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Activated Charcoal Face Mask – The Right Way
Activated charcoal and bentonite clay have an important attributes in common, they are both negatively charged. Most of my face mask recipes make wonderfully colored masks like right out of a spa. But not this one.
Activated Charcoal is stark black, don’t worry, this does not stain your skin.
I love this face mask because the 2 main ingredients, bentonite clay and activated charcoal absorb toxins, chemicals and heavy metals from your skin. They both attract those nasty impurities like magnets.
They also both swell to a much larger size when mixed with liquid.
I’ll share with you why this mask instructions is the “right way”. I’ve looked at many of the activated charcoal recipes online. None of the recipes I have found take into account the PH of the face mask recipes. And it’s SO important you keep PH in mind when applying products to your face. Just like we should be keeping PH in mind to keep our body balanced through our diet.
Keep reading and I’ll get into all the details below!
I am all about using the raw ingredients for my skincare and face masks. If I can, I will avoid using products with nasty chemicals or harmful preservatives. Because I have learned so much about what the side effects of some of these products can do.
That also means I stay away from products that are manufactured in countries that don’t have as strict of manufacturing guidelines as we do here in North America. Ahem, China.
Did you know that the FDA regulates cosmetic labelling, but not the actual cosmetic ingredients or manufacturing process?
There are some really great brands on Amazon that have great skin care products. But there are also a lot of brands on Amazon that simply re-label products from chinese manufacturers. I’ve seen this soooo much with activated charcoal.
So stick to the raw products, and simply mix a clay mask up as you need.
We source all our clay from France, Morroco and United States and package it here in Canada. Our facial clay assortment pack has enough clay for this face mask recipe plus 24+ face mask applications. And it not only includes Bentonite, but also some of my favorite types of clay, Kaolin, Rhassoul and French Green Clay.
Let’s dive right in!
- What are the benefits of activated charcoal for your skin?
- Should you try the activated charcoal peel off mask?
- What are the benefits of Bentonite Clay for your skin?
- What is the “Right” way to do an Activated Charcoal Mask?
- Bentonite Clay and Activated Charcoal Mask Ingredients
- Bentonite Clay and Activated Charcoal Mask Application Instructions
Clay does an pretty cool cation exchange to remove impurities from your skin (more info on how clay works here). Activated charcoal is said to also adsorb chemicals and heavy metals from your skin. But I’m the analytical type, so I like to know how they work. Keep reading for the benefits or click the link just above to skip to the ingredients.
Activated Charcoal Benefits for your Skin
There is a LOT of information on the internet with claims for the benefits of activated charcoal. I don’t like to throw out claims that are not backed or linked to a study that demonstrates claims. After doing a bunch of research, the biggest consensus I could find is that there are no studies conducted for the efficacy of activated charcoal in skincare.
Activated Charcoal has come into the spotlight following it’s use for hundreds of years in hospitals as a detox treatment. So if you ingested large quantities of acetaminophen, or other dangerous poisons, you would be treated with activated charcoal.
I really liked the potential scientific breakdown from lab muffin on activated charcoal.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is normally made of bamboo, coconut or wood. The resulting “activated” charcoal is from high temperatures combined with an activating agent. This expands its surface area so that there are many low volume nooks and crannies in each charcoal particle. This expanded surface area is available to adsorb. (wikipedia)
Remember, there’s a difference between absorbing and adsorbing. Taken from what we learned in how clay works. Absorb is when the the liquid is dissolved into. Adsorb is when the atoms, ions or molecules from a substance adhere to the surface of the adsorbent.
The largely porous particle of activated charcoal adsorbs to some chemicals, drugs and pesticides. There is little research that indicates what chemicals the activated charcoal is effective on.
But all this being said, activated charcoal has been deemed safe for topical and internal use. Please see your doctor for internal use guidelines. And if they do work as described, even without the proven studies, then hey there’s no harm in trying.
