Lifestyle

This face mask has a cult-following—but this $10 dupe is just as good

The only thing better than a face mask is a good deal on one

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I heard about Boscia’s Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask about two years ago when there was a flood of people reviewing it on YouTube. The peel-off mask contains activated charcoal, which is said to detoxify and brighten the skin. At the time, the mask was known for being difficult and even painful to peel off the face. I recall walking into a Sephora and asking the Boscia representative about “the painful mask” because I was curious to try it for its pore-cleansing benefits, and because there’s something satisfying about being able to peel off the gunk and see it on the mask. But I wasn’t too keen on paying $34.

I went to the CVS down the street looking for an alternative. What I found: BioMiracle’s The Original Korean Detoxifying Peel-Off Charcoal Face Mask Treatment, sitting on the bottom shelf with a price tag of about $10 and packaging that mimicked Boscia’s. I decided to put the two masks head to head (well, face to face) to determine whether the Boscia mask was enough of a game changer to warrant the extra dough.

What are the masks?

Boscia is a well-known skincare brand, and this particular product is a fan favorite. Both the Boscia and BioMiracle are peel-off masks, which means you won’t have the mess or fuss of taking off a clumpy, crumbly, or gloppy substance from your face (or sponging it off your sink afterward). Both masks go on as a viscous paste and dries to a matte black with a velvety texture.

The masks have only four identical ingredients: water, polyvinyl alcohol (to increase the thickness of oils or as a film former or binder), glycerin (to prevent loss of moisture in the product), and, as the names suggest, charcoal powder (to absorb impurities and oils in the skin and hair). Curiously, the charcoal that’s touted for its detoxifying benefits is the first ingredient in the more inexpensive mask, but among the last in Boscia. They also each contain a variety of plant oils and extracts, such as lavender and honeysuckle flower extract, but do not overlap in their plant-based ingredients.

The claims

Boscia: The Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask claims to help freshen and clean the skin, minimize the appearance of pores, remove blackheads, and enhance radiance. The goal is to reveal a “brighter, more clarified complexion.” It claims to be a product for all skin types: normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive.

BioMiracle: The Detoxifying Peel-Off Charcoal Face Mask claims to remove blackheads, impurities, and excess oil, and minimize the appearance of pores. Like the Boscia mask, it should unveil a smooth and clarified complexion and is suited for all skin types.

The process

Boscia: This product has a subtle, clean scent and a smooth, slightly runnier texture that glides onto the skin evenly. It's easy to build up to the thick layer recommended by the instructions in a quick few passes. The Boscia mask dried more quickly than the 30 minutes suggested by the box, but I waited it out to be sure. As for the notorious pain, the peeling can be a little uncomfortable, mostly because it clings to fine facial hairs as much as it clings to your black heads (unexpected bonus: free waxing!). If I've recently shaved my face, it doesn't hurt at all. To minimize the plucking effect on fine hairs, I recommend pulling the mask downward, in the natural direction your hair. You’ll also need to rinse off any residue, particularly from the edges of the face where the mask was thinnest.

BioMiracle: The first thing I noticed upon opening the tube is that this mask has a sweet fruity scent, much more robust (though not unpleasant) than the Boscia’s quieter one. This mask has a thicker, more tacky consistency and is harder to spread thinly. It also developed air bubbles that required me to go over the same spot a few times for an even coating. In contrast to the Boscia, the BioMiracle instructions suggest applying a thin layer but I’d argue that you need a thick layer of either in order to peel it off nicely. Once on the skin, this mask looks identical to Boscia in opacity. Same as the Boscia, the BioMiracle mask is easier to peel if you move in the direction of your hair or have very little peach fuzz on your face. This one sticks to your face a little more, so if the Boscia one stings you, this one may be a little worse. Like Boscia, I had to wash my face to clean off mask remnants around the edges.

The results

Boscia: I’ll hand it to Boscia, this mask delivers the results promised. It left my skin looking clarified and feeling soft to the touch. It removed dead skin and blackheads—which I could see collected on the mask after I peeled it off. It sopped up any excess oil in my T-zone, which I noticed because my skin felt tight and ready for moisturizer, though not uncomfortably parched. Large pores are not one of my skin concerns, so I’m not a great candidate for assessing the pore-tightening results this mask claims to give. When I look in the mirror, I see an overall clearer, matte complexion.

BioMiracle: Much like the Boscia mask, this one stripped my skin of excess oil, dead skin, and any gunk from blackheads (also satisfyingly visible on the mask after removal). My face looked and feels clearer and was ready for moisturizer after the peel. My skin is noticeably smoother after using this product and, like Boscia, clean and matte looking. I have dry skin and worried that these masks would leave my face desert-like, but was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case for either one.

The winner

So, which one is the best? To my skin, it’s a draw. To my wallet, the BioMiracle is the clear winner because I see no reason to spend the extra cash for Boscia when I could get three (and a half) BioMiracle tubes for the same price. Plus, you get 20 percent more of BioMiracle (100 grams vs. 80 grams of Boscia). I would say both masks live up to the promises on their packaging, and I don’t value one’s results over the other. Despite Boscia's 5,000 Sephora and 9,000 ULTA reviews, I’d recommend you give BioMiracle a try.

Get the BioMiracle The Original Korean Detoxifying Peel-Off Charcoal Face Mask Treatment on Amazon for $7.99

Get the Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask on Sephora for $34

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Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.