If you’ve never heard of mugwort, you’re not alone. While its cultivation and early application date back thousands of years, most of the modern world is just now waking up to the wonders of this remarkable plant.
“Mugwort” may sound like the kind of unpleasant ingredient you’d expect to find stewing in a witch’s cauldron. Still, it’s an astonishingly versatile botanical powerhouse that boasts a myriad of practical uses.
When added to food, it lends an earthy depth to sweet and savory dishes alike. When brewed into tea, it’s said to improve digestion, curb gastrointestinal distress, and help regulate menstruation. It’s long been employed as an insect repellent and spiritual purifier, and its hairy leaves even make a fantastic firestarter.
And that’s only a few of its many virtues. When it comes to skincare, mugwort opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
A Brief History of Mugwort
Mugwort has a distinguished historical milieu in Korea, where it’s known as ssuk. As such, it’s occupied a prominent place in Korean spiritual, culinary, and beauty rituals for decades.
It seems that Korea is onto something. The aromatic jack-of-all-trades—which is technically a flowering weed belonging to the same family as wormwood and tarragon—has shown promising results in treating various dermatological conditions, from dry skin to mild cases of acne.
The secrets behind its success as a skincare supplement are its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, all of which are crucial for treating skin irritation and redness.
More recently, Mugwort’s reputation for remedying skin trouble has helped it gain a foothold in the west. More and more manufacturers have begun incorporating the herb into cleansers, moisturizers, and other products. That’s because, unlike most flavor-of-the-month skincare ingredients, it really works. This should come as exciting news for those who have tried every product and are still struggling with temperamental skin.
If you’re interested in seeing for yourself what all the buzz is about, one of the best ways you can incorporate mugwort into your skincare routine is to make it part of a rejuvenating face mask.
What Is a Mugwort Face Mask?
A mugwort face mask is any kind of leave-on facial treatment that features mugwort as a primary active ingredient (duh).
There’s no shortage of readymade masks containing mugwort adorning the shelves of beauty shops, boutiques, and supermarket cosmetics aisles. If possible, pick up a product from a trusted brand that you’ve gotten good results with in the past. Otherwise, it can be helpful to read reviews from other users to see what kind of experiences they’ve had with a particular product.
Some people also prefer to acquire mugwort derivatives separately and add them to their go-to mask ingredients. Either method is acceptable and should produce healthy, stunning skin when carried out as directed.
You’ve Sold Me! How Do I Use It?
We’re glad you asked.
Applying a mugwort face mask is just like applying any other face mask. In fact, it’s as easy as 1-2-3:
- Wash your face thoroughly with a specialty facial cleanser to remove all traces of dirt, oil, and leftover makeup. You want your face to be as clean as possible before the mask goes on to ensure that nothing is lurking in your pores that might interfere with its ability to heal and nourish.
- Spread a thick coating of gel or cream infused with ground mugwort particles onto your freshly washed skin, working it liberally over the chin, cheeks, and forehead and paying particular attention to any problem areas you may have.
- Leave the mask on your face for 10-15 minutes before rinsing it off thoroughly—the exact timeframe may vary depending on the specific product you’re working with.
After you’ve performed these three simple steps, all that’s left to do is marvel at how smooth and radiant your skin looks!
Note: Sheet masks are also an option for those of you who would rather go with the stick-and-peel approach. A sheet mask can significantly simplify both the application and removal processes, which is great if you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like doing a lot of rubbing and scrubbing.
Regardless of which style of mask you choose, those 10-15 minutes promise to be a real game-changer for your complexion.
What Mugwort Face Masks Can Do for Your Skin
From the moment the mask touches your gorgeous visage, it will begin hydrating, soothing irritation, and improving your skin’s coloration in ways you thought were only possible with an array of different products.
First, the antibacterial essential oils will kill germs and rid your pores of excess sebum, one of the primary culprits of acne and less severe but no less frustrating breakouts. Then, the naturally occurring phenols, vitamins, minerals, and other botanical compounds will get busy repairing damage caused by aging and exposure to harmful UV rays.
All the while, the mask’s other ingredients will work to soften and restore vital moisture, leaving your skin with a youthful, vibrant glow.
Because of the high levels of vitamin C found in Korean mugwort, regular use of the herb can even stimulate the production of new collagen fibers, paving the way to supple, resilient, wrinkle-free skin that looks and feels stronger.
Beyond all that, mugwort masks are simply enjoyable to wear. They have a unique scent that’s delightfully intense and provide a distinct cooling sensation, not unlike menthol or camphor (some species contain the latter), which is incredibly refreshing during the warmer months.
Seriously, could it get any better?
What Mugwort Face Masks Can’t Do for Your Skin
As you can see, the prospective dermatological benefits of mugwort are seemingly endless. Like all nature-based remedies, though, the plant is subject to its fair share of exaggerated claims and limitations.
Some misinformed beauty gurus are fond of asserting that mugwort masks can have a sort of detoxing effect on the skin, but this isn’t the truth. Your body is already equipped with a set of essential organs that are responsible for doing the difficult work of detoxification (hint: their names rhyme with “quiver” and “shmidneys”). Luckily, they do a fantastic job, meaning you don’t need any topical assistance when it comes to dispatching yucky toxins.
Mugwort also isn’t a miracle cure—nothing is. Not everyone who uses it will see the same outcomes, and that’s okay. One of the reasons is there’s such a staggering volume of skincare products on the market, and no two people’s skin have the same characteristics and individual needs. If mugwort doesn’t help give you the kind of skin you want, keep hunting until you find something that does.
