DIY Face Masks: Do They Really Work?

DIY face mask

If you curate the ingredients carefully, a DIY face mask can be the superfood smoothie of your skincare routine – it only takes a few minutes to whip up and the results are instantly glowing skin! Whether it’s a homemade face mask to control your oily skin or to deal with those pesky breakouts, there is a recipe out there for every skin concern.

If you are like us and are always in the quest for perfect skin, perhaps you have come across one or two DIY recipes on the Internet. But before you start mixing those lemons with egg whites, we advice you to proceed with caution. Not everything that is edible and natural is good for your skin. Thankfully, we have done the research so you don’t have to! We asked Dr. Jason Rivers, a world-renowned dermatologist and creator of Riversol Skincare, on his opinion of the benefit claims of some of the most common ingredients found in DIY face mask recipes.

We advise you to always do a patch test on a small area of the skin before you apply your mask concoction on the entire face. Although it may seem obvious, do avoid using any ingredients that are you are allergic to. For those with pre-existing skin problems or suffering from cold sores it is best to avoid using a homemade face mask altogether. Dr. Rivers recommends applying a face mask once or twice a week for best results. So let’s get started! 

1. Beauty Claim: To Hydrate the Skin & For Anti-Aging Benefits


Besides being one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world, the humble bananas has many beauty benefits! Bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals that are crucial for healthy, glowing skin. According to Dr. Jason Rivers, “While the benefits of incorporating bananas into your diet are clear, putting it on your face is another story. The nutrients will not be able to penetrate the skin to make a visible difference.” That’s a pretty good reason to save your bananas for your morning smoothie instead of your next face mask. 

Coconut Oil & Olive Oil

There is a good reason oils have been used for centuries for their skin benefits. Besides being 100% natural, oils like coconut oil and olive oil are excellent for hydrating the skin. “These oils are safe to use, gentle on the skin and act as a barrier to water loss. In fact, coconut oils are incorporated into many cosmetic products to provide a moisturizing effect,” says Dr. Rivers. As an added bonus, oils are also very effective at removing even the most stubborn makeup. However, it is important to keep in mind that coconut oil and olive oil may not be the most suitable for you if you have oily, acne-prone skin. Instead, you might enjoy a dry oil such as grapeseed oil or rosehip oil.


2. Beauty Claim: To Brighten and Exfoliate the Skin


“It can be beneficial as a face mask. The lactic acid in yoghurt can act as an exfoliant for the skin, since it is an alpha hydroxy acid,” explains Dr. Rivers. Similar to glycolic peels, lactic acid uses alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) to remove the dead cells from the surface of the skin and reveal fresh, glowing skin underneath. We cannot stress enough the importance of incorporating an exfoliant into your skincare routine. A well-formulated peel is scientifically proven to show improvement in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps reduce acne and blemishes, promote even skin tone and texture, remove blackheads, and removes excessive oil. Learn more about exfoliants here. 

Spices (e.g. Turmeric and Cinnamon)

Applying a DIY face mask with turmeric and cinnamon can be highly irritating to the skin, Dr. Rivers warned. Instead, add spices to your meals, as its health benefits are well-documented.

Salt and Sugar

“Salt and sugar can certainly exfoliate,” Dr. Rivers said, “but these are better used for the body or lips as the sharp edges of the salt and sugar crystals can cause micro-tears in the surface of your skin.” He suggests mixing salt and sugar with your favorite oil to make an easy lip and body scrub. Just be mindful to be extra gentle when massaging it on your lips and skin.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a household multi-tasking wonder that can be used for many things from cleaning the kitchen counters, deodorizing the fridge to brushing your teeth. What about the claim that it can even be used as a fine scrub to brighten the skin? “It is true that baking soda can act as an exfoliant and may have antibacterial and brightening properties,” says Dr. Rivers. That’s another one added to baking soda’s long list of uses.

