I have had bad skin since puberty. Like, really really awful horrific bad skin that made me want to burn my face off with acne creams and ointments just to make the stuff on my face go away. Luckily it's improved a lot as I got older and started using products recommended to me by my dermatologist, but it's never been that great, and I've been starting to get fed up with it. So I decided to start learning more about skincare and the different things I can do for my skin to make it a lot nicer.
This is a fairly accurate picture of how my skin was throughout high school (it was much worse in middle school when I first started getting acne, but I avoided cameras because of it and don't have any pictures); I had a lot of redness and breakouts especially on my cheeks and chin but it was seriously just all over my face. It was this bad even with treatments (antibiotics and topical stuff) given to me by a derm, and I was pretty fucking miserable about it.
It's since gotten a lot better but I still have good days and bad days.
This is what I would consider a good day for my skin, as you can see there's still some redness/splotchiness but I don't have very many obvious blemishes.
This is me on a bad skin day (today). You can tell I have some blemishes on my cheeks and chin area (I also have a cyst on my forehead, but that's not really visible so much as tangible).
Anyway, now that you know the entire history of my epidermis, I'll get to the point of this post:
I've been checking out some resources such as the skincareaddiction subreddit and other skincare sites and have come up with a long list of things to try that I think could be good for my skin. First up is the Freeman Charcoal and Black Sugar Facial Polishing Mask. It looks like this:
(yes, I know I need to clean my windowsill)
I got it for $4.29 at Rite Aid (obviously, since I left the price tag on) and it seems to be a decent size for the price. I've seen other Freeman masks in stores and found that this one was harder to find when I was looking for it specifically--it seems that their cucumber mask is much more commonly stocked, but wasn't what I was looking for.
It is meant to absorb nasty junk from your skin (the function of the charcoal) and also exfoliate (the sugar).
Note: THIS STUFF SMELLS SO GOOD. I kind of wanted to eat it. It has fragrance added, and it smells AMAZING. Not flowery or anything, to me it smells sort of like Earl Grey tea!
Here is the list of ingredients:
I'm not a total expert on what these ingredients mean, but most of them seem to be natural and there's nothing that I consider a red flag (like alcohol or sulfates) included.
I put it on my face (all over) and left it on for about 10 minutes while I watched Parks and Recreation. This stuff is certainly very scrubby, which comes from the sugar--it did feel a little abrasive on my skin but not too much. Because it is abrasive I don't think it's something I would use more than once or twice a week. Physical exfoliants on the face are not for everyone, but sugar is a much better option than some of the ingredients other products use (like crushed walnut shells, which basically just scratch the hell out of your face--they're in St. Ives' apricot scrub, among other things) because it is a bit gentler.
The instructions recommend that you leave this on for 5 to 7 minutes and then scrub it into your face for 1 to 2 minutes, which I didn't do because I felt like that would be way too harsh on my skin. Instead I let it sit for a little longer and then washed it off with warm water and a gentle washcloth.
Honestly, I can't see a difference in my skin, although it did feel very clean. It feels really soft to the touch, which is nice. Any half-decent exfoliant will have that effect temporarily, though.
It didn't do anything for the blemishes that I have, but I'm not sure it's really supposed to.
Overall, I think it's a pretty good product for the price. It didn't seem overly drying or anything, and I really loved the smell. I don't think this is going to do anything dramatic for my skin, but it's nice to use and doesn't seem irritating or detrimental. I'm probably going to use up this tube, but I don't know if I'll buy another one--I guess I'll see, but it looks like this one is going to last me a while.
Verdict: buy it if you want to; it's not a miracle product but it's nice if you want to take care of yourself for a day.