The Key Ingredient In Peel-Off Masks

Ever wondered how peel-off masks work? I mean, you sort of know how to use them: you apply them on your skin and after 20 minutes, you peel them off like you would an orange – hence the name. But what makes this action possible? Polyvinyl Alcohol. It’s the secret juice that makes them magically peel off your skin… and irritate it real bad. Yep, there’s a reason I rarely review peel-off masks here. I’m just NOT a fan -and this alcohol is a big reason for it. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

What Is Polyvinyl Alcohol?
Polyvinyl Alcohol is a water-soluble synthetic polymer of Vinyl Alcohol . It looks like a white, odourless, and tasteless powder. There really isn’t much more to say about it.
What Does Polyvinyl Alcohol Do In Skincare Products?
A mulit-tasker, Polyvinyl Alcohol has three jobs in skincare:

Binder: It holds together the ingredients of a compressed tablet or cake, so they don’t crack or crumble back into a powder or unpleasant texture.
Film-former: It reacts with the air to form a hard, plastic layer on your skin that can be peeled off your face. Literally. This is how peel-off masks work. While it’s at it, this layer also keeps moisture into the skin, helping it stay softer and smoother. Of course, the effect is only temporary.
Thickener: It increases the thickness of the oil portion of skincare and personal care products.

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Polyvinyl Alcohol Side Effects?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel claims Polyvinyl Alcohol is safe and non-irritating. That’s true – in small concentrations. If you find some in a moisturiser or lotion, it’s not a reason for concern.
Peel-off masks are a different story. Here, Polyvinyl Alcohol is used in much higher concentrations (as high as 90%!). That, coupled with the mechanical removal of the mask (which is traumatic in itself and can remove dead skin off your face – and not in the cool, exfoliating way), makes them irritating.
That’s why I DON’T recommend peel-off masks. I tried a charcoal mask once and never again. Taking it off hurt so much. Ouch! But if you’d like to use one, go for a peel-off mask with hydrating and skin-repairing ingredients, like Hyaluronic Acid and ceramides, that can offset its drying side effects a little.
The Bottom Line
Polyvinyl Alcohol is safe in small doses. But stay away from peel-off masks. In the high concentrations used here, it can be drying, irritating, and overall bad for skin.

About Gio
Hi, I’m Gio. I’m a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is skin coach and writer on a mission to help you achieve your best skin day ever – every day. I bust skincare myths and debunk marketing jargon to help you figure out what’s worth the splurge and what’s best left on the shelf – using science, not hype. I also offer skincare consultations to help you create the best skincare routine for your unique needs.

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