Superfluous Travel Item I Need (Kinda): DIY Aspirin Acne Mask

Posted on
Jan 21, 2013

“Um … you have something on your face.”

I have some shocking news for you.


Are you sitting down? Have you cleared all breakable objects from your immediate proximity? (Because you are going to wail and fling about when you hear what I have to say. Seriously). Also, if you have a beverage, I sincerely suggest that you swallow your current sip before reading my news, unless you wish to do a spit-take all over your monitor.

Okay, all good? Here goes:

I have terrible skin.

(I’m just going to sit back and let that news sink in.

… Okay, so I’ve just been alerted to the fact that this revelation isn’t shocking at all. Apparently, when you are comprised of 90% baked goods (10% other) your skin isn’t supposed to look good. Which means that the Pillsbury doughboy has led me astray. AGAIN. Giggling little clear-skinned bastard. Anywhoodle …)

The point is, my skin is not my best feature (nor is my sunny outlook or my impeccable manners. I’m not going to think about this any more, lest I end up crying on the couch eating – wait for it – BAKED GOODS. I see a pattern forming).

I deal with this problem the way any rational woman would: I complain and whine and occasionally – GOD FORGIVE ME – even pick. I know, I know. Oh, and I spend an obscene amount of time and money on various potions, lotions, creams, peels, treatments, masks, astringents, and gels that all claim to make my skin as smooth and unblemished as Scarlett Johansson’s.*

*I have nothing against Ms. Johansson, per se, but I recently saw The Avengers on a high-def TV – you know, the ones that show every single pore and freckle? – and she was still GORGEOUS. Her skin is like porcelain. Girlfriend deserves her fame, because she is a statistical anomaly.

When I travel, my skin decides to react in a multitude of ways:

  • It spontaneously breaks out into a plethora of red, painful zits
  • I lied. That’s pretty much it.

At home, I’m able to bombard treat these breakouts with substances that bleach the color of out of fabric – a characteristic which should probably alarm me more than it does. But since TSA regulations on liquids and creams mean that you can only bring an eye-dropper of fluid with you (give or take), I’ve found that I have to pick and choose which of my liquid acne-fighting arsenal I can pack.

That’s why I always have aspirin on me.


I’ve found that those little pills are amazing on acne. Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, so it helps treat the redness and swelling that stubbornly takes up residence in my face.

If you want to try it at home, just grab an aspirin tablet, lick it, and stick it on your face.

Kidding. The actual process is a little more involved, so I created a step-by-step guide. If it doesn’t clear up your skin, it will at least convince the hotel cleaning staff that you might be a drug addict. So it’s basically a win-win.


Step 1: Assess your stupid, breaking-out, miserable, and irritated face.

Try to figure out what may have caused this current rash of acne (some culprits: stress; unhealthy eating; hormones; an ancient curse.) This exercise won’t do anything but annoy you, but as you inspect your pores, you might want to consider all the people out there who would love to have your skin. There are folks who are burned and scarred, disfigured or lopsided. To them, your mug probably looks like Scarlett Johansson’s.

My point? Be grateful for what you have. And remember that when it comes down to it, looks don’t really matter much, anyway.


Step 2: Grab a few aspirin (four or five should suffice) and place them on a clean, smooth surface.

I used the counter of the hotel bathroom, after giving it a good wipe down.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of aspirin you use, but the ones without coating are preferable.


Step 3: Mash the aspirin into a fine dust.

I used Rand’s shaving cream canister like a rolling pin. At this point, you might want to lock the door, because it would look really bad if someone barged in during the middle of this.

Reaaaaaaaaally bad.

Like, “this might get you deported” bad.

“Baby, what the HELL are you doing?” – Rand


Step 4: Grab a bit of lotion …

It just occurred to me that anyone who follows my Flickr stream would be horrified right now. Horrified.

Add the powdered aspirin, and make a paste.

You can even include a drop or two of water, but be sure to do so sparingly. It’s really, really easy to add too much and make a watery, chalky mess. I speak from waaaay too much experience.


Step 5: Gently apply the paste to your face, steering clear of your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Don’t rub the mask in or scrub your face with it – there will be some jagged edges in the paste, and you can really irritate your skin if you do so.


Step 6: Leave it on for about an hour or so.

The mask will eventually dry and harden slightly (now would be a great time to practice your poker face). During that time, you will inevitably forget that you have stuff all over your face, and are likely to freak out upon catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. It’s cool. We all do it.


Step 7: Gently wash the mask off with warm water, and reveal your slightly less-red, slightly less-irritated skin.


Step 8: Reward yourself with a treat. Maybe something baked?

Because, you know, the circle of life and all that.

Leave a Comment

  • Josima Luchsinger

    Hey, nice idea, but just to let you know, it also works because it has salicilates in it, an ingredient in several acne products, because it also dries out the sebum.
    Good luck!

  • Those pictures looked to be of a highly dubious nature there for a second, but why deprive us of a giggle?

  • Dave

    Wonder if this works for piles?

    Now, that’s something you wouldn’t want somebody barging in on!

