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Breaking Down Beauty: The Aspirin Mask

By Sheila Arkee

There are so many affordable at-home tricks to acheiving beautiful skin. One of my all-time favorite is what’s commonly referred to as the “Aspirin Mask”. Costing mere pennies per application, it is a quick, easy, and effective way to keep your skin smooth and acne free.

aspirin mask

The ingredient that makes the magic happen is salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps clean out pores and battle acne-causing bacteria.

Step One: There are two main ingredients in the aspirin mask: water, and uncoated or lightly-coated aspirin. I rarely come across uncoated aspirin, so I use a lightly-coated generic brand, and it works great. For your face, all you need are 2-3 tablets.

Step Two: The aspirin tablets will dissolve in water, so you don’t really to put a lot of work into preparation. It’s best to use a small bowl, I happen to do all the mixing in my hand. Just a few drops of water will do.

Step Three: Massage the tablets in your hand until they’re dissolved and form a mushy paste. There isn’t a binding agent, so the paste will be fairly loose and flaky.

Step Four: Apply! Let rest for about five minutes, and then rinse away. The dried mask will be powdery, so be careful! Alternately, you can incorporate aloe vera or honey with the mushed up aspirin to act as healing binding agents.

As you’re rinsing,  use the mask as a scrub. You’ll need to use a washcloth to follow up and make sure you’ve removed the mask entirely.

Step Five: Moisturize and you’re set!

The Aspirin Mask is quick and works – I’ll do the mask a night or two before an big event- its like an at-home mini-peel that makes your skin so smooth and let your foundation glide on. You can do the mask as often as you’d like, as long as it doesn’t overly irritate your skin. Of course, if you’ve never done the mask before it’s best to do a patch test for allergies first on your neck.

Precaution: Do not use this if you are pregnant, nursing, have issues with blood thinning, or have Reye’s disease. Discontinue use if you experience irritation. Although the rate of absorption is slower through the skin, aspirin WILL absorp into your so keep advised dosage amounts in mind. I am a peer and not a medical professional, and my advice should not be taken as medical advice.

Medical disclaimer: The information on the Painted Ladies site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please refer to our complete medical disclaimer for further information.

  • http://bhamlady.blogspot.com/ Birminghamlady

    oh, god, this is such a cool piece o information. i think i’ve heard about something like this before, but did not pay attention to it. do you think it suits sensitive skin as well?

  • clementine

    I do the Michelle Phan thing and add some honey as well… It does do wonders, but not overdoing it is just as important. x.x It starts hurting if you use it too much.

  • http://joscafe.com Jolene

    If you put a 1/2 tsp of honey in the mix, it helps bind it and you don’t get the flacking off of the aspirin when it is drying.

    However, the only benefit I get from this mask is a slight reduction in redness on my checks and any problems trying to crop up disappear.

    My skin is not soft when I wash this off like some claim, but is very taught and uncomfortable.

  • http://cosmeticsaficionado.blogspot.com Leticia

    I have heard of this but never tried it. I am trying this tonight! :)

  • admin

    Using honey is a great idea! And yes, it’s best to not overdo it. If you do have sensitive skin, once a week at most!

  • http://thiamere.blogspot.com thiamere

    i tried using honey but it just makes me sweat for i find it hot on the skin so i just apply a little bit of oily to bind them together.

  • Miss Boom

    I use AHA on my face. Do you think this will strip my face off?

  • Hair colorist

    I’ll have to try this!

    My favorite trick is mixing a pinch of sugar with a glob of lip balm, and scrubbing my lips smooth!

  • admin

    According to a dear friend, she also uses aloe vera as the binding agent and it works great!

    Miss Boom – it might! To be on the safe side, I would discontinue the AHA for a couple of nights before using the mask.

  • maryann

    Aspirin melted like this is also a way to remove warts. Melt them and then put the paste directly on the wart and cover up and leave it for a few days. Repeat the process til it eats it away. I have done this many times and it has taken them off completely.

  • admin

    Maryann – I had no idea – great tip!

