The Review: May Lindstrom The Problem Solver

May Lindstrom Beauty Idealist
Do you have Instagram? If you do and you follow green beauty pros then you’ll know what I mean when I say there doesn’t seem to be a single person who has not heard of or tried May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver. It’s almost an unspoken requirement that to be inducted into the green beauty club, one has a signature Problem Solver #maskselfie.

May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver is one of her core products that helped start it all. It’s a correcting mask made of powdered clays, salts, warming spices, charcoal, and “soil nutrients”. May calls this her “hero. over-achiever. superstar” and describes it as follows:

The jet-black fusion of antioxidant-rich raw cacao, healing bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients, salts and exotic warming spices goes deep, on a mission to reveal your most radiant self. This intense treatment masque effectively purifies and tightens pores, extinguishes inflammations, fights and heals blemishes, jump-starts circulation in the epidermis and detoxifies skin with delightful ease and power. The radically different powder-to-mousse formula activates on contact with water, only releasing its magic at the exact moment of use so you experience full potency every time.

I had read about how this mask provides for quite an intense, heated experience and I will never forget the first time that I used this mask. When I opened the jar, it felt grand. The hefty, weighty jar seemed like it could go on forever. The powder looked a little like ash or soot and smelled like cacao, spices and clay. I diligently followed the instructions and rejoiced in turning the mask into a jet black fusion. Immediately upon application I felt an initial sting that quickly grew into a burning sensation and my face became frozen in a state of grimace.

5 minutes in, I was sweating. My breathing grew heavy and every second tested my resolve to stick it through. But I was so afraid of seeing lobster-red irritated skin if I washed it off prematurely as I believed that this must be the reason we’re instructed to leave the mask on for 45 minutes. As the mask began to dry, my pain gradually subsided. I thought I was out of the woods. And it was then a single god forsaken drop of sweat dripped into my eyes and I discovered pain on a whole new level. I was now crying while wincing and grimacing simultaneously. 45 minutes could not come soon enough and when it did, I washed with tepid, low flowing water which was all my battered skin could take. The rinse off actually provides exfoliation which is good in theory but horrible when your skin just got destroyed. It took me about 5 minutes to wash my face as I needed to be gentle and also because this mask rinses pretty dirty. I was pleasantly astonished to see that my face wasn’t lobster red after the blistering burn I experienced. However it felt traumatized and I looked like I had just emerged from an all night bender. My pores were blackened which required toner on several cotton rounds to clean. My skin looked sullen, dull, and lifeless.
May Lindstrom Beauty Idealist

If I’m being fully honest, this is the first beauty product I’ve purchased that I’ve seriously thought about returning. Given that this mask costs $90, I was determined to make it useful in some way: trying it on friends, boyfriend, family – no one really took to it. Then I read through online advice provided by May: apply this mask pre-cleansing/showering, or add some honey. But these are all just ways to keep as many things between the mask and your skin as possible, in other words creating barriers from your skin and the mask while still convincing you to use it.

Now let’s figure out why I had this experience. This is the full ingredients list for The Problem Solver:

Fuller’s earth clay, red moroccan rhassoul clay, raw cacao, red alaea sea salt, ascorbic acid,sodium bicarbonate, bamboo carbon charcoal powder, organic vanilla, organic lavender, organic marshmallow root, wild harvested frankincense, organic gotu kola, organic angelica root, organic cinnamon,organic nutmeg, organic clove, organic turmeric, organic cayenne

Baking soda, raw cacao, cinnamon, clove, cayenne pepper. The aforementioned are not my Whole Foods shopping list for my next baking project, they’re what you’re marinating your skin in when you apply The Problem Solver. Cacao is a very popular product that’s antioxidant rich, however it’s kind of like wine – there are great properties but nothing exceptional but people laud it because it’s pleasurable. Baking Soda is something I use to scrub and clean my bathroom, it is also very alkaline which really messes up your skin’s pH and functionality so it is not something that is going to do your skin any favors long term. These are among the first 6 ingredients in the mask.

Then we have the spices, or what Tata Harper and countless other skin experts call sources of irritation and inflammation. Despite being culprits for the intense burning, their skin benefits are arguable yet what is absolutely for certain is that these spices cause inflammation. There was a short lived sitcom starring Michael J. Fox on NBC when I first got this mask where his TV character’s family makes a effort to connect with his zanny sister-in-law who always flocks to the next trendy thing. She makes them all mask together and they all going with it to accept her, and then they get burned and run to wash their skin as she says “there is cayenne pepper! They said it’s dujour!” and that summarizes the nonsensical nature of this mask.

To be fair, I understand everyone’s skin will respond differently. And you might love this mask and have no idea what I’m talking about when I share my experience. The reason I call out these ingredients is because I think they’re objectively bad for anyone’s skin.

And that spells the genius of the May Lindstrom hype machine which has convinced legions of beauty junkies and hopeful customers to not only apply these ingredients that go against one’s intuition but to idolize this time as the most delicate form of sensual self-care. As an industry, beauty is swayed more by a pretty story, visuals or ideas than actual scientific data which is irresponsible because the products we use should be more thoughtfully considered.