  • A

    It was a bad choice to have water in my mouth at around the end of Step 3. Thanks for the (not on my computer) spit take! 😀

  • Wow, this is great. You got anything for liver spots (nasty I know, but I’m at that awkward age)?
    Great blog, truly, truly great 🙂 x

  • Pharmacist

    Salicylic acid (SA) ,which is a component of ASA, has been used for years in acne, psoriasis and many other dermatological conditions. What you’re doing is a DIY version. Fine if you want to risk a chemical burn or increase your risk of skin cancer (seriously) . SA causes keratolytic and/or keratoplastic changes in the epidermal layers of the skin that vary by concentration in a cream or lotion. 1% keratoplastic , 2 or 3% keratolytic , 5% and higher caustic.

    It is an acid, acids love to burn skin. That’s why we (pharmacists) use a weigh scale that can tell the difference between 1 gram and 1.25 grams and 2 grams. Lol You get the idea.

    Point is, you’re putting yourself at risk doing this.

    • Boopsie

      Interesting! So, if using salicylic acid (found in aspirin) on the face puts you at risk for chemical burn and skin cancer then what does aspirin really do to our body? Is it poisonous inside our bodies? I realize you are weighing them to make sure they are in safe amounts but this comment you made kind of alarms me.

    • Everywhereist

      Hi! Thanks for the comment. I’m still unclear on the risk, because, after reading quite a bit about it, it sounds like the percentage of salicylic acid in aspirin in incredibly low – and much lower than a lot of topical creams and lotions that have the ingredient in it. So it sounds like you advise against salicylic acid, period.

      I do agree that it’s very strong stuff, and that you should wear sunscreen if you use salicylic acid regularly.

  • Boopsie

    Also, I thought this link was interesting! The link shows a diagram of zones where you breakout and explains the cause of your breakouts.

  • I recently discovered your blog and am loving reading earlier posts. On this one, I don’t know much about chemistry etc. but you are the only women I can think of who will put her pictures with all that stuff on face….my wife would not even let me in the room when she is doing all these things… 🙂

  • Yep. Aspirin can do serious damage internally too. People who take it daily for heart reasons sometimes run into trouble with gastric bleeding. On the other hand, by traveling with aspirin, Geraldine is always prepared if someone is having a heart attack, since they should chew an aspirin as soon as possible as a blood thinner. Silver lining. She will not be causing any heart attacks by having hideously broken out skin, having applied said aspirin to her face.

  • Lisa

    Try the Aknicare product line, and follow the recommendations. They really work (thank goodness). Tea tree oil works too on spots, but doesn’t clear the skin the same way.

  • sydney

    I love you. Well okay, I don’t know you. But I love your blog posts. And I love cake.
    I like your writing because it is so sarcastic and witty I LITERALLY laugh out loud when i’m reading your posts, even when i’m sitting in a busy coffee shop.
    Thank you fore all the advice you give, because I can relate to a lot of them. Like this Aspirin thing? Totally doing it when I get home.

  • Janet T

    My daughter gave up most dairy- esp. cheese and milk and has had great luck in doing so. Her skin is much better- and when she slips up (ice cream!!!!) it shows.
    I have tried using aspirin this way before- not the whole mask- just for spots and I have had so-so luck with it. But i’ve never mixed it with lotion before only water- so next time I will get it right

  • mariah

    Love your blog! You should try the Tanda Clear. It’s really helped my hear and there spots and travels well (it’s the size of an electric razor). And….I just looked, it’s on sale at Amazon 🙂 I used to use all kinds of creams that bleached my clothes or leaked in my suitcase…this is much better. I really like the aspirin idea though – I think that will be my new back up plan when I really need to hammer a blemish.

  • Interesting. I may have to try this on my perpetually broken out chin. Damn those baked goods! I’ve also found that a few drops of visine a q-tip and dabbed on pimples will take the red out. I’m sure that’s not good for you either but sometimes a gals gotta do what a gals gotta do.

  • Wow. You have a way with drug mfg. Sure its not a little side line? Hoping the next post is about making kites, you know the little origami drug dealers use to make envelopes for their pills… ah, come on, admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
    I recently wrote “I used to be spotty, now I’m a hotty” for an international company selling zit creams in the UK. They may be interested in your little product…

  • Aspirin for zits?! Whoa! This is news to me!

  • Natalie

    I started using African black soap six months ago to treat my acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis (my skin is awesome, right?). I now swear by it. The stuff has made such a difference! I got mine at Walmart, but Target sells it, too. And it’s a bar…TSA approved!

  • Genius, makes total sense.

    But sadly not going to be a winner for me, as one aspirin is pretty much enough to send me into instant anaphylactic shock. Admittedly I’ve never tried smearing it on my face, but I can’t imagine the results would be an improvement on zits…

  • Damn the TSA rules re: liquids!!! I am nursing basically a chemical burn as I chose to use a sample of a night cream from sephora instead of adding another container with two dollops of cream in it to my bag. Did you know that if you have too many bottles of 2oz liquids, they freak out and make you check your bag? Annoying. Anywho…the sample burned my skin off and upon returning from my travels I have over moisturized which causes breakouts scattered throughout the flakes. Not good at all…I feel your pain.

