We get it — it’s tempting to try all sorts of beauty treatments at home. Whether you’re having a hard time getting an appointment, you’re social distancing, or want to save a little cash, taking matters into your own hands can seem like a good solution. Sometimes that can work out fine, but for some treatments, that decision might be a lot riskier than you think. We talked to Nancy Samolitis, MD, FAAD, aka Dr. Sam, to find out which beauty treatments you should absolutely leave to the professionals.
Nothing feels as good as smooth, exfoliated skin. A chemical burn? Not so much. That’s definitely a risk you take with doing at-home peels. “Chemical peels are notoriously unpredictable and can be disastrous in the wrong hands,” says Dr. Sam. To be clear, we’re not talking about those everyday peel pads — we mean intensive peels such as Cosmelan. This kind of peel requires a lot of consultation, which you just don’t get at home. “When doing chemical peels, you need to observe and address what products the person is using leading up to the peel, what their skin type is, and if they have active skin conditions in order to decide what type of chemical peel is appropriate, how long to leave the peel on and what to do post-peel,” says Dr. Sam. “If the wrong type of peel is used on the wrong skin type and applied in the wrong way, scarring and hyper- or hypo-pigmentation are very possible, and these complications can be very difficult to treat.”
We absolutely love microneedling for improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and acne scarring. But trying to recreate results with those at-home dermarolling tools that are all over the market? We don’t love that. These hand-held devices have shorter, lower quality needles, which means less effective results with added trauma to the skin. Plus, it’s hard to recreate the sanitary environment of a dermatologist’s office in your own home. “Reusing needles with incomplete sterilization can lead to infection, and dulling of the needles on your at-home device over time ends up causing more pain with less efficacy,” says Dr. Sam. Most fans of derma rolling also endorse using these tools with serums to theoretically get them deeper into skin, but that is tricky as well. “You shouldn’t just drive any type of skin care product or serum into the skin with a microneedling or dermarolling device — the serum or product should be FDA approved to be used as an injectable and should also be sterile,” says Dr. Sam. “Driving products that are meant to be applied to the surface of the skin deep into the tissue is known to cause allergic reactions, resulting in bumpy rashes that can be difficult to treat.”
Dermaplaning is definitely taking off in popularity, and for good reason — it’s a great way to remove dead skin and excess hair, allowing your products to more thoroughly absorb into your skin. But although it’s easy enough to grab a three-pack of dermaplaning razors at Sephora, you should think twice before doing this at home. “In the wrong hands, dermaplaning has a high risk of producing cuts in the skin that could lead to infection and scarring,” says Dr. Sam. “Like dermarolling, reusing blades that are dull and ineffectively sterilized can cause similar bad outcomes.” Definitely save this one for your next facial.
“don’t do the procedure if you can’t manage the complications!”
It’s true: companies that offer clients the option of doing their own Botox at home actually exist. And we understand that you might be getting desperate for your regularly scheduled wrinkle relaxing appointments, but please (we are begging you) do not try this at home! Providers may make injections look easy, but that’s only because they’ve had years of training and experience. “In order for Botox injections to work properly, the injector must understand not only the anatomical location of the muscle that needs to be injected, but also the correct depth and amount of product to inject,” says Dr. Sam. And without that knowledge, chances of you running into complications at home are extremely high. “If the wrong muscle is injected or the product spreads to a nearby muscle due to the improper injection technique, outcomes can include facial asymmetry, heaviness of the brow or eyelid, inability to smile normally, and even inability to swallow,” says Dr. Sam. “Other more minor complications, such as excess bruising, are also likely in the hands of someone who is not accustomed to using needles.”
It goes without saying, but we’ll reiterate: same thing goes for dermal fillers. Doing your own filler unsupervised is actually illegal, but that’s just one part of why it’s a very bad idea. If you come across a site that sells filler, be warned that there is no way to know you’re getting the real deal. “It is important to be aware that any product like this not purchased directly from the manufacturing company could be fake, unsterile, or contain dangerous substances,” says Dr. Sam. And just as with Botox, having a skilled injector is key for good results. “There are important techniques needed to inject filler safely and effectively and recognizing complications is very important,” says Dr. Sam. “Incorrect injection technique can lead to complications like lumps, asymmetry, blistering/scabbing of skin leading to scarring, and even blindness.” Save yourself the trouble and book an appointment instead.
If you’ve never heard of a Hyaluron Pen, allow us to fill you in. Basically, it’s a device that uses intense air pressure to shoot a filler-like substance into your skin. Usually it’s marketed as a way to mimic the results of lip filler, without the injection part. While that might sound good to the needle-phobic among us, it’s a bad idea. “The product that is going into the tissue is not known to be sterile or safe to be injected under the skin and that could lead to infection, allergic reaction, or long-lasting irregularities or nodules.” Not to mention guaranteed bruising and swelling from that force!
All you avid Dr. Pimple Popper watchers listen up — put down the extraction tool and leave it to Sandra Lee (or your own derm!). Although it’s so tempting to give a zit a satisfying squeeze, this often backfires, especially if you experience larger pimples or deep cysts. “Many people think they need to ‘get the fluid out’, but when they squeeze, nothing happens other than the pimple getting larger and more painful,” says Dr. Sam. “Most of the swelling in cysts and large pimples are just inflammation which can instead be treated with a small amount of injectable cortisone.” If you’re not able to see a derm, there are some at-home options. “I recommend covering these lesions with a hydrocolloid bandage (aka a pimple patch) until they resolve,” says Dr. Sam. “I tell my patients all the time “the best treatment is no touching!”