  • MarissaDenae

    I have pretty dry skin, and zits (which is normal for someone of my age). Do you think that using this a few times will help the zits, but overdry my skin?? It’s bittersweet, here…

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Marissa – I don’t think so, but I would proceed with caution and do a patch test on your jawline just to make sure!

  • http://www.alyssaannphotography.blogspot.com Alyssa

    I just tried this last night and it seemed to work pretty well, it didn’t dry out my skin to much and it came off easily!

  • Ashley

    If the mask makes your skin dry or tight, I would try some diluted lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (or white vinegear) as a toner. aspirin’s ph can be slightly higher than your skin’s natural ph and the lemon or vinegar can balance this. though, everyone skin is slightly different so the use of these two things will vary depending on your skin

    plus, lemon and vinegar both have some very beneficial properties for acne. hope this helps!

  • Britt

    I should try this one. Lately, I’ve been using baking soda as sort of a microdermabrasion which does leave my skin very smooth and clean. It also stops any breakouts that haven’t surfaced. I have oily skin and it tends to help with the oily areas. I’ve also found that lemon juice helps to fade my acne scars slowly over time.
    Thanks for all the tips!

  • http://yahoo Trena

    I tried this and loved it…. After I was finished I put a dab of olive oil on my face , neck, and lips.. It doesnt take alot of olive oil just a dab. Its awesome.

  • Cristina

    Ashley can you share a bit more about the apple cider vinegar as a toner? I’ve never heard of such a thing and with not finding a cure for my acne yet, I am desperate for any home remedies. Please and thank you!

  • Meagan

    Britt, I noticed that you said you use lemon juice to help fade away your acne scars… do you apply with a cotton swab after you have cleaned your face and just allow it to dry on there?

  • Hattie

    I know that doctors do not recommend taking aspirin while pregnant, but is it acceptable to do this mask while pregnant? I would be worried about my body absorbing too much of the medicine. Looking for any help with this hormonal acne! It’s awful!

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Hattie – I’m so sorry! Hormonal acne is awful! Definitely stay away from aspirin, but you may want to check and see if Niaminicyde is ok – Mario Badescu’s Buffering Lotion gets great reviews for help with hormonal acne.

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    ACV works great as a toner – just put a bit on a cotton pad and then your moisturizer or other treatment on top – HTH!

  • http://www.luxefinds.com Phyllis {LuxeFinds}

    I’ll have to try this out this weekend! Thanks for the tips!

  • Ange

    For those finding this makes your skin really dry afterwards, be sure to moisturize. I do my masks like these at night, that way I can use my night time moisturizer. Skin feels great the next day.

  • http://www.hennamuse.com Jen

    This is great and I’m going to try it for sure!

    A great mask that I usually use is amla powder (also know as indian gooseberry powder) and hot water. It mixes up to look like mud and as soon as its cool enough to be comfortable you spread it over your face. After 5 minutes massage it in small circles then rinse. This breaks down excess oil, exfoliates, and works like a chemical peel -without the ‘chemical.’

  • Bezzy

    Lately my face has been pretty fine looking, but all of a sudden it is starting to get slightly bad when it comes to acne. I really want to try this, the thing is im afraid that it might irritate my face and i’ll get little bumps all over my face[this has happened before when i tryed using proactive]. does anyone have some advise?

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Bezzy, I’d recommend doing a patch test on a small area of your skin. Proactive uses benzoyl peroxide which is different than the salicylic acid in this mask, so hopefully you won’t experience irritation.

  • Bezzy

    Thank you Shelia! i shall try it after i go to the store tomorrow to get some aspirin!

  • brandy


  • Jennifer

    I tried this last night and it was amazing! It worked so much better than I expected. Thank you so much for sharing this helpful hint!

  • Eva

    Does paracetamol have the same ingredients? Well the ones you need anyway?!?!

  • Gigi

    Salicylic acid is the main (only?) ingredient in Stridex pads. I find they work great to maintain clear pores. I don’t know if the aspirin is a stronger solution than the pads, but they also work great to soften elbows, knees, and heels. Just remember to moisturize well afterwards.

  • Erin

    I finally started to use BC powder (aspirin powder) instead of the tablets. It makes the whole thing even easier – just add water. Perfect to do in the shower:) You can find this at WalMart – bottom row of pain relievers!

