This Is Why You Should Probably Stop Using Peel-Off Charcoal Masks

May 2, 2017

They could be doing more harm than good.

As a beauty editor, I’m pretty much a guinea pig for any new treatment or product that hits the market. Whether it’s Keratin hair straightening, lash lifts, or 24k gold facials, I’m always keen to road-test it, especially if there’s a lot of hype about it on the interwebs.

This was – and arguably still is – the case with peel-off charcoal masks.

Videos of beauty bloggers stripping goopy black masks off their noses revealing hundreds of tiny but oddly satisfying blackheads started popping up on all my feeds a few months ago.

So, in the name of investigative journalism (okay, and pure vanity), of course I tried it (and reviewed it here). The gist of my experience, is the mask didn’t really clear my blackhead-ridden nose as well as I’d expected it to, however, it did seem to remove dead skin cells and leave my skin noticeably smoother, therefore creating an excellent base for my makeup – or so I thought.

That is until skin therapist and formulator for Balense Skin Care, Wendy Reiner, explained to me just why my skin felt so baby soft after using the peel-off charcoal mask.

“Once applied and completely dry, the physical action of removing a charcoal mask from the skin can contribute to the tearing of collagen elastin and other fibres, as well as micro-tearing and causing micro-trauma to the skin,” the skin expert revealed.

The more I thought about it, the more what she said made sense to me. While peel-off masks have been around for decades, the charcoal ones seem a lot harder to remove. It is actually quite painful to pull the mask away from your skin, but since I have a fairly high pain threshold, it didn’t bother me much.

Other women with seemingly lower pain thresholds, however, have found it very difficult to peel the masks off. One young woman in particular, filmed herself screaming in agony while trialling a charcoal mask, the video has gone viral mostly for its entertainment factor, but what it really should have done is alarm us to the possible harm we’re causing to our skin.

While the mask seemed to remove impurities and dead skin cells when I used it, I’m now fairly certain it also removed a healthy layer of skin as well, which would explain why my face looked quite red after removing it.

As charcoal strips the skin from its natural oils, it’s also important to note it’s not suited to dry skin, and even on oily skin, it shouldn’t be used too often, as while it might temporarily reduce oiliness, it also strips away essential protective oils that form a barrier between the skin and environmental influences.

So if you’re hell bent on giving the charcoal mask trend a try, Reiner suggests first wetting the dried mask before peeling it off to reduce friction, or even better, swapping out a charcoal-based mask for one containing gentler ingredients, like salicylic acid, and other advanced enzymatic exfoliators, which won’t cause any tears or trauma.

Video via youtube.com.

Comment: Have you ever used a charcoal mask? What was your experience like with it?

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