By now you’ve all heard of the ‘latest and greatest’ beauty hack – the peel off charcoal mask. With claims that it detoxifies, removes blackheads, and de-gunks (that there is a sciencey word) pores, it is indeed tempting.
Until you watch the videos of people wincing and yelling in pain as they remove them.
Yeah. Skincare shouldn’t hurt.
So what is really going on with these things? Do they work? Are they good for your skin or harmful?
Let’s break it down.
Activated charcoal is good for your skin. With a porous structure and negative charge, it adsorbs dirt and bacteria, excess oil and environmental pollutants. Its slightly gritty texture serves as a gentle exfoliant as well, removing dulling, dead surface skin cells.
Time. Every one I’ve looked at – store bought and diy – recommend you leave it on for anywhere from a minimum of 15 minutes up to 45 minutes. That is much too long. A mask that is meant to remove things from your skin should only stay on for 5 minutes up to a maximum of 15 minutes. Any longer and you risk over-drying and irritating your skin, which interferes with its natural defenses.
Removal. The reason these things hurt so much to peel off is because they are not just attaching to dirt and bacteria. They also grab hold of those tiny hairs on your face and the top layer of skin – which peel off along with the mask. Not only that, but a lot of what people think are blackheads or whiteheads that are oh so satisfyingly sticking out of the removed mask may actually be something called sebaceous filaments – which are another of your skin’s natural defenses.
Do they work?
Technically, yes. They are very good at removing things. Including some things you probably don’t want to remove.
Are they good for your skin?
On balance, I’d have to say no. While activated charcoal can be beneficial, it is outweighed by the physical damage you are doing to your skin. Removing the acid mantle and stripping a layer of healthy skin can actually increase any skin problems you were trying to fix.
If you want the benefits of a charcoal mask without the damage, try this customizable wash off version.
Customizable DIY Charcoal Facial Masque
You will need:
- 1 3/4 tsp. clay (choose one)
- kaolin for sensitive skin
- red for oily skin
- green for normal skin
- 1/4 tsp. activated charcoal
- 1/2 tsp. powdered herbs (choose one)
- chamomile or calendula for calming irritated skin
- thyme for extra acne fighting oompf
- matcha tea for general skin care
- 1-3 tsp. liquid activator (choose one)
- brewed tea for general skin care
- honey for dry or problem skin
- water for all skin types
Combine powdered ingredients in a glass or plastic container. Add liquid activator 1 tsp at a time, until masque reaches desired consistency.
Keep in mind that activated charcoal and red clays can stain plastics and fabrics, so don’t use your good dishes or towels!
Remove makeup/wash face. Press a warm cloth over face to open pores, then apply masque in an even layer to damp face. Let sit 5-10 minutes (it may not dry, that’s ok) and wipe off with warm cloth. Apply moisturizer and admire your glow.
Common sense cautions:
This is an unpreserved make and use product. Don’t try to make ahead, or save any extra. Trust me.
If you notice any irritation while using the masque, wash it off immediately. Skincare should feel good and leave you glowing.
What do you think? Have you tried the peel off masks? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below.