DIY Charcoal Masks

It's no secret that I am fond of DIY skincare. I will try most anything at least once, and I have been like this for years. When I was younger, things were easier as my skin was more oily and less sensitive. I could try most things myself without worrying about irritation and misery. As I've gotten older, my skin has changed a lot. I went from clear-but-oily skin to dry/sensitive-and-acne-prone skin. Life is weird.

One of the new trends in skin care is charcoal. It seems to be in everything, from pore strips (which are bad!) to facial sponges. Even department store beauty brands have jumped into the fray. Charcoal has a lot of uses, aside from the beauty related purposes. If you have stomach troubles, it might be worth investigating further. I'm going to stick to the external uses here, because I am not a doctor.

For cosmetic purposes, charcoal is supposed to be good for "pulling impurities" out of the skin. This sounds like a bit of bullshit, to be honest. Activated charcoal is good at absorbing things, and has a crazy-massive surface area.  One gram can have a surface area of more than 500m2. So it stands to reason that it would be good at absorbing excess oils. The only thing I worry about is the amount of abrasion that might go on when using it, but I can't find anything specifically saying "omgno!" when it comes to using this stuff. 

*I am not a doctor. Use this shit at your own risk, people. Be smart. Be careful*

Recipe No. 1: For Oily/Acne Prone Skin
  • activated charcoal: 2 capsules
  • aloe vera gel/juice: 2 tsp
  • rosewater: a squirt or two
  • tea tree oil: 1-2 drops

Add enough liquid/oil to make a wet paste. Everything but the tea tree is adjustable, because tea tree will burn your shit. I highly suggest you test a spot on your inner arm 24 hours prior to applying this to your face, or nixing the tea tree all together if you are worried. Mix everything together in a glass bowl, slather gently on your face, avoiding the eye area completely. Allow to dry, and rinse with warm water. Pat dry, and apply moisturizer if necessary.

Recipe No. 2: For Normal Skin
  • activated charcoal: 2 capsules
  • tea tree oil: 1 drop
  • oil of your choice (I used grapeseed + jojoba)
  • rosewater (if desired)

Add enough oil to make a smooth...goop I guess. Basically, mine looked like black oil. You can use less if you want to leave this on your face for a while, but I was worried about irritating my skin so wiped it off with a wet washrag*. Pat your face dry, and apply more oil//moisturizer as needed.

*Ok, don't freak out. After wiping the oil mask off my face, I noticed a lot of little black spots...charcoal in pores. Eek! No worries though, it is easily remedied by a gentle oil massage afterwards. Pour a little oil (jojoba/coconut/mineral) into your hands and smooth gently over your face. Using your ring and middle fingers, massage in circles for a few minutes. Then wipe gently with a clean rag. You can wash with a foamy cleanser afterwards if you feel like it. My face feels cleaner and smoother than normal after doing this.

I feel so official! I have actual opinions on this DIY, from someone other than me. My lovely friend Carmelita was kind enough to lend me her face (we have a very long history of cosmetic shenanigans together) and wrote up her opinion.

Oily/Acne Prone Mask:
I would use this regularly.  I found it easy to apply with a brush.  The consistency was so much lighter than my usual clay masks which was a nice change of pace. This mask feels really good on.  It's tingly and refreshing. As it hardens it gives that same tightening feeling I love about my clay masks.  I brushed it on a little too high on the apples of my cheeks and that area did feel a little intense before I rinsed off. (I think this is because I put a drop too much tea tree oil in there) This mask was definitely the stronger of the two.  After 7 minutes I washed the mask off and my skin felt very smooth and clean.  It was a little tight feeling so I followed up with moisturizer.  Once I was properly moisturized my face felt amazing. The nice toned, clean feeling carried into the next day.  I am sold!  My skin is oily all over and acne prone in the T zone but it's also very sensitive. I didn't experience any allergic reaction or breakouts from using this mask. Love it!
Normal Skin Mask:
This mask had some definite pluses but I still prefer the other one.  The oil mask was very different from what I'm used to but I was surprised at how easy it was to apply and that it didn't run.  This mask didn't tingle or tighten like the cream version.  It was more relaxing and soothing which was nice.  I could see this mask being good for the winter months when my skin gets dry following acne treatment.  The oil mask was messier to take off.  I wiped most of it off but there was definitely a residue so I washed my face.  My face feels soft but doesn't feel as clean as it did following the first mask. I would use this mask again to help with winter chapped skin or dryness following acne products but it wouldn't be part of my weekly regimen.

Links and Resources:

this post originally appeared on Pretty Girl Science on 11 June, 2014. It has been represented here by permission of the original author...which is me. Yay.