Face Masks: Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know (And Also Some Stuff You Didn’t)

Claire Carusillo | August 9, 2016

This is not your average beauty review

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If you’re like me (and for your sake, I hope you’re not), only four things in this world keep you going: friends, family, career fulfillment and spending 10-12 hours a week reading online testimonials from British and Korean teenagers about face masks. I spend all of my free time, and, by some miracle, most of my “work” time, participating in the tight-knit international community of cold goo enthusiasts.

Besides Precious Moments figurines and too-small pairs of underwear that I hope will come in handy one day, face masks are the only thing I collect. Under my toothpaste- and roll-on body glitter-splattered sink, next to the neti pot and the Ziploc filled with loose pills I found under my bed when I last moved, I have a collection of sheet masks, clay masks, and hyaluronic masks so vast it almost makes me feel sick about my unbridled consumption. Almost! I’m working on it!

But here’s the thing: every time I put a mask on, about four minutes in, I get hungry for ribs or oatmeal, or I decide I need to start drinking three Nalgenes of water, or resolve I need to burrow down into my pillows and comforter to watch Seinfeld online for the first time because I have  resigned myself to the fact that nobody will ever stop talking about it for as long as I live. But face masks prohibit me from doing all of these essential and dire tasks! I kind of hate face masks, but damn if they don’t make me gorgeous.

Thus, every day I work (thanklessly, nobly) towards the goal of streamlining the process. And today, I am here to share with you what I’ve found for my often dry, often acne-smattered chin and cheeks and my oilier-than-most forehead. My combination skin type is common, but I believe that the best masks are egalitarian, with the purpose of exfoliating and moisturizing people of all backgrounds, creeds, and level of oil production.

For clarifying and pore-purging purposes, I have become enamored of the suspect-looking Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. What’s your secret, Aztecs, and is it sinister? But for real, this is 100% bentonite clay from a volcano that, according to (probably fake) scientific principles, absorbs toxins from the skin like a big old crusty magnet when it’s wet, pulling garbage out of your skin face. When I apply this, I can almost feel my heartbeat on my face, which the jar claims is otherworldly “pulsating,” but is really just the mask tightening. Wear this as a mask or a spot treatment if you have a deep-down pimple that you’ve been otherwise unable to bring to a head. I mix this powder into a mousse with apple cider vinegar. Which, if you don’t own already, get right with god. If you need off-label apple cider vinegar cocktail recipes, I’m also ashamed to say that I’m your girl.

I’ve recently come to love and respect Juice Beauty’s Green Apple Peel Blemish Clearing mask. I bought this by accident while in one of my Whole Foods fugue states, thinking it a designer apple sauce. Turns out this gentle peel will burn your esophagus right up, but does wonders for a clear complexion! This is one of the few alpha hydroxy acid peels (AHAs, for you alphabet-snobs) that doesn’t leave me too red to go outside for 12 hours. Plus, you can substitute this for eggs while making vegan health loaf. Just kidding, please don’t do that and serve it to your arch nemesis, wink wink!

The exfoliator I’ve been most excited about is a revolting product that company top brass warned “isn’t technically a mask, though some people call it a mask.” That’s good enough for me, so I’m going to include it here. It’s called Aquareveal Satin Bright Soft Water Peel for Faceand it’s insane. This is a newfangled “water peel,” which somehow exfoliates without using acids, enzymes, or those almost-illegal scrubby beads. Rub a few pumps of Aqua Reveal gel onto your face and rub. You won’t believe what happens next!

What happens next is dead face skin rubs off onto your hands into a million little dead skin balls. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and is probably a metaphor if you’re willing to do the intellectual heavy lifting. I’m not!

Sheet masks are arguably the hottest trend in beauty besides that one gorgeous Snapchat filter, but I really have only found one sheet mask that’s worth the effort it takes to stage the requisite photoshoot: the Insolution Mediu Amino Clearing Mask. Out of any other sheet mask out there, this is the one I read about and adore most. It makes me shiny, in the best possible way. Apply this mask, set your phone timer to 40 minutes, and get to Google Translating, because most of the directions are in Korean. I know you’ll figure it out!

