Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Product Review:
Lush Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask

My skin has been a disaster lately. At turns raw, red, broken out, flaky; you name it, I've had it all. The reason is not completely a mystery to me; my skin has always had a tendency to freak out whenever I change my routine, and as a beauty blogger the frequency of change is high, since I'm constantly testing new products. Like the addict I am, rather than settle down into product monogamy, I instead decided to search out a wonder product to soothe my skin back into submission.

I'd been curious about Lush forever, so when I found out there was a Lush outpost at my local Macy's store, I beelined right for it. First trip in I was way to overwhelmed to buy anything- all the pretty colors, shapes and scents, all set out market-style, in bins & on tables- with no packaging between me and them. It was all or nothing, and I knew "all" wasn't an option, so I grabbed one of their handy newsprint catalogs and left. (I did net a couple nice freebies, a perk I've been treated to regularly at Lush.) After pouring over the catalog with a pen in hand, checking all of the goodies I had to try, I decided that Lush's Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask was just what my cranky skin needed.

Lush Fresh Face Masks are an entirely different concept in prestige masks. As the name would imply, they're made fresh from natural ingredients, and come in a variety of recipes for different skin conditions. Since the main ingredients in the masks are perishable (and in many cases, edible) in-store they're kept in a mini-fridge, and every little black jar has an expiration date on it (though I'll admit to having used my masks past the marked date.) At home, they're meant to be kept chilled to keep the ingredients viable, though the cold pulls double duty since it soothes and helps to de-puff the skin as well.

Catastrophe Cosmetic was my first choice after reading the description "when disaster looms, Catastrophe Cosmetic calms and cleanses the skin". Sounded perfect to me, and looking at it's formulation, which includes a hefty dose of blueberries (which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties) I figured, what did I have to lose? When I opened my jar, I found a sweet-tart, grayish blue paste, with visible chunks of blueberry skin mixed in. I'm guessing my mask may have already been several days old when I took it home, because by all accounts the mask was supposed to be a pale shade of blue-purple, but I was still within the expiration date stickered onto to back, so I knew I was good to go.

The mask applied like a typical old-school mask; it was a thick paste that, aside from the nice chill from the fridge and the errant chunks of fruit, didn't feel much different than any other mask I'd used. The scent of the mask is quite strong, and fortunately I loved it. It smells quite like a pack of Smarties; powdery blueberry with a tinge of lemon. It reminded me a bit of the old Bath and Body Works scent, Sun Ripened Raspberry, but whereas Bath & Body's scent always gave me a headache instantly, I could have inhaled this all day long. (Which is good, because I noticed the scent lingered on the hand towel I used to dry off after I rinsed the mask off!)

As I applied the mask, I did have some stinging in the chapped areas around my nose, but it was nothing unbearable, so I kept the mask on for the prescribed 10 minutes. The mask does dry down completely, but somehow still feels cool in some areas. After rinsing, the skin on my face was soft and it felt as if the mask had actually left a bit of moisture behind, but not in a greasy, filmy or waxy way. This effect is short lived, however, I found my skin as tight as usual after allowing it to dry for a few minutes, though my skin still retained it's softness.

At this point I continued, unawares, with the rest of my night-time beauty routine, which includes Mario Badescu's Glycolic Acid Toner. Thinking nothing of it, I swipe it over my skin, and instantly feel as if I'm on fire. The burn continues as I put my moisturizer on, and continues as I get into I read my book...after an hour, still burning. This is not normal. Now, any sane person would have run to the sink and immediately washed their face, but I, in the interest of science, decided to keep it on to see how long the burn would persist. I should note, I would not recommend this method to you, dear reader, but after I checked my face for signs of hives or redness (of which there were none) I decided to suck it up. After an hour and a half, the burn began to cool and my skin once again felt normal. While I was burning, I decided to do a little research, to find out: why the crazy chemical reaction?

