Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Charcoal Masks for Acne: Benefits, How to Use One and More

  • Charcoal masks contain activated charcoal, an ingredient believed to detoxify skin
  • These masks can target acne symptoms by absorbing excess oil and through deep exfoliation to clear and tighten pores 
  • Peel-off masks should be used with caution, as they are damage skin when used too often or improperly
  • Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two well-known alternative ingredients that are proven to effectively treat acne

Charcoal face masks can draw excess oil and dirt from deep within pores and exfoliate dead skin cells to refresh and clarify skin. Activated charcoal is the key ingredient found within these masks and is an established treatment to detoxify the body by filtering out undigested toxins and harmful drugs before they can be absorbed. While there is a paucity of research on the topic, a charcoal mask for acne is believed to deliver the same purifying effect. 

Are Charcoal Masks Good for Acne-Prone Skin?

Activated charcoal is a very porous material that is highly effective in absorbing contaminant substances. Studies have established that it is an effective treatment for moderate-to-severe poisoning. As such, charcoal masks are believed to be beneficial for acne-prone skin, by providing the same strong detoxifying effect. 

While there is a consensus that skin care products containing charcoal can help treat acne, this theory is not yet backed by science. However, it has been established to be safe as a topical application. 

Of note is that the type of mask used will produce varying results. You may choose between peel-off or rinse-off masks but sheet masks are not recommended for acne-prone skin as these can worsen acne by trapping bacteria and oil on the skin.

Most peel-off masks contain glue and are physically removed once dried. This peeling action draws dead skin cells, debris and excess oil from the skin but may be too harsh for some skin types. Rinse-off masks are a gentler option, but results will depend on the active ingredients. 


In theory, the absorbent properties of activated charcoal can deeply cleanse pores to target bacteria, excess oils and debris – the prime drivers of acne formation. This action also reduces the appearance of enlarged pores and draws out blackheads. Charcoal masks can therefore be used to both treat active acne and as a preventative measure. 

The slightly abrasive charcoal particles also work to effectively exfoliate dry, dead skin cells resulting in a smoother, even appearance. 

Side effects

Charcoal masks can cause a number of side effects, including:

  • Dryness: While charcoal can effectively absorb excess oils, it can also strip away too much of your skin’s natural protective oils, leading to dry, flaky skin
  • Exacerbates acne: Stripping your sin of natural oils can cause sebaceous glands to react by overproducing oil; this can cause pores to become blocked and cause worsening acne
  • Irritation: Peeling off a mask too quickly can damage and irritate skin, leaving it red and tender to the touch

How to Use a Charcoal Mask for Acne

Masks should be applied to freshly washed skin to allow for better absorption of the active ingredients. For best results, use a cleanser with proven acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 

For either method, tie back your hair and do not exceed the suggested time as skin can become irritated. 

To apply a rinse-off mask:

  1. Using your fingertips or a small brush to gently apply the paste to the cheeks, chin and forehead; avoid the eyes, eyebrows and lip area
  2. Allow to rest for 10–15 minutes
  3. Rinse with warm water and continue with your skin care routine

To apply a peel-off mask:

  1. Using your fingertips or a small brush to gently apply the paste to the cheeks, chin and forehead; avoid the eyes, eyebrows and lip area
  2. Allow to rest for 10–15 minutes
  3. Ensure the peel is completely dry; then gently and slowly peel away the mask, beginning at the top of your face
  4. Rinse with warm water and continue with your skin care routine


For best results and to limit side effects, always follow the directions provided on the product packaging. To avoid irritation, it is advised to limit their use to once per week.

To prevent dryness and to maintain the health of your skin, follow with a hydrating  noncomedogenic moisturizer. This step is especially important if you are using a charcoal mask in combination with other topical acne treatment such as benzoyl peroxide, which is understood to be particularly drying. 

Those with sensitive acne-prone would benefit by opting for a moisturizer that includes soothing ingredients such as aloe vera for its healing and moisturizing properties or ceramides, which can protect the skin’s natural barrier and prevent moisture loss.

Charcoal Masks for Acne Scars

The slightly abrasive nature of charcoal masks can effectively exfoliate skin, and this quality may be beneficial in reducing the appearance of acne scars by improving texture over time. 

However, there is no scientific evidence to support that these masks can be an effective treatment for acne scars.


There are several ingredients that have been proven to be effective for acne-prone skin. Benzoyl peroxide is the cornerstone of acne treatment as it can kill acne-causing bacteria,  regulate oil production and heal inflammatory acne. Medicated masks with this key ingredient can penetrate clogged pores to remove impurities and provide a deep cleanse.    

Salicylic acid is another well-known acne-fighting ingredient that has been shown to effectively exfoliate and maintain clear pores, balance oil production and address redness and inflammation.


The porous nature of the activated charcoal within charcoal masks is its greatest strength. This material is known to draw out blackheads, dirt and debris, and balance oil production to treat and prevent acne breakouts. In addition, it can exfoliate flaky skin and tighten enlarged pores to smooth and brighten skin. 

Because research has established that activated charcoal is very effective in absorbing toxins in the body, it is believed this same benefit could be had as a topical solution, such as in a face mask. However, this effect has not been studied.

Science does support the use of face masks that contain benzoyl and peroxide salicylic acid. These two agents have been found to effectively treat acne through their antibacterial and exfoliating qualities, respectively.

The post Charcoal Masks for Acne: Benefits, How to Use One and More appeared first on Derm Collective.

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