How to apply a charcoal face mask & the types available

In recent years, the skincare industry has become more aware of the beneficial properties of activated charcoal. It has grown into a hugely popular component of many people's skincare routines. You will find charcoal in a range of products, including cleansers, soaps and exfoliators. Face masks are an often-overlooked skincare addition that can unlock the full potential of activated charcoal.

Applying a face mask is a powerful way to allow your skin to absorb the cleansing and healing properties of the active ingredients. Charcoal face masks can treat and prevent facial issues such as acne and blackheads. In this article, we will look at why charcoal face masks are a great option for your skincare routine and walk you through the dos and don'ts of using a charcoal face mask.

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Read about the key benefits of charcoal face masks and whether it is the right choice for your skin.

Expert tips on applying a charcoal mask correctly to achieve the maximum benefits.

Read the common mistakes people make when applying face masks to ensure you avoid making these errors.

Find out how often you can apply a charcoal face mask.

Charcoal masks often contain different ingredients and are available in different formulas. Read our guide to choosing the best one for you.

Frequently asked questions on the benefits of charcoal masks and how to apply them.

Is a charcoal face mask the right choice for you?

The main benefit of activated charcoal is that it is highly absorbent. When applied to the face, charcoal is extremely effective at drawing chemicals and toxins out of the skin. The people who will see the greatest benefit from charcoal face masks are those with oily skin. If you have very dry skin and use charcoal masks frequently, you may find that a charcoal face mask causes your skin to dry out as the activated charcoal absorbs moisture.

The key benefits of charcoal are as follows:

  • It can help improve acne
  • It can remove impurities to restore that all-important chemical balance
  • It clears dirt off the skin
  • It unclogs pores to avoid blackheads

Charcoal offers a deep cleanse for your skin and is even known to soothe insect bites and skin irritations (source), as it is capable of drawing out toxins and reducing swelling.

How to apply a charcoal face mask

In order to get the most out of a charcoal face mask, it's important to follow the correct procedures when applying it. Here are the steps you should follow to do it right:

  • Cleanse your skin before use. Cleansing first will remove oil and dirt from the surface of the skin that would otherwise act as a barrier between the face mask and your skin, reducing its effectiveness. It also helps to open your pores, so you get maximum results from a charcoal mask.
  • Apply the face mask evenly over your entire face. Ensure you use gentle, circular motions with your hands or a soft brush. Avoid applying it too close to your eyes and lips.
  • Leave the face mask on for the length of time recommended in the instructions. Usually, you should leave a face mask on for seven to ten minutes. Don't leave it for longer as it will begin to draw moisture from your skin.
  • Rinse off the mask gently using warm water.
  • Dry your face with a clean, soft towel. Don't rub the towel on your skin - you should simply press it against your face to dry it.
  • Apply a moisturiser that will not clog your pores. A moisturiser will prevent your skin from becoming dry after using a charcoal mask.
black clay mineral face mask

Common mistakes when applying charcoal masks

There are some common errors that people make when applying charcoal face masks that can reduce its effectiveness. Avoid making these mistakes if you want to get the most out of the process:

  • Applying on a dirty face - if you don't cleanse your face first, the activated charcoal will not be able to do its work properly.
  • Applying too much of the product - this can make it uncomfortable as it dries and is harder to remove. It can also cause the charcoal to draw too much moisture from the skin, leaving you feeling dry and itchy.
  • Leaving it on for too long - again, this can cause your skin to become too dry.
  • Using it too often - if you use the face mask every day, you will put your skin through too much and will probably begin to feel irritation.
  • Using a product that doesn't agree with your skin - everyone's skin is different and activated charcoal won't be for everyone. As a general rule, it is best suited to people with naturally oily skin. Try testing it on a small patch of skin first.
  • Forgetting to moisturise the skin afterwards -activated charcoal works hard on your skin to remove impurities, toxins and unclog pores. It can cause the skin to feel dry in the process, so a gentle moisturiser is important.

How often should you apply a charcoal face mask?

For most people, applying a charcoal face mask twice a week will be plenty to keep issues with oil and impurities under control. If you have particularly oily skin, it may be necessary to use it a maximum of 3-4 times per week.

Choosing the best charcoal face mask for you

Different charcoal masks can target different issues, so it's important to pick the right one for your needs. Here are the different types:

Peel-off charcoal masks

These masks set into a solid layer on your skin and bind to the dirt that clogs your pores. When you peel the mask off, it pulls off the outermost layer of skin and any dirt or toxins in the pores. Peel-off masks are particularly beneficial for removing blackheads.

black charcoal peel face mask

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Bubble masks

These masks react with the air to bubble and fizz once applied to the skin. This helps the active ingredient get into your pores and work harder for you. They are useful for removing excess dirt and oils from the skin.

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Charcoal clay masks

The active ingredients in a charcoal and clay mask draw out chemicals and toxins from deep within your pores. They can provide great results when used to help skin conditions such as acne. Bentonite clay is commonly used in charcoal and clay masks, which features minerals including calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron, and potassium. It can help remove sebum or oil from the skin’s surface, and it may also have a calming effect on inflamed breakouts (source).

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Charcoal combined with other ingredients such as black tea, tea tree and algae

Combine the properties of activated charcoal with those of other active ingredients to target more complex skincare needs. These masks provide multiple benefits depending on your concern.

Black tea can reduce puffiness and blemishes and prevent signs of ageing (source). Tea tree, on the other hand, has antibacterial properties which are effective in treating acne symptoms. The results of one study, involving 14 participants with acne, support the use of tea tree oil for treating acne. Tea tree also contains anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can also be useful in preventing itching and soothing irritated skin (source). Algae has demonstrated anti-ageing properties by inhibiting enzymes that break down collagen in the skin (source).

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Applying charcoal face masks: Frequently asked questions

Are charcoal facemasks good for acne?

Activated charcoal is good for acne-prone skin because it absorbs and pulls out hardened sebum, dirt, dead skin cells from the pores.

You can read more about face masks for acne here.

Does a charcoal face mask remove blackheads?

Charcoal face masks are effective at clearing congested pores to remove blackheads. Peel-off face masks are particularly good for this.

You can read our full guide to face masks for minimising pores here.

Is a charcoal face mask good for you?

As long as you follow the right processes and avoid common mistakes, charcoal face masks are good for many people. However, everyone's skin is different, so they won't be right for every skin type. We recommend avoiding using charcoal masks frequently if you have dry skin. You should also be careful not to use charcoal masks too often if you have sensitive skin.

If you are looking for a mask to hydrate the skin, you can read about hydrating face masks here.

Do charcoal face masks stain clothes?

If you get the activated charcoal on your clothes, it can leave a stain. However, there are plenty of guides online to help minimise that stain or even eliminate it completely.

Are charcoal face masks supposed to burn?

No - if you feel a burning or other irritation on your skin then remove the face mask and don't use it again. Consult a skincare specialist to find an alternative that will work for you.

What results do charcoal peel-off masks produce?

By removing the outermost layer of skin and hair from your face, charcoal peel-off masks leave a layer of healthy, fresh skin. They also pull dirt and toxins from deep within your pores so that your skin looks soft and smooth.

Find out more about using face mask sheets here.

Can you apply a charcoal mask daily?

This is not recommended as it is likely to dry your skin and leave it feeling irritated and uncomfortable.

Can charcoal remove dark spots?

Yes, it can - it is known to brighten and revitalise the skin, reducing the appearance of dark spots for a healthy, glowing complexion.

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