Charcoal vs. Clay Masks: Which is Better for You?

Deciding on a face mask? We can help. Here's how to choose charcoal vs clay face masks

Here's how to decide whether you should opt for charcoal or clay face masks

With both skincare and self care being extremely popular and important nowadays, it can be overwhelming trying to find and choose the right type of face mask for you. There are a lot of factors that come into play choosing the ideal face mask — skin type, type of face mask, skin issues (e.g., light acne, severe acne, blackheads, acne scarring), and ingredients being used in the face mask. But these are only a few of the factors that you have to consider when choosing a face mask. Currently, two of the most popular and common types of face masks are charcoal masks and clay masks — but when choosing between the two, how do you decide which is best for you? After hearing about the benefits of both, hopefully it'll be a bit easier to make your decision!

Charcoal Face Masks

Charcoal face masks have become extremely popular over the past few years, becoming a trend that is hard to avoid on social media. There are also multiple types of charcoal masks — wash off, peel off (removers), and gel masks. The scientific basis for the use of charcoal as a detoxifier is that activated charcoal works to bind with and remove things from your skin. Additionally, charcoal is non-comedogenic, and serves no risk of potentially leaving toxins or chemicals in pores. However, the issue here is that brands use activated charcoal in their products and ignore the fact that charcoal can remove toxins from skin, but also — more problematically — essential vitamins. Also, although charcoal is usually advertised in ‘naturally based’ products, the type of charcoal that comes in skincare products doesn’t exist in any natural environment.

Clay Face Masks

Clay face masks have been a staple of the skincare market for a much longer period of time than charcoal masks. Currently, a large majority of clay masks on the market use calcium bentonite clay — a type of clay which is particularly effective at unclogging pores and revitalizing skin. Most clay masks include ingredients such as retinol (gets ride of dead skin cells and dirt clogging pores), salicylic acid (deep cleans pores, removing excess sebum in the process), and hyaluronic acid (moisturizes the skin post-mask removal to prevent dryness of skin). All of these ingredients work in cohesion with bentonite clay to detoxify skin and smooth complexion.

Skin Type

One of the most important factors for choosing the right face mask is figuring out which will work best with your specific skin type. There are a number of different skin types: acne-prone, sensitive, oily, normal, and combination to name a few. Certain skin types — particularly sensitive, oily, combination, and acne-prone skin — need more specific and attentive care. The more that you’re able to understand your skin type, the easier it becomes to choose between charcoal and clay. Because active charcoal’s binding qualities can remove necessary minerals and oils from skin, it can potentially be damaging to sensitive, acne-prone, and oily/combination skin. Bentonite clay (both with and without additional cleansing ingredients) is much more ideal for these sensitive or more high-maintenance skin types, because of its unclogging and skin refreshing properties. Clay masks are also less prone to post-application skin drying, while charcoal can cause drying and lessen skin’s ability to retain moisture (depending on what additional ingredients are in the face mask).

So what are the key differences to consider when choosing a charcoal mask vs a clay mask? One of the most important differences between clay masks and charcoal masks is that clay masks are able to remove toxins and excess oil. On the other hand, charcoal is especially effective at getting rid of deeply rooted blackheads. Clay masks are much more effective at cleaning and hydrating more sensitive skin types, but with proper post-application moisturizing, charcoal masks are capable of nearly the same level of skin detoxification. In terms of preference, there’s a wider variety of types of charcoal masks that can be selected (e.g., peel off, gel), while most clay masks are wash off types.

Ultimately, for most skin types, a clay mask is better for skin issues such as irritation, acne, excess sebum, and enlarged pores. Charcoal masks are better for targeting more specific issues, like accumulation of dead skin and bacteria. The choice truly comes down to your skin type, and the type of issue that you’re experiencing — because both types of face masks have their benefits. But in general, clay masks seem to have more advantages to their usage when compared to charcoal masks. But regardless of which type of mask you choose, both options should be useful in getting you the skin and complexion you want, as soon as you integrate them into your everyday skin routine!

Resources — Paula's Choice, Best HealthNayelle