The Internet is brimming with skincare tips, tricks, and hacks that are derm-backed, effective, and safe to experiment with to counter your issues. But it’s stretched to the seams with illogical hacks that we buy into without verifying the legitimacy of the said hack. Yes, consulting your dermatologist is so inconvenient and unnecessary.
I decided to ask a couple of dermatologists to share with me the most horrifying skincare stories they’ve ever witnessed, and have had to treat, IRL. And, yeah, it’s nothing short of a nightmare.
Dr Sravya C Tipirneni, MD DVL AMPH, warns us against the application of garlic on the face. And, yes, she has a story backing her statement. She tells me about the time one of her clients, a soon-to-be-bride, resorted to applying garlic on a pimple a week prior to D-day. She’d watched a YouTuber counter a similar situation with the herb, and decided to put it to the test. Yeah. That’s why you shouldn’t believe everything you read/watch on the internet. And, of course, the results weren’t pretty. She planted a piece of garlic to the offending area overnight, and woke up to an ulceration of the pimple as well as the skin around the pimple because the garlic had slipped, and, therefore, affected a larger area of the face.
She’d spent one year perfecting her skin, and all it took was one ingredient to sabotage all of her efforts. So, please, consult your dermatologist before experimenting with your skin. Not all DIY remedies are safe.
Dr Sravya shares with us another such story, “This one concerns the application of neem paste on a skin tag.” A skin tag refers to a bump-like growth on the skin—usually on the neck, underarms, eyelids, upper chest, and between the thighs. She tells me that tags must be removed surgically. But since everyone’s looking for homemade remedies, a client of hers had decided to apply a concoction of neem on them instead of seeking an expert’s help. And…her skin didn’t quite respond to the remedy the way she would’ve liked it to. She experienced a horrible reaction to neem—on the face, neck, and underarms—with excessive burning, oozing, redness, and discolouration. “Along with treating the reaction, I had to put her on medication for the infection,” shares Dr Sravya.
This story by Dr Swati Tripathi, Dermatologist and Founder, of Mahe Clinic, is unfortunate. One of her clients, a school-going kid, was struggling with an acne flare-up, and her friends ‘advised’ her to apply some toothpaste on her skin to counter the issue. Even though it was not typical of her to listen to them, she heeded their advice and did just that. She smeared paste all over an offending patch on her skin. “It resulted in severe burns. It was bad. It took a couple of weeks for her to recover, but she’s fine now. And her friends? They blamed her for the situation. Please trust an expert. Value your health. And your skin. Don’t just listen to anyone.”
You guessed it. Another story concerning a soon-to-be bride. According to Dr Swati, a client of hers decided to have her skin exfoliated at a parlour. What she didn’t mention to them was that she was undergoing an acne-related treatment simultaneously. And treatment of this nature involves topicals as well as medication that tend to dry out the skin. “I’m not sure what happened. It’s probable that the person conducting the exfoliation was just a trainee but he applied bleach all over her face post-scrubbing, and that triggered burns on the skin. This was three days before her wedding. It was a nightmare for both of us. If you’re opting for a service at a salon, patch-test everything including bleach. And don’t ever apply bleach on your face following exfoliation; when your skin is extremely dry; or if you’re undergoing any treatment at all,” she advises.
Dr Niketa Sonavane, Celebrity Dermatologist and Founder, Ambrosia Aesthetics, Mumbai, advises her clients to refrain from employing at-home chemical peels in their skincare regimen. “According to the FDA, a concentration of 10% or less of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic and glycolic acids is safe for home use, while more than 30% is reserved for professional treatment by a dermatologist; but nothing prevents consumers from purchasing chemical peels with higher acid concentrations online,” she says. She also adds that she is currently seeing a patient who self-treated with a TCA peel which resulted in permanent burn scars on her face.
This one surprised me too. According to Dr Neha Sharma, Dermatologist and Founder, Estique Clinic, Gurugram, the way you layer hyaluronic acid onto your skin matter the most. The fact that this skincare formula can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water, and extract moisture from the air is well-established. But if you apply the acid to your skin, it’s extremely important to follow it up with a moisturiser to trap the ingredient inside the skin’s barrier. “If you don’t, and if you’re in a dry, cold environment, it goes digging for moisture from deep within the skin. This depletes moisture levels even further, and leads to even drier skin than you started with,” Dr Neha explains.
Another counterproductive skincare habit she’s witnessed clients indulge in is over-exfoliation—in a quest to brighten and lighten the skin; which, in turn, leads to reddened and irritated skin. “You have to let your skin cells live a little longer before exfoliating them,” she remarks.
I cannot say this enough. Please talk to your dermatologist before you fidget with your skin. Don’t get swept up by the supposed credibility of online hacks and tricks.