Charcoal has been around for as long as fire has, as the ingredient results from burning carbon-based materials, like wood. It is very similar to the material you find at the bottom of your fireplace after you’ve had a fire, with a few crucial differences.
When charcoal is used as the main ingredient in skin care products, like masks, it goes through a process called activation.
The charcoal is treated with oxygen at high temperatures during activation, making it more porous. The result is a change to the charcoal’s internal structure that increases its surface area and decreases the size of its pores, making it far more absorbent.
While activated charcoal is primarily known in a hospital setting for helping to treat poisoning and toxicity, the same absorbent properties may also help remove impurities from the skin’s surface. Unfortunately, science has not fully caught up with the hype, and many of those claims have yet to be proven.
What are people saying about charcoal?
While the research has not yet yielded much scientific evidence of charcoal mask benefits, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence.
According to people who regularly use charcoal in their facial routines, the ingredient has various benefits. Hopefully, these benefits will be the focus of future skin care research, so the science can back up the changes people see on their own skin.
Charcoal masks may help remove impurities from the skin
Toxins can land on the skin for a variety of reasons, and we come into contact with them in the environment all the time. The absorbent properties of charcoal masks make them excellent at removing all sorts of impurities from the skin.
With fewer impurities on the skin, the pores are also far clearer. Clear pores are one of the essential factors behind radiant, beautiful skin.
Clogged pores make the skin look dull and put people at far more risk of developing blemishes. In addition, open pores are also pores that appear smaller and less noticeable.
Charcoal masks may be able to soak up excess oil
Another of the charcoal mask benefits that people have noticed is charcoal’s ability to soak up excess oil from the surface of the skin. People who deal with oily skin, or struggle with frequent breakouts, will find this especially beneficial.
However, you don’t want to use a product that claims to remove all of the oil from your skin, as some oil is needed. This oil (also known as sebum) that exists on the top layer of the skin is a crucial part of its moisture barrier.
Sebum is produced by the body’s sebaceous glands, and it helps to lubricate the skin and protect it from the outside world. Without sebum, toxin and debris are more easily able to penetrate the skin and cause problems.
Is charcoal safe for the skin?
Although the scientific research is slim, charcoal is believed to be safe for most users. The primary issue that people experience when using charcoal masks is a skin or allergic reaction to the charcoal, which can happen with any ingredient.
If your skin seems extremely sensitive or you experience burning or redness during or after using a face mask, you may be allergic to charcoal and should discontinue use.
If you’re new to charcoal masks, you may want to perform a patch test before using it all over your face. This can help you reduce the risk of developing a skin reaction while also testing how your skin may respond to a new ingredient.
To do a patch test, apply a small amount of the mask to a less noticeable area (like behind your ear or the inside of your elbow). Wait for 24 hours, and if you don’t notice any redness or irritation, you should be okay to apply the mask to your face.
Who can experience charcoal mask benefits?
Even though charcoal masks are safe overall, certain skin types may benefit from them more than others. The first group is people who suffer from frequent breakouts.
One of the best charcoal mask benefits is its ability to draw impurities out of the skin, and the leading causes of blemishes are dirt, debris and bacteria trapped inside the pores. If you can find a way to reduce the amount of those components on the skin, you can also decrease the risk of getting blemishes as well.
The other group that charcoal masks may help are people with naturally oilier skin. The benefits work similarly to how charcoal can reduce the number of breakouts people have.
Charcoal can soak up excess charcoal without removing all of it, leaving the skin moisturized and intact without drying it out too much.
Ways to most efficiently access charcoal mask benefits
If you’re ready to try the benefits of charcoal for yourself, there are various ways that you can do that. At Skin Pharm, we combine charcoal with clay to create our polishing charcoal mask, Clay Time.
To use Clay Time, always start by washing your face. As efficient as charcoal can be for helping to cleanse the skin, it isn’t as thorough as a quality cleanser.
We recommend our Gentle Soothing Cleanser, which removes all traces of makeup, grime and build-up from the skin while providing it with the hydration and nourishment it needs. You’ll always want to apply face masks to clean skin so that it can get right to work without having to break through a layer of debris first.
Once your skin is clean but still damp, it’s time to apply the mask. Using clean hands, spread the mask onto the skin using small, circular motions. You don’t need to use too much — just enough to cover your face thoroughly or target your problem areas.
Let the mask dry for two to three minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
And finally, you must replace any lost moisture and replenish your skin’s moisture barrier by applying a supportive moisturizer once your skin is dry. Moisturizer is one of the most crucial steps in any skin care routine.
Other ways to deep clean your skin
Making sure that your skin is as clean as it can be is one of the best ways to keep your skin looking as radiant, youthful and clear as possible. This requires a combination approach, as no one product can do the job on its own.
Ready to really up the ante? Try an in-clinic skin treatment from one of Skin Pharm’s advanced practice providers. While charcoal masks and other at-home skin care products can help maintain your results, treatments can take your skin up a level.
Each of these skin treatments performs a slightly different job, from promoting collagen production to evening out the surface of the skin. Although they can’t be performed as frequently as you can use a charcoal mask (which can safely be used a few times a week), the results can be far more dramatic and long-lasting.
For additional at-home options, you may want to add a daily exfoliating agent to your routine.
One of the best skin care ingredients to do that is to use retinol. For many people, retinol is a holy grail ingredient. It is used to help speed up the rate that the skin cells on the face turn over, keeping them even more radiant and youthful.
The skin can take some time to adjust to retinol, so it’s best if you start by using it once or twice a week. Once your skin has adjusted (you’ll recognize this when it doesn’t feel as tight or sting when applying it), you can use it more frequently. It can also help minimize the side effects if you mix retinol with moisturizer, a process called “buffering.”
Retinol serums should be applied in your routine after you cleanse and tone, but before you moisturize (unless you’re buffering).
To wrap things up...
While many of the charcoal mask benefits have yet to be scientifically proven, there are still plenty of people who swear by them. Just make sure to wash your face first and follow it up with a quality skin care routine in the morning and before bed.
From products to procedures, Skin Pharm is here for all your skin care needs. Book a skin consult today and reveal your brightest, most radiant skin yet!
You might recognize Caroline Arapoglou as Rose Cameron on cult-favorite Netflix series Outer Banks.
With a hectic travel schedule and long days on set, the actress (and Atlantan) sought out Skin Pharm for acne management — and quickly became a fan of our BBL photofacial, a quick and easy light therapy treatment that treats breakouts, lightens sun spots and removes redness, too.