We tried the charcoal peel-off face mask and here’s what we thought

Is it worth the $55?

By now, you’ve probably seen the multitude of videos around the internet of a magical black face mask that peels off in one fell swoop, taking with it every trace of gunk from your pores. You emerge a clear-skinned vision, albeit one without a bit of eyebrow (those masks are strong!).

YouTubers and Instagrammers who spread beauty inspiration around the internet raved about it, posing for selfies while sporting their delicate, lacy masks. The masks themselves seemed almost too good to be true…

So we decided to try one out for ourselves, and here’s what we thought.

The mask we elected to try is the Charcoal Lace A Peel mask, sold by Dr. Pimple Popper and the skincare line Dermovia. The kit is $55 and includes a tube of the peel as well as five lace masks, meant to compress the gel as tightly to your face as possible for ultimate extraction.

As someone with moderately large pores around my nose, and oilier skin, I hoped this mask would act like a Bioré pore strip, deftly removing any sebum or clogged pores in just 20 minutes. I have never had especially good luck with face masks (though I am dying to try out the cult-favorite GlamGlow brand, beloved by beauty experts everywhere), and I had high hopes for this one.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Despite following the directions to the letter, and taking extreme care not to get the mask anywhere near my eyebrows or hairline, it seemed to do nothing but irritate my skin and yank out the tiny hairs that occur on every person’s face.

Sitting for 20 minutes as the mask hardened and the lace covering became rigid, I was acutely aware of the minty, burning, tingling sensation that I wrongly assumed was the charcoal penetrating my pores but was likely any of the chemicals in the mask drying out my poor skin.

Additionally, the lace mask is horrible. It pinched my ears and made me look like the Gimp in “Pulp Fiction.” Although it did help the mask peel off easily, it certainly wasn’t necessary…and I don’t think it compressed all that much. And as you can see in the picture below, it was hard to smile (or really move your face at all) when the mask was on.

Upon removing the face mask, my skin was red and the mask itself revealed no signs of having cleaned my pores, unlike the revoltingly satisfying Bioré experience. Instead, it appeared to have pulled off some dead skin, aggravated a patch of latent acne on my chin and—I suspect, although I cannot verify—caused me to break out the next day.

The most important part of this experiment is that I do not have especially sensitive skin: I routinely use drugstore products and have suffered no ill effects. A $55 specially formulated mask kit shouldn’t have been harsher on my skin than a bottle of St. Ives face scrub I bought at Walgreens.

That being said, I wouldn’t rule this face mask out entirely. Maybe it works for people who have serious blackheads or extremely oily skin (I have combination skin, but I only used the mask in my t-zone, where oil congregates). Maybe it would have been better if I had used it after a shower when my pores were open and therefore more amenable to being cleaned. Maybe it was just a waste of $55.

But would I encourage you to buy it? Doubtful. Don’t waste your money. 

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