As with every Internet fad and beauty hack, some are good, some are bad, and some are flat-out dangerous. One of the latest crazes is for charcoal beauty products, and at first, they seem like a great idea – after all, some ancient cultures used charcoal in their beauty routines. But modern medical knowledge sheds some new light on charcoal exfoliants. There are clear reasons why charcoal finally fell out of favor as a beauty aid.
Is charcoal bad for your skin? In a word, yes. The idea behind charcoal masks is simple: they supposedly "detoxify" your skin, kind of like pore strips. Dab them on, peel them off, and see the icky stuff come off in real time. The end goal is a clear, smooth face. That sounds great in theory, but in practice, charcoal is anything but skin-purifying. If you're still not convinced of the dangers of this trendy beauty aid, keep reading.
Warning: this video contains strong language, and who can blame her for using it?
From a viewer's standpoint, the countless videos on YouTube and Instagram of men and women removing their charcoal face masks are pretty funny. But they're screaming as if they're being skinned alive for a reason – the masks hurt like hell.
Dr. Anne Trussell of Sei Bella Med Spa in Arkansas cautions that you shouldn't have to suffer that much for beauty: "None of the things we do here [at the spa] are that painful. Even our strongest peels are not painful." Pain is a definite red flag.
Why do charcoal masks hurt so much to remove? That's because you're not so much exfoliating as you are removing a whole layer of skin. The smoothness that you feel immediately after the mask is removed is the result of ripping off the barrier that protects your face from the elements.
You know those things that look like blackheads on your nose? They're not really blackheads. Those are sebaceous filaments and they're supposed to be there.
Skin care expert Andy Millward from the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology posted his concerns about charcoal masks to social media:
"As for all those 'blackheads' it pulls out, the majority of the oils pulled from the skin will be sebaceous filaments and actually needed by the skin... blocked pores are entirely different to sebum lined pores. As a one off, the skin is likely to recover without issue but continued use, stripping away the skin's natural oils and irritating the skin is a sure fast track to secondary skin concerns. You have been warned!"
Warning: this video contains some strong language in response to a pretty horrific situation.
It isn't just skin and oil that get ripped away by a charcoal mask – you'll loose hair, too. Some of the hairs are fine vellus hairs, but others are thicker. Just asked this shocked YouTuber who lost an entire eyebrow to a mask.