My skincare routine has always been pretty monotonous. It’s pretty much like the prudish, overachieving type who aimed for all A’s and planned to lose the big V to her one first and true high school love.
I was a hardcore Cetaphil user when I was a teen because I had eczema on my face and my dermatologist was shilling it like it was her job (I guess it kind of was). But then I grew up, decided that chasing a BA in Theatre was a good idea, and my skin smoothed and wasn’t so eczem-y; it went in the other direction, regressing to a spotty pubescent tween.
The prospect of trying out a whole field of newfangled skincare products with fancy packaging and smells and false promises did delight me more than a bit. If nothing else, I get a lot of satisfaction from problem solving. I jumped around from Aveeno (not bad), to Neutrogena (pretty good), to Origins (way into it) and Shiseido (love it, can’t so much afford it), before trying out the oil-cleansing method, which I’ve been doing for the past six months, and it’s done wonders in improving the texture of my skin. But I don’t really do any other maintenance or special treatments on top of that.
I don’t like to throw curveballs into my skincare routine too much because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? That being said, I still can’t ignore that nagging feeling that what if my skin could be SO MUCH BETTER because this is post-millenial America, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who experiences anxiety at the fact that any investment I make will be outdated in at least a year’s time (looking at you, Apple). The OCM helped, but once I got a taste of small victory, I had to finish the job. I want to be able to see my mom without her being all “What is that on your face?” and pointing indiscriminately towards my whole face.
For some backwards reason, instead of weeding through the thousands of products out there hiding behind marketing jargon telling me how it will brighten, clear up, or anti-age my skin, I looked at the active ingredients in the types of products I would buy for something like brightening or clearing. I’m one of those people who is way more comfortable consulting the Internet for beauty/medical advice than letting a perfectly coiffed Sephora expert up-sell me on their newest serum while touching my face without permission.
What I found was that there are so many sources out there where you can order specific ingredients to make your own face mask, tailored to your specific needs. My first go-tos are bulkapothecary.com and moutainroseherbs.com; they have so many common raw ingredients at totally affordable prices, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Also, they both are great with telling you what the common/best uses are for said ingredient, and there are customer reviews and all that. Total DIY-bait.
I knew I wanted a clay mask, since clay in general is good for drawing out impurities from the pores, but I didn’t want it to be too drying. Luckily, the selection was a la carte.
There’s bentonite clay, which is one of the most popular clays in face masks because of its absorbing capabilities. It’ll Hoover all those toxins right out of you. When in contact with fluid, it becomes negatively charged and swells like a sponge, sopping up like crazy. Lots of folks take it for gastro-intestinal disturbances as well. Cosmetically, bentonite is most common for acne-treatment masks.
Kaolin clay is another common cosmetic clay. It’s similar to bentonite in its toxin-negging, except that it doesn’t absorb oils, so it’s preferable for dry skin. You’ll find kaolin in lots of OTC digestive medicines like Mylanta or Maalox, so it’s also a tummy-soother. Apparently, Kaolin’s known to be most effective in treating diarrhea, so… there’s that. For you guys with annoyingly consistent but not raging acne, I’d almost recommend this over bentonite because since it’s doesn’t remove oil from your skin, your face won’t retaliate by producing more oil and thus, more acne.
Fuller’s Earth Clay is, in my opinion, kind of like the granddaddy of facial clays. This stuff is the Rosy the Riveter poster child of clay, sopping up auto oil from the ground and from industrial machines, so to say it can do the same for the oil on your face is an understatement. Extra perks include using it to sop up oil stains from textiles--like when I inevitably get pizza grease on my blouse because I still eat the same way as when I was a child--and using it to absorb offending odors from kitty litter boxes.
The silicates in Fuller’s Earth Clay have bleaching properties, so lots of cosmetics use it as a treatment for hyperpigmentation, as it helps lighten the appearance of acne scars and freckles. How potent that is has yet to be seen by me (I have some pesky acne scars around my mouth and under my nose). I bought a four-ounce pouch from this Etsy shop, because $6.50 sounded more than reasonable to me.
So my top choice was the Fuller’s Earth Clay (henceforth known as FEC) for its pore-vacuuming, hyperpigmentation-nullifying powers. I wanted to make a face mask that wouldn’t dry me out, so I included honey, a great moisture-hoarder (AKA humectant) as well as antibacterial agent. I also added licorice root, for its touted benefits for the eczema/psoriasis/rosacea-prone.
Licorice root has an active compound, glabridin that inhibits your tanning enzymes, so I wanted to put this in my mask to add a kick to the brightening aspect. After reading Hannah’s sea buckthorn article, I became intrigued by it and decided to incorporate it into my skincare somehow. Sea buckthorn is pretty much a grab bag of antioxidants, vitamins and emollients. Cosmetically, it’s used to bolster cell renewal and bust up aging free radicals. Get on my face, SBT!
I got all these powders from this handy site, DIYCosmetics.com. Originally, I was just trying to buy cosmetic containers but if you ever wanted to make your own cosmetics, this appears to be a place.
Here’s my face mask cocktail recipe:
1 TBSP Fuller’s Earth Clay
1 TSP licorice root powder
1 TSP colloidal sea buckthorn
2 TSP raw/organic honey
1 TSP glycerin
Rose water (or distilled water) as needed for consistency. You want to make it a paste.
I mixed up all this gunk in a bowl, and then painted it on my face with a clean foundation brush, because I always muck up mask application--especially clay masks. I always put way too much on and then it takes forever to dry and even then, never dries fully. I want to feel the tightening! That way I know it’s “done.” So yeah, a foundation brush works as a great safety brake for the heavy-handed. Also, it makes me feel more glamorous considering this is a poop-colored mystery mud I am currently slopping on my face.
Left that on for 15 or so minutes, until it dried and then washed it off with a warm damp washcloth, feeling all kinds of ooohs and ahhhs. I imagine I’d have to use this at least one to two times weekly to notice any skin-brightening effects, but then I’d risk over-drying my skin probably--I could probably get away with that in the spring and summer.
Having tried this out a few days before my period when I always get one big honker of a zit, the red tide came and zit there came none! Coincidence? I think not! I mean, maybe it could’ve been, but I like to think my skincare efforts are paying off, not just that that one pill I missed put the kibosh on my hormones. Whoops.
You may think that this is a lot of trouble to go through for making face masks, but it’s really not if you think about it like making cake batter (mmmm... Funfetti) that, instead of licking off a spatula, improves your skin. I have no issue with my former face mask favorite, Origins Clear Improvement, but the prospect of bespoke skincare is far too appealing to pass up.