04/05/2016 07:21 BST | Updated 04/05/2017 06:12 BST

Seven Natural Ingredients to Avoid If You Have Acne


It's 2016 and the internet is our main source for beauty tips, tricks, and recipes. With YouTuber's and bloggers such as Brooke Evans and Marie Lopez recommending unconventional and potentially dangerous tips including pure cinnamon face masks that burn your face, heating up wooden rods with a lighter to curl your eyelashes, and using Crayola crayons instead of eyeliner, it's no wonder that more and more of us are inadvertently harming our bodies by following these questionable beauty tricks. Unfortunately it's not just pens and lighters we need to be wary of, there a whole load of 'non-toxic' ingredients that could cause harm too! Today, I look at the seven natural ingredients to avoid if you suffer from acne or sensitive skin.

Applying neat lemon juice to your skin can destroy the acid mantle and cause irritation and inflammation!

Natural, DIY beauty recipes are a great, cost effective way to nourish and pamper your skin but it's important to know what's really good for your skin and what needs to be avoided at all costs. Despite many ingredients being natural and 'non-toxic', they still have the potential to burn, blister, and even scar your skin if used incorrectly.

7 natural ingredients to avoid if you have acne

These 7 ingredients are often found in DIY beauty recipes under the assumption that because it's natural, it's perfectly safe to use on the skin. Unfortunately this is not the case and these natural ingredients can actually cause more irritation than their toxin-filled counterparts we work so hard to avoid.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel extract is soothing on the skin and was used by Native Americans as popular treatment for swellings, inflammation, and tumours. They used to boil the stems of the shrub into an ointment and then applied it topically. However, the witch hazel you find in the pharmacy nowadays is often distilled by alcohol or immersed in it as a preservative. Alcohol is extremely drying on the skin and dissolves the skin's protective surface oils leaving it susceptible to irritation and excess oil production. Witch hazel also contains a natural fragrance compound called eugenol which could be a potent irritant and should be avoided if you suffer from excess redness, rosacea, or sensitive skin.

Baking Soda

Healthy skin is balanced skin, and what many DIY beauty recipes don't take into account is the pH of the ingredients used. Healthy skin has a natural pH of about 4.5-5 whereas baking soda has a pH of 9. Using products that are too alkaline disrupts and damages the skin's natural barrier. A strong skin barrier is essential for keeping pathogens out, retaining moisture and keeping the skin firm and smooth, while a compromised, weakened barrier function can lead to dry, itchy, or irritated skin which is why it's so important to match the pH of our skin care products to the pH of our skin.

Lemons and Limes

On the opposite end of the scale, lemons are highly, highly acidic with a pH of 2. Just like sucking on a lemon can ruin the enamel on your teeth, applying neat lemon juice to your skin can destroy the acid mantle and cause irritation and inflammation. The oils in citrus fruits can also cause phototoxicity, which is a reaction that occurs on the skin when exposed to UV rays after applying phytotoxic ingredients. Phototoxicity can cause redness, pigmentation, burning, and even blistering.

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is often used in DIY recipes as a toner for those that suffer with acne or hyper-pigmentation. While raw ACV is highly alkaline when taken internally, it remains highly acidic when applied directly to the skin. Whilst topical ACV has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for the removal of skin tags and wart, it's not a good idea to use in high concentrations on a daily basis as it can permanently damage the skin. Stick to drinking your ACV as it will have a much better effect on your skin in the long run as it reduces inflammation, promotes healthy digestion, aids detoxification, and reduce excess acidity - all of which can contribute to skin problems.

Hot Water

Sometimes a steamy shower is just what the doctor ordered, but unfortunately hot water completely strips all the natural oil from your skin, leaving it feeling tight, irritated, and dry. If you suffer from acne then using hot water to cleanse your face at night could be contributing to your oily skin. Drying your skin out and stripping it of all its natural oils actually results in your skin producing more sebum to compensate.

Sugar/Salt/Ground Coffee

We all know that too much refined sugar, salt, and coffee can play havoc on our skin, but it's not just consuming it that we need to be concerned about. There are many DIY facial scrubs on the net which use these ingredients as the physical buffer in the exfoliator but it's a trend that needs to be scrubbed out, fast. While a sugar and olive oil mixture is perfect for prepping your legs for beach season, the epidermis on your face is far to delicate for the sharp edges found on salt and sugar crystals and coffee granules. These rough edges actually cause tiny tears on the skin which can damage and age the skin.

Despite many ingredients being natural and 'non-toxic', they can still burn and scar your skin!

Undiluted Essential Oils

Essential oils can be powerful tools when used correctly but it's becoming more and more common to misuse these potent ingredients and apply them directly to your skin. Undiluted, essential oils could cause a severe irritation, allergic reaction, and possibly even a permanent sensitivity so you must always combine and dilute essential oils with carrier oils, waxes, or butters. Very few essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile and tea tree are typically considered safe for undiluted topical use, however if you have sensitive skin it's highly recommended that you dilute all essential oils, even the 'safe' ones.

Essential oil blending to avoid irritation:

Sensitive skin: 0.5% to 1% dilution = 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per 30ml base oil

Normal skin: 1% to 2.5% dilution = 6 to 15 drops of essential oil per 30ml base oil

Are there any other ingredients to avoid if you have acne? Have you ever reacted to an ingredient you assumed to be safe because it was natural? Let me know in the comments below!

Originally posted on Skyn.Therapy.

Amy Saunders is an expert in natural beauty and founded her virtual acne clinic Skyn.Therapy after suffering from severe acne for 13 years. Amy delves deeper into the root causes of acne, proving you don't need harsh chemicals to achieve a flawless complexion. Find Amy on Twitter, Instagram, and on her blog Skyn.Therapy.