  • Melanie

    I tried the crazy bit of virgin unrefined coconut oil with a little bit of baking soda every other washing (just coconut oil the in between ones) and it totally resolved ALL issues. It’s like magic. Like you wake up in the morning wondering where your crappy skin went kind of magic.

    I use a pea size bit of coconut oil and a sprinkle of baking soda (when I add it), then massage into your face, rinse with warm water, pat dry, and then witness the magic. Your face will feel kind of oily at first, but it will soak in within a few minutes. Try it.

  • I miss carrying liquids but this sounds pretty useful never time I’m traveling!

  • Melstar

    You have given me tons of entertainment during my bouts of insomnia….in return…my tips to you! Take a daily probiotic (like ultimate flora), increase your fiber (I put some in my smoothies), use coconut oil (if what I have read is true, this stuff is amazing and I also put it in my smoothies). Doing this takes care of my huge sore red pimples. I’ve also been using Dr.Woods black soap on my face. Sounds crazy, but it works for me. I have spent $40 on expensive cleansers and this works better and clears my blackheads. I also really like products by Arcona, but they come with a hefty price tag. I hope this helps you, I would never wish problem skin on anyone.

  • Lindsay

    I have a problem. I believe that it is worse than making a cocaine-resembling mixture while in a foreign country. Well, maybe. A long time ago I picked up a product in the store called “The Terminator” in a fit of rage against my skin. Well, in combination with a tea tree oil face wash and face lotion and a vitamin supplement, my skin has gotten better! There are far fewer rage fits! Everything was going perfectly until they changed the formula from 5% benzoyl peroxide to
    10% (which will immediately dry out your face horribly and, I think, causes it to over produce oil and make your skin worse!) So, I immediately took to the internet to buy up Target, Walgreens and Walmart’s stocks of the old formula. Well, that was a year ago and slowly my supply has been drying up and I have had to take to alternative methods of finding the old formula. Paying 200% retail value on Ebay (because I must not be the only addict out there) – at which point my boyfriend intercepts the package and says “You spent HOW much on WHAT?”. I have had to take to the streets, scrounging for the black market’s stash – well, not yet, but I’ve considered it.

  • Granola Girl

    I feel your pain with the breakouts. I mean, come on. I am not a teenager anymore! I certainly don’t have a 15 year old’s body. Why do I have to have her skin?

    Not sure if this helps a lot with the traveling and no liquids issue, but I have finally found something that helps keep me from breaking out all the time. I wash my face with raw, unfiltered honey. And a couple of times I week, I mix that honey with baking soda. Then I follow it up with an astringent made from equal parts water and organic apple cider vinegar with a few drops of rosemary extract. I know … this is very weird and granola. But I swear, after years and hundreds of dollars invested in too many products to count, this is finally working. And, it’s CHEAP.

  • Haha I don’t even know what to say, I have never read a blog post that didn’t apply to me at all (Im no Ms. Johansson but luckily have never had too many problems with acne) and enjoyed it so much. I can just see your husband walk in while you are making your powder…

    Made my day.

  • Sarah

    Oh, I laughed hard. Beyond the useful tip, your post here was just hilarious. I needed a giggle. Thanks!!

  • Felicia

    Does it matter what kind of lotion?

  • Tassiemum

    I crushed 6 aspirin (99 cent pkt) & made a paste with lemon juice, left on for 10 mins. Washed off with wet cotton pad dipped in bi-carb. Followed up with coconut oil for moisturiser. OMG – this is a winner. My skin hasn’t looked this good since……….. ? Doing this weekly now. Oh at the same time I put coconut oil warmed up in my hair as a treatment & left on while I did housework. A good day off beauty routine I think.

  • Tameka

    Thanks for posting…and I love your personality!!!! You are a rare breed of being REAL,authentic/honest. And for all of those with their pious and “know-it-all” remarks, my question is, if they know so much more than you, why are they on the internet, searching/reading blogs about something the already know? Not just aspirin, but everything on earth warrants caution…there are toxins in the air, but that doesn’t stop us from functioning. However, I personally don’t take medicine, however I would not go so far as to condemn using aspirin for acne. Long as it’s being used in moderation/as needed, there won’t be a problem..To those who can’t laugh at the humor, and grasp the sincerety, grace, and kindness in this blog, they have a much greater problem than acne..for starters is the stick that’s stuck up their rear end…no wonder they talk s*** b/c their a-hole is so tight…love ya. Keep being you and thank you for blessing me with laughter that I haven’t had in a loooonng time…I really needed it.

  • Glenna

    If you can find aspirin powder, it’s so much nicer than crushing pills – no jagged pieces. I use BC Aspirin powder which also has caffeine in it, also good for the face. I just mix a packet of the powder with a drop or two of rose water and enough honey to make a paste. I generally do this before a shower, because the honey can make a sticky mess. And the powder is fine enough to double as a scrub. Great stuff.

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