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Are Charcoal Face Masks Good For Skin?


Charcoal face masks are a peel-off mask that are usually sold in a tube or tub and come out as a dark grey, almost black paste. They are applied to clean skin and start off wet, but dry up like a stretchy sheet. Charcoal products have long been popular in beauty,  usually taking the  form of a face mask, face soaps, exfoliating sponges and loose powder. The charcoal referred to in these products are not the typical variety you can get at the grocery store that you can use on the BBQ.

The type of charcoal used is called activated charcoal, or activated carbon, and is the extremely fine, black powder that is shed from charcoal when it is exposed to high temperatures. The ‘active’ aspect of activated charcoal is the process of when it is exposed to the high heat, tiny holes and crevices form in the charcoal which make it extremely absorbent and able to trap toxins and other debris. This is the reason why activated charcoal has gained such notoriety in skincare due to its purifying and detoxifying properties.

There are numerous benefits to using activated charcoal as an ingredient for your skin and charcoal face mask usually includes claims of being able to cleanse pores, absorb oil, exfoliate, remove black heads, and leave skin cleaner and smoother. One of the most popular uses of a charcoal mask is for deep cleansing because of its ability to absorb toxins and impurities deep within the pores of your skin. The charcoal mask can penetrate deeply and remove the trapped dirt and excess oil from deep within your pores. However, overuse can lead to dry skin. To address the rest of these claims, they may do what they say but the issue lies within the process in which they are doing it.


Are Charcoal Face Masks Safe?

When it comes to the claim of being able to remove your blackheads, that process is strictly mechanical. The face mask adheres to the blackhead and physically removes it from your pores. It’s those little sprouts sticking to the charcoal mask that you love examining after the removal process that is just so satisfying.

While a charcoal mask may include exfoliating ingredients, the way that a charcoal mask is designed is to exfoliate your skin by way of the mechanical force of peeling the mask that has adhered to your skin. This mechanical force not only removes blackheads and dead skin cells from your pores, but also removes off the outermost layer of skin with it and your skin’s natural oils which serve as a barrier to protect the skin from the environment. The charcoal mask also pulls at any fine hairs on your face with it as well, making this process almost like an aggressive whole face wax – which is the extremely painful part.

Your skin is delicate and should be treated as such. The satisfying nature of using a charcoal mask can lead to overuse which may lead to long term damage of your skin. Think about it: constantly ripping out the surface layer of your face and all the little hairs with it, while damaging your natural moisture barrier is not something you should be doing to your face regularly. The natural oils act as a barrier that protects your skin from harmful UV rays, free radicals from the environment, bacteria, dirt…pretty much any foreign substance that can harm your skin.


Do Charcoal Face Masks Work?

Studies show that activated charcoal has highly absorbent properties which allow the charcoal to penetrate deep within the skin and bind and remove the oil from your pores. Although scientific evidence on the effectiveness of activated charcoal is limited, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence to support its claims.

The use of charcoal originated in medicinal purposes as the active ingredients proved to have healing capabilities and was used as an anti-poison remedy, cholesterol treatment and also proved to be effective in treating chronic kidney disease.

Final Thoughts On Charcoal Face Masks

While charcoal has remained popular among ingredients in skincare due to its highly absorbent nature and ability to cleanse pores deeply, exfoliate, and purify skin, the aggressive mechanical process of a charcoal mask can also induce harm and damage.

While a charcoal mask can be too abrasive and has the potential to damage skin, there are ways to incorporate it into your beauty routine and get the same benefits as the charcoal mask. Look for charcoal masks with ingredients such as natural clay on the label. 

The gentleness of the clay, combined with the effective absorbency of the charcoal makes the whole removal much more pleasant as it draws out the impurities in your skin without the painful removal process. They are just as effective as charcoal masks but results may vary depending on your skin type. 

As with every new skincare product being introduced to your routine, it is best to test and incorporate slowly. Because charcoal is so absorbent, it is generally very popular with oily skin types for example. People with dry skin types need to be especially careful when using this type of mask.

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