To be honest, I have used activated charcoal by itself in a face mask and in clay face masks. I have noticed a positive difference after doing so. That’s based on personal experience, hence why it’s a featured recipe here.
But this popular trend is not fueled by nothing, there are many people who are trying this in their skincare routine. The top 4 activated charcoal products on amazon have over a 4.5 star review.
Should you try the Activated Charcoal Peel Off Mask?
There are lot of products that come in the form of peel off activated charcoal mask. The activated charcoal by itself does not have the ability to peel off. Only the addition of a glue or gelatin like substance gives it that ability.
There is no benefit to more pain, more gain. You should not cry when removing a mask. You also should not accidently remove a layer of skin when taking off a mask. Some of the reviews I have read for the activated charcoal peel off face masks reported both those side effects. And there were pictures to prove it where a dude actually removed a layer of his skin from his cheek taking this mask off.
I also don’t recommend the DIY version of the activated charcoal masks. The recipes I found suggest using elmers glue. Yes that’s right glue. DIY recipes are amazing because of the fresh ingredients and avoiding chemicals. There’s no way it’s a good idea to put glue and the chemicals it contains on your skin. Just because it’s a fad online, please don’t do this one. The other peel off recipe I found was with gelatin and talked about how if it might be painful so go slow. Mask and me time, along with pain don’t go well.
Will activated charcoal stain your skin?
Activated charcoal will not stain your skin, but it definitely can stain your clothes or countertop. Just make sure when you this face mask you don’t let it sit on the surface of your countertop or sink.
Benefits of Bentonite Clay for your Skin
Acne, acne scars, balancing complexion, reduce excess oil are just a few of my favorite benefits of Bentonite Clay.
Clay is the foundation for every recipe we have on our website. Without it, I firmly believe I wouldn’t see the same benefits from the face mask recipes. I have tested this by seeing benefits from honey, avocado or activated charcoal face masks by themselves. But I have seen way more results from just using clay alone. So combining other beneficial ingredients with my favorite clays can only be a good thing.
Bentonite clay doesn’t just claim to have awesome benefits. There’s a whole boatload of science that delves into how clay works.
How is the “RIGHT” way to do an activated charcoal clay face mask?
It’s common to see a lot of beauty blogs posting a face mask recipe, using only stock photos and a recipe sourced from another website. Completely untested for themselves. It’s also pretty common to see face mask recipes that could be considered unsafe for your skin.
What makes a face mask unsafe for your skin?
The PH levels of course!
Your skin has an ideal natural PH balance of 5.5. A skin with a balanced PH often has a wonderful glowing complexion. It’s difficult to actually test the PH of your skin. If you have oily skin, this is an indication of slightly acidic skin below 5.5. If your skin is too dry this can be an indication of slightly alkaline above 5.5.
You can test the PH of the products that you apply to your skin with a PH strip or PH meter. Ideally your everyday skin products should be around a 5.5 PH. For face masks, a higher PH is ok and normal, but you don’t want to shock your skin with applying a face mask with a PH of 8 or higher.
The 2 main ingredients in most activated charcoal face masks are bentonite clay and activated charcoal mixed with water. Here’s an approximate PH score of each:
- Bentonite Clay – 8.7-9.0 PH
- Activated Charcoal – 9.0 – 11.0 PH
- Tap water – 6.5 PH
Yikes! So do the math on that, the PH of the face mask will average out to above an 8.0 PH. We tested this too and got 9.92.
How should you correct this?
Use apple cider vinegar instead! Apple cider vinegar has an approximate PH of 3.5 PH. So this MUCH lower acidic liquid creates a healthier balance of the face mask. We tested the same ratio but with apple cider vinegar instead and got 5.88 PH.
In our Bentonite and Apple Cider Vinegar face mask, we normally recommend a 50% water and apple cider vinegar solution. Just because I find it to be quite potent with a 100% acv solution. And it can make my eyes water!
