Manchester

Why are we so obsessed with peeling stuff off our face?

The cult skincare product we can't resist

Keep seeing black peel-off facemasks all over your social media feeds? We spoke to Zero Skin, the Manchester-based business behind them – plus a medical professional – to see what it is that makes them so desirable…

In our busy office, the arrival of the post can be quite a monumental event. In staggers the postman, his wild *help-me* eyes peering over the top of a mountain of jiffy bags. He’s got books, gadgets, food, and beauty samples, which we pick through and distribute accordingly.

Last week, one particular parcel had everyone’s interest piqued. When the words “peel-off facemask” were uttered – a tar-like product, delivered by Manchester-based Zero Skin, as it happens – everyone in our office stood to attention like a mob of edgy meerkats. And it wasn’t just ladies flocking around this cult beauty product – the guys were reaching for a handful, too.

“Can we have a go? I saw this on Twitter yesterday. It’s so satisfying to peel!”

Of course, it’s the removal of the facemasks that everyone’s talking about. That strange slow peeling motion, taking with it the contents of your pores. It’s in equal parts hideous and satisfying.

But why? For us, it harks back to school days, where you would cover the back of your hand in PVA glue and peel it off, or holidays, where you inevitably get sunburned and just can’t resist picking at the shedding layer of skin. There’s a reason Dr Sandra Lee AKA Dr Pimple Popper can rack up over 20 million views for her videos of cyst removals and blackhead extractions – we are disgusting humans and we like looking at disgusting things.

By this stage, some of you may be gagging into your lunch, but others will be searching around for a screen that’s still wearing its protective film. Don’t try to deny it; we know you’re out there.

Imran Shezad, founder of Zero Skin, says he initially intended for the brand to cater to men before marketing it as a unisex product. It’s no surprise that the peel-off masks are the most popular product they sell, although the apple and green tea eye masks also get snapped up quickly.

Unsurprisingly, those close-up, slow-mo videos of the peel have also helped the masks develop such a cult status. “Social media has had a huge impact on the overall success of all the products,” said Imran. “It’s a visually fun product to post and customers like to see the results then and there. They find the masks really satisfying and effective.”

Curious to see whether there’s any science behind the urge to pick and to peel, we spoke to Mr Gerard Lambe, a consultant plastic surgeon who specialises in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery at the Spire Manchester Hospital in Didsbury, and essentially, it boils down to the natural healing and regeneration instinct – scratching away at the foreign layer to reveal a healthy new one underneath.

It also turns out it’s not just us regular folk who can’t leave spots and scabs alone. “Some medical people get satisfaction from picking away unhealthy tissue on patients, perhaps fulfilling a need to help things heal,” comments the surgeon.

He goes on to explain that although peel-off masks are great to factor into your skincare routine, they’re not miracle workers. “The best results come from what doctors call resurfacing, this means delicate removal of the top layer of skin using either chemicals or lasers.” (In case you were wondering, if your peel-off mask is removing a layer of skin, you’re doing it wrong.)

Our verdict? Regardless of the long-term benefits, this is one seriously pleasurable product… especially if you can rip it off someone else’s face.

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