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5 Harmful Skincare Hacks and Their Smart Swaps

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Hey, let me let you in on a little secret. I know it’s tempting to go down the social media rabbit hole in search of quick skincare hacks. Who wouldn’t want to clear up zits or brighten their complexion with ingredients from the kitchen? Scroll through Instagram or TikTok and you’ll see reel after reel of “experts” who claim they have the down low for flawless skin with minimal investment.

 Well, I’m here to tell you that the majority of these tips are not given or endorsed by licensed skin care professionals, and can actually cause damage to your gorgeous face! Below are five harmful hacks that often make the rounds, and their five safer, smarter alternatives. 

 

1. Toothpaste on Breakouts 

We use toothpaste in our mouths so surely it’s fine to dab some on a pimple, right? Wrong! Some toothpaste brands contain an ingredient called triclosan. Triclosan prevents gingivitis, is antibacterial and antiseptic- great news for your oral health. However, this ingredient has also been linked to dermatitis (painful inflammation) on the skin’s surface and allergic reactions, has made the “dirty list” for many skincare companies, and has been banned for use in body soaps. 

Many commercial toothpastes also contain sodium lauryl sulfates which while not harmful orally, will over dry the skin and can lead to eczema flare ups. Still not convinced? Think about this, bone (which is what our teeth are made of) is the hardest substance in our body and can withstand much more than the delicate tissues that make up skin. 

Perhaps you have a natural toothpaste that is sulfate and triclosan free. It’s still a no go for spot treating breakouts as there aren’t any ingredients that will help kill bacteria or reduce inflammation.

So what’s the smart swap for breakouts? You’ve got a few options such as: sulfur compounds and colloidal patches. The clear patches are inconspicuous enough to wear during the day, while the salicylic acid ones are great for overnight use.

 

2. Undiluted Essential Oils

Essential oils are wonderful for your aromatherapy diffuser, but not a wise idea to put directly on your skin. What’s so harmful about something botanical based? Essential oils are nature’s chemicals. While not completely dangerous, it’s crucial they be handled with care. 

Undiluted (aka “neat”) essential oils may cause burns, rashes, and respiratory distress. In skincare products, essential oils are usually found in their extract form. Extracts are less volatile than neat oils, leading to less negative reactions. If a pure essential oil is used cosmetically, it’s at its safe dilution rate. This rate is determined by a cosmetic chemist who knows the correct formulation to be effective with minimal chance of a harmful reaction. Lastly, essential oils and extracts are blended with carrier oils- think jojoba, sea buckthorn, meadowfoam, etc- to balance out their activity.

Have an essential oil you love the scent of? Maximize your zen time, but placing a few drops in an aroma diffuser and take a few deep inhalations. No diffuser? You can place a few shakes of your favorite oil on a piece of cotton and take a sniff without having to touch your face. 

Topically, my favorite safe, gentle and sweet smelling face oil is KOSHA Oil. It’s packed with antioxidants from Vitamin E and Rosehip oils and is delicately scented with rosemary and geranium oils. I love this oil as part of my nightly routine before moisturizer, or as a medium for facial gua sha. 

 

3. Lemon Juice as Skin Lightener or Chemical Peel

Save the lemon slices for your water! Instead use stable properly formulated acids designed to not harm your skin’s pH and cause burns. Leave the apple cider vinegar off your skin while you’re at it.  ACV is highly caustic and further aggravates acne even when diluted in water.

The peels I use during a facial are in an aloe vera base and contain a cocktail of soothing agents to take the edge off the acids. I trust the cosmetics chemists who formulated them properly so all I have to do is apply. These same reputable companies also make at home peel pads and acid based toners to smartly remove dead skin cells between facials. 

Another advantage of purchasing professionally produced acids? If you do have a negative reaction,you can return the product to the store and exchange it for a more agreeable product, which is much cheaper than a trip to the doctor over a home based reaction. 

Josh Rosebrook’s Daily Acid Toner is an easy way to quickly resurface the skin at night. For fine lines and hyperpigmentation reach for the Dr. Loretta’s Micro Peel pads two nights a week. 

 

4. Leftover Coffee Grounds for Exfoliation

Keep your coffee confined to your favorite mug. There are a few reasons to avoid a coffee concoction on your face. Yes, coffee beans are rich in antioxidants, but after brewing, the leftover grounds don’t contain an impactful amount of antioxidants for your skin. Coffee oils, which are also skin friendly, are not present in brewed beans, and would need to be extracted and separated out of unbrewed coffee beans. 

Secondly, coffee grounds don’t dissolve in water, which leads to the feeling of a “deeper cleanse”. However, the jagged grounds can scratch your face causing micro-tears in the skin, and are MESSY as all get out to clean out of your sink or shower.

Lastly, after 2-3 days used grounds also begin to grow mold which can trigger allergic reactions, mold is a fungus in case you forgot your 7th grade biology class. Yuck!

Personally, I prefer an enzymatic or acid based exfoliation. For physical exfoliation fans, look for products that use spherical non plastic beads to polish the skin without tears, such as Grown Alchemist’s Polishing Face Exfoliant. This scrub won’t negatively impact the earth’s water supply *and* contains actual antioxidants and pore clearing ingredients. 

 

5. Slugging and Coconut Oil

Okay, I’ll start this out by admitting that mineral oil does not clog the pores. That said, I still don’t recommend the trend of “slugging”. Unless you’re recovering from a burn, intense laser treatment, or severely compromised barrier as diagnosed by an esthetician or medical professional, there’s no need to smear your face with petroleum jelly. 

Petroleum Jelly is not hydrating in and of itself. However, it does create an occlusive layer over serums or moisturizers applied underneath. The downside though, is that acne causing bacteria can also get trapped inside leading to more breakouts. Not to mention how messy your pillows and hair will get. 

While you’re at it, ditch the coconut oil too. High quality skincare brands will refine the oil removing the comedogenic properties. This won’t happen by slathering it on straight from the jar. 

Instead, after dabbing on your favorite hydration packed serum, layer the ever magical Skin Savior Balm from One Love Organics over your face. This is the go to thick balm for those serious about fighting dehydration and compromised skin. Bonus- you can also use it to remove makeup or rub it into your cuticles to give your hands a little extra love! Not convinced? One Love Organic’s is certified organic, cruelty free, and dermatologist tested. 

Have you tried any hacks that you later regretted? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done to your skin?! Don’t worry, I won’t judge. 😉

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