Are Homemade Face Masks Good for Your Skin?

If you curate the ingredients carefully, a DIY face mask can be the superfood smoothie of your skincare routine – it only takes a few minutes to whip up, and the results are instantly glowing skin! Whether it’s a homemade face mask to control your oily skin or deal with those pesky breakouts, there is a recipe out there for every skin concern.

If you are always in the quest for perfect skin, perhaps you have come across one or two DIY recipes on the Internet. But before you start mixing those lemons with egg whites, we advise you to proceed with caution. Not everything edible and natural is good for your skin. Thankfully, we have done the research, so you don’t have to!

The problem with DIYing is that you acquire the interest to try anything and everything, just for the fun of experimenting and most times to save money. In the case and process of your face, you risk so many things, lose so much, and bring on unusual problems you don’t realize at the beginning of your subsequent DIY experimentation. One of the most common DIY things people try is face products like masks, scrubs, serums or any other quick fixes for the face. Most ingredients are found in your kitchen or garden and can be put together to make DIY masks for quick or healing fixes for your skin. And many people do this! 

Unfortunately, most DIY face masks can harm the face than good and should be avoided for a good reason. We wrote up a small guide that will help you understand why you should avoid most DIY masks on the skin and instead go for skincare that has been tested for bacteria, PH levels, acidity, and so much more.

What is pH, and how does the pH level of the skin matter?

pH is a scale that determines the acidity, alkalinity, or neutrality of a composition. If you look into your skin as a composition, it also has a pH level, and there is an optimum pH range for the skin, which keeps itself functioning at its best. When working at the right level, the skin is also at its best.

Hence if the skin is maintained at the proper pH, the overall skin condition is healthy and functioning at its optimum level; the same goes for health issues or other problems. Therefore you must see to it that your food and drink, lifestyle, and cosmetic applications etc., must not affect the skin’s pH balance too much and disturb the pH level.

Any disturbance to the skin pH level can bring on numerous problems like pigmentation, skin peeling, acne, wrinkles etc. Hence whatever skin product you use, your skin’s average pH level mustn’t change; what looks beneficial to you may be harmful.

How can a DIY mask harm the skin?

A DIY mask is said so because you make it on your own using ingredients available near you. Usually, the covers are made from ingredients available at home from produce, spices, sweeteners, dairy products, fruits, etc. Sometimes they are mixed or blended in different compositions from a popular recipe created by someone who isn’t experienced. Most people believe these at-home masks will help exfoliate dead skin cells, remove a skin tan, remove dark spots and blemishes etc.

volcanic ash face mask

But with little knowledge of the composition of the Mask you’re concocting, you have the potential to harm your skin when you do not know the right concentration and amounts of each ingredient. Chemists spend weeks developing skincare products, and they rarely pass tests the first, second or even third time around. Let’s discuss some elements which can give you trouble and harm your skin more than you think.

So what DIY mask ingredients can harm your skin?

Lemon is an essential ingredient used in many DIY face masks. Lemon and lime juice contain vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid), a great healer of dark spots. But this does not mean you should put lemon juice on the skin directly! Instead of your dark spots getting lighter, you may get blotchy spots on the face due to the photosensitive ingredient in the liquid, which will make the skin absorb more sun rays and UV rays. Also, the acidity in lemon juice is an irritant that severely irritates your skin.

The acidic nature can sting your pimples and also cause them to bleed. Since lemons are natural ingredients, the amounts of acid in them can vary. The amount of each good component in your lemon will depend on all sorts of things, like where it was grown, the time of year, if it’s ripe, the variety of lemon.

There are millions of other chemicals in lemon juice, and some of these are not good for your skin. DIY lemon juice skincare has also been linked to chemical leukoderma, where patches of skin depigment – in other words, you end up with uneven lightened patches on your skin.

Many people also use baking soda on the skin for exfoliating. This DIY mask item can cause the skin to break out, and ruin the moisture barrier of the skin, and also leach off some of the good bacteria from the skin, thereby giving you more skin problems after using it.

You may have seen DIY sunscreen recipes going around on blogs and Pinterest, promising safe sun protection with gentle, natural ingredients. The ingredients will likely be zinc oxide, a popular physical sunscreen ingredient (often in diaper rash cream) and plant oil.

But we would not recommend you relying on homemade sunscreen. Why? Because it’s not safe. The vast majority of DIY sunscreen recipes have never been adequately tested, beyond “I put it on little Timmy and he didn’t get burnt”.

Even if a DIY sunscreen recipe had been tested to be a specific SPF, there’s no guarantee that yours would also be the same SPF. You can’t predict performance from a recipe! There are a few sun protection calculators on the Internet where you can type in the amount of each ingredient you’re using, and it’ll spit out an approximate SPF value.

Inconveniently, DIY sunscreen faves zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to clump in recipes if you don’t use high tech heavy equipment. This means you’ll get patchy coverage – some bits of your skin will be protected, while other bits remain unprotected!

DIY Face Masks: Do They Work?