  • Amy

    I’m so curious to try this!! I have very sensitive skin, so if it works on me, it really is amazing! Hope to report back with good news. Also I know you are looking mostly for home remedies, but ladies needing something more I have starting using Obagi Clenziderm purchased from a medical spa here, and it works really well. Obagi is also a salicylic acid base, I don’t do well with benzoyl peroxide.

  • Bezzy

    Brandy, my i have bad eczema and acne problems but after all ance is common for a 14 year old so i think tonight i will be trying this aspirin mask and putting a touch of lemon juice in? wish me luck[: so hope this works! because i’ve spend hundreds of dollars on everything, proactive, neutrogea(Idk how that is spelled) and all those other top name brands that say it really works…and yet it doesn’t. the only thing that really ever works for me is clearasil ultra pads and when those started to not work i would use natural clay my dad gets from the salt mine he works at…but since the clay isn’t working like it used to im going to try this, and if all else fails i will go march my behind to fresh market and buy some clearasil pads!

  • Bezzy

    haha idk why that my is in there! oops[:

  • Jess

    I just tried it, I was a little skeptical at first beccause I have really sensitive skin as well.. I looked at my two favourite face washes : Vichy Normaderm (which is really expensive) and the grape fruit neutrogena facial scrub, and the meddical ingrediant in both is salicylic acid so I thought I would trust that this would work… If you really think about it though, advil is used for headaches etc which are swollen/stressed blood cells in your brain … and pimples are swollen/aggravate skin … hopefully it does the job ! It’s so easy to do ! :)

  • Michelle B

    Beezy – how long did you stick with the proactiv? When I started I had to go two months of it before it started working because the proactive product was actually flushing out all of the toxins, so it made it appear worse then got so much better! Try sticking with it, if you haven’t tried. And the over night mask really works great!!!!

  • April

    well im 26 and I have had skin issues for a long time … my skin is more sensitive now than ever.. stress, chocolate, tomatoes, and peanut butter cause my break outs along with pms .. but as far as the food i love all that lol not to fond of pms but that i cant help.. what do i do i am fair complected.

  • Mary

    Milk of Magnesia mixed equally with water makes a great mattifyer. Measurements don’t have to be exact. I put it in a little sample bottle and apply with a makeup sponge. It works great!!

  • Lesli

    This sounds like a really cool idea. However, as a nurse I have to wonder how much of the aspirin is absorbed into your system topically.

  • kstrunk

    Bezzy, have you tried anything from The Body Shop? I have had WONDERFUL results with anything I’ve tried there for my face. Good luck!! (and thank you SO much, Sheila, for posting the aspirin mask. It’s drying on my face as I type!!) :)

  • kstrunk

    OMG! JUST rinsed it off of my face. SOOOO soft and it looks great! Thank you!

  • Bezzy

    Michelle B..i tryed proactive for about a month i would have to say…it seemed fine at first but then all of a sudden my face had hives on them..
    Kstrunk…No i haven’t tryed anything from there!

  • Bezzy

    My best friend has tryed this aspirin thing before…she said it helps…and with some lemon it stings like a B!tc# but it really works….use a warm washcloth on ur face first to open up ur pores[:

  • Barb

    I have large pores, no blackheads, oily skin and red cheeks, would this work for all issues? Once a week?

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Not for the rosacea. I suggest avoiding your cheeks because it might make things worse.

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    And yes, once a week is fine!

  • http://pintrest Donna

    I have a question about using vingear or lemon juice, know when I was younger I would use vingear mixed with water to lay out in the sun with and what a tan but I did notice it really dried my skin out, also with lemon juice I would use on my hair to get highlights and it had same affect on my hair. So using these products on your face you dont see that it dries your skin out? I dont have acne but I have a Great Neice that does so I am trying to find out. I have heard not sure that with proactive you do have a severe breakout where it is drawing all the gunk out of your pores but after that you face clears up so maybe that is why some have bad breakouts? Good luck ladies!

