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Are Charcoal Masks and Beauty Products Worth the Hype?

BY: Editors | Aug 24, 2017

Smearing something black on your face to make it cleaner seems counter intuitive, but the profusion of charcoal masks and beauty products now in the marketplace claim to do just that.

"It is commonly known within the industry that charcoal is the perfect detoxifying and natural ingredient," says aesthetician Sammy Sowa, the owner of Mud Facial Bar in Boulder, CO.

At Mud (which also has locations in North Carolina and Chicago), aestheticians perform charcoal mask detox facials designed to clear pores and reduce oil. How is that possible? Below, we take a closer look at the charcoal beauty trend to see why charcoal is so hot right now and find out if it's worth the hype.

Why is charcoal used in beauty products?

The theory is simple: activated charcoal powder, which medical professionals use to treat poisonings and drug overdoses, absorbs toxins before they can wreak havoc on the body. When used in beauty products, charcoal reportedly attracts things like dirt and oil, which cling to the charcoal until you rinse them away.

So how effective are charcoal masks or soaps?

Experts have mixed opinions and point out that more research is needed to determine the benefits of activated charcoal in skincare products, but aestheticians like Sammy swear by it.

"Charcoal is great for the skin, and I can personally attest to it! It detoxifies, pulls out impurities, bacteria, and blackheads," she says.

During detox facials at Mud, Sammy relies on charcoal masks created by an organic apothecary to treat oily and acne-prone skin. "We either apply the mask wholly to the client's face or we simply spot treat the oily areas such as the T-zone, depending on the client's specific skin type," she explains.

According to Sammy, the facial is one of the spa's most popular because of how the charcoal masks help balance oil production. "We also like to apply this mask after extracting blackheads because it will pull out any stubborn blackheads that we were unable to extract," she says.

Is there anyone who should avoid charcoal beauty products?

Though Sammy says people with oily skin benefit from using charcoal products—"charcoal is like a magnet to oil"—she explains that it's not great for dry skin. "Charcoal is typically drying, so you wouldn't want to further dry out the skin." People with sensitive skin may want to avoid charcoal as well because it can potentially irritate.

What should you look for when buying charcoal products?

Sammy suggests buying some of your own Mud masks to use at home, saying she especially likes how the ingredients are clean, organic, and vegan. Otherwise, she says to avoid using anything with alcohol in it, "especially if it's one of the first five ingredients."

If you want to buy charcoal powder to make your own mask at home, just know that it can be tricky. "As far as formulating your own charcoal mask, it can be done, but I would be careful because activated charcoal can get extremely messy and stain fabrics and carpet," Sammy cautions. "It's better to buy something over-the-counter that you trust."

Charcoal Beauty Products We Like

ClariSEA Deep Pore Detox Exfoliating Mask (from $13.99): This combines bamboo charcoal powder with oil-absorbing kaolin clay and exfoliating sea salt.

SpaLife Two-Step Charcoal Facial Mask and Facial Serum ($9.99): In this two-step at-home mask treatment, a facial serum floods skin with vitamins after charcoal vacuums out pores.

Passport to Organics Charcoal Face Wash ($16.99): Charcoal cleanses, black pepper energizes, and argan oil soothes and helps balance oil levels.

Bamboo Charcoal Soap (from $9.99): This basic charcoal bar soap can help fight body acne.

Konjac Charcoal Sponge ($11.99): This charcoal-infused sponge is made from the konjac plant's root fiber. After you soak it, it softens and gently exfoliates skin.