You find activated charcoal in everything these days; face masks, face scrubs, face cleansers, toothpastes, the list goes on. Charcoal is being used for it’s excellent ability to absorb things; in the medical field activated charcoal is used to treat poisoning. It’s this strong ability to absorb that might be damaging your skin instead of doing it any good. Read on to find out why you should avoid charcoal in skincare products.
How does activated charcoal work?
Activated charcoal is a fine black powder made from wood or coal; it is activated using high temperatures combined with gas which significantly increases it’s surface area. It’s this large surface area that gives activated charcoal space to absorb substances, oils, dirt, impurities and the like.
Many brands and DIY masks are now including activated charcoal as a ‘must have’ ingredient, but here’s why you should think twice before using them:
Charcoal is highly absorbent
This is seen to be a good thing in skincare, especially for those that suffer from oily skin. Applying a charcoal treatment to oily skin can help absorb all that excess oil and impurity, leaving your skin ‘squeaky’ clean. This is good news….or is it?
The problem with a ‘squeaky clean’ skin finish that we all strive to achieve is that it really isn’t great for the skin. The skin is supposed to have natural oil secretions on it which keep the skin healthy and moisturised. By completely stripping the skin of these oils you could be compromising the natural lipid barrier.
Not only does this leave your skin more prone to environmental damage, but it also means you can suffer from dry skin or your sebaceous glands have to work overtime to counter this dryness. When you strip the skin of it’s natural oils, sebum production is increased to help hydrate the pores and skin. This can even lead to an oily complexion or breakouts, things you were trying to combat in the first place.
Charcoal peel masks are a harsh treatment
Those charcoal peel masks you’ve been seeing everywhere are often doing more harm than good. These masks strip the skin of it’s natural oils, and the adhesion to the skin can have disastrous effects. Some cheaper masks which include stronger ‘glues’ or adhesives which bind the mask to your face can cause skin irritation, peeling and redness.
What you’re effectively doing when using these activated charcoal masks is peeling or ripping the outermost layer of skin off. This can be problematic for those with sensitive skin, eczema, rosacea or related skin conditions. Even if you have healthy skin, continued use of these masks can make your complexion take a turn for the worst.
To sum it up
Activated charcoal has a large surface area which can readily absorb toxins, oils and impurities from the skin. This however means that the skin is stripped of all it’s oils, good and bad which can cause skin dryness or over-activity in the sebaceous glands. This can lead to skin oiliness, breakouts, irritation, redness and sensitivity.