It’s likely that as long as medical aesthetic treatments have existed, there have been people reckless enough to try to DIY them. We can understand the temptation: some people truly believe they know their own skin best, while others are trying to pinch pennies. But it’s important to recognize that the risks of infection, illness, and even death are just far too great to even consider replicating in-office treatments at home.
We were reminded of this recently, when a woman decided to give herself an at-home vampire facial. This is no ordinary spa treatment — it’s a gory-looking procedure that involves drawing your own blood, extracting the rich plasma, and then injecting it back into your face. The vampire facial can be hazardous enough when done by professionals, but this woman felt compelled to write an entire how-to for everyday people to follow themselves.
While medical professionals around the globe gasped in collective horror, noting the extreme danger of carrying out such a high-risk procedure on yourself, it got us thinking: are there other DIY treatments that warrant the same kind of response? For the answer to that, we reached out to a handful of doctors who shined a light on some to add to our DIY no-fly list. Keep reading to discover six treatments you should never, ever attempt at home.
We already addressed how terrible of an idea this is, but let’s take a quick second to lay out the reasons why. Of course, the first is that you’d have to draw your own blood. “Unless you're trained in doing so, this could lead to problems with bleeding, as well as infections in your veins or soft tissue if you're not adequately sterilizing what you're using to do so,” warns Dr. Millicent Rovelo, a double board-certified Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon. “Secondly, to properly administer a vampire facial, you actually have to separate the components of the blood, and this requires a special machine. If you're not doing that, you're literally just putting blood on your face.”
Not only is smearing blood all over your face pretty ineffective as far as beauty treatments go, it could lead to all sorts of unsavory complications. Basically, you’re taking an enormous risk with very little return. Just don’t. Instead, seek out a qualified provider in your area who has a great deal of experience administering this treatment and takes the proper precautions with hygiene.
Professional-Strength Chemical Peels
The spectrum of chemical peel potency is wide, and most of what you’ll find is perfectly OK to use at home. For example, anything sold on the shelves of Sephora®, Ulta Beauty®, or your favorite brick and mortar store has almost certainly been formulated for at-home usage. Seeking out professional-grade products that are designed to be administered by estheticians or medical practitioners, however, can get you into trouble really quickly.
“The most detrimental mistake with a DIY chemical peel is using one that’s too strong,” says Dr. Howard Sobel, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and the founder of NYC’s Sobel Skin™. “It can be applied incorrectly, be too strong, or lead to burns, sometimes severe enough to cause significant, long-lasting damage to your skin.” He insists that a strong, effective peel should always be done by a physician or other licensed professional.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment.]
It’s a terrible but unfortunate fact that counterfeit injectables are sold on the internet. This has resulted in countless (untrained!) people attempting to inject themselves or a friend at home. Of course, this is a horrible idea.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
There are many risks here: even if the product you purchased is somehow genuine, it should never be administered by anyone but a licensed provider with years of experience. It sounds obvious, but not only is it important to have serious training on how to use cosmetic injectables, it’s also important to go to someone who knows what to do in the case of an emergency. Having one of these treatments injected by a non-professional can lead to catastrophic complications. For example, if the substance is injected incorrectly or into someone that is not a medically-cleared candidate, the result could include permanent disfigurement, stroke, or even death.
And if the product is counterfeit, you have other concerns to worry about. “You don’t know what kind of product you’re getting or what you're ordering,” says Dr. Rovelo. “It could be rat poison for all you know.” She adds, “While this seems like a far-fetched idea, there are multiple stories of people who thought they were getting medical injectables, when in fact they’re getting industrial-grade [materials] injected into their body.”
Being injected by non-professionals with something that isn’t safe can have horrible results. “I've taken care of patients who have gone to get injections in their lips, buttocks, or breasts by someone they didn't know or research, and instead of [just adding volume], they were injected with industrial-grade [substances] that formed very hard lumps under the skin and destroyed the entire structure,” says Dr. Rovelo. “Unfortunately, the treatment for this is usually a complete mastectomy of the breast, or in the event they had the injections in their buttocks, those have to be completely removed as well.”
Hopefully, this warning makes it clear that you should never go to anyone except a licensed provider. When injectables are administered by a licensed provider who has gone through years of training and treats patients frequently with FDA-approved products, the results can be positive! Do your homework and ask a lot of questions when seeking out a credible provider. You can also consult with our team of trained aesthetic specialists to find a provider near you.
With the rise in the popularity of lash treatments, cases of DIY lash perm attempts have increased. You can even buy kits online to perform them on yourself. Though it’s possible to complete the process without a hitch, the fact that you’re putting serious chemicals next to your eyes should cause you to press pause.
“Lash perms, if done improperly, can destroy your eyelash hair follicles and lead to permanent eyelash loss,” warns Dr. Ip. “Not to mention, your eyes are in an area that is already extremely delicate, so doing it yourself adds in the risk of burns, irritation, infections, and even blindness. The FDA hasn’t approved lash perms yet, so it’s best not to attempt to do this on your own.” That’s right: even professional versions of this treatment haven’t been approved by the FDA, so you may want to skip trying them altogether.
Dermabrasion is the process of resurfacing your skin by removing the superficial layers with a high-speed burr. Basically, the medical-grade tool sands down your complexion. This treatment, which is ideal for deep wrinkles around the mouth and severe forms of rosacea, delivers controlled damage, allowing healthy skin to regrow in its place.
"This is not something you should attempt to DIY at home,” says Dr. Sobel. “I’ve heard about people even taking sandpaper to their skin in an effort to smooth out their outer layers. This can lead to abrasions on the face that can also get infected. It’s best to ask your dermatologist about appropriate in-office treatments.” It’s important to remember that no quantity of YouTube videos can make you a medical professional. Only a licensed provider is really qualified to tell you what your complexion needs. By DIYing your own treatments, you’re not only putting your health at risk, but also making an uninformed decision on what the best procedure is for you.
The moral of this aesthetics story is that unless you’re using a product that’s sold over-the-counter at a major retailer or you’re having a procedure performed by a reputable source in a clinical setting, just say no to anything that’s even remotely risky. It’s just not worth it. Stick to DIY avocado and honey face masks — leave the rest to the professionals.