Turns out, the top two ingredients in Catastrophe Cosmetic, Calamine Powder and Talc, are astringents and oil-absorbers. Which is not inherently bad, but on my already overly dry, irritated skin, they stripped too much my skin's precious natural oils. Oddly, while I was researching, I discovered that the FDA doesn't even allow calamine to be listed as an active ingredient as it once was. Calamine, in fact, is classified as a "counter-irritant", which means that (follow me here) it actually induces local (or surface) inflammation for the purpose of relieving deeper inflammation. So what, exactly happens if there is no "deeper" inflammation? My guess? Burn. Having said that, the mask didn't burn all by itself- it wasn't until I introduced glycolic acid to the party that things went south. In subsequent uses of the mask, I simply didn't tone afterwards, and never had the issue again.

So what did I think overall? The mask was a great sensory experience, the chill was soothing, and I absolutely loved the smell. I did feel like I noticed a short-lived reduction in the redness that my face can sometimes have, but I can't testify to any long term benefits. I should point out that according to Lush's Australian website, (for some reason the US and UK sites don't have the fresh products on them) Catastrophe Cosmetic is specifically described as a preventative treatment, and perhaps it performs better as such.

I'd give this product a 5 out of 10.

-smells great
-has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients
-calamine and talc help to absorb excess oil (that is, if you have excess...)
-chilled mask helps to soothe and reduce puffiness
-seemed to provide temporary reduction in redness- I'd suggest using this right before going out, if this is your desired effect.
-nicely priced for a prestige skin care product. I paid $5.95 for a 2.1oz jar of the mask, which was enough for about 6 applications.

-Calamine and Talc may strip dry skin, causing further irritation (and burning!)
-redness reduction is short lived. I used this mask at night and it did seem to reduce redness, however, the redness would return by morning.
-I couldn't use all of the product before the product's expiration date. (Personally, I was able to continue using it well after the expiration date with no problem, but this may not be the case with everybody. In addition to risk of potential irritation, the effectiveness of the ingredients probably decreases as they age.)


Kat said...

I adore Catastrophe Cosmetic! However, I have oily, blemish prone skin for which it works wonders.
Maybe you should try the newish Oatifix mask next?

Jessica said...

I actually have Oatfix in my fridge right now!

I'm not at all surprised you liked the Catastrophe better with your skin type. I think I simply expected more soothing for my irritated skin. If it had been explained to me better when I purchased it, I may have gone with a different product.

Honestly, if I had one complaint about Lush in general, it would be that, though their staff is generally SUPER nice and helpful, I feel like they could be trained a bit better in product knowledge and which ingredients are best for different skin concerns.

Luckily, who ever is behind their Twitter presence is extremely helpful, and seems to always be around to answer questions (Thanks, if you're reading this!)

SilhouetteScreams said...

Ouch, the burning and calamine sounds scary D:

It sounds delicious though, I'd probably try to eat the mask

BeautyTalk said...

Thanks for this great review! I always wanted to try fresh cosmetic by Lush. When I lived in Switzerland I decided I couldn't justify such price (I guess it was to Swiss standards) and a quick expiration date combination... now I am in Lithuania and they don't have Lush here... was wondering... Are there many ingredients in the mask? Were there preservatives?

Jessica said...


Here's the ingredients list for the Catastrophe Cosmetics:

Calamine Powder, Talc, Irish Moss Infusion (Chondrus crispus), Fresh Blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), Glycerine, Almond Oil (Prunus dulcis), Rose Absolute (Rosa centifolia), Chamomile Oil (Anthemis nobilis), Sweet Orange Oil (Citrus dulcis), Limonene*, Perfume. *occurs naturally in essential oils.

There aren't any chemical preservatives, but according to Lush, some essential oils "have anti-microbial properties so they stay fresh like food without preservatives, as long as you keep them in the fridge."

Despite the fact that I wasn't absolutely wowed by this one, I love the concept, and since they're pretty inexpensive here, I've tried several. If you ever find yourself in a place where they're more reasonably priced, I'd definitely suggest taking a peek!

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