your makeup bag, okay?
6. Haemorrhoid Cream for Under-Eye Bags
Although the primary ingredients of haemorrhoid creams – phenylephrine & hydrocortisone – are anti-inflammatories, they are not designed to be used anywhere other than your, um, derriére. Despite the hype around Preparation H being the under-eye wakeup call you’ve been looking for, it’s really really not a trend you want to try.
The scary thing is, prolonged use of haemorrhoid creams, under and around the eye area, can thin your skin, resulting in a more fragile than ever under-eye area and more pronounced crow’s feet – worsening the appearance of something that already has your losing sleep, aesthetically speaking. Haemorrhoid creams also contain a steroid, which isn’t good for your overall health, so if you see a social media darling pushing this ‘hack’… look the other way!
7. Toothpaste on Pimples
There used to be method in this method’s madness, emphasis on used to be. Back in the day, antibacterial agent, Triclosan, was a common ingredient in toothpaste and many over-the-counter acne treatments. Thing is, it was banned in the US by the FDA in 2016 and removed from personal hygiene products in 2019. In some countries, it can still be used in low quantities of 0.3% or less but the risks to your skin of this miniscule amount far outweigh the rewards. Toothpastes contain a plethora of astringents like alcohol menthol and hydrogen peroxide, which are bad news for bare skin.
Not only can toothpaste use on your face, as a spot treatment, trigger sores and even chemical burns, but rather than zapping the zit, it can mess with the skin’s natural healing process and irritate your skin’s precious barrier in the process, too. Sure, toothpaste does ‘dry up’ a pimple but your body will overcompensate for this, providing more oil, which means more blemishes, making you worse off post-toothpaste application than you were before giving the toothpaste a try.
8. DIY Scrubs: Coffee & Baking Soda
Let’s start by stopping to use the term ‘scrub’ in connection with our complexions and replace it with ‘exfoliate’ instead. Scrubbing conjures up images of over-exfoliation, using abrasive granules, which – horrifically – can cause microtears in the stratum corneum, leaving your skin susceptible to micro scarring and staph infections.
Two of the main offenders in the world of DIY scrub recipes (because they sound harmless enough) are ground coffee, which simply looks and feels like a bad idea, and baking soda, which is an oldie doing the rounds again. Ground coffee is coarse, which means it's going to do more harm than good, particularly in the most delicate areas of the face, and, baking soda can upset your skin’s pH balance, hindering your skin’s ability to fight infection and leaving it vulnerable to dehydration.
9. Erasers for Self-Tanning Streaks
Most well-known and hash-tagged as ‘magic erasers’, these blocks of melamine foam – stocked at hardware stores – were developed, steeped in cleaning solution, to remove tough stains. Trust social media to take this deep-cleaning dream and turn it into a skin-scouring nightmare. Sure, as many a content creator with a bronzed aesthetic has proven, this Magic Eraser does even-out and remove unwanted self-tanning streaks but these extremely abrasive sponges contain chemicals that can trigger itchy rashes, burns and in more extreme cases, allergic reactions and anaphylaxis. Enough said.
10. DIY Dark Spot & Mole Removal
Talk about a ‘Nightmare on Aesthetic Street’. Seriously, when it comes to your skin, the words ‘DIY’ and ‘removal’ really should not be used in the same sentence, unless you’re talking about plucking/waxing, in which case, each to their own. But back to the alarming trend spreading across social media: DIY dark spot and mole removal, using herbal remedies. The bottom line? A mole that worries you – aesthetically and/or physically – is not to be messed with.
Apart from the fact that DIY removal of a dark spot, skin tag or mole can lead to infection and/or scarring, these unwanted skin ‘features’ could be a sign of something more sinister, skin cancer, for example, and should a) be taken seriously, and b) be checked thoroughly and expertly by a professional.