MayFB

Via May Lindstrom Facebook Page

Case in point: it wasn’t until May introduced a mask that used cayenne pepper that now multiple green brands also happen to have masks that use cayenne pepper despite this being highly irritating and inflammatory. It wasn’t until May educated us on the benefits of honey for skin in her Honey Mud that multiple green brands now have honey based products, despite it being essentially unviable when any other ingredient touches it. It wasn’t until May made us eye-gasm over the Blue Cocoon’s hue that other companies jumped onto the bandwagon with blue tansy oil despite the fact that with exception to its striking color, I would not use it daily or long term as it is listed as an ingredient to avoid for pregnant women and also those with endocrine or hormonal imbalances, which feels like nearly all the commenters on No More Dirty Looks, and I’ve seen multiple comments online from those who use this saying they can’t use it regularly as it leads to clogged pores and breakouts.

So many blogs will write about the importance of vetting brands while hyping up the very lines they should be questioning. Based on what I’ve researched, I cannot find sufficient evidence that shows whether May herself has any educational background in skincare or dermatology – and if I’m being honest, her title as skin chef doesn’t inspire too much confidence (again beautiful imagery, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN). Green Beauty is rife with passion, but passion and good intentions don’t translate into safe nor beneficial formulas. Given my history with her products, I question how these products are supposed to actually be good for skin (see review on Honey Mud).

Due to my very intense experience that created a very real, physically adverse reaction – I did more research on The Problem Solver in particular to see whether I was the only one. To my surprise, upon closer reading I found a handful of reviews where the bloggers acknowledge the burning but also that upon contacting May, a new jar was sent as a replacement that was free of said irritating ingredients, leading to a glowing review. This isn’t really a question on the validity of the green beauty hype machine, but rather at what point the review becomes entirely inconsequential as the product reviewed is essentially a custom-made product that is going to be different from the one that readers are being convinced to purchase? I know May is kind and gracious, but I think it is misleading to assume that your Problem Solver, will match an influential blogger’s custom made version.

May Lindstrom Beauty Idealist

This might come off preachy and judgy but I assure you it isn’t my goal – because I’m just as guilty of slathering on the said bathroom grade solvent+spices on my skin when they’re gorgeously packaged in dense black glass and gold lettering. My hope is to have this serve as a wake-up call to truly and actually reclaim your independence and trust your intuition. It’s an exercise in being active about what you put on your face rather than passively streaming in the messages you are bombarded with when you go onto social media from retailers, bloggers, brands and beauty sites. I know that May did the level of work and research that satisfied her and her retailers/customers, but I also know that the way she makes products and her choices of ingredients (& those other lines that mimic her) are just not aligned with my ideals.

If I were to summarize the line it would be this: I think May’s objective and success is that she formulates for that sensory experience. Creating products with aromatic richness or vibrant hues that are instantly photo-friendly and incredibly easy for editors to feature as they’re more concerned with marketable copies while only requiring a superficial understanding of the actual skincare. The priority then isn’t necessarily focused on ingredients that are especially great for the skin which opposes what I believe the goal should be for skincare products. This doesn’t mean in my book she can’t do anything right, it just means I’ll have to be diligent in examining future products in a vacuum away from the hype machine.

So tell me: have you had a similar experience to share or am I being too harsh? 

May Lindstrom The Honey Mud

May Lindstrom Honey Mud

When May Lindstrom first launched, she took green beauty by storm with her sensuous offerings of beautifully created soul-healing chef inspired products that engaged women to reconnect with their deeper heart. Beauty bloggers, green beauty queens and the media alike were smitten by this entire experience built around the May Lindstrom line.

Fast forward a few years and May Lindstrom continues to scintillate but as is all too common in the green beauty world – the growth of emerging lines (Gressa, Laurel, Kypris to name a few) gunning for the same audience who have doubtlessly carefully studied and expounded upon the very flowery exposition employed by May Lindstrom on transforming a skincare product into an all-inclusive experience of spiritual empowerment, has also taken some of the luster and newfangled novelty away. So as the flash subsides, we’re left to wonder how do the products actually perform?

What is it?

May Lindstrom’s The Honey Mud (along with Blue Cocoon & Jasmine Garden) are her newest products which aptly carry on her renown of crafting products that engage the senses. The Honey Mud looks, smells and feels like a dessert and if I felt braver, I’d be able to confirm if it tasted like one too. It’s described as a “cleansing silk” which is such a beautiful imagery and you might have seen it compared in similarity to a pudding, which is pretty accurate.

The Honey Mud is a cleanser/mask depending how you want to use it. As a cleanser you apply it onto damp skin and massage with the tips of your fingers and rinse off. As a mask, we’re instructed to apply more liberally onto cleaned/dry skin and allow 10-20 minutes for the mask to penetrate.

What’s in it?

