Mario Badescu is the definition of a buzz-brand. Branded as "a botanical skincare line established in 1967 by a Hungarian facialist when he moved to New York," the products have had a hyped-up renaissance thanks to mentions on Instagram by everyone from Kylie Jenner to Martha Stewart, particularly on behalf of the pimple-zapping Drying Lotion ($17) and Facial Spray ($7) with aloe, herbs and rosewater.

A while back, I tried the pink clay Drying Lotion, which worked phenomenally. You dip a Q-tip into the bottle to touch the clay resting at the bottom of the astringent liquid (never shake the bottle!), then apply a dot of the formula on any whiteheads. They're gone by the following morning, or the day after. At only $17 per bottle, and with each bottle lasting for at least a year, it was well worth it.

Pretty good for a sample pack! (Lauren Terry)
Pretty good for a sample pack! (Lauren Terry)

I was curious if the other products would be as effective. Fortunately, the Mario Badescu website has a generous sample promotion that sends you most of a "recommended regimen" that you can try out for a more comprehensive test of their selection. I'm talking seven samples, one of which is a small jar of hyaluronic eye cream that'll last a month. I also had to try the renowned facial spray (although in general, it's fairly impossible to prove face sprays aren't just a refreshing placebo).

In truth, it was a mixed bag for me. The Enzyme Cleansing Gel ($24) and Botanical Exfoliating Scrub ($26): thumbs up. The Gel is a nice, gentle formula for morning face washes when your face only needs a light clean. Exfoliating scrubs are often too harsh for sensitive skin, but if you want a little grit, this Scrub has a jelly consistency that feels much more soothing as you massage the fine grounds across your face.

On the other hand, the Anti-Acne Serum ($20) felt too heavy and didn't seem to do much after a couple days of use. The Flower and Tonic Mask ($18) left a really odd, rubbery film on my face even after removing the mask with a washcloth. As far as the facial spray—Herbivore's absorbs better, which is about as much as I could distinguish from the similarly-scented rose sprays.

The standout in the sample-pack was the simple yet helpful literature on the recommended products and how/when to use them. It's one thing to try new things, but to really improve the condition of your skin, you need to know the sequence for the different products and apply them properly. Putting butter on bread after it's toasted has a different result that the other way around.

(Mario Badescu)
(Mario Badescu)

In addition to the instructions on morning and evening regimens, there are diagrams showing what direction to pull your cotton ball with toning, and the movement for smoothing moisturizer across your face that will stimulate blood vessels without tugging at wrinkle-prone areas. All good advice in general, with any brand's products, on any skin type.

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