Origins Clear Improvement, Queen Helene's Mint Julep Masque, and plain ol' aspirin: the face mask throwdown
A few months ago, I gave birth to my second child, a daughter. Although she is adorable (objectively speaking, of course), my pregnancy resulted in one minor -albeit annoying- side effect: CRAZY HORMONAL, BREAKOUT-PRONE SKIN, such that I bear more than an passing resemblance to the pimple-faced teen on The Simpsons. It's bad, people, especially considering that my biggest skin problem had previously been limited to my (big) pores, and the occasional pimple.
After conducting thorough, in-depth research (read: asking friends), I learned that misbehaving skin is pretty common after pregnancy, and normally goes away on its own after a few months. But after almost signing up for a bird poop facial out of sheer desperation, I realized I needed to take action. So what to do? The answer became clear almost immediately:
FACE MASK THROWDOWWWWWN!
I decided to try three face masks in different price ranges and review my findings here. Let's kick things off, shall we?
The most expensive of the masks, this one contains "active charcoal" to de-clog pores, White China Clay to absorb "environmental toxins," and lecithin to "dissolve impurities." This mask has a barely-noticeable (yet vaguely Play-Doh-like) scent, and is a dark gray color. After applying a warm, moist towel to my face to open up my pores (per the instructions on the tube), I applied the mask. The instructions did not address what to do if you forget you have the mask on while waiting for it to dry, and inadvertently scare the crap out of your significant other as you wake them up from a nap while wearing said mask. Which, you know, could ostensibly happen to people. I'm just saying. Speaking of which, I did find that this mask took a very long time to dry, and I didn't see any true difference in the state of my skin afterwards (other than some added glowiness...which, of course, is never a bad thing). Given the price, I did expect a lot more in the way of results.
This is your prototypical opaque green face mask, not unlike the ones made popular by countless nerdy older sisters in 80's-era sitcoms. Now, let's ignore the wacky "Queen Helene" name for now. (Which, by the way, totally calls to mind a blowsy older woman who flounces into your apartment COMPLETELY UNINVITED, wearing shiny houescoats and sloshing her "orange juice" on your freshly-washed floor, saying things like, "Oh, you're such a card, darling!" Not like I ever had a neighbor like this, or anything.) Instead, let's focus on the mask itself. It was a little hard to squeeze out of the tube, but any product that claims to "dry up acne pimples, rinse away blackheads, and shrink large pores" deserves a fair shot. First of all, I found this dried much faster than the Origins mask, which is helpful, because I'd really like to keep the masks on for as short a time as possible, in order to avoid scarring members of my family for life for a second time in the space of a week. It really does have a pleasantly mild, minty scent, and perhaps more importantly, really does all the things it claims to do. I was blown away by the immediate, visible difference in my skin as soon as I rinsed off the mask. My skin looked calmer, and my pores seemed tighter. My admiration of the product only grew when I read the back of the tube and learned that it can also be used as an overnight spot treatment for pimples. It even left a slight flush on my cheeks. Ooh!
Homemade Mask: Aspirin. Yes, Really. (Mere pennies. PENNIES, PEOPLE!)
Given the current state of our economy, I also really wanted to try a cheap, DIY mask. (You know, because when I'm reduced to wearing a raggedy flour sack for a dress in a few months, I want my skin looking FLAWLESS.) While searching online for effective homemade face masks, I saw a number of discussions mentioning aspirin masks, and was intrigued. All it required was crushed, uncoated aspirin (4-6 tablets) and a bit of liquid. (I've tried quite a few permutations of the mask from a variety of sources, and the most effective one I've come up with contains the aforementioned crushed aspirin tablets, a tiny splash of water, and a squirt of either liquid face wash or honey; just enough to make a runny paste.) Aspirin contains salicylic acid (a common acne-fighting ingredient in many skin care products), and the grainy texture of the paste also helps to exfoliate your skin. After mixing the crushed aspirin and the liquid(s) of your choice, simply apply it to your face and wait for it to dry (about five minutes).
I will grant you that there is something VERY WEIRD about crushing up pills in your kitchen, in a "trying desperately to avoid looking like you're running a meth lab" kind of way. I mean, really: "No, officer! It's not illegal! I'm just, um, making a mask! Yes, that's it! The only high I'm after is the one I get from perfect skin!" (I'd laugh if I saw someone using that excuse when I watch Cops. Um, which is never.) The thing is, this mask makes your skin so glowy, it's almost worth the hassle of crushing and mixing. I can't say it has the same magical, pore-erasing qualities as the Mint Julep mask, but it's the perfect thing if you feel like your skin is looking a bit dull and you need it to perk up a bit.
Overall, I was least impressed with the priciest product, the Origins mask. The aspirin mask was pretty effective, (AND BASICALLY FREE!) but required, you know, actual effort to make. The clear winner here was the Mint Julep Mask, which is cheap and produces immediate, nearly miraculous results. I've been using it two or three times a week, and the pimples are gone, my pores have been looking much smaller, and overall, my skin looks even better than it did before I gave birth. All in all, a bargain for $3.99, don't you think?
Photo credit: Me
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