Don’t Try This at Home: 7 DIY Skincare Devices Best Left to Professionals

Written by Leslie Robbins, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant on October 5, 2020 No Comments

skin care disasters

With all the marketing poured into the latest at-home beauty devices, it can be easy to fall for DIY gimmicks or promises of quick fixes. Some treatments, however, should always be left to licensed professionals who can ensure safe and sterile practices and help patients achieve the best results.

Instead of doing it yourself at home, here are 6 cosmetic treatments that should only be done by a certified skin care professional:


Microdermabrasion uses small crystals, sand particles, tiny metal brushes, or diamond-tipped buffers to exfoliate the skin. Dead skin cells are then vacuumed away through the same device. Microdermabrasion is a physical method of promoting skin cell turnover. Clearing away the top layer of skin triggers new skin cell production for smoother, evenly toned and youthful-looking skin.

Why Not Do It at Home? 

Home microdermabrasion devices typically have less of a crystal load and less suction than professional devices. This makes the devices less effective, and promotes overuse as buyers seek to mimic professional results. Improper use can result in irritated or raw skin, which in the worst cases leads to infection. The temporary increase in inflammation that results from these devices can actually worsen acne scars or skin pigmentation.

What to do Instead? 

For at-home exfoliating, it’s best to stick to a soft brush, gentle buffing sponge or mild exfoliating cleanser. You won’t achieve the same depth of restoration, but your skin will remain free from damage.


Microneedling is a professional technique that improves scarring from acne, evens irregular pigmentation, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Microneedling uniformly damages the outer layer of skin with thousands of tiny needle pricks. The healing process stimulates collagen production and growth of new, healthy skin cells.

Why Not Do It at Home? 

Home microneedling dermal rollers are covered with tiny needles that prick the skin as they roll over the face. Needles are often too small or too blunt to break the surface of the skin and offer nothing more than a painful massage and temporary inflammation. Users may be encouraged to push too hard or repeatedly roll over the same area which makes skin vulnerable to bacteria or fungus. Uneven needles may cause scratching or permanent scarring.

What to do Instead?

See a professional if you are interested in microneedling. Pro-level devices offer varying lengths of needles, and a dermatologist knows which size works best on each area of your face. Needles are sterilized and made from medical grade stainless steel, eliminating the risk of infection.

Non-Ablative Rejuvenating Technologies

Non-ablative rejuvenating technologies include ultrasound, laser therapy, light therapy, or radiofrequency devices. These devices are referred to as non-ablative because they keep the outer layer of the skin intact, but heat or micro-damage deeper layers of the skin to promote cell turnover and rejuvenation.

Why Not Do It at Home? 

Non-ablative techniques rely on a very specific frequency of lasers, light or radio waves. Because this is a dangerous thing to play with at home, home devices simply don’t offer the strength needed to be effective. This means you’re unlikely to do damage, but you’re equally unlikely to see any results.

What to do Instead?

Ultherapy and Thermage are all non-ablative rejuvenating devices that have a high efficacy rate when performed by a trained professional. In the hands of a licensed technician, these devices safely deliver long-lasting results.

Blackhead Extraction

Blackhead extraction, when professionally done, removes dirt and debris from clogged pores. This allows cleansing or oil-reducing products to penetrate the skin and prevent future breakouts.

Why Not Do It at Home?

Extracting blackheads may seem like an easy thing to do at home, but it’s also easy to do more harm than good. Improper extractions can promote scarring, introduce bacteria to the area, or push dirt and debris further down into pores.

What to Do Instead?

For blackhead removal, see a professional. Once pores are unclogged, every product you use afterwards, even at home, will be more effective.

Laser Hair Removal

Home hair removal techniques that claim to be permanent typically use electrolysis or a therapy called intense pulsed light (IPL). Electrolysis uses a pen-like device to deliver heat to the root of each hair via electrical current. IPL devices are normally not used for hair removal in professional settings, although they can potentially kill hair at the root by targeting melanin.

Why Not Do It at Home? 

Electrolysis requires aiming electrical current to the root of each individual hair without touching the skin and burning yourself. At home laser hair removal devices are normally too weak to be effective, singing hair but not preventing regrowth. Repeated treatment or stronger pulses put you at risk for burning your skin. Home IPL treatments are the same, they’re either too weak, or potentially blister-forming. Similar to laser hair removal, IPL is only effective for those with light skin and dark hair.

What to do Instead?

If you must do hair removal at home, try a safer method such as waxing, which can still deliver long-lasting results. Otherwise, see a professional for long-term or permanent hair removal without the risk of burning or skin damage.

Lip Plumping

Professional lip augmentation is most often done using injectable dermal fillers. Products contain hyaluronic acid, which boosts the body’s natural collagen production for a fuller pout. At-home markets for lip plumping include everything from lipsticks and serums to manual or electrical suction devices.

Why Not Do It at Home? 

Lip plumping glosses create temporary fullness by blending ingredients that cause inflammation such as menthol, cinnamon, capsicum or bee venom. Allergic reactions to these formulas are common. DIY methods such as the shot glass method create suction around the mouth and temporarily cut off blood to the area. Electric lip plumpers seem less DIY, but overuse still leads to the same negative consequences, which includes permanent tissue and nerve damage.

What to Do Instead?

Skip the suction-based plumping and opt for a dermal filler. Today’s commonly used products contain natural ingredients that work with the body to increase collagen production.

Leslie Robbins, MPAS, PA-C

Leslie Robbins, MPAS, PA-C, earned her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Midland. She specializes in Dermatology and has had extensive experience with surgical procedures since earning her Masters. Leslie is board certified by the National Commission of Certification of PAs and is licensed by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.

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