Skin experts discuss the safety of trendy at-home beauty treatments, including micro-needling, brow lamination, pore vacuuming, and more.
When it comes to beauty treatments, there are a lot of things we leave to the pros — and for good reason. Overplucked brows, for example, can completely change the appearance of your face while other treatments like micro-needling can have much more serious consequences, such as scarring, when done incorrectly.
But when the pandemic hit and salons and spas closed, we were forced to take on many of these tasks ourselves, despite the risk.
Google searches for things like at-home haircuts, spa-like facials, and even DIY lash lifts skyrocketed, and beauty tools like dermarollers and dermaplaners were selling like hotcakes.
Now, even as salons are back to normal, this momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing. According to PS Market Research, the global home-use beauty devices market is expected to grow 20.4 percent by 2030, which is great news for consumers who are still seeking professional-level results from the comfort of their home.
The caveat: While some at-home beauty treatments run only the risk of wearing hats to hide a botched job, a lot of DIY beauty is a bit riskier.
This is why we reached out to experts to help determine which trendy treatments are safe to do at home and which should be left to the pros instead.
So, before you buy that brow lamination kit or add that pore vacuum to your cart, read up on what they had to say below.
Popular At-Home Beauty Treatments — What’s Safe to DIY?
Brow Lamination Kits
The results of brow lamination are stunning but temporary, so it’s no surprise that DIY brow lamination kits have become so popular. If you’re unfamiliar, the lamination process is basically like a perm for your eyebrows, smoothing and lifting the brow hairs to give them a brushed-up appearance that hides sparse spots. But because this is a chemical process, you run the risk of injury, cautions aesthetician and brow expert Christopher Drummond, who recommends seeking a professional service.
“This is a treatment that uses strong chemicals near your eyes, and you really need to be trained to perform it properly,” says Drummond. Leaving these chemicals in inexperienced hands can lead to serious issues, including eye irritation, skin lesions, scarring, and permanent pigmentation, he warns. “It’s just not worth it!”
At-Home Chemical Peels
There are a lot of questionable trends circulating on social media, and by now you may have seen viral videos of beauty influencers using professional-strength peels at home. While this is a big no-no, according to dermatologists, there are plenty of safe and effective chemical peels designed for over-the-counter use. Formulated with alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and/or exfoliating plant extracts, these home versions exfoliate the skin for a clearer, brighter, and smoother complexion.
“I happen to have very sensitive skin myself, and for years I have used 10% glycolic peels at home, in addition to doing in-office peels every two to four weeks,” says Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD. To avoid irritation, slowly building up your tolerance is key. “If you are new to peels, even one at 10% concentration can be too much for your uninitiated skin,” she says.
Dr. Ciraldo suggests slowly working peel pads into your routine, using them two to three times a week to start and rinsing off after 20 minutes for the first couple of weeks of use. She recommends her Micro Peel Peptide Pads ($60; dermstore.com), which contain exfoliating glycolic acid and marine algae peptides to soothe. If tolerated, you can also try a professional-grade peel kit, like the PCA Skin Micro Peel At-Home Kit ($129; totality-skincare.com), for more immediate results.
Microneedling At Home
Microneedling has become a popular procedure for improving a host of skin conditions, ranging from scarring and hyperpigmentation to acne. If you’re not familiar with the process, it’s a form of collagen induction therapy that uses a device with ultra-fine needles to create tiny punctures in the skin. And while it sounds scary, it’s not as bad (or as painful) as you would think. However, understanding the difference between professional micro-needling and at-home micro-needling is key.
When performed by a professional, the process creates a controlled skin injury that stimulates collagen production to improve the appearance of scars, lessen the look of wrinkles, and even out the skin tone. “Any needle depth that’s deep enough to create such results should not be used at home,” advises NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love, MD. “Used incorrectly, these devices can cause pigmentation and/or damage to the skin barrier.”