3. Beauty Claim: To Treat Pimples, Tighten Pores, Reduce Blackheads, and For Anti-Bacterial Benefits

Citrus (e.g. Lemons, Apple Cider Vinegar)

A lot of face mask recipes in the Internet intended for oily skin, dark spots, acne and blemishes often call for a citrus fruit. “Although these can exfoliate the skin through AHA and provide a brightening effect,” says Dr. Rivers, “it can also be very irritating to the skin.” Basically, lemons are better left to add a citrus twist to your cocktails than to your DIY face mask. To learn more about how to effectively deal with oily skin and blemishes, read our Q&A with Dr. Rivers

Crushed Aspirin Paste

This is a popular quick-fix skincare hack to treat pimples in a pinch – but does it really work? According to Dr. Rivers, “While aspirin does contain salicylic acid, also known as beta hydroxy acids, it is not in a form that is a good treatment for acne.” If you have a sudden, unsightly pimple and an event to attend in less than 24 hours away, Dr. Rivers advises to apply a hot compress and topical hydrocortisone that you can buy over the counter at the drugstore. We highly advise reading our article on how to get rid of acne for a long-term effective solution. 


“Honey is anti-bacterial,” explains Dr. Rivers, “but the effects on acne is questionable.” Again, you will save time and get much better results using anti-acne products that are found in drugstores or your dermatologist’s office. 

Egg Whites

The use of egg white in skincare is gaining popularity due to its supposed beauty benefits, particularly to shrink pores by tightening the skin. “Applying egg whites on your face can feel like it is tightening the skin,” says Dr. Rivers, “but it is mostly because of its drying effect.” In short, there is no real long-term benefit of using egg whites.


4. Beauty Claim: To Get Rid of Dark Under-eye Circles and Reduce Puffiness

Tea Bags

Did you ever wake up with puffy eyes? Today research has shown that your morning tea can also act as an effective eye de-puffer. According to Dr. Rivers, putting cooled tea bags over your eyes for 15-20 minutes can help reduce the swelling. This is because tea is rich in tannins, antioxidants and caffeine – all natural superstars that can give you the appearance of well-rested, youthful eyes! But there is no great way to reduce dark circles at home, Dr. Rivers said. Your best bet for a long-term solution will be at the dermatologist’s office.


This beauty tip has been around for years, but we wondered if it actually works? Once again, we turned to Dr. Rivers to break down the science behind this old-age remedy. “Putting chilled slices of cucumbers on your eyes can be soothing,” says Dr. Rivers, “like tea, cucumbers contain anti-oxidants that may help reduce inflammation and swelling.”


5. Beauty Claim: To Hydrate, Reduce Itching & Regulate Inflammation


Besides being one of the healthiest breakfast meals, there is enough science to back up the popularity of oatmeal as a soothing ingredient for sensitive skin. “It is well-documented that oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve itchy, dry and irritated skin,” explains Dr. Rivers. 


“Like oatmeal, aloe is soothing and anti-inflammatory,” says Dr. Rivers, “but to get the full benefits, you need to use fresh aloe.” Perhaps, it is a good idea to have an aloe vera plant around the home to provide an instant relief for skin emergencies like minor burns and insect bites. Not only is it easy to take care of, aloe plants also add a fresh, modern look to your space.


While a few natural ingredients we discussed here are scientifically proven to be great temporary solutions for minor skin concerns, we still recommend choosing a well-formulated, dermatologist-developed drugstore or cosmeceutical mask because these undergo certain tests to meet strict regulations. This is particularly important if you have sensitive and reactive skin that is prone to irritation.

That said, the purpose of face masks, whether homemade or store-bought, is not just for their skin benefits but also to help you relax and unwind. After all, studies have shown that the secret to glowing skin is a stress-free life! So there you go, set aside some “me” time this week for a pampering spa session at home – put on your favorite face mask, draw a warm bath, pour a little glass of red wine and leave with radiant, glowing skin!

  1. Beauty Claim: To Hydrate the Skin & For Anti-Aging Benefits
  2. Beauty Claim: To Brighten and Exfoliate the Skin
  3. Beauty Claim: To Treat Pimples, Tighten Pores, Reduce Blackheads, and For Anti-Bacterial Benefits
  4. Beauty Claim: To Get Rid of Dark Under-eye Circles and Reduce Puffiness
  5. Beauty Claim: To Hydrate, Reduce Itching & Regulate Inflammation
  6. Conclusion