Charcoal Face Masks: Do They Work?

Viral videos show tar-black masks slowly being removed to reveal hundreds of visibly dislodged whiteheads and blackheads. But do they really work?

Like most beauty fans, I can’t resist trying it when I catch wind of a new skincare trend. From covering my face with unorthodox masks and peels to brushing with bamboo bristles, there really isn’t anything I won’t try at least once. Most recently, I’ve set my sights on those blackhead suction masks that are taking the internet by storm.

If you think you haven’t seen what I’m talking about, believe me, you have. The pore-clearing videos are simultaneously repulsive and addictive, with tar-black masks slowly peeling off to reveal hundreds of visibly dislodged whiteheads and blackheads. I’ve made it my mission to find out if these masks really work.

Thanks to Aubrey Almanza

The blackhead removal product I chose

The first step was to order the mask. After doing some research and comparing options, I chose the Pilaten Suction Black Mask, which has received over 1,000 reviews on Amazon and tons of YouTube product reviews. It arrived a few days later. I was eager to jump right into testing, but be warned: the box and tube labels are printed in Chinese only!

Pilaten’s website promises that the mask will unclog the pores; absorb dirt, remove blackheads, acne and other impurities; and treat the skin using natural extracts. (Don’t miss these reasons why you have acne.) The site also offers English instructions—jackpot.

Following the instructions, I washed my face with warm water and my favorite cleanser (La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser). After patting my face dry with a warmed clean towel, I applied a layer of the mask to my T-zone (forehead, nose, inner cheeks and chin). Although the mask is as black as night and as thick as tar, I was surprised to find that it didn’t really go opaque. In fact, the “required amount of gel” referred to in the instructions turned out to be three dense layers to completely cover my skin.

The website recommends leaving the mask on for 15 to 20 minutes, but it was so thick that it ended up taking 35 minutes to completely dry and cure. Needless to say, you shouldn’t try this if you’re planning on leaving your home soon.

After a long wait, the mask was finally dry and it was time to peel it off and see the results. (drum roll please!) The website says to “gently and slowly peel off the Pilaten Black Mask from the bottom up”, so I did just that. But let me tell you, the process was anything but gentle.

nelen/shutterstock

How I applied the mask

The suction mask peeling off was so excruciating (especially on my cheeks) that I really couldn’t stop tears in my eyes. It was similar to how I imagine it would feel to remove dried superglue from your eyelids or maybe duct tape from your inner thighs. Call me dramatic, but I felt like I was being skinned alive (and turns out I’m not the only one).

‘Pain is beauty,’ I kept muttering to myself, ‘and this… can not all for nothing.” But alas, when I turned on the peeled off mask, expecting to see thousands of dislodged blackheads, I (wait for it) didn’t see any. Zero, zilch, nada – this so-called suction mask had absolutely nothing to see for all my efforts.

Convinced I must have done something wrong, I’ve repeated this grueling process twice more since then. And in problem areas where I know my pores need cleaning, the mask continues to give no results. I hate to tell you, but this supposedly purifying black suction mask didn’t live up to the hype at all.

My friends, save your money, save your time and save your skin a world of pain and avoid this trend. My advice is to stick with the tried and true. I had better results with Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, an acne product that actually works. Or try one of these 11 dermatologist-approved face masks for acne.

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