In this face mask recipe, we used only apple cider vinegar. Due to the extra ingredient of the higher alkaline activated charcoal.
Why aren’t we using baking soda in our recipe?
A lot of recipes we found baking soda was often a popular ingredient combined with activated charcoal. Baking soda has been touted by many, including Dr. Oz for it’s acne fighting benefits. However this ingredient is also highly alkalizing with a PH of 9.0.
Using a highly alkalized product does risk disrupting the skin’s acid mantle. This acid mantle is super important and acts as a barrier from viruses, bacteria and other harmful contaminants.
So we decided to stick with just 2 of the highly alkalizing ingredients, bentonite and activated charcoal. However combining it with apple cider vinegar is required for this recipe.
Bentonite Clay and Activated Charcoal Mask Ingredients:
The ingredients for this acne banishing bentonite clay and activated charcoal mask are pretty simple.
You will need:
- 1 tsp of activated charcoal
- 1 tsp Bentonite Clay
- 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (with the “mother”), required
- 1 drop of lavender oil (optional)
- 1 glass, wooden or plastic bowl (glass is preferred)
- 1 plastic, or wooden spoon
- 1 face mask brush (included in our facial clay assortment pack)
What is Apple Cider Vinegar “with the mother”?
Bragg is murky. That murky sediment that often settles at the bottom is where all the good stuff is. It contains enzymes and proteins that are super good for you.
How to Mix Bentonite Clay Activated Charcoal Face Mask
This recipe yields 1 face mask recipes.
Step 1: Mix the dry ingredients, activated charcoal and bentonite clay.
Add the Bentonite Clay. Our facial clay assortment pack comes with 4 different types of clay, Bentonite Clay, Rhassoul Clay, French Green Clay and Kaolin Clay. Our Bentonite clay is very high quality cosmetic/therapeutic grade, sun dried calcium bentonite.
Step 2: Add the apple cider vinegar to the dry mix of powders.
Our calcium Bentonite clay is slightly green and mined from the Death Valley Desert, sun dried and milled to a super fine 325 mesh powder. We don’t add any fillers so not as much liquid is required vs an industrial grade bentonite clay.
Start with 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar and add more as required to make a paste.
Step 3: Add 1 drop of lavender essential oil to the paste and mix.
With essential oils, more is not better. They are very concentrated oils that should always be less than 2% of your mix. That’s why only 1 drop is required in this recipe.
That’s it! Mixing your clay masks at home is super simple, takes less than 3 minutes to mix up and you know that you are only applying the raw ingredients to your skin. There no nasty preservatives or chemicals in your mix.
Did you know? An EWG study revealed that on average a woman will apply 12 different cosmetic formulas to their skin per day containing a cocktail of up to 168 different chemicals.
How to apply Bentonite and Activated Charcoal Mask to your Face:
We created a very hand guide for how to use a dry clay mask that has very detailed instructions. The simple version of this is wash, apply, do not let dry and remove.
Always make sure to cleanse your face before face mask application. Using your face mask application brush, apply this mask liberally to your skin and upper neck. Approx 1/8″ of an inch thick.
Remove the mask from your skin BEFORE it dries, which is normally for around 10 minutes. Leaving it on until it gets all cracked and dry can remove natural oils from your skin.
My skin is always super smooth after any of my favorite bentonite clay masks. This one is no exception. And it helped stop some acne that I could feel coming up, right in its tracks. Booyah!
Check out our the best 9 bentonite clay mask recipes.
Activated Charcoal Face Mask
Super simple 3-ingredient bentonite clay and activated charcoal face mask.
- 1 tsp of activated charcoal
- 1 tsp Bentonite Clay
- 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (with the “mother”), required
- 1 drop of lavender oil (optional)
- Mix all the dry ingredients (activated charcoal and bentonite clay) together.
- Add the apple cider vinegar and stir.
