4 Natural Beauty Ingredients To Avoid... And What To Use Instead

4 Natural Beauty Ingredients To Avoid... And What To Use Instead

Recently, DIY's have become very popular in the natural beauty world. As a beauty hoarder myself, I know that cosmetics can be quite expensive. A part of the natural beauty movement has to do with knowing what is inside of the cosmetics we put on our faces and bodies. It is tempting to use just about every ingredient in the kitchen based on recommendations online, but it might be in our best interest to do some research beforehand and understand what these ingredients actually do to our skin. Then we can rule out some ingredients we might be better off leaving out.

Today, we're discussing 4 popular natural ingredients to avoid in your DIY's and what to use instead.

Healthy skin is slightly acidic, sitting at a comfortable pH level of 5.5. The skin is designed to take care of itself, regenerate and heal itself all on its own. When we mess with the balance of the skin barrier, we end up creating an imbalance in the skin's moisture and pH levels. This can cause harmful and even painful effects on the skin such as burns, scars and irritation.

baking soda


Ahh Sodium Bicarbonate, otherwise known as the household ingredient: Baking Soda. It is a super powerful cleaning agent for just about anything you can think of. From the kitchen, to the sink, to the laundry room. Where your skin is concerned, you might want to rethink using this powerful agent on your face. 

Check out 23 Benefits and Ways To Use Baking Soda

Baking soda has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which means it can potentially reduce and dry out pustules and papules (types of pimples) on your face. The bicarbonate has a pH of 9 so it is a lot more alkaline (basic) than the skin. The jump from 5-9 is a big difference, so judging from that number, I'm sure you can see why this can be problematic for the skin. 

More about pH levels and the skin.

Why Is This Bad For The Skin?

The baking soda disrupts the acid mantle (moisture barrier) of the skin. It's also a harsh natural exfoliator that can leave the skin red and irritated. It's basic properties can be excessively drying to the skin, which can dehydrate the skin and develop a breathing ground for acne. 

What To Do Instead?

There are plenty of items already on the market containing sodium bicarbonate suggesting that it isn't all that bad for the face. Note that these companies use cosmetic grade sodium bicarbonate, not the Baking Soda found in the food aisle. It still has properties that can boost a DIY cleanser or DIY deodorant, I even use it in a  DIY foot soak. What you'll want to do, is adjust the pH level. This could be by adding sufficient water (which has a neutral pH of 7), mixing it thoroughly with diluted Apple Cider Vinegar (pH of 3), even Citric Acid (pH of 2.2); a natural preservative, can be used, as it is a key ingredient in cosmetic science to bring down the pH of a product. I suggest making sure to test the pH level of a DIY to assess if it is fit for the skin using a pH strip test or an electronic tester.

More on How to Test and Adjust the pH Level of Your DIYs.

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Lemon has gained a pretty tough reputation over the years as the end-all and be-all for curing hyper-pigmentation on the skin. These claims are well deserved as it has natural bleaching properties. Lemon has two important ingredients for lightening marks on the skin: Citric Acid, and Vitamin C. It can be used to brighten and whiten teeth, to boost your shampoo and get rid of dandruff, and to strengthen hair and nails getting rid of nail polish stains. It can help lighten dark knees and elbows, and can be added to many natural household cleaners to disinfect and leave a fresh scent. In addition, lemon is also known to have powerful antibacterial properties that help to control and reduce both oil production, and pimple-causing bacteria. I have seen a lot of people use this as a spot treatment for acne because of its' antibacterial properties however, I would advise against adopting this practice. 

Why Is This Bad For The Skin?

Lemon is very, very acidic sitting at a pH of 2. It can have lasting damaging effects on the skin's natural moisture barrier causing skin severe dryness, irritation, sun sensitivity, chemical burns, and hyperpigmentation from the burns (ultimately defeating the purpose of lightening the skin). Some may say they use it directly on their skin and haven't experienced any irritations, but a lot of the harm is unseen to the naked eye as they build up over time. In addition, it's dangerous to apply directly to the skin because the acid content in the fruit differs from lemon to lemon, it's nearly impossible to know what level of acidity you're getting when you apply lemon juice to your face.

What To Do Instead?

Mainly, the most beneficial property in lemons sought out in these DIY's is exfoliation. Topical exfoliators like alpha hydroxy acids, remove dull, dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin, and can help generate new ones. Luckily, there are tons of AHA products on the market that can do just that for the skin: xfoliate at a concentrated level to gradually lighten, and smooth the skin while maintaining a comfortable moisture level in the skin. 

