By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Activated charcoal masks have become a popular facial treatment, available at many spas in the area. Overall, they are pretty effective.
“In general, charcoal masks work by removing the oils in the skin,” said Dan Bryan, board-certified dermatologist with Dermatology Consultants in East Syracuse. “A lot of people like to use them if they have very oily skin or prominent pores. The charcoal will suck up the oil and unclog the pores. After people finish using them, their skin feels very smooth and their pores aren’t clogged.”
Those applying charcoal masks place a warm towel to the face to open pores. Next, they apply the charcoal mask to the skin with either clean fingertips or a brush, keeping care to avoid the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, hairline and inside the nose. Once they’re done applying the mask, they allow it to dry for 10 to 15 minutes before removing it. Depending upon the type of mask used, they may peel it off and clean off any leftover bits with a wet washcloth or clean it off entirely with a wet washcloth.
“The one caveat is to patients with eczema or who are prone to skin allergies or rosacea, many charcoal masks can aggravate the skin as they have plant oils and chemicals people can be allergic to,” Bryan said. “If you have a background like this, be careful.”
People with oily areas such as the “T-zone” of the forehead, nose and chin, sometimes use a charcoal mask in only that area and a moisturizing mask on drier areas of the cheeks.
Joyce Farah, dermatologist with Syracuse-based Farah Dermatology, said that activated charcoal is used in toxicology to remove excess oil. To obtain the desired outcome, “you have to know the source of the mask,” Farah said. “It matters where you buy the mask from. Look to a U.S. company, where there is a little more regulation. It’s better that buying online where you don’t know where it’s coming from. These masks are usually sold in dermatology offices that are better regulated.”
A charcoal mask may be used about once every couple of weeks for a deep cleaning; however, those with skin conditions such as sensitivity, atopic dermatitis, eczema, or broken skin should ask a doctor before using a charcoal mask.
Because they tend to remove oil, charcoal masks are not recommended for dry skin. Oddly, many people aren’t accurate in understanding their skin’s issues. Farah said that seeking guidance from a dermatologist or aesthetician is a good course of action because they can help determine the client’s skincare needs.
“Charcoal masks are fine if you are using the right product for your skin,” Farah said.
For people with sensitive skin, she said it can lead to a blister-like reaction and long-term or even permanent discoloration.
“If you’re applying a mask or any product and it’s painful, take it off,” she said. “You can put a little of it on the inside of your wrist or elbow for the required time to test it.”