Think about it: When you meet a person for the first time, which part of their body do you focus on first?
Hopefully, you look at their face. And most likely, other people do the same when they meet you. That’s one reason why taking care of the skin on your face is really important.
But there’s another reason that is even more important:
A research study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics has found that the skin on our faces is a lot more sensitive than on other parts of our body.
It is more sensitive because it is much thinner—and it is made up of smaller skin cells.
As a result, chemicals applied to your face have a shorter path to enter your body than they would elsewhere.
Likewise, moisture has a shorter path to escape, meaning that the skin on your face dries out the fastest.
That’s why taking care of the skin on your face is so important.
And where would you find out how to get healthy skin?
If you’re like most people, the Internet is not only your messenger and your shopping mall, but also your personal beauty consultant.
But as you know, not everything you read is true.
So we need to be careful about what advice we follow and what advice we should ignore—especially when it comes to something as delicate as the skin on your face.
That’s where we come in.
We’ve looked at tons of posts recommending various DIY facial-care treatments. We’ve put their claims under scrutiny in light of the best scientific evidence available.
We’ve compiled a roundup of the 30+ “worst-of-the-worst” things you should never put on your face.
These are ingredients that some well-meaning but uninformed people have recommended that you put on your face, that you absolutely should NOT put on your face.
If you are interested in reading a list of ingredients that ARE safe (and wonderful!) to put on your face, we have prepared a free download for you.
Here we go.
1. Baking soda
It might be tempting at the cost of a dollar to use baking soda as a scrub to get clear skin, but you should know something about pH.
PH is a value that runs from 0 to 14, where substances approaching either end of the scale (toward 0 or 14) are corrosive and can burn your beautiful skin.
Water has a (neutral) pH of 7, and your skin has a pH of about 4.5-5.0.
The pH of baking soda, by contrast, is 9.
While for most people (about 90% of the population), baking soda is perfectly safe to use elsewhere on your body (such as your underarms), your face is a different story.
Such a high pH is likely to damage the delicate skin on your face.
According to a study in the journal Dermatology, exposing your skin to such a high pH can lead to irritation and dryness.
This puts baking soda among the things you should never put on your face if you want to maintain healthy skin.
Our advice: the closest baking soda should get to your face is when you stick a chocolate chip cookie in your mouth.
2. Retinyl palmitate
While retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, works well in night creams, it could be dangerous when included in face creams worn during the day, including sunscreen.
According to several scientific studies summarized by the Environmental Working Group, retinyl palmitate could possibly increase the speed at which tumors grow when exposed to the sun.
Definitely not what you should do to get healthy skin.
So far, the FDA has not restricted the use of retinyl palmitate, but has ordered more studies.
If you want to be on the safe side, make sure your face creams and sunblocks do not include retinyl palmitate.
3. Lemon juice
Some people recommend lemon juice to lighten the skin and remove dark spots, but it comes with a number of disadvantages.
First, lemon juice has a very low pH level of just 2. This means that it is acidic, and likely to irritate and disrupt the protective acid mantle of your skin.
The second danger is that lemon juice (like all things citrus) is a photosensitizer.
That means that if you put lemon juice on your skin, and the skin gets exposed to sunlight, the lemon juice will make your skin beg for a sunburn.
In short: lemon juice is among the things you should never put on your face.
4. Lime juice
Some well-meaning folks have suggested using lime as an alternative to lemon juice. Don’t do it!
The same danger lurking within lemon juice extends to all citrus products. In fact, the acidity (= low pH) of limes is even more extreme than that of lemons.
If you want to prevent burns, keep limes away from your face—both due to the low pH, and to the thing we mentioned earlier about photosensitivity.
This certainly places lime juice among the things you should never put on your face for keeping healthy skin.
If you really wanna remove pigmentation on your face, check out this post with natural ways to removing dark spots.
Nobody likes irritation and breakouts. That’s why we recommend that you avoid getting any hairspray on your face.
It will dry out your skin, clog your pores, and cause irritation.
You should also think about the high number of chemicals in conventional hairsprays—including solvents, glues, polymers and propellants.
Many of these ingredients are toxic and they are among the things you should never put on your face.
If you’re interested, you can read more about the dangers of hairspray here.
Ah, fragrance: it seems like it’s on every one of your personal care products’ ingredient lists.
The artificial fragrances found in most perfumes, lotions, hair care products, and soaps (not to mention air fresheners and candles) can contain any number of chemicals which have been known to cause problems.
For one, fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions and irritation.
Even if the surface of your skin seems undisturbed, synthetic fragrances may harm your skin at deeper levels, reducing your skin’s ability to heal and fight environmental damages.
