Do DIY Skin Treatments Really Work? Our dermatologists weigh in on the safety and effectiveness of at-home versions of professional in-office skin treatments.
What an age we live in. Over the past two decades, the breadth of products available for purchase on the internet has skyrocketed. You can buy groceries, at-home genetics kits, and even cars online. It’s more convenient, to be sure. But what about products and services that fall into a gray area, like medical care?
If you’re a committed DIYer, you may be intrigued by at-home versions of professional cosmetic treatments offered in dermatologists’ offices—from chemical peels you’d expect to pay hundreds of dollars for, to devices that let you remove your own moles—that are now sold online. All are just a click away and priced well below the cost of professional cosmetic skin treatments.
So, you can purchase them… but should you?
“The problems with many of these ‘at-home versions’ of office-based therapies range from being ineffective to potentially dangerous,” cautions dermatologic surgeon Kathleen Suozzi, MD, director of Aesthetic Dermatology
Before using any of these at-home devices and products, you should talk to your dermatologist about whether you’re a good candidate for them and if you are at risk for any of the side effects, she says.
We asked Dr. Suozzi and dermatologic surgeon Sean Christensen, MD, PhD, to rate the effectiveness and safety of some common DIY beauty products available online.
DIY chemical peels
Rating: Potentially dangerous and disfiguring
“Of all the at-home cosmetic treatments available, this is potentially the most dangerous,” says Dr. Suozzi.
Peels are used to chemically exfoliate the skin. When used correctly, peels can reveal fresher, younger-looking skin and remove signs of aging, like wrinkles and age spots.
Online, there are medical-grade, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels for sale. “That’s very strong. I am surprised these can be purchased online for cosmetic purposes,” says Dr. Suozzi. She cautions that a topical application of 75 percent TCA can burn or cauterize skin tissue, potentially leading to ulcers (oozing sores) on your skin, as well as deep tissue damage.
“If you are applying a 75 percent TCA to your entire face, you are at significant risk for scarring, which could be disfiguring and permanent,” she says. The chemical erodes the skin, which also opens the door for bacterial and viral infections. If left on too long, you could get the equivalent of a second- or third-degree chemical burn, says Dr. Suozzi.
TCA peels are used in the office setting to treat precancerous lesions, called actinic keratoses, and for treatment of fine lines and wrinkles. However, it is important to have a medical professional apply the peel to monitor for the desired clinical outcome and prevent dangerous consequences. “These medical-grade acids are used in the laboratory setting for research. They may be available for purchase, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe for cosmetic use,” Dr. Suozzi says.
Not all chemical peels you can apply at home are that dangerous, though. Light glycolic peels (10 percent preparations) could be recommended by a dermatologist for at-home use, assuming the patient does not have sensitive skin, she says.
Before trying any chemical peel yourself, though, bear in mind that, depending on your skin color, chemical peels can cause hyper- or hypopigmentation (darkly or lightly pigmented spots on the skin). Therefore, this is not something to try on your own without seeking professional guidance first, says Dr. Suozzi.
Mole, skin tag and tattoo removal pens
Rating: Safe To Use On Low Light Settings Over An Extended Period Of Time
Don’t expect an overnight miracle here. These pens take time to see results but with consistent use over several weeks it’s safe to use. If you see one promising instant overnight results it’s most likely not one you’ll want to use. Anything too powerful on the light spectrum could be dangerous and we would recommend staying clear.
Of course we had to see trials conducted and here are some of the results from a safe pen over a 12 week period.
THE COMPANY IS NEATCELL™
The Neatcell 2.0 Picosecond Laser Pen is a safe, effective, and inexpensive alternative that can be used by anyone looking to get rid of a tattoo, moles, and spots. Most clinical treatments cost thousands of dollars and this may be what you are looking for. For that reason we rate it the #1 at home multipurpose skin solution for spot removal.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of a representative of NEATCELL™ just informed us they are back in stock for a limited time but due to a recent viral Facebook post they are forced to end their sale within 30 minutes before running out of stock