Black charcoal blackhead masks are all over Instagram but do they actually work?
Are you across the blackhead removal wave that's going on right now?
Demonstrations of the mask, which is supposed to unclog pores, has garnered several million YouTube hits, and that's just one brand.
Further tutorials involving the masks are splashed across social media, most prolifically on Instagram. Video after video of women – and men – applying a charcoal-based paste to their faces, letting it dry and then, slowly peeling it off, along with all the gunk from their skin.
If you've ever squeezed a pimple and felt a rush of satisfaction, even as you're marvelling at how you could enjoy such utter repugnancy, then you'll understand why these masks are a hit. You get to see the blackheads! The sebum! And even the baby hairs that come off too!
"The response has been huge," says Andreas Abellana, the head of brand development for Blaq Mask. "We're actually going to be extending the brand in a few months," he adds, hinting that a scrub might be in the works.
Abellana uses the mask himself, and, despite the fact that results on YouTube have been mixed, Abellana says it works for him. He recommends I wash my face thoroughly, and leave it on for an extra 15 minutes for maximum uptake of blackheads.
"Trust the power of the peel," he writes in a note.
I want to believe, so I begin by applying the charcoal-based paste to my nose area, which, truth be told, is full of pores the size of small craters. Looking in the mirror, I resemble a macabre Snapchat filter; a woman-puppy with a shiny, black snout. While I'm waiting for the darn thing to dry, I decide to sniff out (sorry) an expert's opinion.
I speak to Dr. Michelle Hunt via email as I cannot move my mouth. Turns out she's not a fan. "As a dermatologist, I would not recommend these charcoal and glue 'DIY' blackhead masks as they can potentially damage the skin," she writes.
"It is not formulated for topical use and can result in irritant and allergic skin reactions (redness, itching, rashes, peeling, etc). The masks also need to be peeled off once dry, and this mechanical trauma can remove the top protective layers of the epidermis, leaving the skin more sensitive and prone to redness and dryness."
Oh, I think to myself after reading her email. My skin is starting to tighten up under the mask and I'm bursting with curiosity as it's been about 45 minutes already! I turn the fan on my snout to try and speed up the process. I can't see myself keeping this on for much longer. I have a life! Did that sound desperate? It did.
Is this how the robots in Westworld feel? No, of course not! They're sentient, they're not buried alive! This must be how it feels to be buried alive then. Wow, my snout has turned me crazy!
I slowly peel it off, and I must confess, the peeling alone is a joyous experience. It doesn't pick up a whole lot, but, to be honest, while I do have large pores, I don't really have a lot of blackheads. I'm probably not the target demographic. The best peel-off would probably happen on the face of a teenaged boy who is laid-back about his hygiene.
Be that as it may, my face feels tingly afterward and while I'd love to put this down to the cleansing properties of the mask, I'm a tad concerned it's actually due to the "mechanical trauma" Dr Hunt warned me about.
My skin is undeniably smooth, though, which feels wonderful. And if, as a society, we gain nothing else from these mysterious charcoal masks, let us celebrate the fact that so many beauty influencers, and YouTube stars, who are supposed to have flawless skin, have blackheads and sebum build-up like the rest of us.