However, most at-home micro-needling tools, including dermastamps or dermarollers, are designed with much smaller points (think 0.2-millimeter pins) that stimulate the epidermis without creating skin injury. This helps with the penetration and absorption of any product applied afterward, boosting its efficacy for better results, but will not stimulate collagen production like an in-office treatment will.
Still, when it comes to micro needling at home, it’s important to proceed with caution. Always buy a high-quality dermaroller from a retailer you trust and look for the CE marking for safety. When incorporating it into your routine, start slow and use gentle pressure. Disinfecting the tool before and after use is also important. Avoid dermarollers altogether if you have sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, active acne or sunburn, as it can exacerbate these skin conditions.
If you can’t get regular facials and extractions from the pros, you may be considering pore vacuuming. The deep cleansing treatment is more than tempting, thanks to the viral videos showing all the gunk that’s removed from the skin. But what exactly is it? Simply put, pore vacuuming uses a small suctioning device to extract dirt and debris from deep in the pore, hence its name.
“Professional pore vacuum treatments, such as the HydraFacial, work wonders for those who struggle with blackheads or acne-prone skin,” says Dr. Love. And while there are a number of at-home devices promising similar results, she warns they may cause inflammation at the skin level. If the pressure is too high, at-home pore vacuuming devices can cause bruising, broken capillaries or tissue damage.
The bottom line: If your skin is prone to irritation, redness or bruising, this is an at-home beauty treatment you’ll want to skip. Otherwise, as long as you don’t go overboard and carefully follow instructions, DIY pore vacuuming doesn’t come with many risks and may prove beneficial for those with stubborn blackheads. Oh, and as tempting as it may be, try not to use the device more than once a week.
Dermaplaning has become one of the most sought-after skincare procedures in the last few years, thanks to celebrities like Hilary Duff and a couple of The Real Housewives touting its benefits. Its popularity is also aided by the huge number of video tutorials from influencers on YouTube and TikTok. So what’s with all the hype?
Similar to shaving, a blade is used to delicately remove the top layer of dead skin and peach fuzz. “By sweeping away all traces of dead skin cells, built-up debris, and fuzz lying on the surface of the skin, the smooth, younger-looking skin underneath is instantly revealed,” says Dara Levy, founder of Dermaflash. “By erasing the top layer of dullness, light is able to bounce off of the high points of your face, rather than being absorbed into a dull surface, for an instant glow, and skin immediately appears more toned and lifted.”
However, traditional dermaplaning is a costly treatment offered in a med spa or doctor’s office and is performed with a surgical scalpel, Levy notes. And while we would never suggest using a surgical scalpel on your face at home, there are now a number of safe dermaplaning tools designed for just that. For example, the Dermaflash features a proprietary edge that has a safe cage to protect the skin and a sonic vibration to reduce friction so the blade glides smoothly across the surface, explains Levy.
Whatever at-home dermaplaner you decide to go with, just be sure to pull skin taut behind the blade, work slow and steady, and always glide it across the surface in short strokes to avoid nicks. To further avoid irritation, never go over the same area more than once or twice.
If you’re looking for an alternative to at-home waxing or shaving, you may be tempted to try sugaring. Also known as sugar waxing, the DIY hair removal treatment uses a paste made from three simple ingredients: sugar, lemon, and water, which combine together to create the consistency of a warm syrup. This paste is applied to the skin like a wax, and then pulled off in the direction of hair growth.
Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. For the best (and safest) results, the technique should really be left to the pros, as mastering the application and removal process requires professional training. “An incorrect technique may decrease efficacy and/or increase the risk of ingrown hairs and irritation,” says Dr. Love. “Plus, using too hot of a mixture or leaving it on for too long can cause superficial burns and hyperpigmentation.”
For at home hair removal, our dermatologists suggest sticking with shaving or using body wax strips. Dr. Love likes Flamingo’s Body Wax Kit ($10; target.com), which uses gentle soft gel wax and no-heat strips.