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

This is not your average beauty review

08.09.16
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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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