Which Home Remedies Are Best For Your Skin, Hair, and Nails?


From toothpaste on pimples to tea bags on puffy eyes, there aren’t many products people haven’t tried to remedy their skin troubles. According to “Home Brews” by Elizabeth Einstein, in November 2007 issue of Allure magazine (the source of this article), some of the following remedies do work. However, please don’t consider them a substitute for the scientifically proven prescription-grade or over-the-counter products dermatologists commonly recommend. After all, as Dr. Jeffrey Dover, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine, tells Allure, “Many home concoctions can help, but they’re not going to be perfect. Cosmetic scientists have spent years creating products that are designed to work better than anything you’d try at home.”


10 Home Remedies That Work Fairly Well

1. Aspirin for pimples (non-sensitive skin types only)

Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties, so crushing a single aspirin with a few drops of water and applying it to a zit might help to heal it. According to Dr. Leslie Baumann, author of The Skin Type Solution, “It could penetrate the oil in the pore, helping exfoliate and employing anti-inflammatory properties.” However, Dr. Katie Rodan adds that this is not effective for those with sensitive skin, as “aspirin contains high levels of salicyclic acid, so it might be irritating.”

2. Visine for pimples

According to Dr. Katie Rodan, “It’s a temporary vasoconstrictor, so it shrinks blood vessels and makes the pimple look less inflamed. A great three-step approach to a zit is to apply an ice pack, which will enhance penetration; put a few drops of Visine on the spot; then apply an acne medication with benzoyl peroxide.” One spot treatment with 10% benzoyl peroxide (the maximum amount in over-the-counter medications) is Preferred Plus Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Gel USP 10% ($1.89, Amazon.com). Use it only on spots with pimples, as it is very strong.

3. Frozen peas, tea bags, or cucumbers for puffy eyes

Frozen peas reduce swelling because they conform to the area. Just let the bag thaw for 10-15 minutes and wrap in a cloth or paper towel before applying. Tea bags, with the exception of oil of bergament, may have caffeine to shrink blood vessels and tannic acid to tighten the skin temporarily. And cucumbers have anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. For more on how to get rid of puffy eyes, please visit this post.

4. Milk baths for irritated or sunburned skin

Milk contains fats and proteins that can soothe irritated or sunburned skin. However, be sure to moisturize afterward, as Baumann states, “It evaporates, and so it will dry the skin if you don’t moisturize afterward.” Some great moisturizers to try afterward include AmLactin 12% Moisturizing Cream (pictured above; $14.99, Amazon.com), with 12% hydrating lactic acid for exfoliation of the outer layer of skin, reversal of sun damage in the epidermis, and to stimulate collagen and elastin production in the dermis; and, secondly, Olay Quench Body Lotion for Normal to Dry Skin ($18.64 for two, Amazon.com), with niacinamide for reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, and skin sallowness (yellowing), and increased elasticity.

5. Paper surgical tape to prevent wrinkles

According to Dr. Katie Rodan, “Some people make a lot of strong expressions in their sleep — crunching up their face and frowning. Using Frownies may prolong the efficacy of Botox.” However, paper surgical tape is mild enough to place between the eyebrows without irritating skin, and it can help keep forehead lines to a minimum. (Of course, from a practical standpoint, I realize this may look a little weird if you’re not sleeping alone.)

6. Egg whites for a little lift

For this reason, egg whites are included in products like Dermatologica Skin Smoothing Cream. According to Dr. Katie Rodan, “The albumen in egg whites contracts when it dries, so it can tighten skin temporarily.” Unfortunately, as soon as the egg is washed or wiped off, the effect is gone. Further, if you have an allergy to eggs, applying them to your skin could very well result in an allergic reaction. So, again, this works if you’re not allergic to eggs, but only if you want to walk around with egg stuck on your face. :-(

7. Vegetable shortening for dry hands

Putting Crisco on hands and feet, and then covering them with cotton gloves and socks overnight, will result in softer skin in the morning. Although, according to Baumann, “Really, any oil will make your skin softer.”

8. Beer for a rinse to yield shiny hair

According to the article in Allure, dousing with a thick, protein-rich beer like a Guinness stout can make hair shinier because the protein in beer fills the spaces between ridges or chipped cuticles in the hair shaft. According to Baumann, “This makes the hair smoother and more able to reflect light, giving the hair shine.” Just beware of the smell afterwards — rinse extremely well with water, and don’t try this one before a big event!

