Beauty hacks and tips that suggest alternate uses for cosmetics or over-the-counter products are incredibly popular. These homemade hacks often promise consumers a chance to save on beauty products by making items found in your average medicine cabinet or kitchen cupboard do double duty.
But are they safe? That’s the question we were left asking after reading Glamour’s 11 Genius Skin Care Tips Found on Reddit That Actually Work.
Sure, branded products can be expensive. However, we couldn’t help but wonder if using potentially harsh products in unintended areas could put delicate skin and eyes at risk of irritation.
To help answer whether or not following the advice shared by Glamour was a good idea, we asked three medical experts for their opinions. Here’s what they had to say about each tip:
Glamour Tip #1: Fight B.O. With Acne Wash
“Stinky armpits no matter what you do? Use acne face wash under your arms. It kills the smelly bacteria. I actually don't use deodorant now and I smell pretty great.” —earthworms
Why Glamour says it works: An antibacterial cleanser [with ingredients] such a benzoyl peroxide can help reduce the bacteria that lead to underarm odor.
What our experts think: “Bromhidrosis, the scientific term for body odor, is caused by a combination of bacteria on the skin’s surface, and fatty acids in sweat secretions,” says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California.
Dr. Shainhouse explains that, while antiperspirants block sweat ducts to prevent wetness and deodorants provide a masking fragrance that can help block the smell of body odor, the antibacterial wash can actually kill some of the bacteria in the armpits.
“This is not bacteria that you need. Reducing the load can prevent its mixing with sweat compounds, therefore preventing that offensive body odor.”
Dr. Shainhouse seconds Glamour’s suggestion to use a wash that includes benzoyl peroxide as a great option for killing underarm bacteria. She also suggests Hibiclens as another good option. However, she cautions that if either of those options aren’t enough to block the smell, you should see your dermatologist for a prescription option.
Bottom Line: Acne wash is a safe and effective option for fighting body odor.
Glamour Tip #2: Use Tea Bags for Under Eye Puffiness
“For puffy allergy eyes, make a cup of tea (green or black, something caffeinated), let it steep a while, hold the bag to your eye/under eye once it's cool enough.” —kadikadikadi
Why Glamour says it works: Caffeinated tea bags contain natural diuretics that can reduce puffiness.
What our experts think: “Chilled tea bags are a safe and effective option for reducing under eye puffiness,” according to Dr. Shainhouse. She explains that the chilly temp of steeped tea bags that have been allowed to cool off in the refrigerator both constricts the vessels and reduces inflammation and swelling.
When asked if cold spoons were just as effective, Dr. Shainhouse suggested you could get better results with tea, since specific ingredients in the teas can have added benefit.
“The caffeine in black, green and white teas both cause vasoconstriction, reducing vessels and redness. It also acts as a mild diuretic that might help move fluid from the tissue. The antioxidants in green and red teas can calm and soothe irritated skin.”
Dr. Anthony Youn, a board certified plastic surgeon, agrees that cold tea bags are a great fix for under eye puffiness, and even suggests the tip in his book, The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Look Ten Years Younger.
According to Dr. Youn, the caffeine in tea can also tighten the skin and decrease wrinkles. He suggests green tea, since it includes antioxidants that can also fight free radicals (which age the skin). Finally, he cautions that caffeine-free tea won't be as effective, so stick to types of tea that promise a kick.
Bottom Line: The combination of cold temperatures and caffeine can de-puff eyes and help fight wrinkles. Just be sure to look for teas that are high in caffeine, such as Pu-erh or Darjeeling, or green teas, which offer antioxidants.
Glamour Tip #3: Fight Chafing With Diaper Rash Cream
“My sister has used Desitin for days she wears skirts. Granted, I'm sure any diaper cream will do.” —LightRadars
Why they say it works: Anything that’s meant to calm and soothe chapped skin—including diaper cream—will help any thigh-rubbing issues you might have.
What our experts think: “Diaper cream is normally used to prevent and manage irritated, chafed baby bottoms, so it can most definitely help chafed adult skin,” says Dr. Shainhouse.
To get the best anti-chafing protection, she suggests looking for diaper creams that contain petroleum and zinc. “Petroleum literally greases the skin to prevent chafing and wetness from touching the skin. Zinc is very calming to the skin. Some brands even contain a bit of hydrocortisone, which is a great anti-inflammatory agent.”
Dr. Shainhouse suggests coconut oil as an alternative if diaper cream proves to be too messy. From personal experience living in a hot, humid climate, I’d caution that both diaper creams and coconut oil can cause a bit of mess if applied too liberally--potentially staining your clothing.
If you find that’s the case, consider another product with slip, such as a silicone-based hair serum to help prevent irritation.
Bottom Line: Diaper cream can help prevent chafing. But, if your skin is already irritated, reach for the hydrocortisone instead.
Glamour Tip #4: Try Deodorant to Combat Bikini Irritation
“On a whim, I followed the advice of the stripper that had an AMA [Ask Me Anything session] and was asked the question about how she keeps her lady parts free of irritation after shaving. She said she used just a regular scent-free [Lady] Speed Stick after each shave and she would never get irritation. I thought it was a joke until women started responding that they do the same thing and it really works.” —DanPaladin
Why they say it works: Antiperspirants block sweat glands and reduce moisture production, so it is possible that this can reduce friction and irritation in the bikini area and other shaved areas.