And I know you’ve all been waiting anxiously for me to discuss “sleeping masks.” In general, sleeping masks are garbage! They’re just thick lotions, and unless you sleep like a pretty little corpse princess, they’re messy. Plus, I think they were invented in the 1920s as “cold cream.” All this being said: I found a really good one! Cos RX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask. I apply this as a light layer, as a night cream, and it absorbs readily and still works it’s moisturizing magic overnight. I wake up with a more plump face every time I use this, but in the good way. The COS RX website asks, “Wanna have a milky, sweet, soft skin just like a sweet rice?” Incidentally, that’s also the security question on my banking app. The answer to both: HELL YEAH.

Claire Carusillo is a freelance and fiction writer in New York. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice.  Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Alyssa G

    Yessss Christel, best model ever!!!!

    • Yvelise Jennifer Gosnave Langu

      Yes she is❤️

  • libs

    sudden realisation about two paragraphs in – THIS IS THE SAME CLAIRE THAT WRITES MY FAVOURITE NEWSLETTER?!?!? an exciting day for me, honestly.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      THAT’S THE CLAIRE! Unless you read some other magical newsletter by a different magical Claire. It was love at first open. And now we have her!

      • Verena von Pfetten

        (Well, we have her once a week.) STAY TUNED FOR MORE CLAIRE.

        • libs

          this is genuinely VERY EXCITING FOR ME!!!!

    • CLAIRE

      I’M THE CLAIRE <3

  • Vanessa

    This is amazing. I’m putting on a sheet mask NOW so it can work it’s magic while I read the rest of Man Repeller.

    • Verena von Pfetten

      Smart and efficient use of your time.

  • **This is not an ad**

    SKII Treatment Mask fix everything! Dryness, check! Blemishes, check! Dullness, check!

    It’s so expensive though I only use it when my skin is like sh**.

  • Amy Mills

    omg have only read the opening line but i had to stop and say – it is amazing. jeeezus i love the MR community

    • Amy Mills

      checking back in: the rest of the article was pure $$$

  • Lola

    YESSS!!!!

  • Dani

    My amazon cart is fuller and my heart is lighter. Thanks for the giggles.

  • Harling Ross

    Christel!!!!!

    • Christel Michelle

      Harling <3 <3

  • Lindsey

    Claire might just be the funniest writer ever. (Which is saying something, because everyone at MR is frickin’ hilarious.) (Sorry to any other MR writer I may have offended. I love you all.)

    • CLAIRE CARUSILLO

      omg thank you!!!

  • Kelly

    I am such a face mask hoarder! I have this jumbo 4o+ sheet mask box on my bed side table, so I can easily put one on while sitting in bed.

  • lilyelle

    by far the greatest and most entertaining beauty post I’ve read in my life. ever. my skin face thanks you.

    I’ve been obsessed with face masks since I found my face mask soul mate in boscia’s clarifying detox mask, and then it was discontinued last year (nooOOOooOOOoooOOO!!!!). am forever on the hunt to find something to rise to its high standard.

  • Nina

    “I kind of hate face masks, but damn if they don’t make me gorgeous.”. LOL me too. Funniest beauty article ever!

    • Nina

      Just subscribed to your newsletter and stalked your twitter <3

      • CLAIRE CARUSILLO

        deeply honored! hello!!

  • Olivia Adamczyk

    You didn’t eat that mask from Whole Foods did you :-O

    • CLAIRE CARUSILLO

      yeah, and i feel kind of sick!!!!

  • kes

    claire, you’re a national treasure.

  • Alison

    Honestly I wanted to read about face masks (bc I love them) but didn’t want to read a full article because I’m still half asleep and I know that I’m going to be reading at least 20 other MR articles (since this was the first article I opened in the newsletter and have more on deck!!!) But I couldn’t help but read the whole thing because your writing is 100 (pretend that’s the emoji– cut me some slack I’m writing this on a Dell) and I needed to tell you how much I loved this!!!!!

  • jess

    Loved the article but yeah, you have to watch Seinfeld

  • K Ro Clarke

    Claire carusillo for president ??