A study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that perfume can lead to respiratory symptoms (e.g. asthma).
The Environmental Working Group has classified fragrances as a “highly hazardous” beauty-product ingredient.
Some artificial fragrance chemicals may even increase your risk of cancer.
In short: Friends don’t let friends use fragrances on their healthy skin.
If you want to get a list of harmful ingredients that are common in personal care products, you’re in luck! We’ve prepared a free download so you can sort out any cosmetics you own that contain chemicals proven to be harmful and not buy them again in the future.
If someone recommends that you use toothpaste on acne because of its drying nature, thank them for the advice, and don’t do it.
Because here are some studies that recommend otherwise.
A study published in the journal Contact Dermatitis found that ingredients in 50% of conventional toothpastes contain up to 30 substances that have been recognized as allergens to the skin (e.g. cinnamic aldehyde).
These allergens may lead to “stomatitis, cheilitis, glossitis, gingivitis, perioral dermatitis and immediate hypersensitivity.”
If you are using a toothpaste from a common brand, it most likely includes sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
According to a study published in the International Journal of Toxicology, SLS has been found to degenerate cell membranes, thus putting healthy skin at danger.
The study also emphasized that products containing more than 1% of SLS should not be used over the long term.
According to another scientific study, conventional toothpastes may contain up to 2% SLS.
Hopefully, this evidence is enough to convince you that toothpaste is among the things you should never put on your face.
And while we’re on the subject, here’s some fruit for thought: maybe not a bad idea to look for a new toothpaste, too.
8. Petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly might seem like a good choice due to its ability to seal in moisture. However, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.
The disadvantage is that petroleum jelly also seals in dirt, which can lead to breakouts.
There are a couple more things.
The first is that petroleum jelly is toxic.
While according to the Illinois Poison Center, petroleum jelly isn’t significantly toxic when swallowed in small amounts, swallowing even a small amount can still upset your stomach.
This can easily happen, for example, if you apply it around your mouth.
To prevent this, do not apply petroleum jelly to your lips or near your mouth.
Because petroleum jelly can also harm your eyes, it’s best to forgo any DIY eye-makeup recipes that call for it.
If you decide to risk it anyway, follow these safety procedures in the event you do accidentally get some in your eyes.
9. Other petrochemicals
The cosmetics industry uses many other ingredients that derive from petroleum.
They are especially common in lip balms, mascaras, and hairsprays. The most common ones are petroleum distillates, mineral oils, and paraffins.
Whenever you hear that a beauty product is “water repellant,” you’d better read the ingredients, as its likely that petroleum is used to achieve this effect.
Wanna know more? We recommend a great post on this topic by the folks at Beauty Editor.
10. Hot water
A hot shower can be refreshing on a winter’s day, but make sure that you do not expose your face to the hot water.
Hot water can be damaging to the skin on your face.
According to physicians at the Baylor College of Medicine, hot showers can zap moisture from your skin and leave it dry through evaporation.
As a result, your skin might increase its oil production to compensate for the loss of moisture, leading to breakouts.
For healthy skin the doctors recommend sticking to lukewarm water, especially in the winter when your skin is already dry.
They suggest that your shower time should not exceed 10-15 minutes at most.
To learn about how to wash your face in a way that supports (and doesn’t undermine) your skin’s natural beauty, get our free guide here.
11. Body lotion
As we mentioned earlier, the skin on your face is more sensitive than on other parts of your body.
For that reason, your face needs higher-quality ingredients to treat its gentle skin.
The problem with most body lotions is that they are designed to cover a wider skin surface, so most manufacturers formulate them using less nourishing ingredients than what’s normally used in face cream.
According to Dr. Rajani Katta, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, most lotions contain high water content and fewer nutrients that could nourish your skin.
And because the skin on the rest of your body is not as sensitive, most body lotions contain ingredients that are hard for the face to tolerate.
That’s why your face might react with breakouts, clogged pores, and/or irritation if you apply body lotion to it.
This is why body lotion is among the things you should never put on your face.
12. Vitamin pills
Since many face creams include vitamins, some people have come up with the idea to crush up vitamin pills and apply them to their skin as antioxidants.
If you want to get beautiful skin this is a bad idea.
Some vitamin pills or antioxidant supplements might be healthy to consume occasionally while they are intact, but may become unstable and oxidize when they are mixed with water or other ingredients.
Once the pills are crushed, they might actually harm your skin.
Better don’t do it. They’re among the things you should never put on your face.
13. Rubbing alcohol
There are differing opinions among beauty experts on whether it is ever appropriate to use rubbing alcohol on your face.
