When I was first asked if I would be willing to partake in a gross beauty experiment, I was mildly intrigued, until it was suggested that I bathe in mayonnaise. After recoiling in disgust, I took a quick self-assessment. Sure, the thought of submerging myself in a vat of mayo was enough to make my stomach churn on the best of days, but don't I strive to hold myself to a standard of exploration and firsthand empirical assessment over snap judgement? Besides, mayonnaise is rumored to have a huge cache of benefits when used as a hair mask, including sun protection (provided by the oil content), deep moisturizing/repairing effects (oil again, and protein via eggs), and a restoration of pH balance (from vinegar). All of which could theoretically work favorably for one's epidermis — if one was actually inclined to get skin close.
Therefore, in the name of science, and beauty (and probably general entertainment, on your part, I suppose), I took upon the challenge.
Now, before I go on, I should probably note that I've never previously had an aversion to mayo, at least not in a phobic or taste related sense. In my humble opinion, Hellmann's does "bring out the best" in a sandwich, and although you'll never catch me licking the excess mayo from a knife or spoon (due to mayo's way too mucus-like consistency), I will happily spread a reasonable dab on the bun of a burger or a sub.
So, when it came to purchasing the 64 fluid oz container of mayonnaise I was preparing to rub all over my epidermis, things still felt more comical than cringe-worthy. However, you did read correctly — since I couldn't fathom physically filling my bathtub with the absurd amount of mayonnaise it would take to submerge my entire body sans water (or the prospect of cleaning that horrific white mess out of said bathtub), my plan was to coat my body in 64 fluid oz of mayo, then hop into a regularly drawn bath, allowing my condiment coating to swirl about me.
Things went generally according to plan, and despite the heat and humidity that made taking a warm bath less appealing — even without added condiment content — I drew up a bath of clean, lukewarm water, and began the process of smothering my skin with mayo.
The smell was horrendous. For those of you who think you can't stand a few tablespoons of mayo mixed into your food, I submit that you haven't faced real egg and oil terror, and for all intents and purposes are probably huge wusses. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. Compared to the experience of covering your body in mayonnaise, first thing in the morning, on a warm, late spring day, a little bit of mayo touching your sammy ham is no biggie. Trust me.
But the full body coverage was only step one. And near gagging, I knew I had to carry on, so I stepped into the bathtub, careful not to slip and meet some disgusting, mayo soaked demise. As I submerged myself, it occurred to me that I was about to soak my lady parts in mayonnaise. I hadn't thought of this earlier. Why hadn't I thought of this earlier? Ugh. This is the worst. The worst. (Figuratively, of course. I'm fully aware that in the grander scope of things, my experimental dip in mayo is minute at best.) Needless to say, I had come this far, and all things considered, it was probably too late to turn back. Besides, I had ample amounts of soft skin to comfort me on the back end of this experience, right?
Begrudgingly, I heaped a few more handfuls of the remaining mayo into the tub with me. (Surprisingly, it took less than 64 fluid oz of mayo to cover my entire body. I'm not sure how I feel knowing that strange tidbit of information, but there it is, nonetheless.) I mean, I didn't want it to go to waste, and I sure didn't intend to use any remainder for tuna salad when I got out. At that point, I couldn't imagine I'd be enjoying the flavor of mayonnaise any time soon on anything, much less tuna salad.
Lying there, holding back my gag reflex while looking at my goopy toes next to the faucet and waiting for the mayo to percolate through my skin to whatever end it would eventually have, it occurred to me that this, unsurprisingly, was the strangest thing I had ever done in the name of beauty. And, like many of the other rabbit holes I, and countless other women (and men), have jumped down in the pursuit of soft skin, fleek brows, and gloriously shiny hair, this was one of the odd bi-products of humanity's ascent to the top of the food chain. We have few predators, much time on our hands, and we fill it with frantic busyness and often hilarious and arguably somewhat pointless cosmetic pursuits. You have to laugh now and then at the fact that so often we place more weight on finding the most effective way to free our skin from pimples than searching for ways to traverse the universe or create working warp drives. And when I say we, I of course mean me, and humbly take my hat off to the men and women who work daily to transcend the boundaries of space and time. Your experiments are noble, and truly worth our attention and funding.
Of course, amidst my thoughts of cosmic insignificance, my brain reminded me, almost ironically, that I recently read an article detailing how to use mayo as a facial mask. So, I reached for a final handful of gook, and smeared it across my brow, cheeks, and chin. That was the tipping point. Unable to stand the potential for any more mayo, I leaned back, rinsed the most massive chunks of condiment from my hair, and stood, ready to shower, and hopefully remove this mess as quickly as possible.
It took a solid 20 minutes to scrub the layer of oil from my skin, and while you might argue that I should have left some of it in order to receive the full benefits available, believe me, plenty of oil penetrated the surface of my skin.
So, what's the final verdict, now that I'm dry and ready to move on with my day? Not worth it. I repeat, not worth it. Sure, my skin feels a bit more smooth to the touch, and my hair is most definitely seemingly silky, but my hands are suspiciously dry (far more than they were before this ordeal), and my face feels like it's about ready to unleash a wicked bout of breakouts. I can feel my pores clogging, I still smell mayo on my hands, and suspect I'll shower again in a few hours, since my thighs genuinely seem as though they're sticking together. (Yes, I did wash them with soap — repeatedly — thanks for your concern.)
In the end, bathing in mayo is not an earth shattering, life changing event. However, it's decidedly disgusting (no offense to anyone who takes pleasure in it — it's just really, really not my bag), and doesn't seem to boast any benefits worth the amount of work, cleanup, and sensory trauma involved.
Images: Jen Schildgen