skin-care treatments

The ‘Most Painful Mask Ever’ Is Like a Dyson for My Pores

Put it on, let it dry, and let ‘er rip. Photo: ullstein bild Dtl./ullstein bild via Getty Images

You may not have heard of the Korean beauty product known as the “world’s most painful mask.” I certainly hadn’t until I bought it (even though I worked as the grooming director of a national men’s magazine). The Milky Piggy Hell-Pore Clean Up Mask is a favorite of the YouTube beauty community, though, with video titles like “MOST PAINFUL MASK EVER?!” and “HELL NO! The Hell Pore Mask FAIL,” featuring people using the face mask amid tears, screams, and general terror. Of course, with “no pain no gain” ringing in my ears, I got to work using the mask immediately.

The Clean Up mask is a peel-off, meaning that unlike other face masks that you leave on and then wash off, you slather this one on and allow it to dry for 15 minutes before ripping it off like a Band-Aid. Out of the tube, the goop smells a bit like industrial adhesive (called acrylate polymer, which I confirmed with the aid of Google Translate, since the writing on the tube is all in Korean). Maybe it’s because I’m used to the sensation of these masks, but I have to say, it’s really not that painful. Even after I ripped the mask off in one full sheet, I kept waiting for torment that never came.

What I did experience, though, was an incredibly thorough mask. I don’t know what the acrylate polymer is (the plastic seems to be a fairly common beauty ingredient, so maybe something else is at work), but my face has never felt so clean. Whenever I use it, every single blackhead on my face is gone — my pores become microscopic, like I’ve taken a Dyson to them. Inspecting the dried mask is like an aerial view of a forest of grime: The entire underside of the mask gets speckled with black dirt and dried sebum. It’s disgusting and satisfying all at the same time.

The Clean Up mask is now the strongest thing in my medicine cabinet; I save it for just once a week (the most my sensitive skin can handle) and the occasions when I know I’m going to be photographed. Ten bucks — and a little pain — is a small price to pay for the best skin of my life.

More Strat-approved face masks

A Taiwanese brand of masks beloved by Strategist beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton, who says they’re “deeply conditioning, and hydrates and soothes irritated skin. As someone who is constantly battling dry skin, eczema, and allergy-induced rashes, this face mask has been a total lifesaver. Also, these are only $2 per sheet — are you kidding me?”

Another set of masks Rio loves: “I don’t know what is in this mask, but if I put it on before bed, I wake up in the morning looking super radiant, like I’ve never had a pore in my life. If that doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will. Raw Jaw is a mystery ingredient I’ve only ever seen in Taiwanese products — again, don’t know exactly what it is, but I believe in its powers.”

Rio calls these “my favorite mask to use after I’ve been lying out in the sun or walking around in the heat.”

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The ‘Most Painful Mask Ever’ Is a Dyson for Pores