- Apply to a cleansed face for up to 10 minutes, but make sure to remove before it dries.
- Finish with a toner and moisturizer.
Disclaimer: Our content does not constitute a dermatologist or medical advice.
Did you try this mask? I would love to hear how it worked for you! Leave a comment below.
Can this be stored at all? If so, how? And for how long?
Hi Shani! Once mixed you can store this in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Another option is you can mix the bentonite and charcoal powders together and store the dry mix in an container for a much longer shelf life (product exp dates dependent) and add your liquid when ready to apply the mask.
Had a terrible reaction to this mask, literally gave me a mask of red raw skin afterwards.. I’m thinking it’s the ACV but so sad this doesn’t work for me 😕
It’s actually pretty common to have red skin for up to about 30 minutes after a bentonite clay mask. The reason for this is most people leave the mask on too long, till it’s dry and cracking. While it’s drying out and cracking the clay is absorbing your natural oils causing redness afterwards till your skin replenishes it’s natural oils.
That’s why in our instructions we always indicate to take the mask off BEFORE it dries. So it still should be slightly “tacky” to the touch when you remove the mask. We go over this thoroughly in our how to use a clay mask which you should read for bentonite mask recipes you try.
Both activated charcoal and bentonite clay are super alkaline (approx 9 PH), so without the apple cider vinegar you would notice even more redness because the PH is so alkaline while our skins natural PH is around 5.5.
Do you recall how long you let the mask dry for?
Happy to help 🙂
I did not try this yet but was wondering would it be ok to also add honey? I like to make a mask with clay honey and dehydrated lavender flowers. I was going to mix it up and try bent+actchr+honey+small amount of acv? Am I doing too much? I’m tryna clear my face and get the glowing effect! Feel free to email me because I would really appreciate tips
Hi Arie! With this mask, it’s important to keep in mind the PH of your ingredients. Honey, like apple cider vinegar is normally on the acidic side (approx 3-5). So it’s a great addition to this mask. I would add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp honey to the apple cider vinegar, then mix with the dry ingredients. You probably won’t need to increase your dry ingredient ratio because honey tends to be thick.
I like to add honey to a lot of my masks. In particular though, I really really love manuka honey for my skin. This manuka honey clay mask is one of my fav’s too!
For acne prone skin, bentonite masks or french green clay masks are my go-to. Happy to answer any other questions 🙂
Thank you ! You insured me to get some universal ph strips and I’m gonna start testing my masks! I’ve learned so much from this site thanks <3
I’m SO glad to hear that Arie!! Thanks so much 🙂 It makes all this labour of love worth it. I suffered for over a decade from bad acne and bentonite and clay masks were how I cleared up my breakouts, so that’s why I started the clay mask assortment pack and this website.
Learning about the PH was also super important, turns out for many years I had been using a really alkaline cleanser and had no idea.
Loved the mask, I needed closer to 2t acv, should I have then just used the 1t acv and water to thin?? Thanks
Glad to hear Deborah! Using all ACV in this recipe is good to balance out the PH, so I would stick with the 2T ACV. The liquid can vary based on your ingredients. Some bentonite clay requires more liquid than others.
I just tried this mask and washed off with warm water, it was pretty hard for the charcoal to come off I still had a lot stuck on my skin so I used a gentle cleanser is this ok ?? I have really acne prone skin so I really hope this helps! Am also wondering does this reduce blackheads as well or clog them 🤯
The charcoal can be a bit stubborn to remove from your pores, which is terrifying when you first wash it off! I have had this happen once, with a lower grade activated charcoal, with a different brand, I didn’t have this happen at all. Using a cleanser after is ok to fully cleanse the charcoal from your pores.
The bentonite clay will be effective to loosen and remove clogged pores, like blackheads. Make sure to do a mask 1-2 times a week consistently.
