Dr. Sandra Lee’s Favorite DIY Mask Recipes

While there’s certainly no shortage of fan-favorite skincare masks readily available on store shelves (Clear Out, anyone?), whipping one up in your kitchen is a surprisingly easy, fun alternative.

We wanted to know: what at-home mask ingredients actually work — and are they as effective as over-the counter versions? Fortunately for us, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) also knows her way around a kitchen. Here, she shares her favorite DIY skincare mask recipes.

 A woman with a homemade facial treatment mask and cucumber slices on her eyes

Do homemade masks really work?

According to Dr. Lee, it all comes down to ingredients. Just like OTC skincare products, what you put into your at-home mask makes all the difference. In fact, she says that many of the dermatological ingredients she recommends have natural origins:

As far as efficacy goes, Dr. Lee says that while many of the ingredients in DIY masks do have an impact on your skin, the formulations in derm-quality skincare — like her SLMD line — are based more on scientific data and are FDA-required to meet the claims on the label.

Are homemade treatment masks safe?

While many of the foods in your fridge and pantry are indeed safe to smear on your face, Dr. Lee warns that some can be irritating. If you’re sensitive to eating any of these ingredients, for example, chances are you may also have a skin reaction.

And be careful with things like apple cider vinegar, or baking soda: you don’t want to put these things directly on your skin without properly diluting them. More caustic ingredients like these can be quite harsh and end up causing new problems, because they can disrupt your skin’s pH balance.

Dr. Lee’s DIY mask recipes

All of our recipes here are typically safe for the skin concerns and skin types listed. But as Dr. Lee always says, everyone’s skin is unique: listen to what yours is telling you. If you’re sensitive to any of these ingredients, or you experience burning, redness or other signs of irritation, rinse right away with warm water.

Honey, Turmeric & Yogurt Mask for Acne

  • ½ tsp organic ground turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbs organic, raw honey (preferably Manuka honey if possible) 
  • 1 tsp organic Greek yogurt, plain

Mix turmeric into honey thoroughly. Apply to face (avoiding eyes/mouth) with fingers. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, rinse with warm water. Dip a cotton round into the yogurt and gently massage onto face to remove any yellow turmeric residue.

Ingredient benefits

  • Raw honey: antibacterial, contains glucuronic acid, which gets converted to glucose oxidase, which turns into hydrogen peroxide in contact with skin. Hydrogen peroxide has similar effects to benzoyl peroxide.
  • Turmeric: Contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Also an antimicrobial and antioxidant. Some scientific research indicates it benefits skin health.
  • Yogurt: antibacterial, antifungal, may support skin’s microbiome, soothing anti-inflammatory. Contains lactic acid, which exfoliates. 

SLMD Skincare options

Clear Out Purifying Treatment Mask by SLMD Skincare

Strawberry Oatmeal Mask for Dry Skin

  • 3-4 organic strawberries
  • 1 Tbs organic rolled oats
  • ~1 Tbs organic avocado oil

Use a food processor/blender to grind strawberries and oatmeal while drizzling in avocado oil to make a paste. Depending on the size of your strawberries, you’ll need to add more/less avocado oil so blend slowly. Apply with fingers to clean face, leave for 15-20 minutes and rinse with warm water.

Ingredient benefits

  • Strawberries: citric acid, glycolic acid, naturally high in salicylic acid
  • Oatmeal: ground oats (aka colloidal oatmeal) contain fats and proteins that have been clinically proven to protect your skin barrier
  • Avocado oil: vitamins A, D, E, antioxidant, omega 3 fatty acids

SLMD Skincare options

Cucumber, Aloe & Yogurt for Aging Skin

  • ½ organic cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 1 Tbs organic, fresh aloe vera gel
  • 1 Tbs organic, plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp organic, fresh lemon juice OR green tea if you have sensitive skin

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Apply to clean face and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

Ingredient benefits

  • Cucumber: actually a fruit with a high water and electrolyte content, vitamin C/antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, known to reduce skin irritation and swelling.
  • Aloe vera: extremely high in amino acids (the building blocks of all skin proteins), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant vitamins A,C, E, minerals like copper and zinc, essential for collagen production. Double-blind studies show that aloe vera gel helps skin repair itself after wounds and burns.
  • Lemon: vitamin C; skin brightener, anti-inflammatory, exfoliant and antioxidant; may cause irritation if you have sensitive skin

SLMD Skincare options

Avocado, Green Tea & Aloe For Redness

  • ½ organic, ripe avocado
  • 1 organic green tea bag
  • T Tbs organic, fresh aloe vera gel

Mash avocado into a creamy paste; stir in the leaves from the green tea bag and the aloe vera. Apply onto clean face and leave on for about 15 minutes. Rinse well with warm water.

Ingredient benefits

  • Avocado: vitamins E, C, K, B3 (niacin, known for strengthening the skin barrier); fatty acids, rich in chlorophyll (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory), very high in lutein, which is known for reducing oxidative stress
  • Green tea: rich in polyphenols, which are clinically proven to have many antioxidant benefits; anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial
  • Aloe Vera: clinically-proven anti-inflammatory

SLMD Skincare options

Dark Spot Fix by SLMD Skincare

Licorice Root, Lemon & Honey for Dark Spots

  • ½ tsp organic licorice root powder
  • ½ tsp organic lemon juice OR substitute green tea for sensitive skin
  • 1 Tbs organic raw honey
  • 1 Tbs organic Greek yogurt

Mix all ingredients together and apply to clean skin. Leave on for 15-20 minutes and rinse with warm water.

Dr. Lee’s pro tip: try applying the cut side of a grape half to spots — they’re packed with exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids.

Ingredient benefits

  • Licorice root: inhibits the action of tyrosinase, the enzyme that’s necessary for making melanin — the pigment that creates those dark marks
  • Lemon: vitamin C; skin brightener, anti-inflammatory, exfoliant and antioxidant; may cause irritation if you have sensitive skin
  • Honey: antibacterial, encourages healing
  • Yogurt: lactic acid to exfoliate

SLMD Skincare options

Dr. Lee’s last word

People are always asking me if at-home treatment masks really work. While they’re no substitute for a consistent skincare routine, I think they can be a fun way to get a little self-care, and many of the ingredients have at least some anecdotal evidence behind them. Just be careful, get the recipes from a trusted source, and pay attention to your skin!

—Dr. Sandra Lee

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