Those who advocate it point to its ability to disinfect broken skin, and its ability to dry out oily skin.
Rubbing alcohol can do both of these things. But in the process, it can also damage your healthy skin.
That’s because not only does it dissolve bacteria, but it can also harm or kill healthy skin cells.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology found that, for this reason, application of alcohol to your skin leads to skin irritation and dermatitis.
We think that rubbing alcohol, as well as any beauty products containing alcohol, fall into the category of things you should never put on your face.
14. Vegetable shortening
Appallingly, some people have recommended putting vegetable shortening on the face. (Don’t believe it? Here ‘s the video).
According to medical doctor David Colbert, vegetable shortening’s thickness makes it very likely to clog your pores and give you breakouts.
Vegetable shortening belongs on your plate, and it’s certainly among the things you should never put on your face.
You may already know that eating too much sugar can lead to breakouts and other skin problems. (You can read more about foods to avoid for great skin in this free ebook).
But using sugar as a “face scrub,” as some beauty advisers suggest, is just as harmful.
Sugar crystals are hard, and have sharp edges. These sharp edges can cut anything that is sufficiently delicate – including (you guessed it!) the skin on your face.
Your face is simply too sensitive to be exposed to a rough grain like sugar and its among the things you should never put on your face.
If you want to prevent invisible tears and premature aging, then never put on your face.
To read more about skin-nourishing alternatives, download our Exfoliation Guide.
16. Salt, ground nuts, and coffee
Like sugar, salt is also too rough to put on your face, as it can easily damage your skin. It also absorbs moisture, which could leave your skin dry.
The same goes for crushed nuts or ground coffee.
Anything with tiny, sharp edges has simply too great a tendency to cause more harm than good to the gentle skin in your face, especially when applied on a regular basis.
There are a number of great ingredients in your kitchen that you can use for exfoliating in a way that promotes the health of your skin.
If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and get your free copy of our Exfoliation Guide.
17. Hair dye
It can be fun coloring your hair, but you should make sure the hair color does not end up on your face due to the many chemicals that are used in these products.
An article in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology has reviewed a number of scientific studies on the topic of hair coloring and the associated dangers.
The authors concluded that, while it is certain that hair dyes cause cancer in animals, it cannot be determined with equal certainty that they have the same effect in humans.
Even so, you should be cautious about the following: darker hair dyes were found to increase the risk of illnesses and dyeing one’s hair during pregnancy has been linked to an alarming number of childhood cancers.
And no matter what color you are using, or whether you are pregnant or not, all artificial hair dyes get absorbed through your scalp. Once they’re in, they can mess with your lymph system and cause health problems.
Not the best way to get healthy skin.
To reduce the risk when using hair dyes, the researchers suggest that you cut down the time you leave the hair dye on your scalp by 25%, to limit exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals.
The safest option to avoid chemical-based hair dyes altogether. (Personally, we also think that the most beautiful color of hair a person can have is the one that comes naturally to them.)
However, we know that’s not for everyone, so if you’re going to dye your hair, be sure to use adequate protection to ensure that none gets on your face.
Another alternative is to look for a vegetable-based colorant, especially if you’re dying your eyebrows.
These products include fewer chemicals, and are less harsh (and less likely to leave you blind).
If you want to read more about chemicals in hair dyes and other beauty products, grab the free list we prepared for you.
The ingredients in your shampoo might be great for your hair. However, shampoos have not been designed for the sensitive cells of your skin.
So when you’re washing your hair, make sure to keep the shampoo away from your face.
You should especially not get shampoo on your face if you use conventional shampoos that include ingredients like SLS.
Conventional shampoos leave a chemical residue behind on your hair, so you may want to use different towels for drying your hair and your face.
19. Hair serum
Some people have reasoned that, since your skin and your hair are made of similar substances, what’s good for one must be good for the other.
Hair conditioning serums could harm the skin on your face because the ingredients in hair serums & face serums are different.
For example: Hair serums commonly contain artificial fragrances. As you’ve read in #6 above, synthetic fragrances on your face can lead to heavy irritation.
In short: Keep hair serum on your hair – they’re among the things you should never put on your face.
Some people have recommended using vinegar as a facial toner. While it may work for some, we recommend trying it only at your own risk!
Remember what we said earlier about pH (in #3 and #4 above)?
Vinegar is a strong acid (low pH), meaning that it is corrosive and could harm healthy skin.
According to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, using apple cider vinegar on the face can result in severe chemical burns.
Definitely not the skin tone you were looking for!
This is why vinegar is among the things you should never put on your face.
Apparently, someone out there is actually recommending this.
