They can be impressive, grotesque, and even downright unbelievable. We’re talking about the recent rise of DIY beauty hacks, brought to us via Instagram. Where a quick delve into this world of beauty tutorials would have once revealed a host of light-hearted eyeliner how-tos, today it throws up a series of increasingly extreme procedures, often pushing worrying, controversial advice and unregulated products with the promise of transformative results.
Products that are produced abroad aren’t subject to the strict health and safety regulations of the UK and, when purchasing products through Instagram it’s especially hard to determine the source. What’s more, the self-publishing nature of social media leaves us open to a wealth of uninformed advice from unqualified broadcasters.
So is Instagram really a safe and viable source of skincare tips? When it comes to things as precious as your complexion, it’s usually safe to listen to the experts. We’ve delved into the world of DIY dermatology to throw some light on the treatments you really don’t want to try at home.
Black Pore Masks
Black ‘pore cleansing’ masks are one of the most concerning beauty trends on Instagram right now - a quick #blackpore search throws up endless videos of bloggers and beauty enthusiasts coating their faces in glossy black goo - usually a combination of charcoal and actual glue - before painfully peeling it away.
As dermatologist Dr. Goldfaden explains, pore cleansing masks can be harmful to the skin due to various reasons. “These masks dry the skin and pull oil and bacteria out of the pores. The downside of removing the oil is that the skin will go into overdrive and produce more to stay lubricated. This is a similar danger to over exfoliation.”
What’s more, the strength of these masks is often enough to cause serious damage to your complexion. “Black pore masks and pore strips can also cause lacerations to the skin, which leads to susceptibility to infection, germs and scarring.” And if that’s not enough to put you off, there’s also the risk of an unexpected waxing treatment. “These masks can easily take all the hair off the face, which can be painful.”
There are endless products available that can take on the most congested of skin, so there’s really no need to resort to such extreme measures. “For a safe deep-cleansing mask look for ingredients such as sulfur, camphor and Zinc Oxide, which detox and pull impurities from the pores without dehydrating the skin” says Dr. Goldfaden. Try Goldfaden MD’s Clarify + Clear mask for a weekly deep-cleansing treat.
Charcoal Teeth Whitening
Activated charcoal is one of the year’s most essential new beauty ingredients - we’ve been slathering it on our faces, infusing it into our water, and even using it to brighten our teeth. The sticky black pastes are coveted for their ability to tackle stains left by tannins, but do they guarantee a sparkling white smile? Harley Street’s Dr Richard Marques explains that “unregulated charcoal teeth-whitening products can sometimes be too abrasive for the teeth and risk wearing the enamel away, so it is imperative to take great care with them.” This is especially true to products promoted and bought over Instagram, as they may not come from a reputable, responsible manufacturer. “Charcoal can also be toxic if it is ingested in large quantities, another reason to be cautious when using these products – remember always ensure that you are using a regulated product.”
If you’re still tempted by this jet-black stain remover, Dr. Marques recommends Diamond Whites’s Black Edition charcoal range. And for an alternative to the black stuff, RM by Richard Marques’s Super Strong Teeth Whitening Paste comes in a less-scary peppermint flavour, tackling stains with calcium carbonate and silica instead.
You can think of these bizarre devices as a tiny vacuum cleaner for your pores, sucking away blackheads with no need for squeezing or poking. But are they doing more harm than good? “At-home gadgets are not as strong as those that you will find in a treatment room used by a professional, so the risks are lessened in that sense. However, there is the risk of self-selecting a gadget that might be wrong for your skin type - so there is danger of damage through over use, incorrect application and potentially broken capillaries” explains International facialist and wellbeing expert Abigail James.
When it comes to your Sunday night facial, it’s best to stick with a tried-and-tested deep-cleansing mask. Try L’Oreal Paris’s Pure Clay Detox Mask to erase any trace of that big Saturday night.
At-Home Lip Plumping
Pillow-soft lips have long been on the beauty agenda, but recent months have seen the trend taken to extremes. Ingredients such as cinnamon sit on the milder end of the plumping scale, while powerful skin irritants such as wasabi and sriracha create more cause for concern.
“DIY lip plumping treatments and products can be dangerous and just not worth it in my opinion” says Dr. Goldfaden. “The desired effect from plumping products is increased blood flow to the lips. Irritating the lip will increase blood flow and not only plump but also darken the color of the lip, making them appear fuller.” However, heavy use of these products doesn’t come without risk. “Over usage is also a concern with these types of products as they dehydrate the lip, which can lead to cuts, peeling and infections. More severe side effects can range from burns on and around the mouth, risk of infection from blisters and burns, scarring and allergic reactions.”
The good news is, irritating your lips isn’t the only way to an enviable pout. Fillerina’s brand new Lip Volume Grade 3 uses tiny hyaluronic acid molecules to deeply nourish the lips, leaving them plump, soft and healthy. (Launching May 2017 at www.johnlewis.com)
Microneedling is a treatment that uses miniscule needles to cause tiny perforations in the skin, kick-starting the body’s collagen production and allowing optimum absorption of the products applied. These sessions come at a premium in professional salons, but needling pens can now be easily purchased online for small change.
“What you are buying on the internet may not be produced in the same astringent sterile environment that professional rollers are,” warns Abigail James. “The needles may not be made of the same metal, blunter, not as fine - the list goes on, so you are absolutely at risk of damage. Each time of use, you would need to sterilise the roller again and after a number of uses the needles are going get blunter. There is a risk of infection (I have seen this!), scratching and skin reactions without proper after care advice. The results will not be the same as the professional needles we use.”
So the message is clear on this one - leave the needles to the experts. James’s own Wow Factor facial is the one to book - she uses micro-needling alongside a host of custom-selected technology including LED, radio frequency, and ultrasound.