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When DIY Skincare Works… and When It Doesn’t

Have you ever been hanging out at home or scrolling through your Instagram feed and notice your roommate, friends, family, or favorite beauty guru smearing oatmeal on their face? Why are they doing that?

Natural beauty, and therefore Do It Yourself (DIY) skincare, is a rising trend. You’ve probably seen Indie brands boasting about their all-natural ingredients; you’ve probably read a listicle or two featuring recipes for at-home facemasks or natural sugar scrubs. There’s a credible reason for this—consumers are, frankly, fed up with certain corporate skincare brands’ use of harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and so on. There’s definitely a lack of transparency when it comes to ingredients, for which the skincare industry as a whole is at fault. So consumers are taking their skincare into their own hands.

And for certain types of skincare, we’re totally on board with DIY. Itching to make your own soap? Go for it. Found the perfect, natural plant oil for your face? Great, just make sure you’re checking expiration dates.

But for other skincare needs—sophisticated ones that focus on penetration, problem solving, and correction, we’d caution against going the DIY route. And as a skincare brand that wants its customers to be safe and well educated, we want to make sure you have all the facts. So here’s when DIY skincare works… and when it doesn’t.

DIY skincare for bath & body needs is A-okay

There are at-home products in the bath & body category that do make a lot of sense: an oatmeal bath, Epsom salt, cucumbers on your eyes. These are things that are fun and experiential. If you want to relax in a natural, fragrant bath or experiment with making your own soap, that’s totally fine with us. If you want to go to the hardware store and buy some clay and rub it all over your face, sure thing. Additionally, if you’re interested in going the natural skincare route for basic hydration—lip balms, plant oils, the like—and you’ve found that the DIY route works great for your skin, then we’re happy with that.

In particular for the bath and body segment, DIY products are usually a lifestyle choice. It’s not like you’re going to get better efficacy by making your own soaps, it’s more that it’s fun and experiential. That’s cool with us.

For problem-solving, potency, and correction, stick to commercial products

Thing’s get a little more interesting when you get into skincare for the purpose of driving a benefit. If you’re looking to deliver serious results—mitigate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve the appearance of dark circles, address a loss of radiance, reduce the appearance of enlarged pores—it’s better to find a commercial brand that you trust and stick with them. Here’s why:

  • Commercial products are better for penetration and delivery. Rubbing oils on your face is fine, because your goal there is hydration. But if you’re trying to deliver a functional ingredient (like Vitamin C, omegas, peptides, you name it) into your skin, know that commercial brands can create really effective emulsions (a mix of oil and water) that will actually penetrate the surface layer of your skin. Topical clinical skincare is optimized for delivery. Your skin is a sophisticated barrier, and commercially formulated emulsions are better able to penetrate that barrier.
  • Commercial brands can amass greater, more concentrated volumes of functional ingredients and make them bioavailable. This rings true for both topical applications and things you would ingest, like a supplement. Think of a blueberry extract supplement—if you are trying to get more of the benefits of blueberries into your diet, you can eat 10,000 blueberries, or you can take a supplement every day. The same applies for many other ingredients—turmeric, peptides, you name it. We can access highly concentrated versions of the ingredients you’re looking for. That’s something you can’t recreate at home.Another example is retinol. You can find retinol in liver, or in green, leafy vegetables. But if you’re thinking about pureeing up some spinach and applying it all over your face, that’s not going to deliver the results you actually need. Commercial brands are able to not only access more potent concentrations of retinol, but they can make sure that it’s delivered into your skin. The word for that is “bioavailable.”
  • Commercial brands have access to beneficial synthetic ingredients. The synthetic ingredients that we’re referring to are things like designer peptides, copper tripeptides, or Vitamin C Ester. Vitamin C Ester, for example, is just a derivative of Vitamin C that lets Vitamin C penetrate the surface layer your skin much more effectively, therefore making it much more bioavailable. What commercial brands are able to do in their labs is tweak natural molecules to make them more bioavailable or more potent. Additionally, a lot of the ingredients we are using are really specialised and can’t be found in nature in appreciable quantities. You can’t recreate those functional ingredients at home.

When turning to DIY Skincare, be careful about bacteria, pathogens, and allergens

There’s one important caveat we want to make about DIY skincare, even if it’s in the bath & body category. Be super cognizant of pathogens, bacteria, and allergens. DIY skincare is fine if all the ingredients are fresh. If you’re using food—whether it’s a cucumber or olive oil—remember that those things have a very limited shelf life. If you’re going to slather yogurt onto your face, and that yogurt has gone bad, and you have a cut on your face, you could get an infection.

This next part is a bit nuanced, but it’s essentially this: Just because a food is safe to eat, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to apply on to your skin. Your digestive system is built to tolerate bacteria. Your skin isn’t. So you can eat something and be okay, but get sick if you apply it to your skin. Similarly, there are standards in the food industry about what level of bacteria is “acceptable” and can be in food. Those standards for food are much lower than the standards for topical and cosmetic products. So if your skin barrier is compromised, and you’re putting food on it, there’s always a risk there.

Finally, watch out for allergens. Any respectable brand will safety test their products to make sure that no one is allergic to their ingredients. They will use adequate preservation so that there isn’t a chance that you could have pathogenic bacteria, yeast, or mold growing in the product that ends up giving you a skin infection. These are all standards that we undergo as an industry. And even then, we always recommend patch testing topical products to make sure you aren’t having a reaction before applying it all over your face. Use that discretion with DIY skincare products as well.

How to find a commercial brand you trust

The skincare industry at large is at fault for a lack of transparency when it comes to products and ingredients. Sure, some of this is due to rules and regulations that restrict what we can say, but it is our job to better educate our customers on what they’re putting on their body.

If you feel inherently skeptical of commercial brands, find a brand that will engage with you. Mass-market education on ingredients requires diving into a lot of chemical jargon and nomenclature. One reason brands don’t talk about it is that it can get really complicated, and it’s not necessarily information that everyone is interested in. But if you are interested, see if there’s a way for you to reach out to the brand and ask a skincare specialist. At Perricone MD, for example, we’re more than happy to have those conversations with you.

Ultimately, though, finding a commercial brand that works for you comes down to trust. We’ll always do our best to create a narrative around our products that’s compelling and easy to understand. And we’ll always take the extra step to engage those customers who are more curious about our ingredients and our process. So whether you’re looking for a DIY skincare solution or need to seriously problem solve, reach out to us. That’s what we’re here for.

If you want to learn more about our ingredients but aren’t quite ready for a personal science lesson, check out the rest of our blog, read on about Dr Perricone Skincare Adviceor find out what product is best suited for you by viewing our new colour coded chart to help you identify the perfect skin regimen for you.