Beauty Hacks: From Sharpies as eyeliner to toothpaste as pimple cream, are these shortcuts actually unsafe?

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Who doesn’t love a good beauty hack? When it works, you feel like you’re beating the system and breaking a few rules. Beauty hacks are about working with what you’ve got when you’ve run out of your must-haves.

Whether you’re looking to save a few bucks or you’ve been swallowed by Pinterest’s black hole, where there’s boards upon boards of makeshift beauty products and DIYs to discover, there’s no arguing that ingenious tricks can ease up your beauty routine. But, there is the question of whether these shortcuts can cause more harm than good.

So should you get creative the next time you’re experiencing a major beauty SOS or pin with caution? Find out whether the following five popular beauty hacks are brilliant ideas or best left on the internet (read: kind of unsafe).

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Swapping liquid eyeliner for a Sharpie

Bad liquid eyeliner application can look like you’ve taken a Sharpie to your eyelids. This resemblance then spurs the rationale that using a Sharpie is a reasonable solution when your eyeliner’s dried up.

Even Taylor Swift has admitted to using the marker in desperation in an airport bathroom, but, step back and think about it: is putting a marker that close to your eyes okay?

“An allergic reaction wouldn’t be uncommon when using products that aren’t intended to be used on the face, let alone the eyes. The eyes are very sensitive and also have very thin layers of skin. Staining could also be an issue. Since it’s not makeup, the removal process would likely be much harder, as regular makeup remover wouldn’t remove it on its own,” explains Grace Lee, Lead Makeup Artist for Maybelline New York Canada.

Verdict: Bad idea. Instead, stash a versatile liner that you can easily smudge and doesn’t need sharpening like Maybelline New York Master Kajal Stick Liner ($12, at drugstores) in your bag and save your markers for arts and crafts.

Using PVA glue to ease glitter nail polish removal

While glistening flecks of sparkles on your nails can be hypnotizing to the inner teen in us all, the near-impossible removal process is enough to catapult you back to your adult self.

A resourceful option is layering a coat of PVA glue — yes, the kind you used in elementary school art class — to make taking off the shimmery polish a breeze. The thick paste may transform the glitter into an easily peel-able polish but there is the question of whether or not it will cause any damage to the nail beds.

“PVA stands for Polyvinyl acetate. It’s a widely used type of non-toxic glue. While this can be an effective removal option for glitter nail polish, it is always best to test a small area to ensure you do not have a sensitivity or allergy to a product,” says Leslie Ferranti, Education & Esthetics Manager at The Ten Spot in Toronto. “Many people report that this method works well however, every person is different and you should always be mindful when using a new product. Possible side effects could include dry cuticles and nail beds.”

Verdict: Maybe. But if you’re not into arts and crafts, OPI Glitter Off ($10, at drugstores) is a safe alternative to get rid of glitter without the risk of an allergic reaction or dryness.

Applying toothpaste as a blemish treatment

We’ve all been told time and time again: don’t pop your pimples! One of the longest running beauty myths is that dabbing toothpaste on red and inflamed blemishes will aid in drying up the unsightly spots. Since toothpaste isn’t made specifically to treat skin, there is the risk that it can be too harsh and cause even more problems.

“The paste aspect of toothpaste has a drying effect and can also contain some of the following ingredients: hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, menthol, tricolsan and baking soda, which may have some small medicinal effect. Generally though, it helps desiccate or dry up the pimple because of its “paste” qualities,” explains Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, Medical Director of Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto. “For patients with very fair or easily irritated skin, the paste can cause a redness and possibly burn the skin which can lead to scaling of the area, but nothing dramatic or long term.”

Verdict: Safe-ish. A spot treatment like Kate Somerville 24-Hour Pimple Punisher ($35, can easily be dabbed onto target areas any time of the day and won’t further irritate sensitive skin.

Dumping a shot of vodka on damp hair to boost shine

If you’re experiencing dull strands, the answer may be in your favourite cocktail. Next time you’re getting ready for a night out, drop a shot of vodka onto your damp hair instead of glass for your shiniest hair yet.

According to Howard McLaren, one of three founding hairstylists of the new hair care line R + Co, a lot of hair care products have historically contained alcohol so using vodka isn’t that far fetched. The only downside is that it can dry out your hair.

“High proof vodka is an ultimate clarifier. It’s an astringent, which means it’s a chemical compound that tends to shrink or constrict body tissues, so after it cleanses it seals and its high alcohol content is able to dissolve buildup off the hair and scalp while closing the cuticle, allowing the hair to detangle and shine,” says Kat Marcus, Stylist and Co-owner of Palm Sunday Salon in Toronto. “Although, vodka is considered a hygroscopic substance, which means that is draws moisture by nature, so if abused, it can make your hair dried out and brittle. Other things to consider are, that as an ultimate cleanser it will take the good with the bad, so if your hair and scalp are missing its natural oils, your scalp could dry out and flake.”

Verdict: Too drying. Like drinking, vodka should be used on your strands moderately, preferably mixed with your conditioner. A healthy alternative is KEVIN.MURPHY Maxi Wash Detox Shampoo ($28, at available salons) to get rid of product build up, fatty acids and unwanted oils.

Applying an Aspirin face mask to calm breakouts

Aspirin is known for killing migraines and although you probably wouldn’t think it, may work wonders on breakouts too. Thrifty beauty aficionados swear that crushing the bargain over-the-counter pain relievers with lukewarm water and honey will soothe and clear up the skin.
The reason the pill can improve skin conditions is that “Aspirin is salicylic acid. This is one of the mainstay ingredients in chemical peels for skin rejuvenation and acne prone skin,” explains Dr. Skotnicki. “Although, salicylic acid can burn the skin and sometimes can aggravate cysts or big acne pustules and no ASA products should be used when pregnant.”

Verdict: Skip the risk of further aggravation and save Aspirin for future headaches by soothing the skin with a masque that contains aloe and chamomile like Skinceuticals Clarifying Clay Masque ($51,

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