Raw honey***, white halloysite clay, macadamia integrifolia (macadamia nut oil)*, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)*, argentum metallicum (colloidal silver), theobroma cacao (cocoa absolute) oil, citrus sinensis (sweet orange) oil*, cananga odorata (ylang-ylang) oil*, vanilla planifolia (vanilla) co2 total essential oil*, juniperus virginiana (cedarwood) oil*, boswellia carteri (frankincense) oil**, commiphora myrrha (myrrh) oil**.

*Certified Organic, **Wild harvested, ***Collected from unsprayed and unfertilized fields of Michigan wildflowers. Gluten-free. Not suitable for vegans (contains honey).

This is essentially a mix of honey, clays and plant oils with a dash of anti-bacterial ingredients added in from witch hazel and colloidal silver. Those who have a fear of colloidal silver (not me) would do best to avoid this as it’s listed higher on the ingredients list than I’ve usually seen it used. I do like that the honey is collected from a very clean source of wildflowers.

source: instagram.com/maylindstromskin

I know that between the time I purchased this and now, May has changed the source of the honey & clay which as a result has altered the color to be lighter but she assures the performance and results are not changed (source).

My experience – As a Cleanser

Firstly, May Lindstrom is the master at creating exceptional experiences. I can’t deny the feeling of joy I get when I open a new May Lindstrom product to try for the first time and this was no exception. The full jar was filled like a gourmet cupcake frosting which instantly made me squee inside.

I first tried The Honey Mud as a cleanser and this was not successful. I would not describe this as being akin to a ‘cleansing silk’ – instead I found the mix of honey, clays and oils to be quite sticky and heavy in texture which caused me to pull and tag at my skin which is not what you want with a cleanser. The worst part came when I tried to remove the cleanser and found no matter how carefully I rinsed, there was always a residue even though we are instructed that rinsing will clean The Honey Mud off. When the water turned clear and my skin turned slightly red from all the washing I decided to suck it up, dried off with a towel and went about my day. Throughout the day I kept smelling the cleanser on my skin and felt the residue film was still there. For a cleanser, it just never made my skin feel clean. Soon after one day later I broke out with 3 large, painful zits on my otherwise clear skin.

After this, I waited about 2 weeks for the breakouts to go down before making another attempt. I was determined to make this work and ended up in the same boat. I ended up having to use another cleanser TWO times to get this cleanser off my skin. So needing another cleanser to follow-up in order to make skin feel clean is not a good sign right?

The Honey Mud as a cleanser = no go.

At this point I was looking online at how other bloggers were using The Honey Mud – silently throwing a side eye in front of my computer screen at those exclaiming how great this worked in cleansing (AND EXFOLIATING!?!) their skin. I saw a few polite bloggers who did say they ‘preferred’ to use The Honey Mud as a mask rather than a cleanser which in blogger speak means “this doesn’t work as a cleanser.” 

My experience – As a Mask

Knowing this would not work as a cleanser made me motivated to make this work as a mask. I applied liberally and found the experience pretty fun. It literally feels like putting chocolate pudding on my skin. I keep it on for 20 minutes when I feel the mask has dried and becomes less sticky.

May Lindstrom Honey Mud 2

Used as a mask, I loved how quick and effortless it was to apply this ready-made mask. The size allowed for pretty long-term usage (I think I’ve been using it for over a year and am just now at the last morsels – see pic above) granted I wasn’t exactly reaching for this stuff everyday. I know I’m in the small minority here but I wasn’t crazy for the scent when masking which can give off strong whiffs that become instantly heady. I can only describe it as an old house smell mixed with chocolate.

Learning the lessons I gained from the cleanser experience, I always rinse this mask off using a system: first with an oil cleanser to get all the stubborn oils off my skin, then with a light foaming cleanser to clear everything else off and make sure nothing is stuck in my pores before rinsing. It’s quite an effort but for me – it’s a must in order to prevent breaking out.

I like using this in the morning because of how quick it is to do and you go about your day feeling like you really took time for yourself. I didn’t experience any results and to be honest was mainly just using this to use up the product cause I kind of had to figure out a way to use it up.

Final Verdict

I’m always conflicted when it comes to a May Lindstrom product. What do you do when you love and support the woman but the products just never seem to do it for you? I can’t help my experience and as much as I try to be positive to this day when I see some post about how The Honey Mud worked for healing acne, I have a visceral reaction to just write a quick message “BULLSHIT”. But alas that’s just my personal experience and I know I can’t speak for everyone.

This is one of the more disappointing products I’ve purchased and I will not repurchase again. However this does not discourage me from trying other May Lindstrom products and I’ll still have my finger’s ready to click the “bring it home” button when she releases new products. I’m still a fan girl even though The Honey Mud and I are not skin care soul mates.

The Honey Mud can be purchased for $80/3.38oz or 100ml:
May Lindstrom
Spirit Beauty Lounge
CAP Beauty

Any readers have a similar experience or any tips that may help others in the same situation? Share in the comments!