I've been experimenting with homemade face masks since I was 12. Egg? Avocado? Strange combinations of carrier and essential oils? You name it, I've mixed it up in a mason jar and slathered it on my forehead. DIY skincare doesn't scare me one bit, and I'd do anything to avoid the chemical weirdness found in so many commercial beauty products. So why am I writing this from a dark corner of my bedroom, weeping and shaking my fist at the heavens? BECAUSE THE INTERNET IS FULL OF LIES.
Let me explain. When I noticed multiple DIY beauty blogger-types posting recipes for homemade gelatin masks, I was so into the idea. The masks are designed to replicate the pore-cleansing action of Bioré's Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, a genius little skincare product that's absolutely addicting. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, slap one on your nose and call me in the morning.)
But like many things in life — Cadillacs, diamond tennis bracelets — a Bioré Pore Strip habit can get kind of pricey, so when the Internet told me I could make my own pore strips from nothing but unflavored gelatin and a little milk, I was all about that life. I recruited my Bioré-addicted boyfriend (sorry we're not sorry), visions of always-having-a-nose-strip-on-my-face-except-during-red-carpet-events dancing in my head. We decided that he'd use our gelatin mash on his nose, like a normal person, but for the sake of variety and experimentation, I decided to try it all over my face. All over my face. You with me? You understand that this could be considered "foreshadowing"?
Listen, THE INTERNET SAYS THIS IS A POSSIBILITY. I drew great courage from a Mormon mommy blogger whose well-lit photos show her casually applying a gelatin mask to her flawless skin and then easily peeling the whole thing off in one solid piece, smiling into the camera all the while. SORRY FOR WANTING TO BELIEVE THAT LIFE COULD BE SO PERFECT.
Looks delicious, huh? In a disposable plastic container, I mixed two tablespoons of near-boiling cream into one tablespoon of Knox Unflavored Gelatin. Warning sign No. 1: When the Internet tells you to use a "disposable plastic container" because the concoction you're making apparently can't be washed out of a normal bowl, run.
Once the concoction looked disarmingly gooey, I handed it off to my boyfriend and told him to slap it onto his nose, and quick. Warning sign No. 2: The Internet instructed us to move fast, because the stuff “begins hardening right away.”
We mixed up another batch for me, and I went for it like the DIY facial champ I've always believed I was. Warning sign No. 3: The mask smells like rotten milk, probably because it's made of cream mixed with boiled animal tendons. Still, look at the innocence in my face! When I look at the above photo today, I see a girl who believed in this mask. I see a girl who's thinking, "This all-natural alternative to pore strips is going to make my whole face glow!" I see a girl who's completely unaware that she's covering her skin with THE KILLER MASK FROM HELL.
We waited around until our masks had completely hardened before proceeding to peel them off. Warning sign No. 4: If a DIY project tells you to throw away the mixing container because the "completely hardened" product is so difficult to remove, perhaps the "completely hardened" product will be difficult to remove from your face, too. My boyfriend went first.
Everything seemed fine! The mask was coming off in one piece, just like a regular Bioré Pore Strip! How cool was that? As I photographed the process, I remember telling him to smile, because his eyes "looked really dead.” He later told me his eyes looked “dead” because he was in so much pain. Still, not wanting to disrupt my DIY buzz, he said nothing, and bravely peeled away. Warning sign No. 5: If your sweet boyfriend's eyes look dead at any point during a DIY project, something has gone seriously wrong.
The result of his pore strip was less than impressive, but it had clearly accomplished something. Impatient to take off my mask, I paced around the room, flipped through a book on herbalism, and congratulated myself for being such a resourceful hippie. Pride goeth before a fall, people.
Finally, my mask had "completely hardened." I could have played drums on the thing. So I gave my boyfriend the camera and began blissfully peeling away.
The pain. The pain. THE AWFUL, STINGING PAIN. This devil mask refused to come off, and I felt like I was pulling off a substantial layer of skin. I kept trying to smile for the camera, but my eyes were watering and I could only peel off a little bit of the mask at a time. Look how red and sad my skin is in these pictures. Warning sign No. 6: If beauty is turning into real pain, STOP EVERYTHING.
But the worst was yet to come, and unfortunately, my boyfriend captured the moment in a photo. I continued peeling for a few seconds, choking out phrases like "I can't …" and "When will this end?" until my boyfriend put down the camera and said, “Poor baby, there's chunk of hair here . . .”
IT WAS MY EYEBROW.
I PEELED OFF A SECTION OF MY EYEBROW.
I PEELED OFF A SECTION OF MY EYEBROW IN AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE DIY BIORÉ STRIPS, A PRODUCT THAT NOBODY REALLY NEEDS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I stared at the tuft of hair in horror — keep it mind that it was MUMMIFIED IN DEVIL GELATIN — and began to wail: “I've been trying to make my eyebrows grow for so-o-o-o long! I've been putting castor oil on them every night! Is the whole thing gone? Is the whole thing gone?! NO MORE PHOTOS!”
Once I got the rest of that godforsaken thing off, my face was red and blotchy and if my skin had a voice, it would have been screaming. I washed off all the remaining bits of the devil mask with warm water, immediately applied a soothing cocktail of oils and balms to my face, died a little bit inside, and didn't leave my apartment for the rest of the afternoon.
This is where our product obsession leads us, people. First we're buying soap and all-purpose lotion, and then we're onto serums and eye creams, and then we're inventing products designed to pull dirt out of our nose pores because what else is there to do? We've got to have a product for everything — and then we're trying to do it all ourselves because the Internet makes us feel like we're gods, and then we don't have eyebrows anymore.
Images: Tori Telfer