9. Apple-cider vinegar for clean hair

According to Dr. Baumann, “It’s acidic, so it removes product residue from the hair, but doesn’t damage the hair itself.” Further, hairstylist Jimmy Paul adds, “It’s particularly good before a deep-conditioning treatment — it provides a clean canvas so the treatment can penetrate better.”

10. Olive oil soaks for hydrated nails in the future

Although nails are dead, soaking nails in olive oil may hydrate a dehydrated nail plate, helping new nails grow in stronger.


8 Home Remedies that Do NOT Work At All

1. Toothpaste for pimples (bad idea)

According to Dr. Baumann, “Toothpaste used to contain zinc, which decreases inflammation, so it used to work on pimples. However, current toothpastes don’t have zinc.” Insofar as the argument that toothpaste dries up the skin, it turns out that current toothpastes contain fluoride that can irritate the skin. So this one is a definite no-go.

2. Lemon juice for bleaching freckles (does the opposite!)

According to Dr. Heidi Waldorf, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology and associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, “It won’t work. Lemon juice can lighten your hair in the sun, but it can also cause irritation, hyperpigmentation, or dark blotches if you get it on your skin.”

3. Anti-wart drops for pimples (really bad idea, can leave scars)

Wart treatments typically contain 17 percent salicyclic acid, while zit treatments weigh in at 1 to 2 percent salicyclic acid. However, there is a reason for this. According to Dr. Katie Rodan, “Using wart medications on pimples can result in a really bad burn and even scarring.”

4. Glue for blackheads or clogged pores (really bad idea)

Dr. Heidi Waldorf says, “Don’t try it — you can rip off pieces of skin and end up with irritant dermatitis, an itchy redness similar to a bad reaction to a bikini wax, or even end up with an adhesive burn, which results in painful skin peeling.” Ouch.

5. Aloe for calming skin (surprising that it’s not always good!)

Although aloe has a reputation for being anti-inflammatory and soothing, there are individuals who are sensitive to aloe. Waldorf says, “In some individuals, it can cause irritant dermatitis. I’d reach for a 1 percent hydrocortisone treatment instead.” One is Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream ($18.54 for four, Amazon.com).

6. Household cleaners for your face (very bad)

Do not use household cleaners on your face, even when diluted. Dermatologists report that patients receive chemical burns and scarring from attempts.

7. Oil or mayonnaise for your hair (again, I’m surprised this is bad, but it is)

According to New York City hairstylist Ted Gibson, “Olive oil can be good and nourishing on really coarse hair that is also dry, but it’s incredibly hard to rinse out.” Instead, try apple cider vinegar (which is acidic) to cleanse the hair followed by beer for shiny hair if you really want to use home remedies on your hair!

8. Gelatin for your nails (like applying collagen to your skin, pointless)

Waldorf says, “There is no reason to believe eating or drinking gelatin strengthens the nails. Yes, gelatin and your nails are both made of protein, but the way your body metabolizes gelatin does not do anything to nails.” Similarly, collagen is found in the skin, but, according to Dr. Leslie Baumann in Cosmetic Dermatology, topically applied collagen is too large to fit through the stratum corneum [uppermost layer of the skin], as collagens have a molecular weight of 15000 to 50000 daltons, whereas only molecules of molecular weight 5000 or less can penetrate the skin. So, again, just because something is an important component of your skin, hair, or nails doesn’t mean that ingesting or topically applying it is beneficial.

As A Result…

While some home remedies for your skin, hair, and nails are effective, others are ineffective or even damaging. Since even the most effective home remedies do not measure up to proven ingredients dermatologists commonly recommend, these are probably best reserved as a last-resort type of measure. If you ever have any doubts, consult your dermatologist. :-)

Next up: 5 Days of Product Reviews! :-)

Related Posts

  • Soy extract first became popular in skin care in 2004, when Johnson and Johnson purchased rights to the ingredient from the AMBI brand. Since that time, many companies have jumped on the soy extract bandwagon, adding the ingredient to their formulations. However, is the ingredient safe and effective? What are some benefits to using skin…
  • Olive oil is commonly found in skin care products, with companies claiming olive oil to be a "super antioxidant" that makes skin "smoother and more radiant."  Yet, how potent is olive oil as an antioxidant, and what exactly are the scientifically proven improvements it has for the skin? Olive oil as anti-carcinogenic Topical application of…
  • Above: The mechanism of action of retinoids. Source: Nature. Editor's Note:  There is an updated version of this post on FutureDerm.com, available on June 3, 2011. Retinoids are one of the most effective ingredients in skin care products today, running the gamut from increasing collagen production to decreasing the appearance of wrinkles. Although this 2001…