Acne Treatments - Aspirin Mask

Using aspirin to clear your skin |

Many people think that aspirin is a cheap way to make BHA or salicylic acid, but aspirin is actually acetylsalicylic acid. They are similar, but not the same thing.

The aspirin mask is supposed to be wonderful for reducing pimples, getting rid of red marks, and softening your skin. I find that the mask does indeed soften my skin and temporarily reduce the appearance of blackheads on my nose. However, that's all it does for me. My skin seems to glow right after I wash off the mask (because aspirin is anti-inflammatory and helps with any redness), but the glow fades and my skin quickly returns to its normal state.

Keep reading to learn how to make the aspirin mask and whether it's safe to use.

How to Make the Aspirin Mask

To make the mask, you take around 5-8 tablets of uncoated aspirin, add a few drops of water to dissolve them, mix into a paste, slather on your skin, and wash off after it dries. You can leave the mask on your skin anywhere from 5-15 minutes, though I know some people who leave it on for 30 minutes to an hour. Most people also use the mask once or twice a week. Applying the mask more frequently can irritate, dull, or dry out your skin, but it depends on your skin's level of sensitivity.

Before, everyone always said you had to crush aspirin, but you really don't have to do that because the tablets dissolve rather quickly with some water. After aspirin dissolves, its texture is something between regular table salt and coarse salt. I find that different brands of aspirin will yield different consistencies. For example, the Walgreens brand is "creamier" but the Member's Mark one is grainier.

Preparing to dissolve aspirin

Preparing to dissolve aspirin

Adding water to dissolve aspirin

Adding water to dissolve aspirin

Aspirin dissolving in water

Aspirin dissolving in water

Aspirin as a paste

Aspirin as a paste

If you want to make the aspirin as fine as sand, you could use a coffee grinder, but in my opinion, it is an unnecessary step. Dissolving it in plain water works just as well. It only takes a few drops and a few seconds for the aspirin to disintegrate. Keep in mind that the finer the aspirin, the more likely greater quantities will be absorbed into your skin. Aspirin powder also makes people sneeze, so if you decide to grind up your aspirin, there will be a lot of aspirin grains in the air. On another note, Advil or Tylenol are not the same thing. Use only aspirin. This mask is called an aspirin mask for a reason!

Uncoated aspirin (ones without "safety coating" or "enteric coating") is also recommended so you don't have any extra, inactive ingredients besides the aspirin itself. Sometimes it can be difficult to find uncoated aspirin, so what I like to do is take a coated aspirin and rub it under running water. As you rub, you can feel the smooth coating being washed off. You'll know when the coating is removed when the surface of the tablet feels a bit rough.

To make the mask more nourishing, some people also add witch hazel, honey, and/or aloe vera gel. Another reason for these additional ingredients is because a basic mask with only aspirin and water does not hold together well. As the mask dries, chunks of aspirin will fall off, making a powdered mess on your clothes, floor, bed, or hair. Since it flakes off when dry, the aspirin mask can also get into your eyes (ouch!) and nose (ahh-choooo!) when you talk or move your face. Adding honey and/or aloe vera gel binds the aspirin grains together so they stick better on your skin and don't fall off while drying. (Aloe vera gel actually makes the aspirin mask a bit watery, but it will still dry hard and compact.)

Instead of using aspirin as a mask, some people like to use it as a scrub, toner, or spot treatment. To make the aspirin scrub, you simply dissolve aspirin (usually 2-3 will suffice), add some water, and use this mixture straight up on your skin. You can also add aspirin to your regular cleanser for a home-made exfoliant. To make the aspirin toner, you dissolve some aspirin in a bottle of water and add green tea, witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, or whatever ingredients of your choice (you can also make it with just water). Shake up the bottle and apply like you would a regular toner. However, the thing about using an aspirin toner is sometimes you’ll end up getting tiny aspirin grains on your face and that can get annoying. To use the aspirin mask as a spot treatment for acne, you basically make a paste of aspirin and dab it onto any pimples.

Aspirin mask: Side effects and Warnings

Even though the aspirin mask seems like the cheapest, best idea ever, there are several warnings:

  • First of all, do not use this mask if you are allergic to aspirin. If you are allergic, aspirin could cause hives, stomach bleeding, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, and even shock. Absolutely do not use the aspirin mask if you have Reye's syndrome, have consumed large amounts of alcohol, are pregnant or breast-feeding, or take other medications. Also, do not use this mask if you are 12 years old or under. Actually, it's probably not a good idea to use this mask if you are under 16, just because it seems weird to me for young teenagers to be putting aspirin on their face and subjecting themselves at such an early age to the risks of using the mask.

  • Secondly, there is a bit of controversy over how much aspirin is absorbed by your skin into your bloodstream. Lots of people wonder if the aspirin mask is actually safe to use. I don't think there is any hard evidence, but I believe that it can be possible to overdose or get mild aspirin intoxication. It all depends on you and how you react.

    I know that every time I use aspirin, I do feel a bit light-headed. I also mix the aspirin in my palm with my finger (instead of using a bowl and spoon) and sometimes I notice that it makes my hands feel somewhat numb. So, it really makes me wonder how much of this drug is actually being absorbed. I don't recommend and don't personally use the aspirin mask anymore for this reason. If, after using the aspirin mask, you feel any adverse effects (dizziness, vomiting, nausea) seek medical attention immediately!

    However, some people say that if the number of tablets you use for your mask does not exceed the maximum amount you can ingest in one day (12 tablets in 24 hours for regular strength aspirin), then it's safe to use the mask. The reasoning behind this is that your skin doesn't absorb 100% of the aspirin mask. So, let's say the maximum amount of aspirin you can take orally is 4 tablets. Putting 4 pills on your skin isn't the same thing as taking 4 pills because even though your skin absorbs some aspirin it doesn't absorb 100% and you are still under the safety limit.

If you still want to use aspirin, just be very careful. While the mask is on your face or when you are washing it off, try not to get any in your eyes and nose. It may seem easy to not get this stuff in your eyes and nose, but aspirin isn't as cosmetically elegant as scrubs you can buy at the store. A lot of the times, when you are washing off the mask, tiny grains can migrate towards the more sensitive areas of your face. When I am washing off the mask, I tend to close my eyes extra tightly so there is no chance of any aspirin getting in there. If it does get into your eyes, wash out immediately. It will burn, but don't rub your eyes because the aspirin could scratch your cornea. Use a q-tip to fish out the grains or simply flush your eyes with water. If it gets into your nose, you will start to sneeze.

Using the aspirin mask, or any exfoliant at that, will probably make your skin more sensitive, so it's a good idea to avoid the sun at peak hours and to wear a good sunscreen. It's also important to keep the expiration date in mind. Just like how you wouldn't take medicine that has already expired, it's best not to use expired aspirin for the aspirin mask. Storing aspirin in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight is essential for keeping the drug fresh.

One last thing: If you think aspirin is the key to clearing your skin, prepare to be disappointed. As a spot treatment left on overnight or as a mask, aspirin has not worked any skin-clearing miracles for me. For acne, it is generally better to use well formulated products such as BHAs, AHAs, BP, and/or prescription retinoids.

Overall, the aspirin mask can help someone improve their skin, but it cannot replace a good skin care routine or soundly formulated products. Be careful when you are using the mask and make sure to educate yourself about all possible risks.

Last updated: November 23, 2012

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