I am having a weirdly difficult time at the moment. The past year has been filled with drama, simultaneously mine and familial, and has allowed me a concrete outlet upon which to focus my constant anxiety -- there have been "reasons" for it, so I didn’t feel completely insane. Also, I’ve been in rehab and mental hospitals for the significant majority of the past 14 months so, you know, I’ve been pretty well looked after.
Now I’m a free woman (almost). Things are going well externally: I’m coming up to a year clean, I have a home, my family are in good health, I am working on some inspiring projects -- but my internal is taking a little longer to catch up. I am still working through a lot (amazingly, I didn’t work through it all in 10 months) and I’m still finding my emotional feet in sobriety.
When I'm in a bad space, I immediately want to turn to food or drugs, neither of which are an option for me these days. When I am feeling really mopey and disconnected, I can think of four million ways of rationalising that stuff but struggle to think of one authentically loving thing to do for myself. I am in the arduous process of reprogramming myself to do nice things instead of harmful ones -- to reach out to someone who will support me, to watch a movie that I love, to run a bath. I quite literally have a list by my bed to turn to when I just don't know what to do. And near the top of this list is face masks.
I have a variety of face masks that I use for different things -- for varying skin complaints and for varying moods. My bedroom is like a day spa (if Aveda used Marlboro reds as incense) and I am going to give you a rundown of my favourites.
When I saw REN’s Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask, I immediately grabbed for it because I love how the title sounds so medical. Glycolactic acid? Don’t they make face peels out of that? I’ll take 50. I’m besotted with the idea of deep cleaning my pores, in an obsessive-compulsive way (I’m sure it’s a symbol of my inner child feeling dirty or something) so I love something with acid in the title. Also, Martha Stewart gave it an award for wedding skincare -- I love that there are wedding skincare awards -- so there’s an accolade if ever I heard of one.
It’s made of fruit acids so it isn’t akin to chemical-burning yourself (Julieanne, you are in my thoughts). You aren’t allowed to sell a fruit acid concentrate of over 10% over the counter and this is a 6.5% so it’s very safe. It’s also filled with something papaya-y and so it smells like putting a fruit salad on your face: delicious. Hey, if I can't have a midnight binge anymore, fruit salad face helps.
It really does make you radiant, it’s a beautiful gooey exfoliant and it feels all tingly when you put it on but not in the way that makes me worry I’ll get a rash. It noticeably tightens my pores and my skin is so soft afterward that I have to force myself not to put it on every day because over-using face masks actually thins your epidermis so that’s not very loving.
When I am pre-menstrual or stressed, my skin responds really violently. I get all bumpy and red faced and then I pick at my face like I know I shouldn’t and want to cry over what I have done to my poor skin. Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask really helps. It has a kaolin clay base which helps absorb excess oil, and camphor which cools redness and decongests pores -- and it’s quite fluid, which is fairly unusual with a clay mask.
Rescuing me from hormonal trauma: Eve Lom Rescue Mask $50 amazon.com
You apply it in a really weird way which sort of grosses me out -- after it dries, you are meant to sort of buff it off with your fingers in a circular motion (Eve Lom products seem to love coercing me into DIY facial massage) and it flakes off but, in spite of that, I am a really big fan. It isn’t a huge exfoliant but it is a wonderful skin conditioner and you can dilute it and pop it around your eyes for a few minutes if they are puffy. Multifunctional -- what more could you want?
When I lived in Paris, a woman I worked with was obsessed with drinking charcoal because when it is "activated," it detoxes your system by absorbing toxins. I was never that interested in detoxing my body in those days and now that I am, I can’t do a charcoal cleanse because it would mess with my medication. It's a cruel fate, but the Sanctuary 5 Minute Thermal Detox Mask is my second best alternative.
Charcoal detox for my soul: the Sanctuary 5 Minute Thermal Detox Mask £10.20, boots.com
It’s incredibly gentle, so I use it in the bath twice a week, rather than when I have some sort of skincare crisis. It warms up your skin and opens your pores so if you are into home extractions (which I obviously am) then it’s really helpful -- and if you aren’t, then the charcoal will draw out impurities of its own accord. Also, it contains myrrh essential oil which I know is soothing but, for me, its primary selling point is that Jesus got it for his birthday. And I want that on my face. As a regular and gentle treatment, it is ace -- as I said, over-exfoliating your face is bad for it so this is a nice middle ground between a cleanser and an acid mask 00 but it isn’t a miracle worker so if you want a pre-wedding glow, then take Martha’s advice and go for the REN.
I’m going to stick in an aspirational pick, because I like aspiration in my beauty products. I nominate Dr Sebagh’s "expert prescription." I’m calling it aspirational because it is £59 for the Deep Exfoliating Mask and then £79 for the Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream, which is fairly ludicrous for face cream even by my exorbitant standards, but I swear on Jesus’ myrrh that it works.
Better than the GP. Almost. Dr Sebagh Deep Exfoliating Mask, $115, amazon.com
I think that they justify it being so expensive by it being made BY A DOCTOR called SEBAGH, and coming in medical looking packaging (test tubes!!) which is the sort of gimmick that I fall head over heels for -- but I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it wasn’t effective. Really effective. I don’t think that the face mask is very organic, it is luminous orange and pretty sticky and it tingles quite a lot (which I always enjoy) but it dissolves blackheads amazingly and leaves you super-glowy.
Afterward, you pour on some of the vitamin C powder -- I mix it with my moisturiser because I don’t really understand how else you are meant to get it on your face. The powder is a super concentrate antioxidant which dramatically rejuvenates my skin so I am left fairly luminous. I just love that it is a two-part treatment because I am fussy; if you have some cash going spare, go wild.
Dr Sebagh Vitamin C powder, $115, amazon.com
Finally, for those who don’t have all the money in the world, I am going to leave you with something I found in Paris. I was obsessed with hanging out in the pharmacies there, not just trying to find opiate-based medications to distill, but because they have the best skincare I have ever found and, unlike everything else in the rest of Paris, some of it was a bargain.
Cattier’s "Masque Argile" was one of my favourite finds -- it is yet another clay mask but it is rose scented and for super sensitive skin. I like anything that smells of roses, even if it is a little grandma-y, and it’s also filled with aloe vera so when I get breakouts, it soothes the redness that concealer never quite covers up. It’s also filled with shea butter so it is lovely and moisturising. I haven’t been able to find it outside of France, but you can get it online and for the bargain price of €4.94, so even with shipping it is still mega affordable.
C'est magnifique! Cattier Masque Argile €4.94, boutiquebio.fr
So there you have it. My favourite face masks. Do you hate me for including something that costs as much as a good pair of shoes? I wouldn’t blame you.