Another option is to use Papaya instead of lemon as a natural exfoliator. This fruit has a pH of 5.5 which is a perfect match for the skin's acid mantle. It's packed with vitamin A and gently exfoliates the skin without stripping the cells of moisture. 

DIY Papaya Exfoliating Mask

If you still want to use Lemon in your natural beauty creations,make sure to use the freshest lemon as the Vitamin C content reduces over time, be sure to dilute the lemon by adding enough water, and try adding a carrier like Olive oil (or another oil of your choice) or Honey to give moisture to the skin. You'll also want to check pH level of your mixture with pH strip tester and adjust the measurements of the other ingredients you're including to suit. 



A popular natural mechanical skin scrub that rids the skin of the top layer of dirt, debris, and dead skin. Not only does salt bring flavour to our foods, it also has many other benefits for our bodies including fighting dandruff, it reduces swelling, treats wounds and heals sore muscles when used as a salt bath. This is because salt reduces water retention making it key for soothing the body during monthly menstruation. It can be used as a detox to deeply cleanse the pores by absorbing the toxins in the skin, it can balance the skin's oil production, and it can fend off bacteria that acne and breakouts thrive off of. 

Why Is This Bad For The Skin?

The pH of salt is often hard to measure. Normally, salt sits at a pH of 7 but can vary from acidic to alkaline based on the type of salt you're reaching for. It all has to do with the strength of its basic and acidic levels of salt which can get a bit complicated. Salt contains high doses of magnesium which in part gives it is "anti-bloating" qualities. This is because it dries up water. Using salt on your skin can dry up all of the hydration you've worked so hard to put in the deeper layers of the skin. It can leave your skin dehydrated due to excessive moisture loss from evaporation. 

In terms of using salt as an exfoliator, salt crystals have sharp, jagged edges that can create microscopic tears in the skin that can be damaging. Adding in salt to injury (see what I did there), if your skin already has active pustules on the skin, these microscopic tears in your acne and result in having the infectious bacteria spread across your skin, effectively displacing the bacteria into otherwise healthy areas of your skin. Let's just say, after scrubbing your face to get rid of acne, you'll end up waking up with even more pimples on smooth areas of your face. 

What To Do Instead?

The skin needs minerals just as much as it needs water to function properly. When the mineral content of the skin is unbalanced, the skin appears dull, irritated and blotchy. If you're going to be using salt, opt for Sea Salt rather than table salt. Table salt contains iodine, which can actually contribute to more oiliness in the skin rather than balancing it. Sea Salt contains essential minerals, like magnesium, calcium, and potassium, that help to maintain the skin's health, function, and cellular communication.

If all else, try to avoid using salt at on your face altogether. Leave it for the Summer when you're swimming in the waves. Soaking in a salt bath is fine, and using it to exfoliate your body is okay too. But where your face is concerned, try using a fine, gentle exfoliator with smooth edges (like jojoba beads) to polish off the dull and dead skin cells. The skin does not need a harsh product to function properly. Exfoliation is key to optimal skin health, but mechanical exfoliators should only be used to exfoliate the outermost layer of the skin, not several layers deep. If you want to exfoliate the deeper layers of the skin (great for adult acne, and cystic acne) then try a BHA and put the table salt down.  



Using food on your face to heal the skin is one thing, but I really don't know when it became a thing to slather anti-cavity, tartar and gingivitis fighting solutions on your delicate skin. The gist of this method is to use toothpaste to kill acne-causing bacteria on the face and dry out pimples. Plus it has a peppermint cooling feeling to the skin just like the Peppermint or Tea Tree essential oils. Many have seen great results using this as an inexpensive spot treatment. So this is all good and dandy right? Actually no. 

Why Is This Bad For The Skin?

Toothpaste contains sodium lauryl sulfate, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, menthol, and essential oils among other things. If this combination doesn't like a chemical recipe for disaster then I don't know what does. This concoction irritates the skin, by drying it out causing redness and peeling of the skin. It can also leave you with a nasty chemical burn. In an article for the Huffington's Post, New York-based dermatologist,  Dr. Neal Schultz, advised that there is "no ingredient that makes toothpaste more effective than other methods," leaving only reasons why it could be potentially dangerous. 

What To Do Instead?

Drying out a pimple is an age-old, tried and true method of quickly getting rid of acne, I even dry mine out from time-to-time. If your goal is to dry out the pimple, try using a clay mask, or a mud mask as a spot treatment. Leave it on overnight and see a shrunken pimple the next morning. If noting else, when its time to wind down with your skin routine, please, put the toothpaste tube down. 

What other DIY ingredients should we be staying away from? Sound off in the comments below!