Spotlight on Ingredients - Activated Charcoal in Peel-Off Masks

June 13, 2017

Spotlight on Ingredients - Activated Charcoal in Peel-Off Masks

According to Google Trends, activated charcoal peel-off masks are all the rage.

Most of us are familiar with charcoal briquettes for grilling. Common charcoal is manufactured out of coal, peat, wood, petroleum or even coconut shells. “Activated charcoal” means it's been treated to increase its absorbency. The charcoal develops internal spaces or "pores" making it like a micro-sponge that allows it to trap substances. 

In medicine, activated charcoal is mostly used in poisoning cases, where a large dose is fed to the patient alongside other treatments. A lot of the poison sticks to the charcoal instead of absorbing into the body.

In skincare, surfactants (surface active agents like Coco Betaine found in facial washes to creates a high foaming lather) don’t really get into pores. Activated charcoal is being added to cleansers, face masks, tooth polishes, capsules, and even juices. The theory behind including activated charcoal in beauty products is that it will act like a magnet to attract and absorb dirt and oil. And the experts say that theory holds water. "When dirt and oil in your pores come in contact with the carbon, they stick to it and then get washed away when you rinse," explains cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson.

There are plenty of activated charcoal peel-off masks in the marketplace. The internet is also full of DIY peel off face mask recipes. One that went viral, and one that we feel deserves an extra warning includes mixing Elmers or a school craft glue with powdered charcoal to make a cheap DIY peel-off mask. The idea is that the glue will dry on your face and act as a blackhead remover, while the charcoal pulls out the toxins in your skin. Keep in mind that even though Elmer's glue is "safe and non-toxic," that doesn't mean it's hypoallergenic.  And it could have the effect of doing just the opposite  of its intended purpose. 

California-based dermatologist Christine Choi Kim told Seventeen Magazine:

"This charcoal and glue mixture could actually clog pores, leading to blemishes. Sensitive skin types may react to the stripping action of peeling off dried glue which removes the top protective layers of the epidermis and could lead to rashes [and] dryness."

Another problem is suspending the activated charcoal in glue will keep it on the skin surface. In studies on activated charcoal, it typically takes a few hours for it to take its full effect. In these studies it’s added bare, in powdered form, to a water based solution which results in much faster absorption. 

If like us, you prefer to keep your exposure to synthetic and harsh chemicals sometimes found in commercial products and want to try your own DIY mask recipes, there are some safe DIY recipes out there. 

We will be posting our fave DIY activated charcoal peel-off mask recipe in the near future.

f you have ever used one, you know the peeling off the mask feels pretty great. It's a pampering kind of experience. A small luxury. Especially if candles are involved, or a glass of wine. And here at Island Thyme Soap Company we are all about luxury experiences!

Do we claim it will do magical wonders or cure skin problems? Pull out blackheads like a magnet? No. There’s no published scientific evidence activated charcoal peel-off masks work, but it could theoretically work, it looks kinda cool, it’s inexpensive and it’s not harmful…which is more than we can can say for a lot of other beauty treatments!





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