I had acne for years and bentonite clay was a major reason for getting rid of my breakouts. If you have oily skin (like me), I also use kaolin clay as a cleanser once a day to control the oily skin (as well as my weekly masks) to prevent excess oil from causing blackheads.
I have really oily, acne prone skin & am looking to try this mask, but am wondering if using Tea Tree essential oil or Rosemary oil would be ok? I know that both Tea Tree & Rosemary oils get used a lot for acne prone & oily skin, but would using either in this mask be to much?
Clay’s are really great at absorption, so the clay will help a lot with your oily skin. You can feel free to sub out the lavender for another essential oil, but make sure only to add 1 drop. Lavender will also be good for oily skin as it’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. For oily skin, also try some of the other bentonite clay recipes too.
which eyeliner would be better for super dry eyes the beauty counter that has bentonite or ilia which has clay?
Thanks for the this question, I actually did not know that bentonite was a common ingredient in eyeliner, as well as mascara. But after your question I found that it is. I even found some DIY eyeliner recipes with bentonite and charcoal in it so I will definitely have to try that. I already make my own powder foundation with SPF and tint with French Green Clay. So thanks! If it goes well, I’ll make sure to post it as a recipe.
However, I’m sorry I’m not well versed enough in how the eyeliner works with bentonite to give you advice. What I did find is that a lot of the ingredients also contained an oil which can be hydrating. Bentonite is drying, so you might find it does have a further drying effect. If you do get the one with Bentonite I would be interested to hear if how it works for you!
Can I add matcha powder to this recipe so it can be equal parts activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and matcha plus apple cider vinegar and water? Tia
Thanks for your question Pheonix 🙂 Yes you can, I haven’t tested those ratios on my PH scale, but I would use apple cider vinegar as your main liquid, not water because you need that ACV to balance the alkalinity of the other ingredients. Because Matcha is also quite alkaline with a 9 PH.
Could I make this mask and leave in a glass container to use at a later date? Or would it be best to only add the apple cider vinegar when I’m ready to use it?
Hi Sarah! You can make up the mask and leave in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Otherwise you can mix the activated charcoal and bentonite together and then add the ACV when you want to use it. Anytime you add a liquid there needs to be a preservative added to extend shelf life.
We don’t have acv “with the mother” … can I use rose water instead? is it ok just charcoal + rose water?
Hi Rose 🙂 Rose water has an average PH of 4-5 (similar to tap water) whereas Apple Cider Vinegar is much more acidic of 2-3 which is better to balance the very alkaline ingredients bentonite and charcoal. If possible, I would stick to ACV. But I don’t have a first hand answer for how charcoal and rose water would balance, I imagine still on the alkaline side, I will test that soon and get back to you! If you have oily skin, you should be ok with a more alkaline face mask, however if you have normal to dry I would be more aware of the PH. Hope this answers your question!
Hi Miss Facial Clay 😄 I tried this mask earlier today and I absolutely love it! It left my skin feeling so soft. Thank you so much for all the information! Xx
I’m so happy to hear Gladys!! Thanks for leaving your feedback 😀
Hi, just wanted to ask if I could add spirulina or honey (or both) to my activated charcoal+ bentonite clay mask. And if I do, would I still need to use acv as the liquid? Thanks~
Hi Phoenix! With honey I find you still need to add a liquid in addition to honey in my masks, even just a little. Honey is also acidic so you might be able to use a Witch Hazel as well with the honey instead of the ACV. I’ll add this to my list of combinations to try and get back to you with my PH results 🙂
If I wanted to make it and have longer than a few days to use it how would I do that and also keeping it all natural and organic
Always keep your prepared mask in the fridge. But to keep it longer than a few days, you need a preservative. There are some natural preservatives, like Grapefruit Seed Extract, or Rosemary Seed extract, which are not full spectrum preservatives. If mixing with water you would need a full spectrum preservative. Frankly, if you don’t know about this stuff I really would suggest keeping to mixing it up on demand when you want your mask.