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Challenge: Testing Out Face Masks


Hey divas! I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t your fab-tab Regulars Editor Eleanor Taylor or Harry Fraser but instead Ky, an editorial assistant for the gorgeous Grapeshot you all know and love so dearly. I know this change-up is a shock and I hope all of you hardcore Harry stans don’t cancel me or tear this page from the mag out because of it (unless it is to create a stunning collage on your wall). Just think of me as the home brand version of Harry: cheaper, in bountiful supply, and with a weirder name. All in all, just keep your expectations low and we will be good.

As Sydney has plunged into its strictest (and longest) lockdown yet, face masks have become an essential component of everyday life. There is currently no escaping the sea of blue shields that hide half of peoples’ faces. If you’re like me, the masks hide your glorious moustache, which is a bit upsetting but I’d rather add a bit of mystery to my appearance than getting, you know, a highly infectious disease.

I’ve been given the honour to write the challenge for this issue which itself was a challenge. What am I supposed to challenge myself to do while COVID-19 is robbing me of my early 20s? The self-pity didn’t last long as it suddenly dawned on me what I could challenge myself to do as I watched the 11:00am Gladys update in a state of prolonged despair. Seeing all the masks, I thought there would be no better time than now to try every face mask that my local Woolies had on the market (online market obviously, I wasn’t about to make this a “see how long it takes me to get COVID while shopping for face masks challenge”) and no, I don’t mean the ones that keep our communities and loved ones safe. I’m talking about the good ol’ skincare face masks that are meant to turn me into a soft and supple goddess.

I’ve tried face masks in the past but they aren’t part of my daily skincare routine despite several articles by Vogue telling me that I should be doing them at least twice a week. But given my limited knowledge of face masks, and only wearing them when I’m with the gals, I thought I’d challenge myself to try a different type of mask every night for a week of lockdown. The thought that this might be excessive did cross my mind as I wondered if my skin would be able to handle that much moisturisation every night but those thoughts were met with the, “I have at least another four weeks of lockdown to fix my skin if all goes horribly wrong,” reasoning. A grim but reassuring thought.

So off I went on the long journey to my online Woolworths store and bought seven different types of masks. I had no idea there were so many different types of face masks. Sheet, mud, charcoal, coconut, hemp, gold foil, and avocado masks were quickly added to my cart and off they went to my address. As sad as this sounds, the incoming order was my only source of excitement for the day so as soon as they came I ripped one open to try like an overjoyed child at Christmas.

Whenever I wear a face mask I am always reminded of Alyssa Edwards in RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2 when she wore a face mask before putting on her makeup, looking like Joan Crawford if she pumped her lips up and was a gay, balding man. I decided to try the sheet mask first and I was laying there looking like the gay version of Hannibal Lecter when I started to spiral. This mask didn’t fit my face exactly the way it should have and I wondered if the others wouldn’t fit either (spoiler alert: they didn’t). I mean, after all, I am a six foot four man with a beard and I don’t think I am necessarily the target market so they don’t factor in my large man-head when designing their masks.

Everyone’s face is different, quite literally no two faces are ever the same. Even on identical twins, there are minuscule differences that separate them and give them their own identity. Not to get too deep here but how can there be a standardised face mask if there isn’t a standardised face? Is my face meant to be that small? Should I not have facial hair? Should my mouth and nose be closer together? It also made me think about those people who have different facial variations and a face mask wouldn’t align with the configuration of their face.

What about those with skin problems? Do they just have to trial and error? That seems a bit unfair, especially when the ingredient list is difficult to dissect in layman's terms. Are we just supposed to pop the masks on and hope that it doesn’t burn? Like at a sleepover when everyone thinks it’s a good idea to do face masks and five minutes in while everyone is relaxing Becky’s face starts burning; but she pretends it doesn’t because she doesn’t want to be a buzzkill and be all like “oh that sizzling sound is my skin melting underneath this mask.” I refuse to comment on whether or not I am Becky. All I will say is that about five minutes into the coconut mask I realised that I may perhaps be allergic to coconut as this burning felt unique and borderline anaphylactic.

Speaking of chemical burns, what is even in face masks? I did a little digging like any good journalist and went straight to google to find the answers to these mysterious little slimy sheets that are meant to give me flawless skin. I was rather surprised to find out that face masks actually have a vibrant history.

Finding its origins in ancient India, participants in the holistic lifestyle of Ayurveda (life and knowledge) created a mask that they called ubtan. Ubtan was a face and body mask that consisted of fresh herbs, aloe vera, turmeric, and flowers with the ultimate goal of improving appearances and assisting in lifelong health. The ancient Egyptians similarly found the benefit in making facial masks made out of milk and honey and sometimes crocodile faeces (how exotic). Yang Guifei of the Tang Dynasty in China who was adored as one of the Four Ancient Beauties of China also made her own facial masks using ground natural materials like pearl, jade, tea leaves, lotus flowers, and ginger mixed with water. To get that Kim Kardashian glow, the ancient Romans sometimes used human placentas to heal their skin. It wasn’t until Madam Helen Rowley patented her “toilet mask” or “face glove” in 1875 that we saw the beginnings of the modern face mask take shape even if it was discontinued due to it being a suffocation hazard.

On day seven of using face masks, I asked myself the big question I know you’re all dying to know: have they even made a difference? The short answer is no. The long answer is also no. Despite my best attempts, I did not wake up looking like Bella Hadid. I might be a few face masks short of that. I will admit that in the twenty-five minutes I had the mask on, I felt rather zen, despite the coconut incident, probably because I couldn’t move my face and was forced to just lay on my bed staring at the ceiling. Sure, face masks can be a fun thing to do with your friends and a relaxing once in a while thing but I don’t know if I can justify having it as part of my regular routine when I can get more use from a serum bottle.

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