Lastly, although some users swear that mugwort has worked wonders for their acne, eczema, or psoriasis, there’s little evidence to suggest that it has any kind of demonstrable effect on these conditions. If you suffer from any of them yourself, you’re better off asking your dermatologist to recommend some products that have a proven track record in this area. Otherwise, you could just end up making a bad breakout worse.
The Best Mugwort Face Masks
What makes one mugwort face mask better than another? Like declaring victory in a competitive game of chess or bending a spoon with your mind, it all comes down to concentration.
More Is More
Ingredient quality is always a chief concern for skincare aficionados, but quantity is no less critical. Any mugwort mask worthy of its name should contain enough of the plant in a minimally processed form to deliver its purported benefits to the user.
By law, commercial face masks must be formulated with a relatively high concentration of pure mugwort for the manufacturer to be able to put it on their ingredients list. Similarly, those who opt to make their own masks at home must be careful to include an adequate amount of the plant in their proprietary concoctions to get the desired results.
As a general rule, the mugwort mask you use, whether you buy it online or whip it up yourself, should contain no less than about 2% mugwort by volume. That way, you can be certain you’re getting enough of the good stuff to see a noticeable difference in the state of your skin day-to-day.
Most top-selling brands stick to this 2% rule, though it’s not unusual to come across products containing more or less. Quantity and quality often go hand-in-hand with hot commodities like mugwort (that goes double when they’re all-natural), and while quality rarely comes cheap, you can rest assured that you’ll usually get what you pay for.
If you have any doubts as to whether a given product is made with real, high-quality mugwort, remember to check for the herb’s telltale medicinal fragrance. A quick sniff test is one of the best ways to make sure that you’ve got the genuine article on your hands (or face, as it were).
Powders, Extracts, and Essences; Oh My!
Mugwort is available in three primary forms: powder, which is made by grinding up the leaves at their nutritional peak; extracts, which squeezes every last bit of juice out of the processed powder to unlock even more of the plant’s regenerative potential; and essences, or essential oils, which you’re no doubt familiar with already.
Any of these forms of mugwort can be selected for duty as an active ingredient in a face mask. However, it’s more common to find mugwort leaf powder in commercial masks. Since they’re so much more potent, extracts and essential oils are ordinarily reserved for products like cleansers, toners, and conditioners that call for much smaller amounts or don’t spend as much time in direct contact with the skin.
It should probably go without saying, but never slather your skin with pure or improperly diluted mugwort oil—or any other essential oil, for that matter. Mugwort pollen is a notorious allergen that can cause severe reactions in large enough doses. The last thing you want is to inadvertently bring on more redness, itching, and irritation than you had before!
Mugwort Face Mask Treatment Regimen
Mask manufacturers are fond of claiming that their products are suitable for daily use. Despite its zero-tolerance policy for dirt, oil, dead skin, and damage, mugwort is surprisingly gentle, meaning this is probably true for most people.
That said, when you first introduce mugwort face masks into your skincare routine, it’s a good idea to start with occasional treatments and gradually increase the frequency of your applications over time.
For most users, the sweet spot will be somewhere between one and three sessions per week. If you’re happy with what it does for you and want to take full advantage of the mask’s effects, feel free to up the number to four or five.
It’s generally best not to apply mugwort masks for more than five days in a row. For one thing, you’ll likely begin receiving diminishing returns after day three or four and will burn through your supply in no time flat. You could also start to encounter side effects associated with overuse, such as irritation, redness, or itching—in other words, the same imperfections you’re trying to banish.
People of all skin types are encouraged to give mugwort face masks a shot, but they tend to be the biggest hit among those with dry or oily skin, thanks to their moderating effects. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation, be cautious about how often you apply mugwort, as some species of the plant have been linked to bouts of contact dermatitis. Eek!
Mugwort Face Mask Ingredients
Along with ground mugwort, mugwort extract, or mugwort essence, some of the ingredients you might find listed in a typical mugwort face mask include:
- Butylene glycol
- Natural oils
- Assorted leaf, flower, and root extracts
All of the components mentioned above are gentle and perfectly safe for all skin types so that you can mask up without fear.
Chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and kojic acid may also be present in some products. These and other beta hydroxy acids slough away dead skin cells to renew and brighten your skin. They’re also acceptable for intermittent use, though they can lead to dryness and irritation if you overdo it.
If you’re the DIY type, we recommend making room for a little organic mugwort powder or extract in the recipe for your favorite homemade clay mask, honey mask, or volcanic mask. About a teaspoon should be plenty for a single-use batch.
As for the no-fly list, you’ll want to keep your distance from face masks containing the usual suspects:
- Comedogenic dyes
- Artificial fragrances
As you undoubtedly already know, these chemical offenders can leech moisture from your skin and cause damage, inflammation, tenderness, clogged pores, and ramped-up oil production. A good rule of thumb is that you probably shouldn’t smear it on your face if you can pronounce it.
Summing It Up
So does mugwort live up to its historical hype? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding yes.
There’s a reason that the herb has remained in vogue for literally centuries, and it doesn’t look to be fading in popularity anytime soon. It may not be a panacea, but it does just about everything you could expect any single ingredient to do and then some. Let’s hear a “gam sa ham nida” for ssuk!
If you’re on a quest for clearer, healthier, more beautiful skin, mugwort face masks are worth adding to your skin treatment arsenal. We’re confident in declaring that they’ll get you a step closer to your goal.