SOS: Active Charcoal Masks

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 2.38.23 AM

The fall transition is notoriously hard on my skin.  Turning on the heat in my apartment dries it out, so I over moisturize, and with the increased moisture in the air each morning, everything just goes sideways.  But maybe not this year, since I recently discovered active charcoal masks to help unclog pores and brighten skin.  They’re a great tool for acne sufferers, and if you don’t have problem skin, they’ll gently exfoliate and brighten your already clear complexion.  But should you splurge or save?

GlamGlow Super-Mud Clearing Treatment ($69 for 1.2 oz). was on my must-try list from the moment I saw it advertised.  A big fan of the original Glam Glow mask, I was intrigued by claims that this charcoal, coal and AHA-infused mask could de-clog pores and minimize scaring.

When you remove a Glam Glow mask, there is always a moment of, “Wow, that looks and feels awesome!”  Your skin feels like silk and looks like you got 12 hours of sleep, even if you use it at 11:00PM.  The mask definitely lived up to expectations helping clear up a problematic cheek breakout and removing the remnant dry skin from my Montana trip.

Also, since the product said it worked on ingrown hairs, I decided to apply a bit to a nasty one that came up on the back of my neck post-wax.  I wasn’t expecting too much, but after two applications, the ingrown was completely cleared.  So if you have a man in your life who suffers from post-shave issues on his face, this might be worth a try.

I used up all of my GlamGlow mask in about eight weeks, making it a fairly expensive habit.  The pot container makes it tough to regulate how much you’re using each time, so sometimes you’re over-applying and other times you’re digging for seconds and thirds.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask ($16 for 1.6oz).  Shortly after I ran out of GlamGlow, I received the Origins mask in my Birchbox.  The consistency of this product isn’t as thick or luxurious as the GlamGlow, but that actually makes it easier to apply, and the squeeze bottle makes it easier to get the right amount each time.

Unlike the GlamGlow, the post-removal “wow-factor” is greatly diminished, but the long-term effects are very similar.  My skin felt smoother, pores tighter and breakouts cleared up more quickly.  Not as quickly as with the GlamGlow, where one or two applications was often enough to clear even a stubborn breakout, but the Origins mask definitely helps clear even stubborn acne much faster than applying a topical cream alone.

Verdict: Truth be told, I could go either way on this one.  Both masks clear acne, exfoliate gently and don’t leave skin feeling tight or dry post-mask.  They both brighten and soften the skin.  And you couldn’t go wrong with either product, however…

Because it is so difficult to regulate how much mask you are using when you apply the GlamGlow, it doesn’t last as long as you think $69 worth of mask should.  So unless you have a complexion that desperately needs intervention, the Origins should give you a very similar result at a much nicer price.



  1. E says:

    I have the Glamglow mask reviewed and use it mostly as spot treatment. It really does do wonders in 1-2 days of that. I don’t use it as the mask often so I’ve had it for 9 months now and still have a healthy pot. If you don’t do full masks often, I highly recommend!

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  2. phoebe says:

    I have the Origins mask and I LOVE it. It does wonders for me – even on my dry, sensitive skin.

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  3. SarahT says:

    Wanted to love the GlamGlow mask because my skin looked great but the smell was atrocious!

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  4. Heather says:

    I know the Sephora in Atlanta has that GlamGlow mask as a sample perk for the Beauty Insider Card members right now. You can try it out that way!!

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  5. Shelley says:

    I’m not a mask person but received the Origins one as a sample and loved it. My skin looks great and I feel great after using it.

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  6. Amy W. says:

    I’m an avid GlamGlow user so it’s definitely something I stock up on when Sephora is having a sale. That being said, I use a big makeup brush to apply it, instead of my hands. It seems to help spread it around more without globbing it on and since starting that method with my second jar, it seems to have made it last longer.

    September 5, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      That’s a good tip. Do you use a flat brush or a tightly packed bristle brush?

      September 5, 2013/Reply
  7. JP says:

    Speaking of ingrown hairs (ugh!), I know you’ve talked a lot about PREVENTION, but what the heck do you do after you’ve got the unsightly and painful disaster!? What’s the fastest way to clear one up? Thanks Belle!

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  8. L says:

    I’ve used the Origin mask for years and it lasts forever. That stuff is gold!! If you properly seal the bottle, you can make a tube last at least a year (if you do face only). Not only does it clear my blackheads, but in the winter it is the only thing that helps with my rough/dry patches.

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  9. Elena W. says:

    You can buy the GlamGlow mask for significantly cheaper on Amazon (under $40).

    September 5, 2013/Reply
    • Meredith says:

      That’s what I did, and I am in love with it. Also works great for anyone who suffers from keratosis like I do.

      September 6, 2013/Reply
  10. Alanna says:

    As a broke college student, the Origins mask was a splurge for me, but I love it! Clears up acne, and does a great job preventing it. If I skip a week of applying, I immediately start breaking out more.

    September 5, 2013/Reply
  11. Morgan says:

    Just purchased the Origins and I have it on now…hoping it helps clear an unsightly breakout on my jawline.

    September 16, 2013/Reply
  12. Melissa says:

    The active ingredient in Glamglow is Activated charcoal. Anyone can pick this up at GNC or most vitamin stores. It is a black charcoal powder and does exactly what Glamglow does for way way less money. Try it out! Mix the activated charcoal with some aloe vera gel and water, let it dry and rinse well. It is a bit messier, but can also be used to whiten teeth shades lighter, instantly. Just wet your toothbrush with water and dip into the charcoal powder. Save your money ladies! These companies would rather you spend your money on their overpriced products, but you don’t need to in order to have the same beautiful results!

    February 25, 2014/Reply
  13. Pingback: First Times The Charm | Media Musings