Several weeks ago, I was browsing Pinterest beauty hacks and came across one that suggested shaving your face was a perfectly wonderful way to exfoliate. Instead of looking up further suggestions, I just grabbed my trusty quad-blade and went to town.
Turns out that was a really bad idea. Sure, my skin felt smooth to the touch at first—but two days later, I had a face that could pass for pizza.
While some people do get great results from shaving, since it exfoliates and the hair-free skin is a better canvas for cosmetics, those results depend on using a new (read: clean!) razor meant for your facial skin. (For ladies, experts recommend one called the Tinkle.) Lesson learned.
To help you avoid any unfortunate beauty blunders, here’s a collection of hacks and tips that are best avoided:
DIY Mistake #1: Tinting Your Eyebrows With Hair Dye
Doesn’t it feel like 2016 is the year that we all have to have perfect eyebrows? While no one has yet died of failing to have #browsonfleek (I had to look it up, too), fashion’s current brow obsession is inspiring a less-than-safe beauty hack.
The Beauty Department, which is generally a top-notch resource for how-to’s on all things pretty, recently suggested using a dye intended for the hair on your head to darken brows.
It’s tempting to tint your brows with dye left over from coloring your hair. After all, you’ve already mixed the potions and donned your gloves. Why not save time and an extra purchase, as well as ensure a perfect match?
Making hair dye do double duty is no-go, as hair dye contains harsh chemicals that can irritate the ultra-sensitive skin around your eyes.
The chemicals used are referred to as “oxidative dyes” because they must be mixed with an oxidizing agent (usually hydrogen peroxide) before they will work. The oxidizing agent causes the dye molecules to polymerize, or link together, to create intense shades.
However, oxidative dyes are reactive chemicals, and they can cause allergic reactions, painful rashes, blistering and even blindness. That’s why at-home hair dyes instruct you to test the product on a small spot of your skin before applying it to your scalp.
Since your eyes are even more sensitive than your scalp, an allergic reaction there is much more dangerous. There have been a few cases, dating back to the 1930s, of women being blinded (and even killed!) from allergic reactions to these kinds of dyes.
Lest you think that the warning is overly cautious, the Food and Drug Administration says these dyes represent “an acute, severe hazard to health with the possibility of permanent injury; i.e., impaired sight, including blindness.”
“Permanent eyelash and eyebrow tints and dyes have been known to cause serious eye injuries, including blindness. There are no color additives approved by FDA for permanent dyeing or tinting of eyelashes and eyebrows.”
What about paying for a professional to tint your eyebrows and eyelashes?
If you’re determined to darken your brows, a number of salons offer brow tinting services. Just beware that bargain hunting for a better deal on your brow tinting service can also end up disastrous. (Googling “brow tint allergic reaction” is not for the faint of heart.)
Only go to a salon that uses 100 percent vegetable-based dyes. These usually come in black, dark brown, and light brown shades that will be mixed by a professional to get a perfect match. The results will typically last three to six weeks.
That being said, the only way to stay super safe? Eschew brow tinting completely, and stick to filling in your face-framers with a matte brown eyeshadow, instead.
DIY Mistake #2: Mixing Your Own Sunscreen
Just when you think folks on Pinterest have exhausted excuses to stay out of the beauty aisle, the platform is now rife with suggestions for DIY sunscreen.
Image via Project Inspired
Many of the recipes depend on natural oils having an inherent sun protection factor, and Ingredients used vary from carrot seed to coconut oils. Other recipes suggest mixing five-percent zinc oxide and five-percent titanium oxide in a base, such as witch hazel, to make a spray on sunscreen.
The problem, according to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, is that there's simply no way to guarantee that these homemade concoctions offer the necessary broadband protection to shield against wrinkle-inducing and cancer-causing rays, or ensure that the SPF is high enough.
“Sunscreen companies invest millions of dollars formulating and testing sunscreens to ensure they are stable and effective,” Dr. Bowe told The Daily Mail. “Tests are conducted in the lab and on humans to ensure they provide broad-spectrum protection and that the ingredients remain stable and active when mixed together and exposed to heat and sun.”
Basically, depending on a DIY sunscreen is effectively putting your skin at risk for melanoma.
Anyone who’s ever greased up to get a tan can attest that there are also issues with the suggestion of using oils to protect from the sun—they can actually absorb light, helping UV rays to penetrate the skin more.
What about the suggestion of mixing zinc oxide or titanium oxide to a base?
First, those physical sunscreens aren’t available in spray-on versions for a reason; they’re not water soluble, and will just settle to the bottom of any solution. And no, you can’t just shake it really well to mix up those particles! That’s because both of the suggested materials tend to stick together, so aggressive shaking would only cause bunches of little particles to join hands and become bigger particles—resulting in less coverage on your skin.
Finally, don’t think about mixing raw physical sunscreen ingredients into a cream or lotion either, unless you have the equipment to affect particle size and distribution in your kitchen.
The bottom line is that it just isn’t skin-safe to mess around with making your own sunscreen. After all, sunscreen companies invest millions of dollars formulating and testing sunscreens to ensure they are stable and effective! Instead, find a brand that works for your skin and stick to a strict application schedule for optimal skin safety.
DIY Mistake #3: Using Rubber Bands to Adjust Your Pearly Whites
Braces are expensive, costing an average of $5000 for perfectly aligned pearly whites. While it used to be that teens hated the prospect of sporting a mouthful of metal and rubber, more recent pressure to have a perfect smile is driving some to try a cheaper DIY version of braces that can have disastrous results.
The trend has taken off on Youtube, with one popular video already clocking in at over 300,000 views. In the instructional video, a teen girl uses Goody hair elastics to basically tie her front teeth together in an effort to close her gap.
Once finished, the teen warns that this method will hurt for a few days, but assures viewers that “it’s totally worth it in the end.”
Image via Ajc.com
Unfortunately, it’s not. Even scarier, her’s isn’t the only video promoting this DIY dental trend.
Attempting to adjust your teeth at home present a host of issues. To begin, doing so can potentially damage the tooth’s blood supply. This can change the color of an individual tooth, cause damage to the bone at the tooth’s root, gum inflammation and infection, and even result in the tooth just falling out.
And, that’s just the start of potential problems. Others who’ve attempted this dangerous trend ended up with their rubber bands lodged far up in their gums. (Again, Googling images for DIY braces is not for the squeamish!)
There was even a consumer alert (warning: graphic images) sent out by the American Association of Orthodontists last September saying, in so many words, not to use what’s being called gap bands with the warning that teeth could fall out.
Bottom Line on These DIY Beauty Trends – Don’t Risk Your Health
We understand the appeal of DIY treatments—it’s fun to rummage around in your kitchen, whipping up something from ingredients you already have. Mixing up your own beauty treatments also speaks to the trend of using ingredients that are as natural as possible. Plus, there’s always the potential savings!
Except that trips to the doctor to correct a DIY beauty blunder can often end up costing more than you would have spent in the first place.
Consider DIY sunscreens, for example. Not only are you not getting proper sun protection, but the chances are that any homemade concoction won’t include the necessary preservatives to ensure that it’s shelf stable, meaning that what you’re smearing on your skin is a potential breeding ground for bacteria.
Is risking an infection and melanoma really worth “protecting yourself” from chemicals in commercial sunscreens?
The bottom line: Cosmetic chemists, orthodontists, and estheticians go to school for years to learn how to concoct solutions and provide services safely. Even well-meaning attempts to sidestep their expertise can put you at serious risk.