Charcoal isn't just for flipping burgers on the grill: It actually does a lot of good for your skin, too. But before you run out the door and grab a bag of briquettes to give yourself an at-home facial, hold up: There’s a major difference between the kind you cook with and the kind you put on your face.
Unlike the charcoal you use at your barbeques that works as fuel, the kind that's buzzing in the beauty community is activated charcoal, a non-toxic substance that's been used in the medical world for years as a means to treat everything from drug overdoses to alcohol poisoning. When the activated charcoal comes in contact with your skin, it works in the same way it works inside the body: it basically sucks up all the toxins and pollutants hanging out, getting rid of dirt and oil in your pores.
Although there are lots of charcoal products on the market — including shampoos, body washes, and even toothpaste — one of the best things you can do for your skin is get a face mask. You might have seen those videos of DIY-charcoal-face-masks-gone-wrong floating around the internet where people have had to pretty much use the Jaws of Life to pry them off their faces. But rest assured: that won’t be the case for you, mostly because there will be no Elmer’s Glue anywhere near your face. Since quality charcoal masks do dig deep, acting like a magnet to pull out any gunk and grime on your skin, it might be a little uncomfortable or painful as you remove it, but nothing you can’t deal with. Plus, getting to see all your blackheads unclog is so ridiculously worth it.
When you buy a nice charcoal face mask, you won’t just reap the benefits of charcoal itself: you’ll also come away with other qualities unique to each product. There are charcoal face masks that absorb oil, ones that work to improve your skin's texture, ones that are killer exfoliators, and ones that help get rid of acne. Some varieties are thin and wash away, and others are thick and allow you to peel them right off your skin. It's totally a preference thing, and you can always start with something a little simpler and build up to something a little more intense. And if you have a beard or other facial hair, not a problem: Stick to applying the mask to the hair-free areas of your face, like your T-zone.
So, are you ready to get started? Jumping on the charcoal face mask bandwagon might just be the best thing you ever do for your skin. These picks will leave your skin looking smooth, radiant, and completely refreshed.
Dr. Jart+ Pore Minimalist Black Charcoal Sheet Mask
Let’s start off with something that’s not scary at all, shall we? If you want to dip your toes into the goodness of black charcoal without going full-out, try a sheet mask. This one features activated Korean charcoal, spearmint extract, and arginine that work together to detoxify and clarify your pores. To use it, cleanse your skin then apply the mask for 15-20 minutes. After the time is up, don’t rinse: just remove gently and massage the remaining serum into your skin.
$34.75 at Amazon.com
Azalea Charcoal Mask
It doesn't get purer than this charcoal mask from Azalea. Using nothing but organic rolled oats, lavender flowers, chamomile, bentonite clay, and activated charcoal, the chemical- and preservative-free mask deep cleans, exfoliates, and detoxifies your skin. Plus, it's fun to use it: Instead of just putting it on your face, you'll take a small dish, water, and a couple tablespoons of the mask to create a paste. After 6-10 minutes, remove it for luminous skin.
$16.00 at AzaleaSF.com
Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores
Origins’ famed charcoal mask does exactly what it promises: draws out those pesky pore-cloggers, absorbs toxins, and helps vanish any skin impurities. It’s perfect for those with acne; all you need to do is use it once a week. Just apply, let it dry, and rinse. You can also loosen the mask with a warm, wet washcloth to make removal even easier. Considering more than 95% of reviewers are obsessed with the product, you can't go wrong.
$22.50 at Amazon.com
Boscia Luminizing Black Mask
Great on all skin types — sensitive included! — this peel-off mask might be one of the more intense. But it's also one of the most effective. It definitely clings to your skin during the 30 minutes you'll leave it on for, but once you remove it and see everything it sucked up, you’ll already get excited to use it again. If you’d rather not do your entire face, you can also start off with Boscia’s Pore Purifying Black Strips that are applied across the bridge of the nose.
Black Mask — $44.99 at Amazon.com
Black Strips — $58.00 at Amazon.com
Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask
Anyone who hates their oversized pores will love this charcoal mask. Aside from absorbing oil, impurities, and pollutants, it also removes debris deep in your pores, making them appear much smaller after the gunk is out. After using it once or twice a week, you'll have noticeably refreshed skin.
$27.00 at Amazon.com
Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask
This mask is a favorite for a reason. Using a combination of Irish Moor Mud — aka a natural decomposition of herbs, flowers, and plants over thousands of years — some hijiki seaweed, volcanic ash, and activated charcoal, the mask will remove dirt, oil, and grime while nourishing your skin with vitamins and antioxidants at the same time. In the end, you'll improve fine lines and wrinkles and the appearance of your complexion and pores — and it only takes 10 minutes, 2-3 times per week.
$36.75 at Amazon.com
L'Oreal Paris Detox & Brighten Pure-Clay Mask
For something you can find everywhere from Target to your nearest drugstore, try L'Oreal Paris' clay mask. Combining charcoal with pure clay to capture deep impurities, the non-drying formula is easily removed with water after the 10- to 15-minute wait is up. Your skin will look bright, clean, and totally recharged — all for under $10.
$9.30 at Amazon.com
Bioré Self Heating One Minute Mask
If waiting 30 minutes to take off your mask sounds like a joke, how about sparing one minute instead? These masks from Bioré heat up under your fingers as you massage them into your face for 60 seconds. After removing, you'll notice a much softer complexion. Although it will undoubtedly make your skin feel good, it isn’t going to do as much good as the more powerful masks. But it definitely makes a difference.
$5.62 at Amazon.com
DIY Face Mask:
If you want to make your own charcoal mask, there’s one thing you should keep in mind: don’t use glue. There are plenty of DIY masks that combine glue with powdered charcoal, but it’s only going to irritate your skin. Instead, try this natural combination from YouTuber Anthony Deluca that will make your skin feel good as new.
- 3 capsules of activated charcoal
- bentonite clay
- 2-3 drops tea tree oil
- distilled water
To create the paste, combine equal parts activated charcoal and bentonite clay in a glass bowl. Add a little distilled water, and stir with a glass or plastic spoon. Add additional water, if necessary, until it becomes the right thickness. Cleanse your face, then apply the paste and leave it on for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.