Lately, it seems like if it comes from a plant or your fridge, it’s safe to put on your face. After all, if you can eat it, why can’t you apply it?
But just because you can sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal or squirt lemon in your water doesn’t mean it will jive with your skin. (Case in point: Poison ivy is from nature, but you would NEVER smear it on your face, right?) Yet there’s no shortage of at-home “recipes” available online touting the benefits of this-or-that natural skincare cure.
In fact, many people have learned the hard way that some natural DIY treatments for ridding acne, lightening dark spots, and diminishing oil can backfire in a major way. That’s why we tapped Mona Gohara, M.D., a dermatologist in Danbury, CT and a clinical faculty member at Yale New Haven Hospital, for the scoop on what really needs to stay off your skin.
And remember: If you’re dealing with persistent skin problems, like acne, or dry, flakey skin, your best bet is to connect with a board-certified dermatologist who can ID the underlying problem and help you come up with solutions that work best for your complexion. No DIY magic required.
You may have heard that you can apply lemon juice directly on your skin as a toner, an acne treatment, or as a lightener to erase dark spots. “This is not okay to use!” says Gohara. “Lemon is acidic and can alter the pH of your skin, destroying the barrier, making it easily inflamed, irritated, and even scarred,” she adds. Lemon juice can also make you more sensitive to UV rays, meaning you'll get a sunburn more easily. Gohara does not even recommend diluting your lemon juice with water before putting it on your face. Keep it on your salad.
Heard that a little mayo is a superior moisturizer for dry, flakey skin? Stick with your facial moisturizer. While Gohara says that rubbing mayo into your skin isn’t outright harmful, it can clog pores—and that’s not what you’re going for. If you’re acne-prone, the combo of oil and eggs in the popular topping is a recipe (see what we did there?) for a honking zit.
If you tend to have oily or combination skin, you may think that straight rubbing alcohol could help dry out a slick patch, especially in a pinch. This is way too harsh. “Rubbing alcohol can strip the skin of essential lipids, proteins, and fats that are protective in the skin barrier, leaving it weak and prone to inflammation,” says Gohara.
You may have heard that you can use baking soda (often mixed with honey) as an acne-fighter or use it as a scrub. Gohara suggests skipping this DIY remedy. Because baking soda (which is an alkaline) changes the pH of skin, you can severely degrade the top layer, which invites bacteria and other nasties in. Hello red, angry—and even burned skin. Stay away.
Some people suggest whipping up an egg-white mask to tighten up large pores. And while your face may feel shrink-wrapped after, it may come at a price. Raw eggs can contain salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, warns Gohara. In fact, nearly 80,000 cases of foodborne illnesses each year are traced back to eggs contaminated with salmonella, says the FDA. Leave this off your face to avoid accidentally ingesting it. Masks with egg extract in them (especially popular in the K-beauty) world don't carry this same risk, Gohara says, because they're not made from raw eggs.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.