When my editor asked if I wanted to try a $5,000 charcoal face mask, I was more incredulous than the time my mom said I’ll probably die young because I have small ears (true story). I was also excited because, hey, if it doesn’t work out there’s always eBay. The mask in question? Trésor Rare's Intensive Recovery Japanese Binchotan Zumi Mask, which possesses “unparalleled detoxifying benefits,” according to the makers.
The burning question, of course, was the $5,000 price tag. As someone who’s never spent this type of coin on anything besides a wedding, I dove in to uncover: Can this possibly be worth it? Let’s investigate.
A 3-Month Supply and a Serum
To be clear, the $5,000 actually gets you a set of 12 masks to be used once a week. It also includes a charcoal-containing serum, but there’s no ingredients list to be found anywhere. That scares me. Trésor Rare’s website doesn’t offer clear directions, but I found this in its press release: “Once the serum is applied to the skin, the gold mask is applied on top.” (The mask is not gold—it's black, so that was confusing.)
The Most Potent Activated Charcoal… Ever?
The mask is infused with Japanese Binchotan activated charcoal, which Trésor Rare considers the crème de la crème of charcoal.
Here's the deal. Your typical activated charcoal is produced by steaming carbon from natural sources like coconut shell, oak, or bamboo, resulting in a porous, absorbent powder. These characteristics are why activated charcoal is so popular—they draw out impurities like a magnet, so much that research says it can halt poisoning in the body.
Binchotan, on the other hand, is derived from a tree living in Japan’s Kishu region—and it’s been around since 1688. Using an unspecified Japanese carbonizing technique, the wood from this tree is burned until the powder becomes as rich, pasty texture. The result is what the locals call “golden charcoal,” figuratively speaking. Per Trésor Rare, “porous Binchotan has a solid structure with irregular holes, which maximizes its ability to absorb toxins.” The implication is that its impurity-vacuuming abilities is by far superior than your run-of-the-mill variety.
A Unique Double-Layering System With “Specialty Ingredients”
The sheet itself is made of biodegradable plant fiber and infused with Kishu Binchotan charcoal along with, as they say, “natural plant extracts and emollients, organic ingredients, essential oils, natural plant- and seed-based oils, and no artificial colors.”
Here’s the full ingredients list displayed on the package:
deionized water, propylene glycol, hydroxyethylcellulose, carbomer 980, xanthan gum, nymphaea odorata root extract (water lily), helichrysum stoechas extract (everlasting), sodium hyaluronate, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), dipotassium glycyrrhizate, chlorphenesin, fragrance.
For us natural-minded folk, the propylene glycol and fragrance should concern us—the former is considered a moderate hazard by the Environmental Working Group, the latter is a high hazard. Eek! Plus, I didn't see any botanical oils listed.
Another claim is that the ingredients are “double-layered,” which I can only assume means what it sounds.
“Vitamins in the Air”
Trésor Rare says once you layer it on, the mask releases negative ions called “Vitamins in the Air” that help create balance on your skin. (My interpretation of balance is when your skin isn't too dry or too sensitive or too much of anything.) While there isn’t any solid research to support these claims, generally speaking negative ions are thought to achieve homeostasis by equalizing the ratio of positive and negative ions within the same environment. Also, a few years ago, a naturopath told me negative ions from activated charcoal help boost skin cell walls and stimulate collagen production. I’m not sure if this is true either and have no evidence to back it up.
What Happened When I Used the $5,000 Charcoal Face Mask for 6 Weeks
According to the company, the mask “helps in detoxifying, lifting, refining skin texture and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Skin looks younger and more radiant.”
From the Organic Authority Files
I happened to have some unsightly breakouts when I got this mask, and my skin was a tad ruddy, lackluster, and dehydrated. There was no better time to try a mask that promised these lofty detoxifying promises!
The application is simple and straightforward. The soft and gooey sheet is elastic enough to ensure proper fitting, particularly around the nose contours and mouth, but tough enough to prevent tearing. The serum’s texture was akin to that of a moisturizer—not a traditional thin or watery serum—but it absorbed quickly and left a matte finish.
Because it takes an average of 28 days for skin cells to renew, I’m a huge believer that anti-aging skincare products deserve at least a month before you give up on them. I applied the mask-serum for six weeks straight, once a week, 20 minutes per session. Here's what happened:
Week 1: My skin was more moisturized, felt softer, and appeared more radiant overnight. The breakouts persisted.
Week 2: The hydration and luminosity increased. The breakouts slowly began their disappearing act.
Week 3: My skin looked a lot smoother and healthier overall. By this time, there were a few stubborn blemishes left.
Week 4: The glow has plateaued, but no more pimples!
Week 5: Same as Week 4. No new breakouts.
Week 6: No new news, good nor bad.
Would I Buy This Mask With My Own Money?
I can’t speak to the promises of “lifting” and “reducing the appearance of wrinkles” since my skin has yet to sag or crinkle, but I did see an improvement in skin texture and radiance. Not surprisingly, I was most impressed with the detoxifying effects. I was initially disappointed because it took over three weeks for my skin to completely clear up, but the lavish mask did thwart the formation of new outbreaks—even after I enjoyed a particularly decadent weekend.
With that said, would I shell out $5,000 for another set?
I wouldn't even if it came with a JLo glow lifetime guarantee. To be Captain Obvious, this mask is not meant for the 99%. The good news is I’ve achieved similar results with this DIY activated charcoal face Mask, the insanely effective Blemish Balm from OSEA, and Evolue's life-changing potions—none of which contain yucky toxins.
I say if you’re not making celebrity cash, save the dough for a trip to Hawaii—now that will definitely give you a glow.
Related on Organic Authority
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The 14 Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid (and How to Find Healthier Alternatives)