We advise you to always do a patch test on a small area of the skin before applying your mask concoction on the entire face. Although it may seem obvious, do avoid using any ingredients that you are allergic to.

It is best to avoid using a homemade face mask altogether for those with pre-existing skin problems or suffering from cold sores. We recommend applying a face mask once or twice a week for the best results. So let’s get started! 

Homemade Face Masks for Different Skin Conditions: Recipes, Benefits, and How to Use

What are some safe DIY ingredients to use? Here are a few more ingredients you could use for your safe DIY Mask:

Beauty Claim: To Hydrate the Skin & For Anti-Aging Benefits

Bananas

Besides being one of the most widely consumed fruits globally, the humble banana has many beauty benefits! Bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals that are crucial for healthy, glowing skin.

According to Dr Jason Rivers, “While the benefits of incorporating bananas into your diet are clear, putting it on your face is another story. The nutrients will not be able to penetrate the skin to make a visible difference.” That’s a pretty good reason to save your bananas for your morning smoothie instead of your next face mask. 

Coconut Oil & Olive Oil

There is a good reason oils have been used for centuries for their skin benefits. Besides being 100% natural, oils like coconut oil and olive oil are excellent for hydrating the skin. “These oils are safe to use, gentle on the skin and act as a barrier to water loss. Coconut oils are incorporated into many cosmetic products to provide a moisturizing effect,” says Dr Rivers.

As a bonus, oils are also very effective at removing even the most stubborn makeup. However, it is essential to keep in mind that coconut oil and olive oil may not be the most suitable for you if you have oily, acne-prone skin. Instead, you might enjoy dry lubricants such as grapeseed oil or rosehip oil.

Beauty Claim: To Brighten and Exfoliate the Skin

Yoghurt

“It can be as beneficial as a face mask. The lactic acid in yoghurt can act as an exfoliant for the skin since it is an alpha hydroxy acid,” explains Dr Rivers. Like glycolic peels, lactic acid uses alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) to remove the dead cells from the surface of the skin and reveal fresh, glowing skin underneath. We cannot stress enough the importance of incorporating an exfoliant into your skincare routine.

A well-formulated peel is scientifically proven to show improvement in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps reduce acne and blemishes, promote even skin tone and texture, remove blackheads, and removes excessive oil. Learn more about exfoliants here. 

woman applying face detox

Spices (e.g. Turmeric and Cinnamon)

Dr Rivers warned that applying a DIY face mask with turmeric and cinnamon can be highly irritating to the skin. Instead, add spices to your meals, as its health benefits are well-documented.

Salt and Sugar

“Salt and sugar can certainly exfoliate,” Dr Rivers said, “but these are better used for the body or lips as the sharp edges of the salt and sugar crystals can cause micro-tears in the surface of your skin.” He suggests mixing salt and sugar with your favourite oil to make an easy lip and body scrub. Just be mindful of being extra gentle when massaging it on your lips and skin.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a household multi-tasking wonder that can be used for many things, from cleaning the kitchen counters, deodorizing the fridge to brushing your teeth. What about the claim that it can even be used as a fine scrub to brighten the skin? “It is true that baking soda can act as an exfoliant and may have antibacterial and brightening properties,” says Dr Rivers. That’s another one added to baking soda’s long list of uses.

Beauty Claim: To Treat Pimples, Tighten Pores, Reduce Blackheads, and For Antibacterial Benefits

Citrus (e.g. Lemons, Apple Cider Vinegar)

Many face mask recipes on the Internet intended for oily skin, dark spots, acne and blemishes often call for citrus fruit. “Although these can exfoliate the skin through AHA and provide a brightening effect,” says Dr Rivers, “it can also be very irritating to the skin.” Lemons are better left to add a citrus twist to your cocktails than to your DIY face mask. To learn more about how to effectively deal with oily skin and blemishes, read our Q&A with Dr Rivers. 

Crushed Aspirin Paste

This is a popular quick-fix skincare hack to treat pimples in a pinch – but does it work? According to Dr Rivers, “While aspirin does contain salicylic acid, also known as beta hydroxy acids, it is not in a form that is a good acne treatment.” Suppose you have a sudden, unsightly pimple and an event to attend in less than 24 hours away. In that case, Dr Rivers advises applying a hot compress and topical hydrocortisone that you can buy over the counter at the drugstore. We highly recommend reading our article on how to get rid of acne for an effective long-term solution. 

Honey

“Honey is antibacterial,” explains Dr Rivers, “but the effects on acne is questionable.” Again, you will save time and get much better results using anti-acne products found in drugstores or your dermatologist’s office. 

Egg Whites

The use of egg white in skincare is gaining popularity due to its supposed beauty benefits, particularly to shrink pores by tightening the skin. “Applying egg whites on your face can feel like it is tightening the skin,” says Dr Rivers, “but it is mostly because of its drying effect.” In short, there is no real long-term benefit of using egg whites.

