By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Activated charcoal masks have become a popular facial treatment, available both at spas and over the counter at stores.
“A charcoal mask is detoxifying and can help people who suffer from blemishes and acne,” said Therese Oaks, aesthetician at Luxe Spa in Rochester. “It is tightening and can be clarifying for sure.”
Users apply 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, the user then allows 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. A charcoal mask may also be used in problem areas that are prone to excess oil. The masks can pull hair during the process of mask removal.
Elizabeth Flaherty, owner of The Mask Room in Webster is a licensed aesthetician and has used charcoal masks for years, among the other types of masks she offers.
“It’s been pretty popular in the dermatology world,” she said. “Charcoal masks basically balance the sebum and oil in your skin. They’re typically used for acne-prone and oily skin.
“Charcoal has a boding agent to it so it’s used for quite a few things. They bond with most substances quite well. That’s why they’re great for detoxifying. Normally, they have an exfoliation property to them as well.”
For this reason, charcoal masks are not recommended for dry skin. Oddly, many people aren’t accurate in understanding their skin’s issues, according to Flaherty.
“People with oily skin may have dehydrated skin as well,” Flaherty said. “They may have skin flaking off and skill have acne. A lot of people confuse dry skin with dehydrated skin.”
This is why seeking help from a skin care professional can help determine what’s going on and what products can help keep the skin clear without blemishes or flaking.
Flaherty said that the charcoal masks available at stores tend to have more of a glue-like consistency, which can make them peel right off. Especially if they are overused, they can cause irritation.
“If you’re overusing them, you can take out too much oil or leave your skin un-hydrated so you have more dry skin than oily,” Flaherty explained. “If you use it too much your body thinks, now I need to make more oil. You could end up with more oil coming out of you.”
As for how often is often enough, that depends upon many factors, such as skin type, age and hormone levels. It may be as often as weekly initially and then every month thereafter.
“Charcoal masks are great for your skin,” Flaherty said. “If overused, it can peel off some of your skin, so you could end up with some redness.”