They say that people should put deodorant on their faces to prevent their makeup from melting on a hot day.
If you are using conventional deodorant, please take a quick look at the ingredient list.
Conventional deodorants are packed with chemicals, including aluminum.
Definitely not the right ingredient to boost the health of your skin anywhere, and it certainly does not make the sensitive skin on your face happy.
Many aluminum-free deodorants contain either alcohol or baking soda.
While these ingredients are safe for most people to use on their underarms, they are too harsh for the skin of your face (see #1 and #13 above).
This is why deodorant is among the the things you should never put on your face.
22. Foot cream
This should be a no-brainer.
We feel silly even saying this, but because someone out there decided to encourage people to try this one, we feel it’s our duty to call them on it.
Foot cream should not be put on your face. These creams are extremely thick, and will clog your pores.
They are also very sticky, which invites dirt to get stuck on your skin.
Furthermore, foot cream is partly designed to exfoliate dead skin on your feet—which is waaay tougher than the delicate skin on your face.
You could actually harm healthy skin on your face this way.
Please keep these creams on your feet. They are among the things you should never put on your face.
23. Makeup with aluminum
Although the FDA has approved aluminum as an ingredient in cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group has pointed out its toxic nature, especially with regard to your nervous system.
If you feel uncomfortable using makeup with toxic ingredients, you should avoid anything that contains aluminum.
Reading the ingredient list is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself. If your makeup doesn’t come with an ingredient list, call the toll-free number on the packaging and ask the manufacturer to send it to you.
(Yes, it’s a pain to have to take the time to do that, but it’s totally worth it to make an informed decision about what you want to put on your skin.)
Knowledge is power.
Wanna know more about the chemicals lurking in your cosmetics? Download the free list now.
Some DIY facial recipes include mayonnaise. The logic of their advice is that mayonnaise contains eggs, which are good for your skin.
However, its other ingredients aren’t so great.
Some of them are acidic and could burn healthy skin. Others could clog your pores and cause breakouts.
Our two cents: put mayo on your sandwich, not on your skin. It’s definitely among the things you should never put on your face.
25. Nail polish
Even if you run out of face paint, and you’re about to go to a Halloween party, please. Do not. Use. Nail polish. On. Your face.
(Yep, someone is actually recommending this as an alternative to face paint. And nope, it wasn’t The Onion.)
There are two reasons why this is a really, really bad idea.
First, it’s very hard to remove.
Second, the ingredients in nail polish are by far too harsh to put on your skin.
A study conducted by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group that was published in the journal Environment International documented that nail polish includes harmful ingredients.
Between 10-14 hours after applying nail polish, an ingredient called triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, enters your body.
By the way, TPHP is a fire retardant that is also found in plastics and rubber.
TPHP is a suspected endocrine disruptor, meaning that any system in the body controlled by hormones can be disrupted.
This can result in health problems ranging from cognitive disabilities to breast cancer.
Once TPHP enters your body, it is metabolized into diphenyl phosphate, or DPHP. The study found that participants’ level of DPHP in their bodies increased seven-fold after they applied nail polish.
Because of the risks that these chemicals pose to human development, it is especially troublesome if teenagers or pregnant women use nail polish.
Here’s a list of brands that include TPHP in their nail polish.
However, this list is not exhaustive, and reading ingredient lists can’t protect you from TPHP. Many brands include TPHP in their products without mentioning it on their ingredient list.
These findings should make you think before you decide to apply nail polish to your nails or your healthy skin—especially the skin of your face.
Some folks have recommended using crayons to make eyeliner or lipstick, on the assumption that crayons are non-toxic.
The problem? We don’t know that they are non-toxic.
The Crayola company has published a statement advising against this trend.
The company has emphasized that their products have only been safety tested for their intended use (for drawing on paper)—and not for use in cosmetics.
Most crayons (including Crayola) are made from paraffin wax, which is a petroleum product, and shouldn’t be used on your face (see #8 and #9 above).
There are lots of great companies out there making truly natural, non-toxic makeup.
Don’t put your beautiful skin at risk by jumping on the crayon bandwagon. They’re among the things you should never put on your face.
27. Hydrogen peroxide
We love hydrogen peroxide for certain uses.
Safely bleaching the grout in your bathroom tiles? Check.
Preventing infection from minor cuts? Check.
However, hydrogen peroxide should not be used to treat acne on your face, because this can lead to burning and blisters.
Hydrogen peroxide could also lead to allergic reactions and inflammation—and damage your eyes, should it come into contact with them.
In a fact sheet compiled by the New Jersey Department of Health, you can find more information about the dangers of hydrogen peroxide, as well as some advice on first aid in case of eye and skin contact.