Beauty Claim: To Get Rid of Dark Under-eye Circles and Reduce Puffiness

Tea Bags

Did you ever wake up with puffy eyes? Today research has shown that your morning tea can also act as an effective eye de-puffer. According to Dr Rivers, putting cooled tea bags over your eyes for 15-20 minutes can help reduce the swelling. This is because tea is rich in tannins, antioxidants and caffeine – all-natural superstars that can give you the appearance of well-rested, youthful eyes! But there is no excellent way to reduce dark circles at home, Dr Rivers said. Your best bet for a long-term solution will be at the dermatologist’s office.

Cucumbers

girl applying detox mask volcanic ash

This beauty tip has been around for years, but we wondered if it works? Once again, we turned to Dr Rivers to break down the science behind this old-age remedy. “Putting chilled slices of cucumbers on your eyes can be soothing,” says Dr Rivers, “like tea, cucumbers contain antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and swelling.”

Beauty Claim: To Hydrate, Reduce Itching & Regulate Inflammation

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of those rare traditional remedies your grandmother would tell you about – with scientific studies to back it up! There are a lot of things in oatmeal that make it an excellent choice for your face. It contains proteins, lipids, starch, and β-glucans, which protect your skin from water loss (occlusive effect) and hold water close to the skin (humectant effect).

Oatmeal has also been shown to normalize the skin pH and protect from UV rays, and has antioxidant properties. The FDA has approved the use of oatmeal to temporarily relieve skin irritation from eczema, rashes, insect bites and allergies. Dermatologists also often recommend oatmeal products for conditions such as rosacea, chickenpox and dry skin. Oatmeal is super popular on blogs and Pinterest; this is one ingredient that is beneficial for you!

Aloe

“Like oatmeal, aloe is soothing and anti-inflammatory,” says Dr Rivers, “but to get the full benefits, you need to use fresh aloe.” Perhaps it is good to have an aloe vera plant around the home to provide instant relief for skin emergencies like minor burns and insect bites. Not only is it easy to take care of, but aloe plants also add a fresh, modern look to your space.

Acne mask

Acne is considered the most common skin problem in the United States.

Zits develop when oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria clog pores, and acne includes blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, nodules, and cysts. However, the protein in egg whites may help kill bacteria on the skin and help stop blemishes.

Ingredients:

2 to 3 egg whites

Instructions:

  • Separate egg whites from the yolk, and place the egg whites in a bowl.
  • Dip a cotton swab into the bowl and dab the egg whites over your face.
  • Let the Mask sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Wash off with a damp cloth and apply a moisturizer.

Hyperpigmentation mask

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation refers to darkened areas of skin, often due to acne, age, or sun damage.

Dermatological treatments can help reduce hyperpigmentation, but they tend to be expensive. You can save money and even your skin tone with a DIY turmeric mask, which also lessens inflammation.

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 to 2 tbsp. raw honey

Instructions:

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl to create a paste.
  • Gently massage the paste over your face.
  • Let it sit for 10 minutes, then wash off with warm water.

Clogged pores mask

Oatmeal and baking soda have exfoliating properties, which can remove dead skin cells and unclog pores.

Ingredients:

2 tsp. oatmeal

1 tsp. baking soda

Instructions:

  • Combine the oatmeal and baking soda in a bowl. Slowly add a few drops of water to create a paste.
  • Gently massage the paste over your face and let it dry.
  • Wash off with warm water and apply a moisturizer.

Oily skin mask

Oily skin occurs when your pores produce too much sebum, a natural skin oil. Oils can clog pores, triggering acne and inflammation. Bananas can help absorb oil on the skin, while lemons help cleanse pores.

Ingredients:

One banana

10 drops lemon juice

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  • Mash the banana in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil to create a liquid paste.
  • Apply the mask over your face. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then wash off with warm water.

Dry skin mask

A hydrating facial mask can help your skin retain moisture and alleviate dullness and itching.

Ingredients:

half a cucumber

2 tbsp. aloe vera gel

Instructions:

Blend the cucumber and combine it with the aloe vera gel.

Gently massage the paste over your face.

Let it sit for 30 minutes and then wash off with water.

Wrinkles mask

Regular facial treatments can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and promote tighter, firmer skin. Use avocados and cocoa powder to stimulate collagen production and honey to moisturize and soften skin.

Ingredients:

Two avocados

1 tbsp. raw honey

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

Instructions:

  • Mash the avocados in a bowl, and then add the cocoa powder and honey.
  • Gently massage the mask over your face.
  • Let it sit for 20 minutes and then wash off with warm water.

Conclusion

While a few natural ingredients we discussed here are scientifically proven to be great temporary solutions for minor skin concerns, we still recommend choosing a well-formulated, dermatologist-developed drugstore or cosmeceutical mask because these undergo specific tests to meet strict regulations. This is particularly important if you have sensitive and reactive skin that is prone to irritation.

That said, the purpose of face masks, whether homemade or store-bought, is not just for their skin benefits but also to help you relax and unwind. After all, studies have shown that the secret to glowing skin is a stress-free life! So there you go, set aside some “me” time this week for a pampering spa session at home – put on your favourite face mask, draw a warm bath, pour a little glass of red wine and leave with radiant, glowing skin!