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DIY Don’t: Charcoal Masks

Contact Author Lisa Schryver
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They’re all the rage on YouTube, but at-home, do-it-yourself charcoal masks can actually cause more harm than good.

Jacqueline Wachsman, brand manager for Body Drench strongly advises against the use of DIY charcoal masks. Here’s why.

“Many DIY charcoal masks literally contain household glue, which has never been meant for contact with skin,” she said. “Once peeled off, it may seem as though the glue-infused mask is effective at pulling out blackheads, but it actually does cause damage to skin. Essentially, the glue is pulling off a protective layer of skin, along with essential oils that should remain in the skin’s pores.”

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Wachsman notes that while using a DIY charcoal mask may not cause permanent damage after one use, it may permanently damage the skin after repeated applications.

The Hype

From a client’s point of view, it seems almost too good to be true: You can create a seemingly effective charcoal mask with easily obtainable ingredients. The most-viewed YouTube video featuring a DIY charcoal mask has over 36 million views. In this case, the beauty vlogger’s DIY concoction included Elmer’s glue, activated charcoal pills and peppermint extract.

“Activated black charcoal—carbon that has been treated to increase its absorbency—is a highly effective detoxifying ingredient,” said Wachsman. “However, peppermint extract, which should not be confused with peppermint oil, is a cooking ingredient and not an element to be used as part of any skin care regimen. It contains up to 89% alcohol, so, once applied, it excessively dehydrates the skin.”

“Essentially, the glue is pulling off a protective layer of skin, along with essential oils that should remain in the skin’s pores.” –Jacqueline Wachsman, brand manager for Body Drench

Wachsman says that at first it may seem as though the alcohol is ridding the skin of excess oil; however, this is only temporary and will actually trigger the skin to produce even more oil later on.

“Regardless of the benefits of activated charcoal, the harm that Elmer’s glue and peppermint extract can have on the skin is not with the fad,” said Wachsman.  

The Right Way

Of course, home care is important and charcoal masks can be useful for certain skin types. However, advise clients to purchase a charcoal mask formulated with quality ingredients and from a reputable company.

“When looking through the plethora of charcoal masks out there on the market, everyone—professionals and consumers alike—should steer clear of those that include any adhesives,” said Wachsman. “In addition to activated charcoal, one should look for those that contain skin-soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera extract, bamboo and sea buckthorn.”