This is why hydrogen peroxide is among the things you should never put on your face if you want to get healthy skin.
Now it’s getting serious. Parabens are synthetic preservatives that manufacturers of conventional personal care products widely use in their formulations.
Anything from conventional face wash, baby wipes, and makeup to anti-aging treatments and facial toners can contain parabens. (“Fun fact”: did you know there are over 20,000 parabens?!)
The biggest problem with parabens is that they imitate the hormone estrogen. Products that contain estrogen-mimickers can be harmful to both men and women.
According to a study in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, parabens are also a suspected carcinogen.
Although a causal link with cancer has not been proven, parabens have been found in the tissue of breast tumors.
Additionally, parabens have been suggested to lead to allergic reactions.
The folks at Livestrong have compiled a great list of products that contain parabens so you can avoid them for healthy skin.
Our two cents: If you want to keep your beautiful skin healthy, the best way to avoid parabens is to make a habit of reading ingredient labels.
Formaldehyde isn’t just for embalming the dead.
It is actually a widely-used substance found in all kinds of everyday products.
You’ll find it in “no-iron” fabrics, electronics, the particle board and plywood typically used in home improvement projects, and of course, personal care products.
Formaldehyde has not been banned, but the European Union has limited its use to 0.2% in any product, and requires a warning label on any products containing over 0.05% formaldehyde.
The Canadian government has declared it a toxic substance.
The government of the United States has only placed limits on the amount of formaldehyde allowed in wood products.
The problem with such lax regulation? Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen.
Whether it causes cancer has not been definitively confirmed yet, but the short-term effects sound convincing enough to keep formaldehyde away from your skin, especially the thin skin of your face.
According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to formaldehyde can cause “watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation.”
Because formaldehyde is sometimes used in the chemical manufacturing processes, conventional beauty products might contain small amounts of it without it ever being listed on the ingredient list.
These trace amounts of formaldehyde often sneak into your skin through beauty products containing other ingredients like quaternium-15, DMDM-hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea.
Keep your eyes open for these ingredients.
They could harm your healthy skin and are among the things you should never put on your face.
You might not expect to see this one topping off the list, but: ta-da!
Personally, before we even get to using it on your face, we avoid conventional chapstick even for its intended use due to its chemical content.
What is that content, you ask?
First off, Chapstick’s primary ingredient is petrolatum, which is – you guessed it – a petroleum product (see #8 and #9 above). Mineral oil and paraffin are petroleum products too, and Chapstick contains them both.
Its other ingredients include fragrance (see #6), alcohol (#13), and multiple kinds of parabens (#28).
That explains why we don’t use it on our lips. But some people are recommending that you use it for removing your makeup.
Why not, you might ask?
Well, as you might recall from #8 above (petroleum jelly), petroleum products have a sealing effect.
It seals the good into your skin (think moisture) along with the bad (think air pollution), and keeps good things out, including your nutrient-packed evening skin routine.
Instead, we recommend using any one of a number of natural DIY methods for removing makeup that truly promote the health of your skin.
* * *
Congratulations, you made it to the end of the post!
Now remember, we are not saying that everybody will be affected in the same way when using these ingredients.
Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones who won’t suffer any negative consequences from putting these things on your face.
However, if you want to be as good to your skin as possible, this post serves as a “word to the wise” of what could happen if you do try these things at home.
So now that you know what you shouldn’t do, you might be wondering: What ingredients are actually safe and beneficial to use on your face?
We hear ya.
We actually prepared a free list to help you choose great (all-natural) topical treatments that your face will love; go ahead and download it!
If you learned something useful here today, please share this post with your friends.
You can also follow us on social media for lots more information on natural and healthy skin care.
And if you’re hungry for more knowledge, check out our “detox” post. In it, you’ll learn about 8 “detox” claims that you should be skeptical about, and what scientific studies tell us about how to really “detox” your skin!
This is where a dry legal disclaimer would normally go, but who reads those? What you really need to know is that this post is for general informational purposes only. It should not substitute for the advice of your doctor. We say this for two reasons. The first reason is that, although we make every effort to provide you with information that is fact-based and accurate, we cannot guarantee that we’ll never make mistakes. If you do spot a mistake, please be so kind as to inform us, and we’ll investigate it and correct the text if appropriate. The second reason is that everyone’s body and health history is different. What might work wonderfully for us or for the people in a particular research study, might not work so well for you. So anything that you might try out based on what is written here will be at your own risk – please use common sense. To be on the safe side, always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, exercise, supplement use, water intake, skincare regimen, or other major lifestyle habits.