What our experts think: “Stick to a stick antiperspirant to prevent skin chafing and irritation. If it is wetness that is bothering you, then the aluminum salts in the antiperspirant can reduce wetness,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “However, it is more likely the silky base that acts to reduce friction associated with skin rubbing.”
What if the area starts to sting after an application of antiperspirant? Dr. Shainhouse suggests it’s likely the aluminum salts that are causing irritation, and to try a stick deodorant, instead.
Even better, this tip offers significant savings: “This base is very similar to the Dr. Scholl's Miracle Shield anti-friction stick, which costs way more, for way less product.” (For the record, Dr. Scholl’s Blister Defense Stick costs a whopping $44 for a pack of four 0.3oz sticks!)
Bottom Line: If you struggle with bikini bumps, an antiperspirant can help prevent irritation from shaving at a minimal cost.
Glamour Tip #5: Use Honey to Ban Acne
“[I] use this one crazy trick.... just kidding, no really! For acne use raw honey! Lather it on and let it sit for 20 minutes.” —Kireji
Why they say it works: “Honey is loaded with active enzymes and is naturally antibacterial,” says Dr. Papantoniou. “Applying a thin layer to the skin will help to gently exfoliate, reduce bacteria, and smooth out your complexion.”
What our experts think: “Honey is a great DIY product for the skin, and can help acne because of its antibacterial properties and its anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Youn. Though, he cautions to keep the sticky stuff away from your eyes and other sensitive areas.
Dr. Shainhouse suggests using medical grade honey (with a UMF 10+), such as Manuka honey from the tea tree plant, stating that it has antibacterial properties, as well as wound healing properties.
Note that UMF means “Unique Manuka Factor”--a term trademarked in New Zealand by the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, which refers to the non-peroxide activity in honey.
Image via Healing With Honey
Medical grade honey is available with UMF ranging from 10 to 25. What’s the difference? According to Healing With Honey, “It represents a standard of NPA (non-peroxide activity) that is compared to the disinfectant phenol. The numbers following the letters UMF refer to the percentage of phenol in water.”
Dr. Shainhouse suggests treating acne by applying a dab of medical grade honey to a pimple. However, she cautions to avoid any homemade mask recipes that include mixing honey with ingredients such as cinnamon or chili, which will cause skin irritation.
Bottom Line: Honey can help heal a pimple, thanks to antibacterial and wound-healing properties. However, for the best results, purchase medical grade honey--instead of double dipping from the same jar you use in the kitchen.
Glamour Tip #6: Use Hand Sanitizer to Get Rid of Smells
“Stinky pits in the middle of the day? Rather than splashing them with water, use hand sanitizer” —wtf jen
Why they say it works: “If you are out and need to freshen up, you can definitely use a little hand sanitizer to reduce bacteria, and then apply some deodorant over the area,” says Dr. Papantoniou. Just think of this as a last-resort since the alcohol in these gels can dry out and irritate your skin.
What our experts think: Dr. Shainhouse states that the alcohol in sanitizer gels may theoretically kill some of the bacteria on the skin’s surface, which is contributing to the formation of body odor (see above: acne wash for body odor).
However, she agrees that this tip is best left for when you’re in a pinch, as longer-term use will dry out your skin and cause irritation.
Dr. Anthony Youn suggests that, while hand sanitizer can kill bacteria that create bad odors, it won't stop the sweating that provides such an attractive place for these bacteria to grow and live.
His advice? “Using it once on the underarms to kill these little critters probably isn't a bad idea as long as a good antiperspirant is applied afterward to prevent the bacteria from growing back.”
Bottom Line: Hand sanitizer might beat out odor-causing bacteria for a short time, but it doesn’t stop them from coming back. Be sure to follow up with an antiperspirant--and only use this tip as a shower alternative when you have to freshen up fast.
Before Using a Beauty Hack, Check to Make Sure It Makes Sense
We’ve often cited advice from the cosmetic experts over at The Beauty Brains when diving into how a product may (or may not) work. As cosmetic chemists, they generally take a hard line against using products for something other than their intended purpose--especially on different areas of the body than where they were meant to be applied.
However, promoting a product for an alternate use isn’t uncommon in medicine: Latisse started as a cataract treatment before it was discovered that patients were growing lusher lashes, while Spironolactone was prescribed only to treat low blood pressure, before doctors realized it could zap female hormonal acne as well.
That being said, off-label use of a prescription isn’t suggested to the public until extensive tests have been performed--something that doesn’t happen when suggesting beauty hacks.
That’s why we recommend keeping safety in mind when repurposing products. While it’s true that the effects of many expensive, branded products can be duplicated by another, use common sense when picking products to swap.
One way to use caution is by checking the ingredients of the branded product, then looking at the label of your alternate product to see if they’re similar. If you’re in doubt, always perform a patch test on the intended area and wait 24 hours to see if irritation develops.
More on Summer Skin Care:
- 6 Tanning Myths You Might Still Believe
- Your Guide to Avoiding Sunburn During Summer Vacation
- 3 Bad DIY Beauty Treatments You Should Never Do
About Our Experts:
Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse
Tsippora Shainhouse MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist in at the Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California.
Dr. Anthony Youn
Dr. Anthony Youn and I'm a board certified plastic surgeon and author of The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Look Ten Years Younger. Learn more about his practice by visiting www.dryoun.com.