I try to avoid up-close-and-personal looks in the mirror — not because it triggers long bouts of existential soul-searching or getting lost in my own eyes, but because I tend to get distracted by the blackheads on my face. When I heard about a new blackhead miracle product, I figured it could be a turning point for me: Not only could I finally tackle the tiny sebaceous malfeasances all over my face, but I could also find a much more skin-friendly solution to getting rid of them than "squeeze the ever-loving hell out of your face until some gross stuff comes out."
The so-called miracle product is called My Scheming Blackhead Acne Removal Activated Carbon 3 Steps Mask Set, a mouthful that I can appreciate because it describes blackheads as "scheming," which is exactly what I imagine them doing: Sitting on my face and plotting my demise.
I'd seen the product come up countless times in beauty forums on Reddit and Facebook, always to mixed reviews: Some people said it worked wonders, while others contemplated if the entire thing was just a gimmick. After a little bit of research, I discovered that the origin of all this Scheming Blackhead wonder stems from one particular video. Before we go any further, it's important that you watch this from beginning to end.
Take an inventory of how you feel after watching that video, because there are a lot of layers going on here. For one, it's hard to ignore the confusing emotions that might arise from watching someone extract hundreds of blackheads from their face while listening to a joyous K-Pop tune about not needing a man. As someone who lived in east Asia for about five years, I can tell you that this confusing emotion — that is, doing something kind of gross to a bubbly soundtrack — is pretty much par for the course.
I've gotten my feet eaten by fish while listening to a Korean Jason Mraz sing about coffee, had my nude body exfoliated to the sounds of PSY going "Gangnam Style," and had my fat pinched and scolded by a Korean doctor while the loudspeakers in the office played a song called "Fantastic, Baby." All things considered, removing blackheads while singing in Korean feels right to me.
And let's talk about those blackheads, shall we? Because that girl looked like she had perfectly clear skin, but what she removed from her nose was absolutely shocking. Could this really be the blackhead and sebaceous filament-buster we've all been searching for? There was only one way to find out.
The Scheming Blackhead kit contains three products meant to be used in succession: The Deep Pore Sebum Softener, the Blackhead Removal Activated Carbon Mask, and the Skin Clarifying Pore Treatment Essence. According to the directions, it's important to use them exactly as directed for best results.
Step 1: Steam Your Pores
The first step is to steam the hell out of your face to make sure your pores are nice and open. If you don't have time for this, an alternative is to use the mask after you step out of a hot shower. Either way, those pores will be ripe and ready for the madness you are about to unleash.
Step 2: Soften Your Sebum
Step two is all about the sebum softener. Choose the spots on your face that you want to treat (for me, it was my nose and chin), and apply an ample amount of the softener before rubbing it in for about eight minutes. Eight minutes is a long time, but I assume that the reasoning behind this is to ensure that your sebum is adequately... softened. For the most part, you will probably spend the eight minutes contemplating how disgusting the notion of "soft sebum" is, and looking like this.
"The world would be a better place if all our sebum could be so routinely softened," she thought to herself while softening her sebum.
Step 3: Apply The Mask
Once the eight minutes have passed, rinse the sebum softener completely and dry your face. Now the fun can really begin. The activated carbon mask is sticky and difficult to apply, but you want to ensure that you get the perfect layer on your skin: Thin enough so that it can adequately dry, but thick enough that it actually picks up whatever is lurking in your pores.
As you can see, the process is not very glamorous, and if you're like me, you'll look terrified the entire time.
Step 4: Wait
The directions say that the mask will take about 15 minutes to dry, but for me it took about 40. The beauty forums confirm this: For whatever reason, this mask takes forever to harden up. Don't rush it, though, or else you won't be able to peel it off effectively.
To pass the time, I suggest taking an Instagram photo to make all of your followers wonder what product you're using, and to prompt your family and friends to wonder what the hell you're doing with your life at 3 PM on a Tuesday.
Step 5: Peel
The most satisfying portion of our journey has finally arrived, after about an hour of prepping and rubbing and spreading and drying. It's crucial that you peel the mask upwards, according to the directions, because that helps it pick up the most pore-debris.
Warning: I have sensitive skin and my spot on the pain sensitivity scale is about a 3T (Tiny Tender Toddler). Peeling this off my face may or may not have caused me to cry a little. It's really stiff, and removing it kind of hurts.
It was difficult to capture on camera, but as soon as I peeled off the mask, I noticed that it was covered in lots of white spots. Some of it was almost certainly dead skin and baby hairs, but there were other spots that were clearly blackheads, yellowed bits of gristle that were ripped from the confines of my pores — exactly the cruel treatment they deserve. Check out a close-up with flash (but only if you're the type to stomach it).
Yes, your blackheads look just as grotesque under an iPhone flash as you do at the club. While my results were not nearly as spectacular as the woman's from the video, I did notice that the mask managed to grab quite a bit from my skin. It didn't leave a sticky film like more traditional nasal strips, and it certainly felt more effective than any wash-off charcoal mask I've tried.
Final Step: Tone Your Skin
The Pore Treatment Essence provided works as a mild toner, which means that you can switch it up with any other mild toner you like if this one isn't to your liking. I found it gentle and somewhat soapy, and it absorbed into my skin nicely.
If I were looking to reduce the redness caused by the peel, I might use something with a bit of aloe in it. This last step is flexible: Do what it takes to soothe your skin, and don't be afraid to hit your newly-extracted face with a few splashes of cold water, too.
And Final Thoughts
In honor of these pleasantly surprising results from the Chinese product, I souped up my after pic with my favorite sticker app (though admittedly, it was Japanese). It accurately describes my overall happiness with the product, I'd say (and also gives you, dear reader, an unsolicited look into how my brain looks on the inside). Would I call this a "miracle product?" Probably not. But when it comes to blackheads and sebaceous filaments, nothing really is.
No matter what, those dirty little suckers are probably going to come back and haunt you — so why not use a product that's as satisfying as this to remove them temporarily? It's easy to use (if a little bit time-consuming) and instantly gratifies you with results you can see.
When it comes to clogged pores, these are exactly the kind of results I hope for: Clearing up my skin modestly while leaving me to contemplate the blackhead-laden wreckage on the mask itself. Perhaps not the scheming sensation it claims to be, but a worthy blackhead treatment nonetheless. And, if nothing else, it will keep you satisfied enough to refrain from squeezing — and isn't that what all of this is really about?
Images: Amanda Richards