  • Tsholl

    Just did this. Love the feel I got. I used my clarisonic brush to remove so I got a mini microderm at the same time. Skin is no dryer than usual but it soaked up my moisturizer and a small amount of coconut oil!!! Feels great! Will be doing this twice weekly.

    I want to caution those using Proactive. It is one of the worst things you can use on your skin! It will over-dry your skin so that you start producing more oil (since the body can’t make water to moisturize and rehydrate it) and you will find that you start producing more acne in the end. The spot treatment is ok for occasional use only.

  • Bezzy

    Just tryed it today[: hope it works! cuz i just got like an acne flair…blahh!

  • Ashlea

    I just used this, and it has helped my skin feel softer. I have super oily skin and for some reason about 3 years ago, my skin started getting this way and it breaks out all the time. I hope this works because it is a really cheap and easy fix, plus it’s fast!

    I’ve used Proactiv, Oxy and everything I could think of. I sure hope this of all things works.

  • Tawnya

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing.
    I do a similar thing but use baking soda in my hand and add a few drops of water. I don’t usually leave it on like a mask, I just use it as a wash and it works really well at leaving your skin really soft, However, I really like your idea because of the salicylic acid. I know it definitely is what works on acne, I just wasn’t aware that it was in something so simple as aspirin. I am excited to try this and save some money!

  • DianaC

    Thank you for this wonderful tip! Can’t wait to give it a try. I have been using baking soda as a home microdermabrasion since 1980 and it works great and does not dry my skin. I would do it a day or two before a special event followed by a good moisturizer. Make-up would glide on beautifully. All dead skin was gone and my face just glowed. Didn’t know about the salicylic acid until now but never had a big acne problem and have great, hearty skin.

    As a tightening mask to pull out toxins or dirt and reduce the size of pore, I use an egg white (very little goes a long way). It feels strange as it dries and you literally can’t speak or smile without feeling like your face is cracking because it gets that tight. Once completely dry, I wait a few more minutes and rinse. Do this a week or more before an event in case the drawing produces a blemish but goodbye blackheads and large pores. This is the cheapest and most effective and organic mask I have ever found. Love it.

    Thank you again for the aspirin mask, will try this today! Btw…love Monoi Body Balm from The Body Shop but buy mine on-line. Blessings that all of these tips help those with sensitive or acne prone skin! Diana

  • http://www.beautyinfozone.com MarciaF (beauty info zone)

    This is such an interesting post and one that is valuable to so many. I’ve known about this for at least a dozen years. Many people swear by it. I understand that if you use AHA you shouldn’t use this mask.

  • Sarah

    Hi, thank you for sharing this tip, but I have to say I’m a bit hesitant, because last week I tried a DIY mask with lemon juice and honey, that was supposed to make my skin softer and make blackheads disappear, but it didn’t work. Instead I got bumps all over my face and redness on my forehead.. Sooo I’m not sure I’ll try it..
    Besides, I live in France, and I don’t know where to find those uncoated pills you’re using.
    Anyway, thanks :)

  • tino

    I just tried this and it works good I got rid of a new pimple just by putting it on a zit 😀

  • http://pintrest lanye

    my skin use to be clear and soft but i just stared breaking out of no where and i tried Every Thing nothing worked but now im using some mask and i hardly have any pimples and i want to try this cause its a at home and cheap thing but my question is will this help me with my scares cause all i have now is scares from the acne.. im guessing it wont hurt to try it soo im going to give it a try and hopefully it does work.. :)

  • Leah

    You can also use aspirin to make your own anti-dandruff shampoo – just dissolve and aspirin tablet (or 2 or 3, depending on how strong you want your shampoo) in your favorite shampoo. If you check your manufactured dandruff shampoos, you will see that the active ingredient is often salicylic acid (aka aspirin!)

  • http://www.picassohairfeathers.com Kate

    Awesome! I got to try this – seems so easy! :)

  • allison

    Is there an alternative for aspirin because all i can find i Neproxim sodium.

  • Aimee

    @ Allison, you can probably order mass quantities from Perrigo Co (based out of Allegan, Michigan), if you look them up online. They are the main manufacturer of the Equate brand pharmaceuticals you see in WalMart, etc. You may even be able to get a big discount ordering direct, and ordering multiple bottles. Just ask.

