Charcoal Peel Off Face Masks: Are They Effective?

Tearing through the beauty scene is one of the biggest trends of the moment: charcoal peel off face masks. Just one quick scroll through Instagram or YouTube will show you beauty gurus and everyday folks alike pasting the black gloop on their faces and (while often cringing) peeling it off to examine the extracted impurities. As shown in this video uploaded by channel Tiff and Cari, its clear this process can be quite … uncomfortable.

Screenshot taken from Tiff and Cari

Given the pain, we’ve got ourselves wondering: are these charcoal peel off masks as effective as they seem?

Charcoal Medicinal Qualities

First of all, let’s take a look at the medicinal qualities of activated charcoal – that is, charcoal that has undergone a heating process to destroy toxins and increase its porosity. The first recorded medicinal use of activated charcoal is when Egyptian papyri (1500 B.C.) used it to absorb horrible odours from decaying intestinal tracts. In 400 B.C., Hippocrates pointed to charcoal as a treatment of many diseases, like anthrax and epilepsy.

When looking to nature, the most cited example of animals using charcoal medicinally concerns the African Red Colobus monkeys. According to authors Struhsaker, Cooney, and Siex in Charcoal Consumption by Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkeys, these primates digest charcoal after eating toxic leaves and fruits. In the modern world, hospitals continue to house activated charcoal, especially for poisoning cases, as it works to remove toxins in the body.

When it comes to frustrating clogged pores, activated charcoal is a winner yet again. It binds itself to oxidised impurities, which can then be washed away. So that gives charcoal peel off masks a big thumbs up, right? Well, not completely.

Peeling Repercussions

The peeling action of some face masks can actually do more harm than good – especially as some DIY masks and those bought in-store can contain Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) which is a strong adhesive ingredient used in powerful glues. In an interview with Bustle, Dr. Prystowsky explains that peel-off masks give the illusion of blackhead-free skin. However, she says they only remove the blackheads’ keratin plugs, still leaving behind the dirt, oils, and impurities behind.

Facialist Andy Millward says peel off face masks basically strips off the top layer of skin and precious vellus hair, which results in that silky smooth feeling. This action also removes essential oils and protective cells, which are important to support healthy skin and avoid harmful pollutants, dryness, and irritation. If you have active acne breakouts, using these peels could result in further damage to the skin surface layer and trigger adverse skin reactions.

Blackheads you’re trying to tackle with peel off masks might not even be blackheads at all, but rather necessary sebaceous filaments. These can be confused with blackheads as they appear grey from the oxidised sebum. When ripping off a mask, you’re pulling out these filaments only to have them re-form within 30 days – in other words, the root causes of blackheads (a form of acne) which occur inside your body are not addressed at all.

What to Use Instead

So what products should you turn to if you’re looking to unclog and purify your pores? If you’re dealing with persistent blackheads, it may be prudent to speak to a professional dermatologist and understand which path is the best treatment for you.

SkinB5’s founder, inventor, and MD Judy Cheung-Wood suggests sufferers to understand the root causes of skin congestions, which are similar to what lead to pimples or acne breakouts – mainly hormonal fluctuations and overactive sebum production, and exacerbated stress and weak immunity.  SkinB5’s innovative approach to effectively treat all types of acne (including whiteheads and blackheads) is using powerful nutritional supplements that contain ingredients at a higher potency to target these root causes simultaneously and therefore effectively control the condition, working to support inner body chemistries to achieve clear skin without side effects rather than just treating the symptoms on the surface.

A gentler way to improve the treatment of sebaceous filaments is by using salicylic acid. Take a look at SkinB5’s Acne Control Cleanser, which features no more than 0.5% salicylic acid among other acne-fighting ingredients to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin without the tearing pain. To purify deeply, add SkinB5’s Skin Purifying Mask to your skincare arsenal. This product features ingredients like French Green Clay, avocado oil, and Australian Great Barrier Reef sea minerals, which naturally control bacteria, extract impurities and nourish the skin. Judy also suggests a natural sea sponge or a good quality cotton face cloth to wash off the SkinB5 cleanser and mask – a skin-friendly, low cost and effective way to exfoliate the skin daily.

­­The next time you’re tempted to use a peel off face mask, just remember while good intentioned, it may hinder or further damage, not improve, your skin’s conditions. If you have any tips or want to share your thoughts on Charcoal Face Masks, head over to our Instagram and Facebook pages.