It seems hipsters are taking over the world, because there is an increasing obsession with all things “natural”, “herbal”, and “organic”, especially in the skincare world. To many, applying plant-based products seems safer because plants occur naturally. This is far from true. Just because it grows on a tree or comes from a plant doesn’t make it safe or mean it was made by nature to be used on your delicate skin.
In fact, many so-called natural products contain harsh chemicals which severely damage skin, and are not meant to be used as skincare because they happen to be food-grade or organic. Here, we list four such items which are common in a lot of Ayurvedic, herbal, and natural skincare products.
Lemon and lime
Lemon is a common lightening agent, while lime is supposed to be refreshing. Both are used liberally by people on parts as delicate as the face, exposing skin to minor chemical burns. This is because lemon juice has a pH of 3, and can go as low as 2, making it highly acidic. When applied to the skin, it can sting and cause redness. This inflammation, especially in skin prone to scarring, redness, or sensitivity, can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), especially if you rub lemon or lime juice on your blemishes or pimples.
Essential oils, especially lavender
Even though fragrance is known to irritate skin, a disturbingly large number of herbal, natural, and organic skincare brands infuse their products with essential oils. Sure to sting, burn, and irritate skin, essential oils are harsh and concentrated products which are never to be used undiluted on the skin, and are best kept far, far away from the face’s sensitive skin entirely.
This is especially true for citrus oils such as lemon, mandarin, citronella, grapefruit, orange, and lime, but the worst part is that it is also true for oils like mint, lavender, and tea tree. What is most alarming is mint, lavender, and tea tree are commonly used in “relaxing”, “soothing”, and “anti-inflammatory” skincare products, but do the opposite, since essential oils, especially these, are known to irritate skin and cause burns. A cool oil like mint can sear skin, lavender-infused skincare can sting sensitive skin, and pure tea tree oil can exacerbate redness and irritation when used to spot-treat pimples.
Abrasive is not synonymous with effective, but lovers of sugar scrubs seem adamant about denying that. Exfoliating with sugar granules is too harsh for many parts of the body, let alone the face. Sugar crystals are not only too large for cleaning out pores or buffing skin, but they are also sharp and jagged, leading to micro-tears on the skin.
When used on the face, sugar scrubs can trigger scarring because these huge granules injure skin. Why do that to your face, or delicate and dry parts of the skin like knees and elbows? Scrubbing it harshly is not going to make it shine bright and smooth–it will only cause more damage. So, take our advice and shut that article about rubbing lemon juice and sugar on your skin!
Turmeric is a favourite in India, but it doesn’t give you the golden glow you think it will without any side-effects. Contrary to the general impression people have about this being a brightening “antiseptic” ingredient meant to help improve the complexion, there is no research to back this up. What’s worse is that this ingredient can make skin susceptible to sunburn! This is because turmeric contains melanin-inhibiting chemicals, which prevent skin from tanning in a healthy, normal way. So, skin straight up burns due to this. In 45° Indian summers when the sun is scorching our skin, this is the last thing we need.