  • Liz

    I found uncoated aspirin (a bottle of 175) at walmart in the $0.88 section by the pharmacy. This is definitely worth a try for under $1!

  • Summer

    I am a bit skeptical using this only because I have not found a cure to my acne… If anyone has had mild acne, does this work? I am in the process of doing chemical peels but they don’t seem like they’re working either.. So if anyone has some advice, that would be lovely.


  • avril35

    can i use advil or ibprofin i don’t have any asprin on hand

  • Laura

    Can you use coated aspirin thats all I could find

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies


  • Laura

    Ok thank you!!! Trying it right now

  • Linda

    This was on the Dr Oz show over a year ago. They suggested taking a handful of baking soda moistened to scrub off aspirin mask. It becomes carbonated and fizzy and exfoliates even more. I do this while bathing leave aspirin on while I wash up and scrub off at the end. Both are very messy otherwise.

  • Linda

    Just try one aspirin to see if coating will dissolve in water.

  • http://Pinterest.com Annie Dougherty

    I wish I had known this about 45 years ago. Of course, the simplest solutions are never discovered until years after. Aspirin has been around how long….and who would know it could solve the biggest problems a teenager has encountered since forever. I’ll pass this one along to my grandchildren for sure! Thank you!!

  • Jennifer

    Avril35- I asked my pharmacist about that because they are all NSAIDs but they are completely different in chemistry. Use the Aspirin.

  • Ellen

    I just tried this on a problem spot that popped up this morning. The swelling and redness have gone down a lot! I am hoping that if I coat this spot once a day for the next few days it will go away before I leave for my cruise!!

  • Nadia

    Wow! I was soooo happy with the results of this! I tried it last night and my face looks SO much better! My little sister even said my face looked better. The less serious acne is now gone and the more serious acne has reduced in size and redness! Now I can start my senior year with more confidence and I can go to job interviews without feeling like all they are staring at us my acne! I’m sure happy it worked because I was THIS close to going to see a dermatologist.

  • Emily

    I used the same brand but ibuprofen instead. They were coated but I washed the coating off. Immediately when I put it on my skin it had like a burning sensation so I knew it was working and killing germs from the start. I have had acne all through my teenage years and I have used proactiv, neutrogena, clearskin products out there. I just hope it works!! Thanks for the tip!!:)

  • Clare

    I will try this with my daughter but will be careful after clicking on salicylic acid in the above article and reading about it.

  • Rose

    CLINDAMYCIN based cream – my two teenagers were acne free in less than 2 months. Need Dr prescription…

  • Yama

    I’ve been using this mask for years. My acne is mild and this works beautifully. I would NOT use Ibuprofen or Advil, or Tylenol or anything else but plain aspirin. It’s the salicylic acid in aspirin that makes this so effective.

  • Krystal

    So I read in the fine print that it’s not recommended to do this while nursing… That’s sucks, I am still nursing but am having some really bad issues with acne. Has anyone tried it while nursing and do you really think it is tht bad to do? I am just nervous but really want to try this. Advice?! Lol

  • Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Krystal – I would avoid it. Better safe than sorry!

  • Jordan A.

    I am dying to try this! But would i be a ble to use a BC POWDER?

  • Brandah

    Yes you can use BC powder. That is what I used and worked amazing!

  • Brianna

    Could this work with something like Advil (ibuprofen)?

  • Nellie

    Where do you buy Coconut oil at? I’ve heard about all the home remedies it’s great for but I have no idea where to purchase it. Anyone know where to buy?

  • Lauren

    This is absolutely correct that aspirin is a derivative of salicylic acid. If you have surface acne (black heads, white heads, little red bumps…) this should work because this chemical is the basis for topical acne meds. The maximum amount of aspirin you can take in a day is 3,000 mgs, so keep that in mind.

    If you have nodular or cystic acne, this will not work for it because it is down deeper and those are produced by hormones. You would need to either be on birth control or a blood pressure medication called Spironolactone (brand name: Aldactone). They found that this blood pressure med actually causes a decrease in hormone released by your facial pores along with has your pores excreting less grease. I believe you need to be on 100mg to make it effective towards acne.

