The Healthy Truth: What’s the deal with charcoal face masks?

The Healthy TruthDear Friends,

If you check your social media feed or frequent a beauty store, then you’re probably already familiar with charcoal face masks – they are everywhere! The web is full of viral videos of poor women ripping solid masks off their face all for the sake of obtaining clearer skin. (Beauty is pain, right?)


The concept of using activated charcoal on skin isn’t new, but it seems it is really getting a huge following in the beauty industry. You may think that this is just another trend that comes and goes, but there are actually good reasons to try activated charcoal on your skin. For starters, activated charcoal helps draw out bacteria, poisons, chemicals, dirt, and other micro-particles that lie deep within the skin. Essentially, these masks help detox the skin and offer it a deep cleanse, leaving you with a smooth and glowing complexion – and who doesn’t want that?

The problem is, some charcoal masks harden and must be peeled off. Although it may be satisfying to pull away all that dirt and grime and see it trapped on the mask, this home facial can do more harm than good.

Not only do these peel-away charcoal masks remove dirt and bacteria, but because they basically act like a glue they also remove good bacteria and skin cells, and enlarge those pores that you are trying to shrink! Kind of counterproductive, huh?

Some dermatologists suggest that baby-soft face you are experiencing after you manage to pull off one of those charcoal masks is a result of ripping off a layer of skin. Plus, those masks are also taking with them hair and good oils that your skin needs. These good oils offer your skin protection, meaning it becomes exposed to harmful elements once stripped off those oils.
In some cases, you may think you have just removed some blackheads when, in fact, those were sebaceous filaments, another way your skin is protected from harmful bacteria.

If reading this has scared you because you’ve recently (or previously) used a peel-off mask and now believe your skin is ruined, don’t stress too much. The good news is, your skin will return to normal within 30 days, but it’s important that you avoid any type of peel-off mask again in order to keep your skin healthy.

Now, with obvious benefits of charcoal masks on one hand and the inevitable dangers of the peel-off type on the other, you may be wondering how you can use activated charcoal to improve your skin.

For starters, many beauty companies produce a charcoal mask that is removed with water and a towel. For example, I am currently using the one from Origins which I find to be much gentler than a peel-off one. Although it does harden, causing your face to stiffen, it easily wipes away with a damp cloth, making it far less abrasive to the skin. Once washed off, my skin is left feeling smooth and soft, and my complexion is glowing.

If you are interested in trying a charcoal mask, you may want to keep in mind the importance of using a wash-away variety rather than a peel-off, as the latter will cause you more harm in the long run if you regularly rip away layers of skin along with beneficial oils.


If you’re unsure whether an activated charcoal mask is right for you, you can always speak to a beauty expert or a dermatologist to get their advice on the topic. In my experience, the occasional charcoal mask has done wonders for my skin, so I will keep it as a part of my skincare routine in the future.
Until next week,

Emily Lunardo

Related: Essential oils for aging skin: Preventing & treating wrinkles naturally

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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