    I’m in medical school and this is what we have been taught in class. Thanks!

  • musli

    It really works.I have tried and when started cleaning it off with baking soda my skin felt like it was burning. I got panicked, but when I washed it all off and looked at mirror the result shocked me. My skin looked amazing, so so so clean even breakouts were gone. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hillary

    Dollar tree sells uncoated aspirin!

  • ang nee

    where can i buy it?
    is better for dry ppl.

  • Yami

    Nellie: cheapest place to get cocoanut oil (or butter as it is sometimes called) is at ethnic food stores that specialize in West Indies, Caribbean or such cuisine. Health food stores also carry it. If you are in the USA Trader Joe’s will have it. It’s awesome for a jillion uses.

  • Areesha

    Hello! It’s night time here and I just tried this mask after much ado. The most immediate effect is that my moisturizer glided on soo smoothly, its unbelievable! I hope I see some more amazing results by morning ^_^

  • Marina

    I am soo glad that I found this! I have been breaking out really bad the past two weeks with little pimples around my nose and chin. I’ve tried a lot of face washes, but nothing helped- it just got worse! I tried this last night, and I am soo happy with the results! My skin felt 10x softer s ion as I washed the asperin off. I also used a new moiturizer (Okay) Woke up to a soft smooth face! I love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com m

    I think you can get coconut oil at Amazon, also.

  • F P

    please look for an Indian grocery store for coconut oil. its really good quality and cheap.

  • monica

    @Summer…I have been troubled with mild to severe acne for years. I went to a dermatologist and he gave me a sulfur based wash for my face. It worked so well and my skin is now clear. I get tons of compliments on my skin now!

  • chippy

    yes,i also tried aspirin and its really workout,thankyou so much for sharing.

  • Desiree Gonzales

    Will this work for ance scars ? Curious to give this a go .

  • http://www.painted-ladies.com Sheila – Painted Ladies

    Desiree – no, it most likely will not. For acne scars, you need a professional strength peel.

  • Sherry

    I don’t see why this wouldn’t work. I have a gel now that I use with the same ingredient as the main one. For those who wonder if aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc. are all equal to one another — only if you have a headache. Otherwise, not the same whatsoever, ingredient-wise.

  • Brittany

    If you cannot withstand the aspirin (I’m nursing) you can use a paste of baking soda and dandruff shampoo. It works wonderfully! The baking soda help to exfoliate while the active ingredient in the dandruff shampoo fights acne.

    Check your active ingredients and make sure salicylic acid is listed. There are a couple different kinds. I know the Wal-Mart generic of head and shoulders does have salicylic acid as an active ingredient.

  • Beth

    I have moderate psoriasis on my face and it can become embarrassing when my skin gets to the red and itchy stage. I’ve tried so many lotions and creams (and shampoos) from the tar-based to the salicylic acid kinds and I’ve experienced the best relief from the salicylic acid ones. I cannot see why this wouldn’t work as well, and since I always have it on hand I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting my lotions on a trip! :) Thanks so much for this “beauty tip!”

  • Tiffany

    how often can this be used? once a day? one a week?

  • sana

    am 18yrz old i got waxing on my face it dint suit me finally suffering from pimples i have tried all home made remedies but no result. do u think would this really wworks?

  • http://lachydrinlotion.com/ Stacey

    That’s a great home tip. Thanks!

  • shanna

    you can buy it at most grocery stores in the cooking section with the other oils. I’ve seen it both at Walmart, Smart and Final and Albertsons. if needed, you can also get it off of Amazon for cheep.

  • Alice

    Thanks for this awesome tip! Love that this post takes
    into consideration those on a budget! We do too. We’re a shaving company
    providing quality razor systems, disposables, and cartridges for 30-70% less
    than leading brands. You can check us out at http://www.DorcoUSA.com. Thanks
    again for an awesome post!

  • nitch

    for me it really works..my pimples just all dried up.. its magic

  • Sherrie

    What happens if you are allergic to aspirin?

  • Chloie Metzger

    what if